Lhasa Tibet_Sera Monastery is one of the "great three" Gelug university monasteries of Tibet. The monastery was one of the finest locations in Tibet The Bylakuppe Monastery now houses 5,000 Buddhist monks comprising some migrants.
Debates among monks on the Buddhist doctrines are integral to the learning process in the colleges in the Sera Monastery complex. This facilitates better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study.
The debate among monks unfolds in the presence of their teachers. The tradition of such debates is traced to the ancient ‘Hindu Orthodoxy’ in India and this practice permeated into Buddhist orthodoxy in Tibet in the eighth century.
Debates are punctuated with vigorous gestures which enliven the ambience of the occasion. Each gesture has a meaning. The debater presents his case with subtlety, robed in a formal monk’s attire. Some gestures (said to have symbolic value), made during the debates, generally subtle dramatic gestures are: clapping after each question; holding right hand and stretching left hand forward and striking the left palm with the right palm; clapping hands loudly to stress the power and decisiveness of the defender’s arguments denoting his self-assurance; in case of wrong answer presented by the defender, the opponent gestures three circles with his hand around the defenders head followed by loud screaming to unnerve the defender; opponent's mistake is demonstrated by wrapping his upper robe around his waist; loud clapping and intense verbal exchange is common; and the approach is to trap the defender into a wrong line of argument. Each time a new question is asked, the teacher strikes his outstretched left palm with his right palm. When a question is answered correctly, it is acknowledged by the teacher bringing the back of his right hand to his left palm. When the defender wins the debate he makes an allegorical dig at the questioner by questioning his basic wisdom as a Buddhist.