Thursday, June 23, 2022
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Tibetan monks bring cultural pageant

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Event brings art and spirituality together

Tibetan monks play traditional long horn instruments at the Tibetan Cultural pageant last Friday at Pierson Auditorium.  The horns are used for religious, cermonial and monastic purposes.
Tibetan monks play traditional long horn instruments at the Tibetan Cultural pageant last Friday at Pierson Auditorium. The horns are used for religious, cermonial and monastic purposes.

Creative Buddhist missionaries held the Tibetan Culture Pageant last Friday at Pierson Auditorium.

The two-hour show was a brilliant display of Tibetan culture.

The monks came from one of the 10 monasteries in the southern region of India where the preservation of their culture is taught. In that area, there are approximately 3,000 monks, 2,000 of which are Tibetan refugees studying Buddhist philosophy.

The Tibetan culture on display Friday night was a show made up of eight performances that exhibited how Tibetans practice Buddhism.

The Chinese government has very strict laws concerning Buddhist practice and is attempting to smother Tibetan customs and traditions.

Nevertheless, Tibetan monks consider the Chinese as their spiritual brothers and sisters, a mentality that truly reflects the lessons of unity so highly embraced by their style of practice.

The show began with Communication Studies lab assistant Kevin Mullin, ntroducing the hosts for the evening.

Two monks walked on stage, an image of a wise counselor and his student both dressed in red toga-like gowns. The colors of their dress represented contentment and self-discipline.

The wiser monk also had a yellow sash across his shoulder, which meant that he was ordained, an honor that takes 16 years to complete. Monks who are not ordained also wear yellow sashes during special occasions and significant prayers.

The wise counselor spoke to the crowd in his native tongue while his student translated. In English, the student monk explained the three goals of why they were visiting our campus and other places around the world.

The snow lion at the Tibetan cultural pageant.
The snow lion at the Tibetan cultural pageant.

The first goal is to promote peace, compassion and loving kindness.

The second is the desire to share their culture with various people.

The last goal is to raise funds to donate toward the well-being of the monks dwelling in monasteries and to ensure the schools’ survival.

The U.S. was mentioned as being a great contributor for the past 10 years. With that, the two thanked the audience for its participation and the show began.

The first act was a welcoming. Two giant horns rumbled loud groans throughout the auditorium. A picture of the Dalai Lama, the head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet, was displayed, an act of respect and homage practiced whenever he was unable to be present in the flesh.

Several monks stood around the picture and one bowed. A chant followed and the first act was complete.

Next was the “Good Luck” dance. Two monks played a drum and cymbals while another danced across the stage in costume.

The monk in costume roared deep belly laughs as he danced.

The third performance was the debate demonstration. This skit of sorts portrayed one of the most important practices of the monasteries. The main purpose of the debate is to achieve perfect view by clearing misconceptions through logic and reason. The student monk host informed the viewers of key phrases and body gestures to look for that symbolized various phrases such as, “you are wrong,” “you are contradicting yourself,” and “hurry up!” Though the debate demonstration was performed in the monks’ language, the audience caught on quickly to the sarcasm and scolding which made for a very entertaining, humorous performance.

The fourth presentation was a chanting prayer that was originally taught by a female teacher. Its purpose is to cut off immoral defilement within, like selfishness, by making the chanter realize his emptiness. The point seemed to be to bring awareness to how small one is in this gigantic universe.

For this show, the monks sat in a line and recited a simple, repetitive melody. Some of them played small, green drums with long, elegantly colored scarves attached. Another added to the melody by ringing a bell.

Afterward, the most exciting performance of the night began: “The Snow Lion” dance.

The snow lion, which looked more like a big puppy, represented many themes. Among the themes it embodied were fearlessness, beauty, dignity, absolute freedom, joy and confidence. Near the end, the snow lion unrolled his tongue from his mouth. The words “world peace” were inscribed on it.

At the conclusion of the “Snow Lion Dance,’ the show took a 15-minute intermission and came back with another animal-styled performance called “The Dance of the Panda.”

Two panda-costumed monks roamed the stage in a zoo-like manner, playing with a green scroll that read, “save the environment.” One of them even went into the audience to let spectators pet him as if he were a real, cuddly panda bear.

“Praise to the Future Buddha,” the seventh show, was a simple performance in which the monks in line folded their hands in prayer and chanted in beautiful harmonies. The grand finale of the night was the “Special Chant.”

The two giant horns from the first act were reintroduced on either side of the stage as monks paid homage to “the great one” for protecting them from evil spirits.

The Tibetan Culture Pageant was an excellent display of inner peace in a world of constraint and persecution. The boldness and courage of the monks to practice openly in hopes of saving their philosophy should serve as both a testament to how lucky American citizens are for complete freedom as well as an encouragement to always stand firm for what they believe.

kparker@unews.com

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