The Monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery visited St Joseph’s, St Finians and Ramsbury Primary School
Children learned about the Buddhist faith, the monks’ daily life and witnessed dances and prayers
Following their enlightening performance at the Corn Exchange during Newbury Spring Festival in May, the Monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery returned to the area to share t heir culture with local primary school children. Organised by Newbury Spring Festival, this mini-tour saw the Monks bring their Buddhist culture – expertly demystified by Jane Rasch – to St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Newbury), St Finian’s Catholic Primary School (Thatcham) and Ramsbury Primary School.
Children were treated to a dance, which involved music from longhorns (Dungchen) and percussion. They were wowed by the colourful costume for this dance, which is traditionally performed at Tibetan New Year (Losar), a festival of great cultural significance to the Monks. In one of the schools, there was even time for some children to try p
laying the longhorns themselves.
The schools were also shown several mudras (symbolic hand gestures used during prayers) and children were shown how to perform the gestures and told of their meanings, which ranged from water and food to candles and incense. After this interactive demonstration, the monks used the gestures in a real – albeit shortened (at home in the Monastery, the prayer can continue for up to five hours!) – prayer.
Finally, the children were invited to ask questions about the monks’ Buddhist faith and their lives. Questions from the schoolchildren included what the monks eat, whether they are allowed to see their families, and whether they celebrate Christmas.
Jane Pickering, Festival Administrator and Education and Community lead said “it was such a privilege to bring the Monks of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to three local primary schools. All three schools were Christian-based faith schools and it was lovely to see the children interacting with a religious culture that has so many differences and yet so many similarities to their own. We were all so impressed by the insightful questions the pupils at all three schools asked, and the respectful fascination they showed throughout the Monks’ workshop.”
This year’s education and community participation work at Newbury Spring Festival has also included schools’ workshops with Ferio Saxophone Quartet, free tickets for school classes to attend the Festival’s popular lunchtime concert series, and the Young Festival Critics competition as well as a host of family friendly events during the Festival, which was held in May 2023.