Who doesn’t like a good debate?

Lhasa’s Sera Monastery is known for it’s debates.  Before I even attempt to describe it to you, try to mentally block out all the “debates” you’ve been to and fallen asleep at in the past, because these debates deviate wildly from what you would imagine a good ol’ fashioned run-of-the-mill debate to look like.  Lot’s of slapping.  Lots of prayer beads flying around.  Lot’s of laughs.

So what’s it like?  For the most part the format consists of one monk addressing a group of peers with some sort of weighty and thought-provoking life question.  What is truth? What is existence?  Does Diet Dr. Pepper really taste like the original? The standing monk will, in closing, try to drive home his points with a loud clap of the hands as if to say “Yeah, that’s right!”  The younger, less experienced monks can be seen awkwardly trying to figure out what pressing issue they could possibly bring to the table while the much older monks – much less flamboyant – simply sit there, just like old men everywhere do, and calmly discuss things.

I have little clue as to what they are saying – don’t really need to.  All the slapping, emotion, raised voices – the performance value is simply great and more than makes up for the lost verbal communication.  However, I did find myself, in my mind, filling in the missed conversations with completely ridiculous yet oddly entertaining discussions.  “Is the first Godfather really the best of the series?”  “Nikon vs. Canon?” “Can HDR really be considered photography?” I’m sure the HDR debate has found it’s way to the Tibetan plateau and these monks are discussing it’s finer points, don’t you think?

If debate club was like this in high school I might have had more motivation to participate.

2011 – Lhasa, Nepal, Everest Tour. Day #3 – Images by Brian Hirschy