Drikung Kagyu monks
An exciting dialogue between West and East. Produced by ERP for Erdenklang.
2 Invocation (9:24)
The invocation of Mahākāla and Achi. Mahākāla translates as ‘The Great Black One’ and is one of the protectors of the Buddhist Teaching. He is one of the most popular protective deities in Tibetan Buddhism and particularly in the Gelug school, the mythical founder of sciences and the patron of Mongolian Buddhists. Mahākāla is the wrathful aspect of the compassion-bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. In art he is usually depicted with bristling, fiery-red hair, teeth bared and surrounded by human sculls. Achi, the protector of the Drikung Kagyu school, is usually depicted riding a horse.
4 Uniting (7:43)
5 Chöd (11:10)
A practitioner of chöd believes that “attachment” is the main source of suffering, and that “detachment” is the main source of happiness. With this view, chöd is a meditation of accumulating merit by offering one’s body as mentally generated ambrosia and a matter of sustenance for the lesser beings. The energy of the meditation, the sacred words, the uniquely eerie melody and the rhythmic sounds of huge hand-held drums and bells have much healing power. The main purpose of chöd practice is to heal physical ailments and mental afflictions to create a better planet.
6 Mantras of Three Bodies (7:35)
Mantra of Amitābha: Om Amideva Hrih, mantra of Avalokiteśvara: Om Mani Peme Hung, mantra of Padmasambhava: Om Ah Hung Benzra Guru Pema Siddhi Hung.
fragm, 3 min 54 sec, mp3, 320 Kbps
7 Eternal Divine (6:22)
In memoriam Prof Joachim-Ernst Berendt. “Heaven and earth, the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets, all heavenly bodies praise the Eternal Divine in countless names, countless forms, in uncounted, unnamed, unformed presences of the infinite Being.”
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His Eminence Druwang Rinpoche (lead vocal / Tibet)
Konchok Chusnit (lead vocal, rolmo, damaru, drilbu / India)
Tsering Tondup (vocal, dung-chen, damaru, drilbu / India)
Tsewang Dorje (vocal, kang-dung, damaru, drilbu / India)
Konchok Choswang (vocal, dung-dkar, damaru, drilbu / India)
Gaynin Phuntsok (vocal, gyaling, damaru, drilbu / India)
Konchok Gyaltsen (vocal, silnyen, damaru, drilbu / India)
Konchok Tharchin (vocal, dung-dkar, damaru, drilbu / India)
Namgyal Tondup (vocal, dung-chen, damaru, drilbu / India)
Konchok Norbu (vocal, nga, silnyen, damaru, drilbu / India)
Pemba Lama (vocal, gyaling, damaru, drilbu / Nepal)
Martin Kuuskmann (bassoon / USA)
Lembit Traks (vocal / Estonia)
Peeter Vähi (acoustic and electronic instruments, vocal / Estonia)
Patronaged by His Holiness XXXVII Drikung Kyabgon
Lyrics in Tibetan and Sanskrit: traditional and by Jigten Sumgon (12th−13th cent)
Recorded at Estonia Concert Hall and at the Buddhist retreat-place of Klooga, 2000
Edited and mixed in Orbital Vox Studios, 2001
Engineered by Priit Kuulberg, Lauri Laagus and Radu Marinescu
Mastered by Liquid Gold Mastering, Cologne
Co-produced by Ulli A. Rützel
Paintings by Everi Vähi
Layout by Thomas Kunadt
Design by Agentur Elbblick, Hamburg
Booklet edited by Tiina Jokinen
Music arrangements, production, liner notes and photos by Peeter Vähi
Music composed on the basis of rituals and traditional tunes of Drikung Kagyu school
Published 2002 by CultureWare Music Publ, Germany
Erdenklang Records 21092
Special thanks: His Holiness XXXVII Drikung Kyabgon, Jangchub Ling monastery, Tashi Jamyangling, Drikung Kagyu Ratna Shri Centre, Konchok Jamyang, team of Orient-Festival, Franz Aumüller
A part of the profit from the present CD donated to Jangchub Ling monastery
Similar to the liturgy of the Christian church, music in Tibetan temples does not seek to offer only aesthetic enjoyment. Music is not an ultimate goal, an end in itself; it is a means of achieving something much more significant and celestial. Music is intertwined with daily routines of a monastery. Mantra recitations, ritual songs, dances and other special activities are repeated day after day, year after year.
