Seven lamas honoured with highest Tibetan Buddhism degree

PTI, March 23, 2006

Beijing, China -- China has awarded seven lamas with Tibetan Buddhism's highest degree, the Gexe Lharampa, after they undertook a tough course which had been suspended following a 1987 riot in Lhasa, state media reported today.

The Gexe Lharampa is similar to a doctorate in religious studies and is bestowed on people who have made the study of Buddhism a life-long pursuit.

It is the highest of the four ranks in the Gexe system from the yellow sect or Gelugba school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The seven laureates, with an average age of 44, received the title after they defended their dissertations before a 16-member panel, composed of high-ranking lamas from different monasteries and Tibetan Buddhism experts, at the Monlam Qemo, or the Grand Summoning Ceremony, held at Lhasa's Jokhang Temple yesterday.

"Today's final examination was based on the historical routine and religious tradition, but we also adopted some new content," said Zhukang Tubdain Kaizhub, head of the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China and chair of the examination panel.

The ceremony was first introduced by Zongkaba, the founder of the Gelugba sect, in 1409.

Individual monasteries can grant the first three ranks of Gexe to their own monks but the top rank, the Lharampa, can only be bestowed by the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The examinations will be held every year in future," Zhukang Tubdain Kaizhub said.