Tantric Buddhist Dances of Nepal
Directed by Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya
Available in DVD
Tantric Buddhist Dances of Nepal documents the mythological origins of the Kathmandu Valley, highlighting the origins of Vajrayana Buddhism and Tantric Buddhist practice in the Kathmandu Valley. According to the Swayambhu Purana text, Vipasvin Buddha discovered a divine light rising out of an ancient lake at the location of this valley. His disciple, the Bodhisattva Manjushri, went to the lake and had a compassionate vision to make the area inhabitable by people. He cut a gorge to drain the lake, and the sacred valley was formed. At the location of the divine light, a Buddhist monument, or stupa, was consecrated as Swayambhu Mahachaitya, by a famous Tantric practitioner, Shantikar Acharya, who also is regarded as the composer of one of the oldest and best know charya songs.
Charya Nritya, a Sanskrit term meaning “dance as a spiritual discipline,” is an ancient Vajrayana Buddhist dance tradition that until recently was unknown outside the circles of initiates who perform it. This sacred dance form is one of the religious arts of the Tantric Buddhist priests of the Kathmandu Valley, who perform it as part of their esoteric meditation and rituals. Each dance, through bodily gesture and energy-directed movement, invokes a different deity, such as Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrayogini, or Vajrapani. The Tantric practitioner dances in a state of deep meditative awareness in order to embody the living presence of the compassionate, peaceful, and fierce divinities, who are described in the esoteric Sanskrit charya-giti songs, sung as accompaniment to the dance. Generating the mandalas of body, voice, and mind to realize oneness with the deity is the practitioner’s goal.
Charya-giti are sung individually or by a group, with a variety of raga (melodies) and tala (metres); and accompanied by small cymbals known as ta and sometimes by a two-headed hourglass drum, or damaru. The songs begin with a flowing raga, followed by a more metrical section, including description and praise of the deity, usually consisting of changing verses and a fixed, repeating refrain. Sometimes a dharani praise invocation is inserted near the beginning.
The director of Dance Mandal Institute, Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya, son of the famous Buddhist scholar Ratna Kaji Vajracharya, arranged with his family to make this video in order to provide access to the traditions of his Vajracharya Buddhist priest lineage, which until recently have been kept secret for reasons of persecution and the power they bestow on audiences. Spiritual understanding and initiation is still required of those who undertake this discipline in order to ensure right conduct and right motivation.
Following the historical introduction at the beginning of the video, a selection of Charya Nritya are performed by students of the Dance Mandal Institute, and by Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya, in traditional courtyards of famous Buddhist monasteries of Kathmandu Valley. To facilitate understanding the dance movements and the charya-giti song text, the iconography of each deity is explained and augmented with images, paintings, and bronze sculptures. The dances performed by Dance Mandal artists include enhanced costuming to assist contemporary non-specialists with the intended visualization of deities.
Historical origins of Vajrayana Buddhism and Charya Nritya (meditative dance movement) in Kathmandu Valley
- Manjushri (Bodhisattva of wisdom, founder of Kathmandu Valley)
- Nairatma (Goddess symbolizing voidness)
- Sodasya Lasya (16 offering goddess dance)
- Pancha Buddha (Five Buddhas)
- Simhamukhi (Lion-faced Yogini)
- Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva of compassion)
- Arya Tara and Amoghasiddhi
- Rakta Ganesha (Red Ganesha)
- Annapurna (Harvest & Mother Goddess)
- Yogini Mandala (5 Yoginis of the Kathmandu Valley)
- Vajra Vira Mahakala (a fierce protector – The “Great Black One”)
- Arya Tara (Green Tara)
- Vajrayogini (highest goddess of Newar Buddhism)
- Vajrapani (a fierce protector – Holder of the Vajra thunderbolt)
MANTRAS FROM THE VEDAS – MEDITATION IN MOVEMENT
Mantras from the Vedas – Meditation in Movement
(Book in English and German with DVD)
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