The founder of the Buddhist Kagyu lineage is thought to be the great guru Tilopa, who lived probably in 988–1069. Is thought to be, rather than is, because it is impossible to date the beginning of Kagyu tradition down to a year or even associate it with a certain individual. Therefore Tilopa can only tentatively be set down as the founder of the school. Tilopa was a person of extraordinary accomplishments who had obtained his knowledge in two different ways. First, he got it from gurus in various parts of India. One of Tilopa’s teachers was a direct holder of the lineage of Nagārjuna, the most famous Indian Buddhist philosopher. Tilopa’s other source of knowledge is of the revelational kind. According to Buddhist tradition he received the entire set of instructions directly from Buddhist deities such as Vajradhara and Vajrayogini. A sceptic probably would believe neither Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai nor the possibility of receiving teachings directly from Vajradhara. However, at the present moment the source of Tilopa’s knowledge, whether natural or supernatural, is not so important. Much more important is his legacy that has been handed down to us through his disciples and the disciples of his disciples. Thus the precious lineage was developed by Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa “the Translator”, Milarepa, Gampopa, Jigten Sumgon… Nowadays there are four major and eight minor lineages in the Kagyu school. The largest one is Karma Kagyu, but in this context we shall focus mainly on Drikung Kagyu. Here I consider it my duty to point out that, unlike some other religions, the division into different schools in Tibetan Buddhism is not so much due to doctrinal differences, but to individual characteristics of the lineage gurus. Therefore Tibetan sects complement each other rather than compete.
It was in 1997 in the city of Leh on the upper Indus when my two travelling companions and I had the honour to meet the Venerable Druwang Rinpoche, an outstanding Tibetan yogi of the Drikung Kagyu school, and to receive his blessings to our imminent trip through Buddhist monasteries high up in the Himalaya Mountains. His piercing glance has been burned into my memory for ever. It was evident that for him everything was already clear…
Druwang Rinpoche (1921–2007) was born in Tibet and as a child settled in Drikung Thil monastery. Later he studied in a Buddhist academy, majoring in Mahāyāna philosophy. Thereafter he has twice been in Hermitage (12 years at a time!). During that time he achieved supreme Mahāmudra. Due to his enlightened state of mind he has often been compared to the legendary Tibetan yogi Milarepa. From time to time His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama even asks Druwang Rinpoche for advice and instructions. About him films have been made and articles written.
In his teachings Rinpoche underlines the importance of the philosophical ties between cause and consequence, as well as compassion towards all living beings. He states that although the majority of people see karma as a mere theory, it is actually an absolute and functioning law, which he can vouch for based on his personal experience.
Now in his eighties Rinpoche had before 1999 never travelled abroad, though thousands of Buddhists in numerous countries had been yearning for his visit and receiving initiations from him. Up to this time he had rejected all invitations as his poor physical state did not allow him to undertake lengthy trips. In his own words he upholds his body merely by his meditative force. He has been heard to mention that he would go into nirvāna in 1993. Only the pleas of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche convinced him to remain among us for a few more years.
Download: HE Druwang Rinpoche, photo by P Vähi, jpg, 300 dpi, 1535 KB
The spiritual head of Drikung Kagyu School is His Holiness Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, who was born to a prominent family in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 1947. In 1950, the 3-year-old boy was recognized as the 37th incarnation of the Drikung Kyabgon. Two years later he received the ordination from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. In the 1970s he escaped to Northern India and established the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehra Dun. Since then he has actively promoted the Kagyu teachings outside Tibet – in India, Ladakh, North America, Far East and Europe. A world tour titled “Tibetan Mystical Music and Dance” is one of the projects that His Holiness has launched to promote Tibetan culture and religion in the world. In autumn 1999 His Holiness called 13 Tibetan monks from different countries to Jangchub Ling monastery to put together a program for Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, the USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Latvia and Estonia. Rehearsals of rituals, chants, music and dances took place at a time when I happened to stay in Jangchub Ling monastery. Thus I had the opportunity to observe the preparation of the tour for over a week.
