In the midst of the devastation that has been wrought on their culture, the monk dancers in the Shechen monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, are devoted to preserving the sacred dances central to the Tantric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The dances, which originated in India and flourished for centuries in Tibet, are teaching stories—each mask, costume, movement, and gesture has a specific significance and embodies the values of Buddhism. The dances are the monks' spiritual gift to the lay community. The origin of the sacred Buddhist dance, or cham, goes back to the ninth century, when Guru Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism to Tibet. Through the ages, the practice has been advanced by great masters whose visionary experiences enriched and enhanced the dance forms. The sacred dances were then transmitted as accurately as possible by the masters' disciples from generation to generation. The dances are now preserved in exile in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and have been presented in the West, by the monks of Shechen and other Tibetan monasteries, in the same spirit of sharing a profound inner experience. In vivid, full-color photos and illuminating text, the well-known author and photographer Matthiew Ricard reveals the painstaking preparations for and meanings behind the dances, as well as the intriguing history of this uniquely colorful teaching practice.
Arts & Photography, Performing Arts, Dance,