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23september-2011-gelugMundgod, India: - A Dedication of Merit ceremony, the closing ceremony of the Gelugpa University exams, took place on September 22 at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, south Indian state, Karnataka. Presiding over the ceremony were the abbots of the six participating monasteries.

Successful completion of the six-year program earns one the title of Geshe Lharampa, the highest title in Tibetan Buddhism. Before entering Gelugpa University, monks must study for around 18 years at another monastery.

During his speech, the abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery spoke about the importance of learning English, and advised the monks to study the language during their free time. Since the Dharma cannot be spread in Tibet under Chinese rule, he said, it is important to know modern languages in order to spread the Buddhism in the outside world.

After the abbots' speeches, the puja for the dedication of merit was conducted. During the puja, the monks gave away the merit they had accumulated while preparing for their exams for the benefit of all sentient beings.

From Drepung Gomang monastery, 102 monks participated in the exams and six graduated. The Gomang monks held a small ceremony after the closing event, during which the graduating monks presented the others with fruit and sweet bread.

Thupten Yarphel, one of the six graduating monks, said that he had been preparing for the exams for many months. He usually studied in discussion and debate sessions with other students for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and for up to three hours in the evening. He spent many additional hours in self-study.

"I was happy to study," he said. "It helps for a peaceful life and a peaceful mind."

Thupten came to Drepung Gomang at age 19, after studying in Lhasa for two years.

He has been teaching students of all ages at Gomang for eight years. Teaching on the Pramana (logic), Prajnaparamita (perfection of wisdom), and Madhyamika (middle way), he teaches eleven classes each day.

Now that he has graduated, Thupten plans to continue teaching at Gomang. "All monks have the same ambition--to study Buddhism and to help others. All the Gelugpa monks want to help others on the path to enlightenment," he said.

After the Dedication of Merit ceremony, those monks studying elsewhere left Mundgod and returned home. Monks will learn the results of their exams in one to two months.

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