LHASA, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- It was a hot summer day in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, but outdoor basketball courts were packed with athletic young men.
The basketball facilities are located in a public park in the northern part of the plateau city. Young people regularly gather here for games. Among them are three lamas from the Drepung Monastery, the largest monastery of the Gelug school in the western suburbs of Lhasa.
"We often come here for matches. People here play well," said Dorje, a 27-year-old monk.
Dorje likes watching NBA games and is a huge fan of American basketball player Paul George, who played for Oklahoma City Thunder and is now with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Some people may hold very traditional views and say monks should sit, read and pray. I see no conflicts between serving religion and playing sports," said Tsering, another monk.
The monastery is about 8 km from the public park, and basketball fans come to play every week.
Lhasa is a generally cool place at 3,650 meters above sea level, but the sun in the afternoon hours is still strong. The monks say they cannot take off their robes even when it is very hot.
"Taking off our robes in a public place would be like breaking my vows. Once I put on the robe, I intend to wear it for my whole life and serve my beliefs," said Puntso, the third monk.
"We need to wear the robes even when we do hard labor, like carrying stones or dirt for construction," added Dorje.
As the monks played against another group of young men, onlookers cheered and applauded.
A growing number of monks who live in monasteries participate in sports, the monks said. "Many fellow lamas like play football or basketball," said Tsering.
"I've liked basketball since I was very young. After I became a monk, I often find time to play a match or two. It helps me cultivate myself," he said.