Tibetan Monks Sacred Dance

Tibetan Monks from Tashi Llunpo Monastry
Quaker Meeting House

Tibetan Monks Sacred Dance

The Tibetan Monastic Dance tradition originated with the earliest Buddhist practices and has been passed down through the great Masters from ancient lineages.

Many of the dances have been codified to ensure their survival and the result is more than just the movements, gestures and sumptuously decorated costumes we see on stage. They are the living embodiment of a thousand years of philosophy and knowledge, hundreds of years of ancient wisdom wrapped up in tales of demons and the divine, chanted prayers for peace and harmony.

With our western faith in technology, we tend to dismiss both ancient cultures and traditional tales and this is a great impoverishment of our own culture. Here in Scotland, vestiges of the ‘Old Religion’ and traditional ways are still apparent in remoter regions, place names, tales and poetry, the recorded song of women cleaning fish together, but mostly these are dismissed. How do we retain their valuable knowledge and their shared ethics? Can values be passed on through gesture, music and song? Indeed, they can!

This performance is much more that mere anthropology in the flesh. Those monks obliged to remain in Tibet are now political prisoners, and those who established a new monastry in exile, in India, are working hard to keep Tibetan culture alive. And what a culture! In dance, masks, music, song, sacred chanting and debating style, their narratives are embodied, conveying not only a people’s cultural identity, but also their values.

I loved the debate! For discussions, even the youngest members of the monastry take part, and there are gestures used for emphasis, humour, even fond touching and jokes, as one monk after another is persuaded to join in. Has someone told the UN about this style?

Tashi Llunpo Tour bring the richness of Tibetan culture to the world as part of their Thank You Year to express their gratitude to those who have supported them throughout their 60 years of exile with ‘kindness and generosity’. And it is very good to see them at the Edinburgh Festival, not only with a demonstration of their remarkable culture, but also with such a salutory expression of sentiments.

Reviewer: Jackie Fletcher

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