The Essence and Power of Tradition

The instruments we play—Gongs, Bowls, Bells—come with deep lineage and and long lasting traditions. There is power there. There is magic. There is superstition. And there is also a lot of bull shit.

It's almost 2017, and as modern and developed as mankind has become, it has also lost touch with so much rich and varied tradition handed down over the ages. In many ways we have become so blind in our quest for the future, that we have forgotten the past.

Philippine Gong tradition

Here's a test:
Go out in your neighborhood, or your local park. How many tree species can you actually identify and name, besides oaks and maples? The same thing goes for both flowers and weeds. It wasn't that long ago that people were much more connected with their surroundings and could identify them. In many cases it was a life of death matter to know your plants: which ones are safe to eat, which ones will kill you.
 Do you know that there are a lot of city kids who have never seen a live animal besides a dog, cat, maybe a squirrel, and the local bird species? People who live in the city see very little diversity in wildlife, except on TV, or the internet. Think about it, there are people who have never seen a cow or a horse in the flesh! 

The same holds true for the instruments you play. Can you identify the various Gongs/Bowls/Bells and both tell where they come from and what they're called? I go on Ebay and see so many Gongs/Bowl/Bells identified as Tibetan, even though they are clearly from somewhere else. Sellers say, “I'm no expert, but have done my best to identify this.” Hah! Tibetan is the hot buzzword, so they use it to sell a product and don't really care.

Tradition is all around you (Vietnam)

But as a musician (You do identify yourself as a musician if you play Gongs/Bowls/Bells, don't you?), you should know better. You should strive to continually learn about the instruments you play. Besides what the instruments are, you should know how they are used in traditional settings, even if you never play them that way. You should know and respect the traditions that have brought them to this present day.

Knowledge is more than just power. It is understanding, it is clarity, and it is being part of a tradition and lineage that stretches back through time. Be an active part of that tradition.


Next time, we will look at the importance of ritual…

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


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