Tibetan sacred texts are recited singing, chanting, or sometimes even voiceless. There are at least four vocal styles in use in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. The basic difference between them is the way in which the sounds are created. Chants may be sung using the normal sound, which is the everyday voice used for speaking and singing. Chanting in an extremely low voice is, however, more common. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that it is possible for a human being to produce such deep sounds. Technically, overtonal guttural singing is the most complex. Two or three different sounds can be distinguished simultaneously: a basic tone and one or two overtones, which somehow seem to be unnaturally forced and emphasised. Although the monks’ overtonal guttural chanting is most unusual, it cannot be claimed to be unique. Similar types of singing are practiced by other peoples, including the Tuvinians and the Yakuts, both in “Russian” Asia. The strained glottal way of singing does not allow for complicated melodies. Archaic recitative tunes usually range from three to five notes. A later influence of Tibetan folk songs has expanded the scope of melodies to a 7-tone scale.
Among other ritual texts recited there are, of course, mantras. This puts me in a difficult position, because no written explanation of these magic spells that I have come across has hit the point of the issue and probably neither can I. In the context of Tantric Buddhism mantras have usually been defined as incantations, magical formulas or verbal symbols that, when repeated continuously, will bring one to a higher state of mind, if not even lead to the very enlightenment. While reciting mantras, it is important not to “just do it” – this would have no results. One must achieve a state of meditation where the chanting of spells helps the practitioner to switch off the ordinary world around him or her; in this state every sound you hear is perceived as a mantra and every object is seen as an emanation of a deity. On the next level mantra becomes a manifestation of the corresponding deity – in other words, a verbal symbol becomes identical with the deity. In Tibetan Buddhist practice mantras are recited on a daily basis, often for hours on end.
Dung-chen is the largest trumpet-like instrument used in Tibetan Buddhist ritual music. These instruments are generally between 2 and 3 m in length, but may be as long as 4.5 m. The telescopic tube is made of copper or brass, and the more expensive instruments are decorated with spectacular engravings. To be played, the large instrument usually is fixed on a wooden stand. The dung-chen, most-often found in the Himalayas and other mountainous areas, creates an extremely low bass sound. When played with its funnel turned in the direction of high mountains, it produces a tremendous echo effect. The very low sound of the dung-chen undoubtedly has an influence on a human being’s physiological and psychological conditions. Presumably, there is even a cosmic effect. It is said, the infrasound frequencies of the dung-chen can unite Heaven and Earth, Light and Darkness. This instrument is not primarily used for melodies, but for the basic tone and occasionally for octaves as overtones. In order to get a continuous sound, the instruments are always used in pairs, and the two players must not simultaneously pause for breath. The low sound of the dung-chen can be heard when important lamas arrive at, or leave, the monastery, at dawn and sunset, before the beginning of rituals and on some other important occasions.
The principle of generating sound with the kang-dung or kang-ling, another wind instrument, is similar to that of trumpet. Originally, this instrument was made of a thighbone of a young girl who had, preferably, died a virgin. This is because the sound of the kang-dung symbolizes purity; therefore the instrument was to be pure. Today these trumpets are made of metal. The kang-dung, usually used in pairs, intervenes in short passages for which notations are written in the so-called wrathful rituals.
Dung-kar is a ritual wind instrument of Indian origin, made of a conch shell. Already known in India during the Vedic era (around 1500 BC), it has been used ever since in sacred, folk and military music. The dung-kar has always been regarded as a sacred object. In Indian mythology, it is known as Vishnu’s weapon. The dung-kar has a mystic timbre and a hollow, deep vibrating tone. Its sound symbolizes purity and devotion. Its sanctity is so universal that is used as a ritual instrument in the Vedic religion, Hinduism and Jainism, as well as in Hinayāna, Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhism. The instrument can be played in two ways – either by blowing through a hole that is drilled at the top of the conch or by putting a special brass mouthpiece in the same hole and blowing through it. The sound of the conch is considered a good omen and its purpose is to announce the beginning of prayer or to mark the peaceful nature of a ritual.
Gyaling is a close relative of the oboe. The instrument is a conical wooden tube with a metal funnel at one end and a metal tube with a double-reed mouthpiece at the other. The tube has 7 holes on its top and a single hole at the rear. The gyaling is mostly played with the so-called circular respiration technique, which permits continuous emission of sound without having to pause for breath. Complicated melodies can be played on this musical instrument, but skill and tenacity are required. Consequently, no beginner is trusted to play the gyaling. In folk music and other types of secular music gyaling can be used as a solo instrument, but in ritual music it can only be played in pairs, often in ensemble with 2 dung-chens, or as a part of the temple orchestra. Due to its piercing nasal timbre, the gyaling can even be distinguished amid the sound of many loud drums.
