The noisy, fun side of Tibetan culture
July 29, 2011
A common misconception about Tibetan monks is that they are quiet and serious.
"That is not generally the case," said the venerable Jangchub Chophel, director of the Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation, which helps preserve ancient Tibetan traditions and culture. "We’re very noisy. Even when we pray, because all the monks say our prayers, even quick prayers, out loud. We are a very vibrant vocal group and we chant, play horns and pound drums.
"We also tend to be playful and open to experience things," he said. "So the monasteries are always filled with sound."
Park City will get a chance to hear and see just how loud Tibetan monks can be when the Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet tour comes to town.
The monks will present sessions and workshops in various venues from Aug. 1 though Aug. 6, including Temple Har Shalom, Riffs Music, the Park City, Farmer’s Market and the Jim Santy Auditorium. (See accompanying schedule).
" sharing the tour, we present the culture and preserve it by doing educational activities," he said. "We do presentations at colleges and school assemblies, in addition to our Buddhist activities."
Recommended Stories For You
The tour has a three-fold mission, said Chophel, who was born John Bruna.
"The first is to be a benefit to anyone we come in contact with," he said. "When we set up an event, our first question to the organizers is ‘How can we benefit your community?’"
The second is to preserve the Tibetan Culture.
"This culture is in dire straits and Tibetans are a minority in their own country," he said. "They’re trying to keep their culture alive in refugee settlements in India, and it’s very difficult to keep a culture alive in a foreign country. Even the words we use are being changed from Tibetan to Hindi."
Lastly, the tour is a fundraiser.
"Any money we make goes back to the refugee settlements and our monastery to help keep the culture alive," Chophel said.
It will be Chophel’s first time in Park City.
"One thing we’re looking forward to is to be able to share visual imagery and what monastic life is like in a presentation at the local Jewish temple on Monday," he said. " It will be a slide show with a discussion. It’s so wonderful they’re inviting us to share that."
A concert at Riffs Music on Tuesday, will feature the sights and sounds of monastic life, and will include some chanting, and an appearance at the Park City Farmer’s Market will feature a purification rite.
The monks will wrap the visit with a full stage performance at the Jim Santy Auditorium.
"We’ll perform in full monk’s robes and Tibetan costumes and share the culture with song, music and dance," Chophel said. "We even have a dancing yak."
Chophel was an inner-city high school history teacher in Long Beach, Calif., before becoming a monk.
"I looked for a Buddhist teacher when I was a teacher found a Tibetan Buddhist center four blocks from my house," he said. "An incredible High Lama from Tibet taught there and I started going."
Buddhism clicked with Chophel.
"Over a period of time, I got involved and after attending a three-day teaching session by the Dalai Lama, I thought about becoming a monk," he said. "I was a single parent and my daughter was in college and engaged to be married. She was getting ready to move on with her life and I was thinking about mine.
"I asked my teacher about becoming a monk and he looked me in the eyes and told me I was ready, and took me to his monastery in India where I was ordained," he said.
He returned and fulfilled the rest of his high school teaching commitment while wearing monk’s robes and then was recruited to direct the Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet tour in 2010.
"When I entered into a Buddhist lifestyle, I immediately felt the benefits," Chophel said. "It’s a simple life, and I found the main cause of my problems was me, not others. I’ve learned to be more present in each moment I’m in. I’m not living a life to collect things, but to benefit people."
The Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet tour will come to various venues in Park City from Aug. 1 through Aug. 6. For more information, visit http://www.gadenshartsecf.org.