Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tibetan Monk Workshop & Performance - Van Wezel - April 2010 - Sarasota, Florida

In the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a Tibetan diaspora has made Tibetan Buddhism more widely accessible to the rest of the world. It has since spread to many Western countries, where the tradition has gained popularity. Among its prominent exponents is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The number of its adherents is estimated to be between ten and twenty million.
On Wednesday April 21st, my awesome friend Judy Levine did a very informative presentation on Buddhism and the Tibetan Monks. Eight years ago, she and a friend traveled to Tibet, Nepal, and surrounding countries. They were able to visit many Buddhist monasteries and other buildings in Tibet, Nepal, India, and Indonesia. Judy included many of the photos she took during that month-long visit.

At the same time, the visiting Monk's were spending eight hours a day, over a period of five days constructing a sand Mandala.  The creation of a sand mandala requires many hours and days to complete. Each mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the mandala is created. When finished, the monks gather in a colorful ceremony, chanting in deep tones as they sweep their mandala into a jar and empty it into a nearby body of water as a blessing. This action also symbolizes symbolizes the cycle of life.

During the evening of April 23 at this same venue, following dinner with friends, the Tibetan Monks performed for a packed audience, teaching us through this performance, about their culture, history, ceremonies, and so much more.  Their colorful garments memorized, while the guttural throat singing captivated.

Wikipedia:  Also known as overtone singing, also known as overtone chanting, or harmonic singing, is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances (or formants) created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody.

The partials (fundamental and overtones) of a sound wave made by the human voice can be selectively amplified by changing the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth, larynx and pharynx.[1] This resonant tuning allows the singer to create apparently more than one pitch at the same time (the fundamental and a selected overtone), while in effect still generating a single fundamental frequency with his/her vocal folds.

After the performance, everyone was invited to see the Tibetan Monks hold the special ceremony and then they deconstructed the manadala. The sand was placed in small ziplock type of plastic bags and given to participants as a blessing.  What was left was carried to our local bay, an open, flowing body of water to be dispersed. The mandala represents life and its impermanent nature.

This was such a special experience for my husband and myself.  There are so many things that remain with me, such as one of the Monks in particular who had the gift of throat singing, the community mandala for which I was a participant, the lenght of the horns, and the ceremony of giving the sand back to the earth via moving water.

"The creation of a sand Mandala requires many hours and days to complete. Each Mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the Mandala is created. When finished, the monks gather in a colorful ceremony, chanting in deep tones as they sweep their Mandala into a jar and empty it into a nearby body of water as a blessing. This action also symbolizes the cycle of life."


 Tibet, you will learn how to be happy and live a life full of contentment without a complaint. Just pass a smile to a Tibetan who is looking at you and believe us you will get an even bigger smile in return. This is the way they are much warm, caring and full of hospitality towards their guests for whom they will go out of the way to help. To learn the simple courtesies of life and to acclimatize moral values there is no other place better than Tibet where one can learn the best of it. They seem like a new breed of humans, happy the way they are, totally unperturbed by outside world. Come to Tibet and get to know these wonderful people, from whom we can still learn a lot about life.

 The Drepung Monastery was established near Lhasa, Tibet in 1416 by Chojey Tashi Palden. It had four departments, of which Loseling, or "The Hermitage of the Radiant Mind," was the largest, housing more than three quarters of Drepung's ten to fifteen thousand monks. Drepung Loseling was especially close to the Dalai Lama incarnations; the Second Dalai Lama made his residence here in 1494, and subsequent incarnations maintained this link.

 After the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet in 1959 and the forced closure and horrid destruction of its 6,500 monasteries, some 250 monks from Loseling managed to escape the holocaust and rebuild their institution in Karnataka State, South India. The traditional training program was thus preserved. Over the years many more young spiritual aspirants have fled Chinese-occupied Tibet and sought entrance into the monastery, thus helping to preserve their traditional culture. The number of monks presently in the re-established Drepung Loseling has increased to more than 2,500.

In 1991, as a result of The Mystical Arts of Tibet tours, the monks were invited to establish a seat in North America. Thus Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. A non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion and a center for the cultivation of both heart and intellect, Drepung Loseling provides a sanctuary for nurturing inner peace, community understanding, and global healing. In 1998 Drepung Loseling and its North American seat established academic affiliation with Emory University with the objective of promoting transcultural understanding and scholarly interchange. This historic affiliation between two major institutions of learning was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on May 12, 1998.

In addition to its academic and spiritual programs, Drepung Loseling is committed to helping preserve the endangered Tibetan culture, which today leads a fragile existence in the exiled refugee communities in India and Nepal. In conjunction with Richard Gere Productions, it coordinates The Mystical Arts of Tibet World Tours and oversees the Drepung Loseling Educational Fund, a sponsorship program for the adoption of monks in training at Drepung Loseling Monastery.


BeadedTail said...

What an incredible experience! It's so wonderful you were able to attend this special event. I enjoyed the photos too!

storybeader said...

what beautiful colors they surround themselves with, in the mandala and their clothes. It must be a wonderful experience. Your friends travels must have been life-changing!