Drilbu, which is of Indian origin, may be considered either a musical instrument or a cult object. In combination with the dorje, it plays a major role in Vajrayāna Buddhist rituals. The drilbu is a bronze, copper or silver bell. The total length with its handle is approximately 20 cm. When played, the bell is always held in the left hand. When the handbell is shaken, the clapper inside it creates a high piercing sound that symbolizes ultimate transcendental wisdom.
Damaru is a small, hourglass-shaped hand drum that is used in many parts of Asia. As the legend tells, this drum consists of parts of two human skulls. It is said that the dead whose skulls have been made into drum speak to us in the language of the sounds of a damaru. According to a Hindu belief, the universe was created by Shiva with the help of a damaru. As a folk instrument, this Indian drum is also common in Tibet and Nepal. The damaru used during Lamaist rituals is different in construction. These drums have 2 small leather balls attached, sometime with female pubic hairs in one of the balls and male pubic hairs in the other, symbolizing the unity of male and female principles. When the drum is swung, the balls begin to oscillate, hitting the leather membrane, create a heavy rattling sound.
Nga is a large ritual drum with two membranes. Although the nga is only about 20 cm wide, it has a low droning sound, owing to the large diameter of the membranes. The body of the drum and the skins are usually richly decorated with Buddhist symbols. A bent piece of wood, in the shape of a question mark, is used as a drumstick.
The silnyen and rolmo are cymbals. In sacred music, they can be used in two different ways: either to provide particular emphasis in orchestra performances or to create a low monotonous background to text recitation. While beaten, they are held horizontally, in contrast to the Western-style cymbal playing.
Countless years ago, Jigten Sumgon was born as the cakravartin Tsibkyi Mukhyu. He was the father of a thousand princes, but renounced the kingdom and became known as the tathāgata Lurik Dronma. Although he had already attained enlightenment, he reappeared later as the bodhisattva Kunsar Wangkur Gyalpo. At the time of Buddha Kaśyapa, he appeared as the potter Gakyong, and at the time of Buddha Śākyamuni, as the impeccable Licchavi, who was inseparable from Buddha himself. Later, the famous Buddhist philosopher Nagārjuna was an incarnation of him.
Eventually Jigten Sumgon was born to a noble family of the Kyura clan in Tibet. He learned the teachings of Yamāntaka from his father, and became expert in reading and writing by the age of four. From his uncle, the great Radreng Gomchen, the Reverend Khorwa Lungkhyer, lama Lhopa Dorje Nyingpo, and others, he learned many sutras, tantras, the teachings of Guhyasamāja and all the teachings of Kadampa tradition.
After taking the abbot’s seat at the monastery, Jigten Sumgon insisted on a strict observance of monastic discipline. One day, some monks said, “We are nephews of Milarepa and should be allowed to drink beer-like chang.” Saying this, they drank. When Jigten Sumgon counseled them, they replied, “You yourself should keep the discipline of not harming others.” Phagmo Drupa then appeared in a vision to Jigten Sumgon and said to him, “Leave this old, silken seat and go to the north. There you will benefit many sentient beings.” Then he came to Drikung Thil, and established Drikung Jangchub Ling, the largest monastery and the main seat of the Drikungpa.
At the age of 75 in the year of the fire-ox, Jigten Sumgon entered parinirvāna in order to encourage lazy ones to the Dharma. His body was cremated. Gods created clouds of offerings and flowers rained from the sky to the level of one’s knees. His skull was totally untouched by the fire and his brain appeared as the mandala of the 62 deities of Cakrasamvara. His heart, also untouched by the fire, turned to a beautiful golden colour. This showed that he was an incarnation of the Buddha himself.
See other records of Peeter Vähi: Maria Magdalena, Supreme Silence, Tamula Fire Collage, The Path To The Heart Of Asia, Handbell Symphony, Sounds Of The Silver Moon
See other records of Martin Kuuskmann produced by ERP: Nonstop, Bassoon Concertos