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Tibetan monks perform at MiraCosta College

CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — A troop of five Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in India performed multi-phonic chanting at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus on April 21. Seated on the lawn their bright orange robes and yellow hats popped against the grass and trees and their melodious voices filled the air.
During the chanting, the monks’ words blurred into musical notes and their bodies become amplifiers for the sound. Dhung horns, gyaling horns, cymbals and drums were added to the chants.
“The rich sound envelopes and benefits all human beings,” Jangchub Chophel, of the Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation, said.
Chants originated as means of keeping Tibetan spiritual teachings secret, Chophel said. While they are said aloud, the word cannot be clearly understood without years of spiritual training.
The performance lasted one hour, but traditional religious performances usually last 18 hours.
Between chants, bits of Tibetan history and cultural were shared.
“We strive to bring events to campus that broaden the cultural environment,” Sally Foster, dean of the San Elijo campus, said. “Our students are not that globally culturally aware.”
The monks who performed were carefully selected by Gaden Shartse Monastery leaders to make the 18-month tour throughout the United States. Their six-day stop in Encinitas marked the 10th month of their tour.
In addition to their performance at MiraCosta College, the monks also performed dances and chants at the Seaside Center for Spiritual Living on April 22 and a ritual dissolution ceremony at the center on April 24.
At home in the monastery their duties are to chant, study and debate. They spend 17 hours a day six days a week honoring these practices.
Contrary to popular belief, the Gaden Shartse Monastery is not quiet. “We’re loud,” Chophel said. He said there is noisy chanting, laughter, prayers and academic debates in the monastery.
The Gaden Shartse Monastery was founded in Tibet in 1409. After exile from Tibet, the monastery was re-established in southern India in 1969, where it remains today.