Subject: thutob / mthu stobs fighting monk
Setting: Tibet mid-late 20thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* French 2002 p357 n3 (Chapter 9)
"[F]ighting monks called thutob (mthu stobs) ... often tried to enforce the law through their own physical prowess ...."
* Makley 2007 p282
"[T]he heroic masculinity of the monks hinged on the ability to defend mandalic realms and conquer the enemies of Buddhism, and within the tradition of mass monasticism at Labrang, this had included the capacity to fight and kill when monasticism was vitally threatened. In the contemporary context, most young monks were not interested in repudiating lay masculinity to the extent of forsaking the potential for heroic violence. Indeed, one of the anonymous messages written on monastery walls while I was there was a warning to the Tibetan PSB officer widely rumored to have frequently participated in beating arrested monks. The message threatened him with physical retaliation if he did not mend his ways.
"Much of the magnetic appeal of foreign videos for monks was after all the glorification of masculine violence they portrayed. I saw in several monks' quarters not only pictures of the Dalai Lama but also pictures of Rambo, his machine gun raised and ready, chest bared, ammo belts slung across his bulging muscles. Akhu Konchok studiously avoided public places, held out great respect for monastic scholarship, and was so politely diplomatic that he was often chosen to host visiting cadres and VIP Chinese tourists, yet he enthusiastically described for me one day his fascination with Rambo movies, which, he said, was so strong that he would drop everything and go see one if it was showing in Labrang. He explained that Rambo was great because he could take on whole armies by himself so bravely. Watching those movies, he said, made one feel strong, and he demonstrated by flexing his meager biceps. Hence the great appeal of Rambo: in Labrang, defending the monastery and openly attacking the state would be tantamount to taking on a whole army single-handedly, and yet Rambo succeeded on the sheer force of his hypermasculine strength and determination.
"But the danger of the situation at Labrang was that, with the mitigation of the authority of monasticism to mediate and domesticate masculine violence, young monks in Labrang participated in acts of physical violence that differed little from those increasingly common among young laymen there. Their violence was not under the auspices of or in service to monasticism, but like that of laymen it was always spontaneous, and sometimes random. Tibetan PSB officers I spoke to expressed angry yet unsurprised concern at what they said was an increase in brutal fighting and murders among young Tibetan men. This they attributed to what they represented as the unschooled barbarity of young nomad men especially, who were coming to town to spend huge cash windfalls from sales of surplus livestock and other pastoralist products." [references omitted]