Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tibetan Monks Bring Message of Peace to the Beaches

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tibetan Monks Bring Message of Peace to the Beaches

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy, Shorelines staff writer

Tibetan Buddhist monks began praying, chanting and dancing for peace and love centuries ago in the Himalayan Mountains.

They did so again Friday night, a block from the ocean in Neptune Beach.

Ten monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, who came to Jacksonville last week to share their message of global healing through music and art at Florida Community College at Jacksonville's South Campus, put on an hourlong dance workshop at Cobalt Moon Healing Center. About 50 people packed a classroom to listen, watch and join in the dance routines.

"We're getting a slice of monastic life, little snippets of what they do," said Brenda Starr Walker, event coordinator.

Wearing loose, sleeveless maroon robes, the monks entered the building with folded hands and broad smiles. They sat in chairs facing the audience, closed their eyes and began chanting. Loud, low vowels and deep guttural singing vibrated the room. Small candles, circling a Buddha statue, flickered nearby. Everyone was still.

"They can chant three tones at a time," said interpreter Tsepak Rigzin. "Their training is very rigorous, it unlocks certain vocal cords, which even leads to bleeding. They have to go into valleys and open fields to practice."

The singing monks, who have performed before sellout audiences at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, next demonstrated a few of their choreographed sacred dances. In pairs, they jumped, spun and twirled around the room -- and then asked spectators to join in.

Many did, including Adam Rice of Jacksonville Beach and Terese Whiting of the west Beaches.

"It was easy to get up there," Whiting said. "They allowed everyone to be very open."

"You can really feel the energy in the dance when you're doing it," Rice said.

The ancient dances are sacred traditions at the Drepung Loseling Monastery, which was founded in 1416 and was the home of about 10,000 monks by the late 1950s. …

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