While I was impressed by the piety of the Tibetans, both sangha and lay, the realities of global life today are very much a part of their lives. Their Buddhism is a lived religion, not a life that is one-hundred percent a mystical, other-worldly experience. So a monk checking his voice mail is not out of the ordinary. In Sera Monastery, Maris and I visited with one monk who invited us into his quarters. His room had a shrine on one wall, and a large TV with DVD player and stereo speakers on another wall. He had been in Sera since he was an elementary school-aged child, and is now himself a teacher of the younger monks. The trappings of everyday life do not in any way detract from the religiosity of the sangha, who, like the lotus flower is rooted in the mud of samsara.
For an excellent movie that demonstrates this theme, check out Phorpa (The Cup). This Tibetan movie, made in 1999, features the adventures of young monks and their quest to watch the 1998 World Cup matches on television.