10 Disrespectful Behaviors You Should Avoid in Tibetan Monasteries

When traveling in Tibet, you can learn more about local customs and taboos so that you could have a better understanding of local culture and life.
A Hall at Drepung Monastery
A Hall at Drepung Monastery

Here are some taboos listed when you visit the monasteries, hope the visitors can obey and respect local customs.

1. Before you entering a monastery, make sure not to enter the monastery or hall does not open to the outsiders or visitors. Garlic is one of the taboo foods in Buddhism, so better do not eat garlic before visiting monasteries. Also smoking is forbidden in monasteries.

2. When encountering a pile of Mani stones or a stone inscribed with scriptures or Buddhist pagodas and other sacred relics, you should go around clockwise. And do it anti-clockwise when it is a bon religion monastery.

3. Do not touch the Buddha statues or turn over the scriptures without permission. Nor ring any bells in the monasteries.

4. Do not kill in front of the monks and nuns because they abstain from killing life.

5. When you have a rest in the monastery, you could sit cross legged, that’s also why wearing short skirt is one of the taboo in the monastery. But remember not to sit on the seats of living Buddha or other monks, nor the platform for the monks to perform rites.

6. Do not point your fingers at the Buddha statues, Thangkas, or the scriptures, paintings and murals. Or you could do as the locals do, put your hands together in front of your chest to express respect for the Buddha or monks.

7. Do not wipe your hands or wipe your sweat with any paper or any fabric with scriptures written on it. Even the prayer flags you bought, you need to show enough respect and follow proper process when you hang it on the mountain or in front of the monasteries.

8. We can not step over the monks' seats, utensils, clothing and various implements, nor can we step cross Buddhist statues or scriptures.

9. Do not make noise in the monastery or chasing around. 

10. Do not take pictures or take videos in the monasteries if it’s not allowed or have the sign of “no photos”. In some monasteries or halls, you could pay some money in order to take pictures, but make sure to turn off the flash. Do not forget to ask for the approval of the local people or the monks if you want to take pictures of them. 

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