Lobsag Khedup, a 32 year-old Tibetan Monk living in a single room at an art center in Zhongdian where he teaches the art of thangka painting, wakes in silence at 6 a.m. He pulls his bedding around him as if to make a nest out of it. It is cold and his action is somehow appropriate to the introversion of the hour. There is no light in the room, no room yet to speak of, just the dull indistinct sense of an interior. He sits up and starts to pray. But to pray isn’t enough, he must make his devotional into a sound, a full-bodied sound that shakes the floor and brings the walls back to him in the shape of his voice. He is building a space with his body. Two miles away Lhazom Khedup unlocks the doors of the temple alter room and finds his place among the pillows and bowls, the smell of butter and seasoned wood. As he sings the Three Refuges the sun catches face of a statue of the Buddha and spreads across it to the next. The light like the whirring in his voice brings the body of the temple to life. In a small chamber attached to a monastery in the mountains in Deqin Lobsag Nydark prepares his body to go out with his sound. He passes his voice back through the ages of the earth, destratifying the body language has deposited in the mind like so much fine sediment, unsounded. And the listener cannot help but be convinced; this is a sound that sounds at the depths of being, a sound that jumps the gap between the body and the truth of its constitution. To be sure slowness and stillness have a speed and it can be tremendous. He is moving out, his musculature wired to the stars. But one coud reasonably ask why sound at all and why this sound in particular, this almost frightening chthonic rumbling? And how can a practice that mobilizes the entire body simultaneously be expected to liberate the practitioner from it, requiring as it does such attention to the life of senses, such a complex coordination of interior and exterior affects?
Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Elford, Christopher, "Sit Like a Bell: Sound and the Body in Tibetan Buddhism" (2008). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 59.