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11 July 2009
DHARAMSHALA, India Usually a beacon of calm and clear thought, the Dalai Lama was today angered and disgusted at the actions of some of the Monks with whom he lives. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was outraged to find that many of the Tibetan monks who live in their private residence in Dharamshala, had been using the meditation sessions throughout the day as a chance to catch up on sleep.
Due to a strict schedule Tibetan monks usually do not retire to bed until the early hours of the morning and on average get around four hours sleep per night; they are taught however that by strengthening their will to stay awake they will become closer to God. The daily schedule timetables chores, eating times and sessions for prayer and meditation which every monk must follow or face discipline. The Dalai Lama is the only exception to this schedule; as he has already reached enlightenment and a position of respect it means his timetable is more relaxed. Over the course of the day all monks are expected to meditate and pray for around six hours, an amount of time that many of them feel is inappropriate.
"We feel there's way too much pressure on us, I mean one can only sit on one's bottom for a certain amount of time before it begins to go numb." Anthony, one of the monks told UnNews, "I know we're meant to be focusing on more important things, but once pins and needles set in it drive us mad!" During meditation the monks are expected to clear their minds which, they are told, will give them the ability to relax and leave all earthly worries and emotions behind. Many are sceptical of this ideology as the amount of concentration needed to clear your mind means that they are unable to relax and end up exhausting themselves. "It's too tiring," Anthony continued, "We get to the point where we are so mentally exhausted that we can't help falling asleep." It appears that many of the monks have been falling asleep through these sessions for quite a while and the Dalia Lama was only alerted when he heard one of them snore.
Mannix, the monk who emitted the snore, is only twenty making him the youngest official monk within the Tibetan community. He joined the Dalai Lama and the other monks two years ago when his parents discovered his homosexuality and sent him there with hopes that a strict schedule and lots of meditation would prevent these thoughts from continuing. Although he was ashamed that he had fallen asleep, he assured us that it wouldn't be the last time, "I've been living here for two years now and with only four hours kip a night my sleep debt is forever increasing, falling asleep at an inappropriate time is inevitable." Due to his age, Mannix was initially allowed access to a monitored computer where he had access to the internet which allowed him to keep in contact with other people his own age, however after it was discovered that he was playing Monk Wars, a MMORPG in which you play a monk who gets nearer to enlightenment with each enemy you 'out-pray', he was prohibited from going near the computer and was put onto the same schedule as the other monks.
Due to the age gap between Mannix and the other monks he accused the Dalai Lama of being "behind the times," saying he was "unable to relate to the youth of today. More and more younger people are going to be put off of a life as a monk if they're only restricted to four hours sleep. I mean, for a teenager waking up before ten is thought of as abhorrent!" The sleeping patterns of monks has often been criticised by heads of state and insomniacs who suffer from a lack of sleep rather than volunteering. The World Health Organisation has also sent out multiple pamphlets to Tibetan monks in an attempt to make them more aware of the dangers that a lack of sleep can cause.
The Dalai Lama, it seems, is content with the schedule that the monks are expected to follow and is expected to be merciless with the punishment of Mannix and others like him.
|This article features first-hand journalism by an UnNews correspondent.|