Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Chant of the Monks.



H
ard to believe but I was in Tibet for 10 days and during that short stay, I managed to vist quite a few Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Go figure that I would not hear monks chanting until I visted Erdene Zuu Monastery in Mongolia.

We arrived at Erdene Zuu just in time for the 11am chanting session. I was determined to experience the chanting so I quickly rushed to the chanting hall.

In Buddhism, chanting is the traditional means of preparing the mind for meditation; especially as part of formal practice (in either a lay or monastic context). There are different forms of chant. I don't know what form the monks at Erdene Zuu were practicing.

By the time I arrived to the small hall, all the seating was already taken up. I tip toed inside to take a look at the hall....very typical Bhuddist monastery design. There were only about a dozen or so monks chanting. I wanted to capture the sound of Bhuddist monks chanting but out of respect for the monks, you can't videotape them as they do their daily chant so I decided to shoot the video while I was standing just outside the entrance to the chanting hall. About about 1/3 of the way through the video, I pan over to the Golden Stupa at Erdene Zuu....a set of gold colored prayer wheels are in the foreground.


As I was standing there, shooting the video, Adam came along. He commented on how monotone the chanting was. Apparently, monks in Tibet are more melodious. Since this was the first time I had ever heard Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting, I had no basis for comparison. However, from a purely musical perspective, it was definitely not on the harmonious side :-)

The chanting went on for about an hour?? Every now and again, I could hear the clang of hand held bells punctuating the notes. It was an interesting experience and I'm glad I recorded the chant on video.