Tag Archives | Tibet

The One and Only Sherten

There is only one Sherten!

In our online class this week we mentioned the Dalai Lama and Tibetan spirituality, both of which are essential to appreciating Tibetan culture, but there’s so much more to Tibet than Buddhism and the Lama. If you’re looking for modern Tibetan music, albeit with a traditional twist, you may also want to check out popular Tibetan musicians such as the one and only Sherten (short for Sherab Tendzin), who won “Best Male Singer” at the 2009 Tibetan Music Awards because of heartfelt songs like this one  and the now-defunct Rangzen Shonu — “basically the best music band in the history of Tibet”.  (If you invite musicians who love Rangzen Shonu over to your apartment, be ready for a party like this.)

Who is this Dalai Lama Fellow?

Before we dive too deep into Tibet we should know a bit about its central religious and political figure — Tenzin Gvato!!…who we probably know better as the Dalai Lama.

A “Dalai Lama” is the leader of the “Gelug” school of Tibetan Buddhism. Each Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. Tenzin Gyato is the 14th; there may or may not be a 15th. Since going into exile from Tibet in 1959 when he was just a teenager, Tenzin Gyatohas become an international celebrity and the highest of all high-profile supporters of Tibetan autonomy. Do Tibetans love him? A lot do.

Tibetans ROCK. (and rap.)

This is how Vajara feels now…

Most traditional Tibetan music is religious in nature, reflecting the deep influence Buddhism has on the history, culture and daily life of Tibet. There are chants, mantras, and a lot of low, resonant drums. Of course, with so many Tibetans living in exile and with Tibet itself becoming more modern, global styles have begun to blend with, and even supplant, traditional music. Today Tibetans rock (as we see with Vajara in this video for “The Way I Feel Now”), rap and sing luscious pop music in front of aerobicizing dancers just like the rest of us.

Take Us to Tibet

All Around This World map of South and Central Asia featuring Tibet

This week in our online class we focus on Tibet, a region that’s officially a part of China, but is restless. Tibet unified as an independent, Buddhist empire about 1400 years ago, and only became part of China in the 18th century when the Qing Dynasty conquered it.  When the Qing Dynasty fell in 1912, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, called the Dalai Lama, declared Tibet’s independence. Unfortunately for Tibet, China never recognized Tibet as independent.

In 1950 Chinese troops invaded and in 1959, after a failed revolt, the Dalai Lama and about 80,000 Tibetans went into exile in India. Today, the Dalai Lama is the head of the Tibetan “government in exile,” which espouses non-violence and officially says it doesn’t want independence, just true autonomy within China. There are others in the Tibetan exile community who are increasingly focused on independence, calling for a “Free Tibet.”

In music class we’re not going to presume we can free Tibet, but we are going to see if we can free our minds a bit by slowing down our kids’ engines by chanting a Tibetan mantra. Let’s go.



Metta Sutta

We end our week in Tibet with the Metta Sutta, the Theravāda Buddhist “discourse on loving-kindness.”

The ten verse Metta Sutta inspires us to consider what we may do to achieve a mental state of “goodness,” in which we want others to be happy. With all the mayhem in this world, don’t you think we can at least start there?

This translation into English from the original Pali  suggests the path for one who wish peace on others begins with peace within oneself. “This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech…. Peaceful and calm, and wise and skilful,
not proud and demanding in nature…” It continues, “Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world,
Spreading upwards to the skies, and downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill-will.”



The kids in our lives are going a million miles a minute, and that’s exactly what they’re built to do. Grownups like us…we need to step bag, take a moment, and breathe. In Tibet you would be urged to meditate, to clear your mind as a way to make room somewhere in it for peace. Chasing after your kiddos, trying to catch them and match their energy level at the same time, you may absolutely not be in the mood to meditate…abut that’s the point! As the old Zen proverb says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

Got 12 Hours?

If you reeeeeeeally like Buddhist meditation, here you can Om for 12 hours….

Because Tibet was so geographically distant from the major population centers of the ancient world, its main religion, Buddhism, flourished there for almost fourteen centuries in basic isolation. Only when tens of thousands of Tibetans went into exile in India in the 1950s did the rest of the nations experience Tibetan Buddhism and begin to catch on. Tibetan “Theravada Buddhism” centers around ancient texts written in the language Pali and emphasizes how one need not destroy the three poisons of craving, aggression, and ignorance, but instead focus on “transmuting them directly into wisdom.” The next time you have twelve hours to devote to Buddhist meditation, ponder your own personal way to wisdom as you chant along with this video: Ommmmmmmmmmm.