Drepung Monks Tour: Sacred Music, Sacred Dance

The following article is from the Spring, 1988 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

A Performing Arts Tour by Drepung Loseling Monks

At its zenith Drepung Monastery housed almost eight thousand monks. Famous for its spiritual and academic intensity, it acted as a training ground for some of the finest traditions of sacred art, music and dance to be found in Central Asia. As such, it attracted students from the dozen kingdoms surrounding Tibet, including Inner and Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, and so forth, who after completion of their studies would return to their homelands and act as important teachers of the Tibetan spiritual traditions. In particular, Drepung was famous for its role in leading the Great Prayer Festival of Lhasa, sometimes attended by as many as fifty thousand monks and nuns.

In 1959, several hundred lamas managed to escape the Chinese into India. There they worked diligently to preserve their spiritual, cultural and academic traditions, eventually rebuilding their monastery in Karnataka State on land generously provided by the Indian government.

In Tibet, Drepung had been comprised of two major departments, of which Loseling was the larger. Both departments have been re-established in south India. The present sacred arts tour is being undertaken by eight Loseling monks carefully selected for their mastery of the monastic traditions of music and dance.

Each performance will be conducted in two sessions. The first will consist of monastic chanting with instrumentation. The vocals will demonstrate both the deep tonal chanting, in which the master of ceremonies simultaneously intones the three notes of a complete chord, as well as the high tonal chanting characteristic of the Drepung style as used at the Great Prayer Festival. The second session will be comprised of dancesthe Dance of Longevity and the Dance of the Cemetery Lords.

The monks will arrive in Canada in early September. After traveling across Canada, they will go to Chicago, Winnipeg, Calgary and Nelson and then on the West Coast. From there they will travel to New Mexico and on to New York City for the Tibetan New Year celebration in February. After this the monks will leave for Europe.

The primary purpose of the tour is to contribute to world peace. Traditionally it is said that to participate as a witness to the performance of such sacred music and dance generates vast waves of creative energy that acts as a feetor conducive to harmony and enlightenment. The rites to be performed by the monks will include prayers for world peace, rituals of earth-healing, and other forms of social, political and environmental rejuvenation. All profits from the tour will be dedicated to the construction of facilities in India for the education of Tibetan children.

Anyone interested in inviting the monks to perform in their city or college should contact Loseling Tour, Tibet House, c/o Office of Tibet, 107 East 31st St., NY, NY 10016 (212) 213-5010. In Canada contact the Canada Tibet Friendship Association, P.O. Box 246, Pbstal Station A, Toronto, Ont. M5W 1X2.

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