Five Tibetan monks from Gaden Shartse Dokhang Monastery performed a chant and held a discussion on Monday evening in the Lippett Hall auditorium.
At the beginning of the event, the Gaden Mastery, one of the three most renowned monasteries of Tibet, wore yellow and maroon colored robes and sat in a row while meditating for five to seven minutes. Their performance started with the “Prayer for Monastery,” which represents wisdom.
Throughout their chant, the monks each used a handbell (ghanta) and dorje (vajra), which are the two principal ritual objects of Tantric Buddhism. Traditionally, they are used together and represent the union of wisdom and compassion, Venerable Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Chophel, one of the monks on the tour, said.
He added that both the bell and dorje are inseparable objects to the path of enlightenment and represents a reminder to practice compassion and wisdom on all occasions.
Chopel said that he insisted on joining the monastery when he was 7-years-old. He explained that it is necessary for a child to wish to join or they will not qualify. Every family is expected to send at least one boy to a monastery, since monastery life used to be the only access to education and improved social status.
There are many steps to follow at the monastery, he said. Meditation was not the first step, but instead he contemplated and focused on important aspects. He said that he spent many hours debating these aspects and had to mentally prepare himself to develop understanding and wisdom.
“It takes sharp wisdom to penetrate through perceptions,” Chopel said.
Monastery life is intense, involving religious services and administrative tasks. Chopel said that a typical day starts as early as 3 or 6 a.m. and lasts until late hours of the night. He spends three to four hours of the day meditating, with only short breaks.
In the monastery, older monks hold the responsibility of maintaining discipline and leading group prayers, while younger monks help by running the kitchen, shopping and serving food and tea.
Garden Shartse Dokhand Khangsten is one of the 11 houses in the Gaden Shartse Monastery. Recently, the house has endured difficulty and is in urgent need of restorations.
Monks have been left homeless and are forced to live separately from each other after years of communal living. The 14th Dalai Lama has offered his support to the monks and blessings for their tour around the U.S., to continue to raise money.
The monks of the monastery are touring the U.S., through 2015, and are constantly adding events to their schedule upon request.