The Asian Age
Oct 03, 2014 – Garima Nagpal
Grammy award-winning Buddhist monks of the Sherabling monastic seat, celebrated worldwide for their Tibetan chants and dances were recently in the capital to perform in collaboration with Shovana Narayan, fusing their music with Kathak to narrate the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism together.
The monastery of 12th Kenting Tai Situpa, a renowned Buddhist master, consists of thousands of Buddhist monks out of whom 16 were selected to be a part of this collaborative dance and music production, entitled “Shunyata”. The professional dance and chant guru of the monastery took care of the selection process, bringing together monks from diverse age groups, ranging from 17 to 47. Visually, from the audience’s point of view, their dance form is unlike any other. It is a part of the meditation and visualisation through which they attempt to destroy defiance and negative energies.
“The costume and the rituals attached to Buddhism and Kathak are still the same as they were centuries ago, when the two were first born. ‘Shunyata’ brings together the two philosophies they represent into one phenomenon,” says Gyalton Rinpoche, one of the monks from the Sherabling monastery.
The performance that finally took place, comprised four dancers and six musicians and the visual was breathtaking. The younger lot of the monks, aged between 17 and 21 accomplished high jumps and back flips with astounding ease.
Rinpoche describes the monks’ vision of dance and music as an extension of their vision of Buddhism. “Dance and music are the Buddhist dhamma that we practice. Our dance has originated from the Buddha mantra-yana, that is, the teachings of Buddha,” he explains. “We are neither dancers nor music composers, but Buddhist chants and dance are part of a sacred tradition dating back to the 7th century. They are part of our attempt to generate positive energy along with a sense of harmony in our surroundings,” he adds.
For the performance, the monks were in their traditional brocade attire coupled with headgear, as the smaller groups danced on stage sporting silicone and animal masks as they danced to the beats of the Ragdhung, Nah, Jaling and Rohnmu at the occasion.
According to Rinpoche, the relationship between human beings and the earth is becoming increasingly complicated, with issues like pollution, global warming and animal extinction. This is due to our own doings. We are reckless when it comes to the environment and that backfires on us in the form of natural calamities. This dance performance is an amalgamation of two different religions that have come together for the purpose of creating harmony between humans and nature.
He elaborates, “Today, the world is besieged by violence of all kinds physical, mental and psychological. Man seems to be searching for that elusive inner peace and harmony, and in this search unleashes more violence. It is herein that the ancient Buddhist and Hindu philosophies need to be re-visited philosophies that we have lost sight of.”
According to him, the seed of Buddha is in every one of us and we should nurture compassion in ourselves. “We are not performing because we have a thirst for fame but because we want to spread harmony through our message that emptying oneself of ego, fear of pain, illness, old age and death by implicit acceptance of suffering will lead to understanding the cause of suffering. Such an understanding will lead to a luminous mind with consequent attainment of a state of inner harmony and ananda,” he concludes.