The government of a Tibetan Monastery may be described as a pyramid organized into three levels. At the lowest level the general monk population is divided into groups called ‘khangchens'(or ‘michens’). Monks are organized into “khangchens” by their place of origin. Each “khangchens” consists of about 100 monks, with the one topmost in seniority serving as the “jigen” or leader. An executive committee within the ‘khangchen’ handles the day-to-day affairs. The level above the ‘khangchen’ is the ‘dratsang’ or school (it is more fashionable to call it ‘University’). Usually formed by several ‘khangchens’, each ‘dratsang’ is run more or less independently. Resembling a monastery within a monastery, each has its own prayer hall, library and monks, and possesses its own land, pastures and housing. However, ‘dratsangs’ differ from each other in size and wealth. Some of them are so small that they have no `khangchen’ under them. Some ‘dratsangs’ are schools of exoteric Buddhism, and some of esoteric or tantric Buddhism. While in Tibet we met a lot of monks. Roughly monks in Tibet are categorized as follows :
The term ‘lama’, meaning ‘guru’ or master in Tibetan, used to be the tittle reserved solely for high-ranking or accomplished Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordinary monks were merely ‘drapas’. Later, as ‘lama’ came to be used as a polite form od address for any ‘drapa’, it became a common misnomer for all Tibetan monks.
Tibetan Buddhism used to have private tutorships for monks. Ge-lug-pa started a school system for monks. That is the ‘dratsang’ system. All sects, including Bonism, adopted this system. In a monastery, monks are divided into four groups:
(1). Monk students of exoteric and esoteric Buddhism. Called ‘bachogwa’ (scholars) in Tibetan, these monks, are prospective holders of the top degrees of monastic study, and stand an excellent chance of becoming candidates for the position of monk officials. They represent “the best hope” of all monks but not all of them can hope to fulfill this intention.
(2) Monks trained in religious professions. These are monks who hire themselves out to pray for the safety and the happiness of their clients; to conduct religious ceremonies to release the dead from their sins, or as oracle consultants. Sometimes they pray on the street.
(3) Artisans and specialized practitioners. This category includes sculptors, molders and casters of images, painters, wood-block carvers and printers of Buddhist texts, and doctors.
(4) Monk laborers. These ordinary monks who perform various chores and duties about the monastery make up the majority of the clergy.
But these official descriptions does not imply the beauty of all these humans. The video below gives an impression of the privelge we had to meet some of these wonderful people. Enjoy!.++