Tashi Lhunpo is famous for its unique tradition of masked dances and sacred music from the Gelug or Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Upon joining the monastery sometimes as young as six or seven years of age - the monks begin their Buddhist philosophical studies by memorising the sutras or texts, their knowledge of which is tested using a unique system of Dialectical Debate or Taksel. Over a period of about fifteen years of study and annual examinations, and having taken full ordination into the Buddhist monastery, they will qualify as Kachen or Doctor of Divinity. The student monks must then take the decision either to continue their studies in philosophy or to join the Tantric College.

Monks who enrol in the Maha Tantric College are instructed by teachers who have themselves had these skills handed down to them through an oral tradition stretching back through many generations of Tantric masters in Tibet. The lifetime of study covers the monastic ritual, the musical instruments, the unique meditational monastic dance or cham, the making of ritual offerings and butter sculpture and the construction of sand mandalas.

Music is an important part of the ritual and prayers in the monastery.  Morning prayers are based on the regular chants making daily offerings to the deities.  Occasionally for special prayers the instruments of the monastic orchestra are used, usually to underline the most important sections of prayers, or to mark the beginning and end of particular offerings.  

The Dungchen - Long Horns are also used in the prayers, but are also played before great ceremonies, alerting the holy beings in the realms above us to join the monks in prayer, as well as the local population.  

There is a form of written script for the music, but it is normally learned through repetition and teaching handed down from teacher to student, and nowadays only a few people know how to read the written scores. 

For more information about Buddhist Monastic Culture, please click here.