Performing Monks

Tibetan Monks bring mandala, sand painting and multi-phonic singing to Chico State

MONK MUSIC <br>Drepung Loseling Monks show off their drums and bells

Drepung Loseling Monks show off their drums and bells

Photo By Bryan Morehead

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will perform “Sacred Music and Sacred Dance for World Healing” at Laxson Auditorium Friday evening as part of a three-day residency in Chico that began Wednesday in the BMU with the opening ceremony of chants, music and mantra recitation to inaugurate the construction of a sacred mandala using millions of grains of colored sand.

The purpose of the group’s tour and residency, which kicks off the Chico Performances 2003 season, is to contribute to the healing and peace of the earth and its inhabitants, to raise support for the refugee community in India and to increase awareness of the fragile survival of Tibetan culture and tradition that was brutally suppressed by the 1959 Chinese communist invasion of that country, forcing the closure or destruction of 6,500 monasteries. Some 250 monks escaped the initial holocaust and established the monastery-in-exile in south India, where 2,500 monks presently reside.

The monks’ performance is unique in that they are the only choral group in the world known to have the ability to intone three notes simultaneously, thus forming a chord with their singular breath. This is done by the skilled use of the muscles in the oral cavity to produce overtones. Overtones are additional harmonious notes that resonate sympathetically with the tonic, or original note. The overall result is something you can only feel or describe by experiencing the performance.

The sand painting of the sacred mandala in the BMU occurs between Wednesday and Friday, and the ongoing creation is continuously open to public viewing. There will also be a smaller mandala that the public is encouraged to help create.

The exquisitely designed and colorfully striking five-foot square mandala will be completed by Friday afternoon. After the Friday evening performance, the monks will return to the BMU to gently yet willfully destroy their creation, to demonstrate metaphorically the transience of the existence of forms. Those who wish to keep a handful of the blended and blessed sand are encouraged to do so, while the rest will then ceremoniously be deposited in Big Chico Creek, where it shall ultimately, at least in theory, find its way to the sea, thus dispersing the healing energies of the mandala to the world.

The monks’ visit will also include a “master class” for choral students at Paradise High School, as well as a special performance for school children as part of a field trip on Friday morning.

The Drepung Loseling Monastery from whence the monks come was founded in 1416 near Lhasa, Tibet. It had four departments, of which Loseling, or “The Hermitage of the Radiant Mind,” was the largest, housing more than three-quarters of the monastery’s 10,000 to 15,000 monks. The monastery is said to be close to several of the Dalai Lama incarnations.

In the U.S. in 1991, the Drepung Loseling Institute was founded in Atlanta, Ga., dedicated to the study and preservation of the Tibetan and Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion, and a center for the cultivation of both heart and intellect. The non-profit institute provides a sanctuary for nurturing inner peace, community understanding and global healing. In 1998 the Dalai Lama inaugurated an academic affiliation between the Institute and Emory University for the purpose of trans-cultural understanding and scholarly interchange.

For more information about the history of the Monastery, multi-phonic singing, mandalas or the Drepung Loseling Institute go to or