This chapter examines the nature of Tibetan monasticism, focusing on the institutional framework in which scholastic studies take place. The author narrates his own encounter with Tibetan monasticism at the end of the spring of 1971. After being in Dharamsala for a few months, he had decided to enter a monastery to devote himself to the study and practice of this tradition. He stayed at Nam-gyel, the Dalai Lama's own monastery. Soon after, he was ordained as a novice by Lati Rin-po-che, the rather stern monk who would be one of his main teachers. Few of the elder monks seemed to be very learned or even interested in study and meditation. The younger monks were involved in studying Buddhism, but it was clear that for them this task was a distant second to rituals, the main task of the monastery. The author discusses some of the central features of Tibetan monasteries, such as their corporate nature and their role as ritual centers. He also differentiates local monasteries from the large monastic universities where the scholastic culture flourishes.
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