My aunt once asked me to attend a local Tibetan/ Buddhist mask dance also known as a “cham” (in tibetan) at one of the neighbouring monastery in Kathmandu. I remember replying “I don’t understand anything, neither the dance nor the verses. What’s the point? I’ll just be watching the movements and that’s it.”
My aunt asked me “when you hear the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, rivers gushing, do you understand what they are saying? You don’t. But there is peace, calmness and joy in those sounds. Listen with your heart and mind. This language is not be be understood but felt. It’s the language of our heart and spirit.”
It is believed that sights and sounds have the power to evoke strong emotions and the serenity to calm our minds. All things around us vibrate to sound, light and color. In a similar manner, these colourful Buddhist mask dances, the ritual sounds and chants, like the many things in nature are supposed to awaken our body’s senses and allow a deeper well being. Buddhist believe that by virtue of being present, listening to the chants, watching the colourful mask dances is supposed to ward off obstacles and bring good fortune to all sentient beings.
Perhaps by aunt was right. As I watched team Bhutan’s members sit in silence watching the mesmerizing movement of dancers and the unique sounds of chants, I can’t help but wonder if our mere presence connected with the vibration the sounds, light and sights of the Cham? Could it be that maybe for that one small moment, we listened with our mind, and understood the language of mind and spirit? I certainly think that we did!