Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Sanchi Stupa and Ajanta / Ellora ancient cave monasteries
(Slideshow with Soundscape)
Dear fellow practitioners,
Continuing along with the theme of sharing something a little more creative, I am delighted to be able to share something rather special on this occasion.
At the request of Ajahn Kevali, abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat, I recently helped in the arranging and co-leading of another Pilgrimage to a number of ancient Buddhist Holy Sites within the vast sub-continent of India. Ajahn Kevali had also specifically invited Tan Ajahn Anek, a senior disciple of Luang Por Chah to join in and spiritually lead the journey.
This Pilgrimage was different to previous ones led by me in several ways. In that we travelled even greater distances than normal by the means of internal flights and a train trip, and also in that we added the study of Buddhist stone sculpture at these ancient sites to our usual given focus (Tan Ajahn Anek is renowned for his own abilities as a sculptor of Buddha statues.) Another notable difference was that whereas I usually only allow a few photo's to be taken at each site before or after many hours of formal practices… on this occasion we were fortunate enough to have a very talented photographer with truly excellent equipment joining the entire journey to document it visually.
Kottapan Kaewsanga's photographs capture very beautifully many aspects of both the journey, the places and the experiences had there. Through taking many 'close-ups' as well as many landscape shots, Kottapans pictures give one a sense for the stunning contrast of exquisitely beautiful minute details appearing within a phenomenally vast space. And while there is a sense of communion with the experiences of our intimate group of Buddhist practitioners engaging in the practice of pilgrimage clearly conveyed in these pictures, at the same time we can glimpse the lives of many others who were at the same places at the same time, caught in stunning candid shots.
Khun Kottapan took about 8000 pictures in 12 days (!) From the 2000 he shared with me I have selected just 300. These are presented as a slideshow with each picture appearing for just 5 seconds.
It was a beautiful and somewhat 'epic' journey given the profound subjects we were studying, whilst recollecting the inspiring events which occurred in these places such a long long time ago, not to mention the sheer distances we were traveling. This long yet beautiful slideshow captures the epic nature of our inspired and inspiring journey. A selection of Ajahn Achalo and Christopher Conway's most recent 'Chants with soundscapes' collaboration plays automatically as the soundtrack for this 25 minute adventure.
I invite you now to join in our journey. May these photographs and chants with music be a source of inspiration and joy while reminding us all of the wonderful Refuge of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha that we share.
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
Dear fellow practitioners, warm greetings
I am happy to share with you on this occasion something a little different…
You know something that I have never confessed to our dear subscribers is that although I generally appreciate having the opportunity to be able share Dhamma reflections with people all around the world regularly. There are definitely also moments when I get a bit bored with the tedium of audio file editing! (Yes I edit all of my talks myself – because no one else would be as particular as I am!)
So in having initiated a new 'Chanting with Soundscape' project I have given myself a little break from editing Dhamma talks and have also allowed myself the opportunity to enjoy a little more creativity. Several close and supportive students who were sympathetic towards the project have sponsored the significant costs so that we might be able to produce something of genuine quality. This was a gift to Ajahn Achalo… and now I am able to share it with you. The chants that I am sharing on this occasion were chanted late at night in the Dhamma Hall at Anandagiri here in Thailand back in September of last year. I deliberately chanted the chants while I was on a long solo retreat – so that I might be able to capture a heightened sense of composure, energy and sincerity in the voice. I am also sharing the breadth of my own chanting practices, as having had the good fortune to practice regularly for long periods under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya – I have become familiar with many of the chants of several Buddhist lineages. We do our regular Pali pujas here each evening in the monastery. But late at night alone in my kuti I have quite a repertoire! Chanting is a wonderful way to both contemplate Dhamma and to brighten and energise the mind.
These raw chanting 'audio files' were then sent digitally to Christopher Conway who lives in Leicester in England with a paragraph of suggestions for a suitable 'soundscape' for each track. Christopher who is a 'multi-instrumentalist' as well as an electronic music composer would then work on each track for a while and then send it back to me for comments. (One of Christopher's neighbours played the sitar!) We have been working on this collaboration for four months now and are currently a little more than half way through the proposed 9 chants. Today I am sharing 5 'Chants with Soundscape' with you. Two are inspired by the Indian/Pali tradition and three are inspired by the Sanskrit/Tibetan tradition.
Listening to chanting with music is not a replacement for our formal chanting practice. But it can be suitable and useful in the right time and place. People have found it to be a more wholesome type of entertainment while being stuck in long traffic jams for example… or have found it to be a good way to relax after a stressful day at work and to try to get 'more in the mood' to listen to Dhamma or meditate. Others who have had debilitating illnesses have found some of my previous chants with music a pleasant way to brighten the mind and remember our beloved Lord Buddha and his marvellous liberating teachings with gratitude.
Like anything artistic though… some people will appreciate what we've produced here and others may not. I am aware that my students are diverse in age, cultural conditioning and tastes. I offer this gift freely as an act of Loving-Kindness and encouragement, please make use of it if it is helpful to you – or simply leave it aside if it is not.
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
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