Monks offer message of peace, perform traditional music of Tibet

Ever since the Communist invasion by China in 1959, the people of Tibet have been unable to practice their own faith. During the Chinese occupation, Tibetan monks faced near extermination, forcing a small handful to escape and seek refuge in India. Today the monks continue their pursuit of peace, raising awareness of the atrocities in Tibet by touring the world with their distinctive music. With international assistance, the monks hope one day to return to their home country.

As has been true over the course of their tour, the Tibetan monks were greeted by a packed crowd in Chapin. The audience was eager to experience one of the strongest vehicles of inspiring global harmony and universal peace. The cornerstone of the music is the unique tradition of multiphonic singing, in which singers deftly control their vocal chords to simultaneously generate a tritone. Only after many years of training can a monk produce this sound correctly, and nobody from outside central Asia has managed to master the skill. This singing, combined with drums and 12-foot long and 3-foot long trumpets, produced a distinctive, soothing sound. Coupled with their costumes and dance, the monks created a truly mystical experience. Bringing the monks to America was not against native tradition; according to Tibetan philosophy, the site of the performance becomes a temple capable of enhancing spirits and minds, regardless of geographical location. As the narrator explained, “If the mountains could sing, they would sound like a Tibetan monk.”

The progression through the program allowed the mind to center around various aspects of meditation. The general costumes worn by the monks showed a true sense of harmony: red robes, yellow sashes and yellow headdresses, each individual piece featuring a beautiful array of costumes from the five elements. In the backdrop of the performance was a beautiful hand-painted tapestry of Dreprung Loseling Monastery, the monks’ home.

Starting off the performance was a piece aimed at evoking heightened sensory awareness in the audience, acting as an introduction to multiphonic singing and the accompanying instruments. The next piece, “Man-dei,” or “Purifying the Universe,” worked on the largest scale. Every piece was well organized; from the choreography and costumes it was also evident that each was extremely difficult to perform. The third song was “Tak-tsey Tong-ya: Intense Encounters of the Third Degree,” which not only offered an impressive display of communication and movement, but some exceptional extemporaneous exchanges as well. These debates show the deepness of the monastic order as they attempt to gain higher enlightenment through their engaging conversations.

By contrast, the “Seng-geh Gar-cham,” or “Snow Lion Dance,” displayed a playful artistic mastery. Both of the monks performing the “Snow Lion” managed to synchronize their movements with one another and the music, radiating energy and inspiration. According to Tibetan culture, the snow lion represents the fearless and elegant quality of the enlightened mind and, in this segment, the snow lion frolicked and rejoiced for the purification of all things and for world peace.

The second part of the performance took advantage of the momentum created by the first. Highlighting the second part was the “Kha-dro Ten-shug Gar-cham,” or the “Dance of the Celestial Travelers.” This dance focused on the uniting movements of the five elements and five wisdoms. No one element can be more powerful than another; through a series of intricate and impressive movements, each of the wisdoms came together and were distributed across the universe. Following was the dance of the Yak, symbolic of the Tibetan spirit of rugged strength and playfulness. Concluding the program was the “Sang-tsoi Zhi-jo, Incense Offering & Auspicious Song for World Peace.” This piece captivated the audience and culminated with wishes for world peace. Using all of the training and development established throughout the performance, this segment left the audience with a higher awareness of self. As a whole, the program covered all aspects of peace, harmony and spirituality, bringing them all together in one amazing presentation.

The true strength of the program was not in its immediate impact, but the lasting effect that it induced. The performance managed to break down internal barriers, leaving a lingering sensation that remained simultaneously in the body and the mind.