1500 people eagerly awaiting the concert ritual to begin! bundled up in hats and scarves to keep warm on such a cold and blustery autumn afternoon....sarah, chris, dr. lee and taeokbased on my personal experience and understanding of this ritual, i would describe it as being a collective prayer for the awakening of all beings....a reminder of the truth....that each and every person has the capacity to awaken their innate buddha (awakened/conscious) nature, bringing freedom and liberation from suffering and delusion. i felt this ritual also served as warm tea and bread for the journey....strengthening and deepening one's passion for and devotion to the bodhisattva path.
the ritual began with the monks processing in to the sweet sound of the wooden bamboo flute.once the monks were gathered in the common area, they began chanting the prajnaparamita sutra....as the hwaeomsa ritual program describes: "this sutra illuminates the path to guide us from a world of illusion to that of enlightenment, from a world of discrimination to that of equality....it sounds like a bell to awaken us to the wisdom of emptiness, as there is nothing certain in this world, there is nothing to be hidden in the mind."and as if it were perfectly choreographed, a flock of birds began to circle in the sky above us....
after the chanting of the sutra, some monks began drumming. "as if responding to the sutra, the drum, played in motions of the shape of a heart, expresses desire to return to the original state of the mind...spreading the sound, the teachings of buddha, even to the souls of wild beasts. the wooden fish creates music, sending us a message to make constant effort without rest, just like the fish sleeping without closing their eyes. the cloud shaped panel is struck to comfort even the birds in the sky. the echo of the bell spreads far out into the valleys and villages awakening the souls from deep slumbers."
"songs for embarking on the path: the three women who perform in this ritual, dechen shak-dagsay, joanne shenandoah, and jennifer berezan sing of their departure to be on the path. having lost the land of their ancestors and a temple to pray in, they set forth on a journey to find the meaning of their existence. they found music along the way. their songs resemble the voices of the advanced masters who brought enlightenment and inspired others to embrace the truth and walk the bodhisattva path." (quotations taken from the ritual program)"dechen is from the high mountains of tibet...she left her homeland in childhood after her father's temple was set on fire (chinese occupation - 1959). she sings of the wisdom of the water. "may the memory of wounds burning like fire from life's journey be washed away and may you discover the truth that is as endless as the ocean.""joanne shenandoah, her tribe had their own name 'iroquois' taken away, and now live under unwanted protection with the name 'native american indian.' she sings of the wisdom of the wind. 'life's conditions may be limiting, but let us, like the wind, rise freely above all boundaries and awaken to the never-ending universe....'"sage smoke rising in the air.....joanne singing "the prophecy."
"we are now reminded to be aware of our place upon this earth and to fulfill our obligations to ourselves, our families, nations, the natural world, and to the creator. the words say we are to awaken, stand up, be counted....for we are being recognized in the spirit world." (from: "the prophecy")
"jennifer berezan....her songs awaken the divinity in temples, lying in the depths of caves, the barren desert and deep within the human body...she sings of the practice of the way of the bodhisattva. 'whenever you may be in pain, there is a being who will come running to you with flowers to dry your tears. so may you further dedicate yourself to the task of saving yourself, others, and the world....'"the sounding of the bell.....awaken.....awaken.....awakenjennifer singing "she carries me:"
"....a thousand arms, a thousand eyes, a thousand ears to hear my cries.
she is the gate, she is the door, she leads me through and back once more.
when day has dawned and death is nigh, she'll carry me to the other side.
she carries me, she carries me, she carries me to the other side.
she is the first, she is the last, she is the future and the past.
mother of all, of earth and sky, she carries me to the other side."
"om tara tuttare ture soha"
"in search of the sound of origin: emptiness of the mind drives one to set out on the path. the sound of elder cho soon ae embodies that emptiness at the source. her music precedes language, the sound of instinct and love, prayer for the wellbeing of the living and the dead, indifferent yet passionate like reverberations rising out of the earth. elder cho's music takes us to a place at the very depth of source, where prayers and souls grow, thus telling us to get in touch with our own divinity."
chium park - singing "nimegero"the head monk shared some closing wordspost ritual tea party in the temple yard....reminded me of the part i used to love most about church - the "fellowship" time with snacks after the service! we all gathered and sipped many different wonderful kinds of tea and had our fill of brilliantly colored rice cakes and kimbap (veggie sushi rolls). jungmyung led about 100 of us, including some western reporters for "the voice of america" (who just happened to be at the temple that day) in a spiral dance!! it was another one of those "pinch me, i must be dreaming" moments!lotus blossom tea.....delicate and divine!
may all beings be free from suffering.
may all beings be peaceful.
may all beings live with ease.
for more information on the performers and ritual:
jennifer berezan: http://www.edgeofwonder.com
joanne shenandoah: http://www.joanneshenandoah.com
manish vyas: http://www.manishvyas.com
the hwaeom spiritual music ritual website: http://www.hwaeom.org