Tibetan Buddhist Monks

Sand Mandala and Tibetan monastic culture
'...a psychedelic whirl of chanting, dancing, drums, cymbals...'
(The Times)

Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery open a magical window on to a world of reincarnation and Buddhist mysticism which has inspired audiences in theatres and festivals throughout the world. From the contemplative, mesmerising chant of Buddhist texts to swirling costumed masked dances accompanied by ancient Tantric musical instruments including horns made from human leg bones, skull-drums, cymbals, bells and with the shattering sound of the dungchen (long horns), the Monks evoke the atmosphere of sacred Tibet: an experience of an ancient culture accessible to all, with introductory explanations offering additional insight into this endangered world.

During the festival, the monks represent Tibet’s tradition of Tantric Buddhism in the making of a sand mandala. The Mandala illustrates the celestial mansion of the deities, showing the paths of a particular cycle of practices. Millions of grains of coloured sand are painstakingly laid into place in an intricate design using hollow metal tubes called chagpurs. Beginning with the prayer of dedication, through the meditation of the construction, to its completion, when the mandala is dismantled in a moving ceremony symbolizing the impermanence of all things.

The monks are also holding participatory workshops on Tibetan monastic arts, including sand mandala-making, butter sculpture and prayer-flag printing, and the second an introduction to the monastic dance performance: the costumes, dance, art of debate and the Tantric mudras or hand gestures used in the prayers.

Founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 in Shigatse, Central Tibet, Tashi Lhunpo is one of the most important monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and is the seat of the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader of Tibet after the Dalai Lama. Fifty years ago Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was re-established in exile in India which has allowed this sacred culture to be shared by all, offering a fascinating glimpse into a unique tradition.

'...a window of time onto a magical universe of reincarnation and release...'
(The Independent)
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