Indian Roots of trans-Himalayan Buddhism

 Indian Roots of trans-Himalayan Buddhism

Cham dance, Hemis Monastery, Ladakh, India. The Cham is one of the most important forms of meditation of the lamas. They perform puja for many days before the event. The purpose is to awaken within themselves the deity who they wish to become on the day of the Cham. The wrathful deities represent the vigor within us, with which we would face the demons of our ignorance. Photograph by Benoy K Behl.

Team L&M

In the 4th century, in the region of Kashmir, Asanga and Vasubandhu developed the Yogachara school of Buddhism, which was to travel far and wide. In the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava who was teaching in Kashmir, took a highly developed form of this Buddhism and its sacred dance to Ladakh, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Western Tibet and other places.

The film Dance of Liberation of the Lamas by the noted cultural historian, film-maker and photographer Benoy K Behl, takes you to a magical land across the great Himalayas, to the high-altitude cold deserts of Ladakh and Spiti, a land where oxygen is scarce in the air and people have to lie down for at least a day to allow their bodies to acclimatize. This is the land of the dance of liberation of the Lamas.

Ladakh is the land of high mountain passes, nestled between the Himalayas and the Karakoram Range. Eternity is never beyond the vision of man at this place. The Buddhist faith arrived here in ancient times. It brought with it belief in the harmony of the whole of creation; the belief that the transitory world around is an illusion, called samsara. We must lift the veils of this illusion to see the truth beyond. The truth of our oneness with all that there is.

The Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh presents a vast and majestic landscape. It has azure blue skies, mountains of unimaginable hues, and bushes of Sia – wild roses that fill the air with their fragrance. The high mountain passes which connect this valley to the rest of the world remain snow bound for half the year. As one can imagine, life is extremely hard. The culture of this region is steeped in the compassion of the Buddhist faith.

The Cham dance of the lamas signifies the victory of knowledge over ignorance. In Buddhist thought, the greatest evil is the ego. It is that sense of the self which is the greatest illusion that we must lose, in order to gain true knowledge. This is the land made pure by Guru Padmasambhava of the Nalanda University more than 1,000 years ago. The search for the emancipation of the self continues till today. It is the desire to rise above attachments and the illusions of the material world: a search of which the Cham is an ultimate expression.

To know more attend the illustrated lecture and film screening by none other than
the filmmaker himself,
on September 18, 6pm This is a free event


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