Monk’s Debatable Clap !

The loud clapping echo still reverberates through my body, reminding me of the Namgyal Monastery in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala. McLeod Ganj is currently the capital of Tibetan refugees with his holiness Dalai Lama’s residence being their headquarters. Namgyal Monastery or famously known as Dalai Lama Temple is thus the main attraction for every tourist. The road towards Namgyal monastery is full with Tibetan shops having huge material supporting spirituality and health which include books, fragrances, massagers and other Tibetan artifacts more. Strolling through these shops, we entered the Namgyal Monastery.

As soon as we entered the monastery, we received an applauding welcome with loud claps. But my stardom was immediately taken away by none other than monks applauding themselves. Monks were seen in pairs in the courtyard with one monk standing and other sitting. The standing monk was frequently clapping loudly by forming a wide arch in air with his clapping hand, complete body bending forward and stomping his feet. Everyone was listening to their partners intensely. Why were monks clapping so loudly and with such intensity? Why was a monk sitting down in front of the clapping monk? Why was the atmosphere so tense in the monastery?

Well, after my mid-terms it was now monk’s time to give their exams. Exam season was up in McLeod Ganj. A unique way of examination is designed for these monks. Instead of mugging up and writing answers, they debate with each other. The standing monk is the challenger who claps after asking every question. The defender now takes his left arm out while defending the question. In this way each one defeats misconceptions and clears every objection to the challenging question.

Each gesture in this exam represents their educational life. The hands represent the process of new life gained through wisdom. While the stomping represents slamming of closed doors of misconceptions towards this new life.

We now sat in one corner of courtyard with cool breeze brushing past our hair. We watched these debates silently for quite a bit time. The place where human mind was supposed to be quiet was now filled with infinite thoughts, the purpose of the trip seemed to be in debacle. The trip to Dharamshala was never planned only to post videos of revolving Buddhist prayer wheels and chanting ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ but to gain some spiritual knowledge from the spiritually active city.

Namgyal Monastery or Gyuto Tantrik Monastery.

A loud clap from the nearest monk stopped that infinite loop of thoughts. The monk with his clap had challenged my thought of attaining spirituality just’ by visiting a place. His stomp had opened a new door. A door taking me away from such mis-concepts and towards debating my own knowledge by clapping. On the way back the monk’s clap somehow forced me to buy many Tibetan books, offering a deeper knowledge of life of monks and their views. The door, was now open.  

The whole courtyard, cool breeze and the monks in maroon red with their heads glazing either by sunlight or by their knowledge, had captured a part of my mind. The mind which now at the slightest sound of a clap travels miles to Namgyal to challenge yet another thought or open yet another door. 

Painting by- Ms. Devika Mahajan

“The goal is not to better than the other man, but your previous self.”

14th Dalai Lama.

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Abhishek Purohit

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