Thursday, December 22, 2011

Verbal Karate or Tibetan Debate

 Ngawang Rigzin as Challenger

 On this glorious late afternoon and every late afternoon, the monks meet outside and practice Tibetan Debate. It is loud, energetic and fierce in appearance. The following is from a paper written by Ngawang Rinchen explaining debate.
The one who asks the questions and (the) one who gives the answer are called challenger and promise keeper respectively. Before they start the debate they make an offering of praise to the great logician  Mahapandita to show their respect. Thus starts the debate.
There are four answers that the promise keeper should give which are 1) I agree  2) Why  3) Wrong reason  4) Unsure reason
1) "I agree" is used when you accept the question, eg: let the topic be pot, it is a concrete body because it is a visible...then you give the answer "I agree"
2) "Why" is given when the questioner wants to know why it is that
3) "Wrong reason" is answered when the wrong reason is put to support the original statement
4)  "Unsure Reason" is given when the reason is too broad
 Ngawang Tsultrim  as Challenger

Leskshey Tenpa as Promise Keeper
In their understanding of the gesture, the right hand represents method, meaning especially the practice of compassion, and the left hand represents wisdom. Bringing the two hands together represents the joining of wisdom and method. At the moment of the clap, you hear the left foot stomp down and that represents slamming shut the door to rebirth in the lower levels. After the simultaneous clap and stomp, the Challenger holds out the left arm of wisdom to keep shut the door to all rebirth. Also, in that gesture, the Challenger uses his right hand to raise up his prayer beads around his left arm. This represents the fulfillment of the efforts of compassion, in lifting up all suffering beings out of the round of rebirth.              

 Jampa Dhakpa Raising up His Prayer Beads

For a better understanding of the dynamics of Tibetan Debate check out the following:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The 10th Crew

The entire Pema Ts'al campus was bustling with construction. Lama Kunga informed us that one day he had 9 different work crews at the monastery. Days start early with puja around 6 for the monks, and then workmen around 8 with much banging and clanging all day.
One afternoon the monks labored with some grey base used to create clay forms for use in the temple. It started as a bag of dry grey "stuff". They added water, hammering and manipulating it until it was pliable.

Lekshey Rigzin

Kunga Choephel

Kunga Dhakpa

Formed Designs

Final Placement

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mahandrepul Roam

Walking down the mountain onto the road to grab a cab or a bus, we begin our monastery break. After a transfer at Harichowk, we catch another bus, or van to Chipeldhunga to be dropped off at the circle right below my favorite restaurant, Almonds. Time for a walk, some purchases, and a non-veg dinner.

 Riding in the front seat of the van, it is good to know the Gods are with us. On the dashboard, all vehicles in Nepal have deities with offerings; hopefully to balance out the absence of seat belts.
And the next photo on my camera, right after the assurance bit above...

Motorbikes Abound

New Timepiece for Theresa

Fresh Popcorn Anyone?

Or Peanuts?

Deep Fried Street Food 
(a definite pass)

 Fresh Home Grown Vegetables

Oranges by the Kilo
(A definite yes)

Mobile Help

And now for a change of pace- Salways. The last time I was in Nepal, Salways had rats scuttling across the floor during the daytime. They're gone, so is the old floor and an expansion has tripled the store's square footage. Life is good.
Teas and Biscuits - Utter Heaven

Familiar Marketing  (45 NR- about $.60)

One Nameless Volunteer's Checkout Basket

And now for that non-veg dinner at Thakali Bhanchaha, a Tibetan Restuarant in town.

Chicken Momo's (Tibetan Dumplings)

Jackson, Theresa, Andrea, and YT

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are We Full Yet?

Early, early morning found me in the kitchen watching the cook prepare breakfast.  Two types of tea are served, standard sugar tea: boiling water, dry tea leaves, powdered milk and (too much) sugar, while the other tea, only served at breakfast as a tremendous fortifier is Yak Butter Tea, a Tibetan staple. It is hot, salty and of course buttery. On a freezing cold morning, before you have called forth your western palate and are hungry, it can work.

The staple of breakfast is round bread from barley flour made fresh every morning. It is accompanied with a small portion of lentils or red beans similar to our kidney beans. Some days there is peanut butter rather than beans, surely a western influence.

 To the right you can see the pressure cooker used for cooking the pulses. On the back wall is the wood burning stove. The wood is fed in from the left and pushed down until it is along the entire length below the cooking surface.

There's a rota schedule and the monks all serve, clear and clean for each meal. Kunga Jinpa is going for that first cup of hot morning tea, so his team must be on duty this AM.

Washup occurs outside in this open area with cold running water. Soap was nowhere to be seen. The clean items are piled in plastic baskets to drip dry and for reuse at the next meal. 

The dining hall is large, open, and freezing cold in the winter. The heat from the kitchen is non-existent. When the room fills up with bodies, kitchen sounds, and laughter it is a wonderful very large family experience.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Serious Play

Buddhism is our philosophy but football is our religion”, quoted from a thank you note written by Tenzin Phuntsok (edited by Ms. Foster)  to some famous footballer who sent the monks an autographed soccer ball.

Unfortunately the boys have lost their field to construction needs and have to play on the concrete basketball court. But they always find a way and end up with a smile.

 Ngwang Phuntsok & goalie Kunga Tsultrim 
Notice that Kunga is playing in sandals,
probably due to the  lack of closed shoes.

 Kunga Lekshey & Lekshey Choedar

 Ngawang Kalden

 Kunga Tsepal & Dhakpa Gyatso

Leckshey Tsering

Kunga Choepal

Kunga Khenrap

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Placed in my luggage was a little bug eye that has 24 perfect squares cut into the lens. Using it to look through you can get a “bugs eye” view of the world. Entomologists tell us that bugs like flies and grass hoppers are able to detect movement more easily with this compound lens. So after our lesson on dragonflies off we went into the field.

In the background you can see the additional 3 floors being added onto the guest row. The new structure will be devoted to the Shedra students on one side and the guests on the other. My door is the one in the photo (ground-floor) to the right. I never came out without a glance up and around as water, construction materials and whatnot came swirling off the levels above quite regularly. (It appears that there is no "heads-up" equivalent in Nepali.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


"World in harmony" is the translation of the Sanskrit word "mandala". Mandalas are drawings in three-dimensional forms created from colored sand.  In Tibetan, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor which means “mandala of colored powders.”

At Pema Ts'al many monks worked many hours to create this particular mandala.They used an illustration for their guide. The sand granules are then applied using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers.

...mandala in Vajrayana Buddhism usually depicts a landscape of the "Buddha-land", or the enlightened vision of a Buddha, which inevitably represents the nature of experience and the intricacies of both the enlightened and confused mind, or "a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe."

Vajrakilaya, the deity for which the mandala was made.