Shoton Speech

Translation of Shoton Speech

On March 11, 2003, His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa attended the last day of the Tibetan "Shoton" festival in Dharamsala, India, as the principal guest. The following is a transcript of remarks made by His Holiness on that day at 4:30 p.m. to the opera group of the Tibetan government-in-exile, in addition to various opera organizations from abroad and the members of the audience.

I would first like to offer warm greetings to all who are gathered here on this last day of the Tibetan Shoton festival: the opera group from the Tibetan government-in-exile, the opera groups from abroad, the monastics, and the laity gathered here. It is excellent that this anniversary has been so well observed in this way. 

And so it has come to pass that we Tibetans living in exile have been able to once again gather to witness the performing of the Shoton opera for the ninth time. I have very much enjoyed this opportunity, and as for the audience, on the one hand a great show was seen, and on the other hand, we were reminded of the happy lifestyle of our homeland of Tibet. Therefore, this event has been a successful one. 

I would like in particular to extend my sincere thanks to the performers of Shoton. For several days, you have been working very hard to provide for your audience, and in this way you have brought delight to the minds of many. 

In general, it seems that music and dance have been a part of societies since the very inception of civilization. From the point of view of ourselves as Tibetans, we have the "five sciences," and from among these it is the science of craft under which music and dance are subsumed. In particular, the art of opera falls under the category of this science. A special form of opera in Tibet is the renowned Lhamo opera. From among the very many forms of Tibetan song and dance, the Lhamo is one that especially demonstrates the unique Tibetan contributions to the art of opera. As is traditionally taught, the performance of Lhamo was begun by the great yogic adept Thangtong Gyalpo. 

As for the stories that inspire the various types of Lhamo, there are many that have originated in India. However, as for the Lhamo that has been performed here this week, this is a story that came from within Tibet itself, about a girl named Nangsa ÷bum. Nangsa ÷bum was a yogini who came from the Tsang district of Tibet. Therefore, for those of us who are audience members, this is not merely entertainment. Rather, this is really a true life story that shows in a very clear fashion how dharma practitioners from Tibet have undergone hardships for the sake of the dharma, and how they applied their enthusiasm to the dharma. Not only that, this story clearly shows us how cyclic existence is devoid of any meaningful essence. Thus, stories like this teach us valuable lessons from the point of view of the dharma, and they also teach us about the joys and sorrows of ordinary life experiences. 

That this Tibetan art form of Lhamo is continuing to grow and flourish as evidenced here is chiefly due to the hard work and exertion of the opera performers themselves. Therefore it is excellent that so many opera performers have gathered here: the opera group from the Tibetan government-in-exile, the groups from abroad and the students from various schools. If you all use this opportunity to communicate with each other, study with each other, and share your experiences of performing with each other, then this will ensure the continued success of this unique Tibetan art form. That is the wish I would like to express to you today, and I have nothing special to say other than that. 

On another note, however, there are some Tibetan youths who pay most of their attention to Indian music and other types of modern music, without paying the same amount of attention to our own uncommon Tibetan music and art forms, such as the Lhamo. I feel that this is unfortunate, because although one is born outside of Tibet, where the music and art are not Tibetan and thus one's habits towards art and music are naturally non-Tibetan, still one should try to generate interest in the art and music of one's own unique culture. I think it is important to have this respect and regard for one's own cultural art. If one does not do this at all, then this becomes a disgrace to one's own people. Therefore, I feel it important for us to generate as much respect, and as much reverence as we can, for our own unique culture. 

We as refugees now find ourselves situated very comfortably in our lives here in India, in a very pleasant living situation. This is due to none other than the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And so for us as recipients of that kindness, it is important to always remember it, but not only that, it is important for us to always try the best we can to implement the advice that His Holiness is continually giving us. To follow the advice of His Holiness will keep our connection with him a pure one, filled with faith and devotion. This is a very important point. 

As for myself, I have recently arrived in exile from Tibet. And although my residence has changed, the attitude in my mind has not. I continually think of repaying the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and of the Tibetan people; I'm always thinking of ways I can be of more service. This is due to my love and affection for the Tibetan people, and it is something that I will not forget. And I ask for your support and assistance in doing this. 

We have all been long making the aspiration, "May there come an excellent day when we can witness the Lhamo being performed under the canopy of Norbu Lingka." This is our aspiration, and this is our hope. But it is not merely a hope. We possess the cause for bringing forth that result, and this is something we can definitely make happen. Some people think that the cause of Tibet is merely empty jargon, and is not a practical goal.

But we can see that this is not the case, if we simply look at the activities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and see how they are affecting people from all over the world. Moreover, we can see how much attention and respect the issue of Tibet and Tibetans are receiving worldwide. Therefore, our ultimate goal is definitely something we can accomplish. I would like to ask everyone to please make aspirations and prayers toward that goal.

Finally, I would like to once again thank the opera performers, both from the Tibetan government-in-exile and from abroad. It has been very wonderful to enjoy celebrating this anniversary here with you, and I pray that we will be able to continue gathering in this way in the future, with all favorable conditions present for long life and good health.

Tashi Delek. 

The presentation was completed with a thank-you speech from the principal of the Tibetan government-in-exile's opera division. 

Translation provided by Tyler Dewar.  


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