Beyond Karma is a rare mix of sacred sound from different cultures melding into a unique journey into emptiness: the sound of purity itself. In this album, the Gyuto Monks are joined by Australia’s finest sacred music duo, weaving the sonorous chant of the Gyuto monastery with traditional and newly composed music from Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“We all have the potential to break the law of cause and effect and be free” – Gyuto Elder Gen Lama
Let us heal all of our sufferings and go Beyond Karma.
Dr. Kim Cunio and Heather Lee
Dr. Kim Cunio and Heather Lee are prolific in their explorations of sacred music. Their setting of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2000) was audacious and scholarly, transcribing the 2000 year old music of the Baghdadi Jews and transplanting it into the text of the Scrolls. Ishq, (2007), music for the Khalili collection of Islamic art, made new translations of medieval Islamic masterworks in Farsi and set them to music; and The Sacred Fire, their setting of Hildegard of Bingen 1098-1179, was groundbreaking, working from the original neumatic notation, and a medieval word music ensemble.
1. Beyond Karma
What is the effect of the sacred chant of two traditions sung at the same time? We ask this question in “Beyond Karma.” An extract from the Morning Meditation practice of the Gyuto Monks meets the exquisite Ashkenazi Jewish prayer Y’hu L’Ratzon (Psalm 19: 15):
“Y’hiyu l’ratzon imrey fi v’hegyon libi l’fanecha, Adonai tzuri v’goali.”
“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, Be acceptable to you, O God, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
2. Karma Burning
We rarely hear the beautiful natural voices of the Gyuto Monks. Chant master Lobsang Yeshe sings a part of the Karma Burning chant accompanied by Australian Didgeridoo virtuoso Ash Dargan. We hear Yeshe actually perform the ritual as he recites Om Mane Padme Hum as the sounds of Aboriginal and Tibetan cultures meet.
3. O Pastor Animarum
This is part of a magnificent collection of music Hildegard of Bingen wrote in the 1050s called the Symphony of Celestial Revelations. “O Pastor Animarum” describes the shepherd who liberates us from our weakness and sadness. It is sung by Heather as it probably was over 900 years ago.
“O pastor animarum et o prima vox, perquam omnes create sumus. Nunc tibi placeat ut digneris nos liberare de miseriis et languoribus nostris.”
“O Shepherd, you of first voice, by whom we are all are fashioned, Be willing to liberate us from weakness and sadness.”
4. Tantric Grace
Accompanied by Kim on piano and strings, the Gyuto Monks here are almost soulfully invoking the spirit of the tantric teachings of Buddha with a passionate affirmation of goodwill towards others. The piece unfolds slowly to allow great introspection. In this, as in all the texts of the Gyuto Monks, the actual words and meaning are secret, leaving us to experience the pure vibration.
5. Unity of Life: The Tibetan Sh’mah
In some ways, this is the epitome of the project. A live recording of the Homage and Invocation chants of the Gyuto Monks are heard throughout the recitation of the Sh’mah Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), prayer of Baghdadi Judaism, Hear O Israel the Lord is God The Lord is One. The second line, which is traditionally only sung in the Yom Kippur service, is heard on this recording, and it is hoped this causes no distress to anyone. The Sh’mah is a meditation on the unity of life, a teaching similar to the tantric practices of non-duality. “Unity of Life” has a full ensemble: The Gyuto Monks, Kim Cunio voice, harmonium and tanpurah, Heather Lee, voice, Anne Hildyard, voice and winds, Llew Kiek, oud and Tunji Beier percussion.
“Sh’ma Yisrael Adonay Elohunu Adonay Ehad. (Baruch Shaym K’vod Malchuto L’olam Vaed.) V’ a havta eth adonay elohecha b’hol ’vavcha U’v’chol naf’sh’cha uv’chol m’odecha V’hay had’varim haaile, asher anochi M’tsav’cha hayom al’l’vavecha. V’shinantan L’vanecha v’dirbatha baam, b’shivtecha b’vetecha, Uvelechtecha vaderech uv’shochb’cha uvkumecha Uk shartam l’oth al ladecha V’hayu l’toto foth bain e enecha, Ukh thav’tam al m’zuzoth bethecha Uvish arecha.”
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one (Blessed shall be his name for ever and ever) And you shall love the Lord with all your heart soul and might. And these words which I command you on this day shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them to your children, And talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way, When you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, And they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and on your gates.”
Mahakala, The Great Protector, is a deity vital to Gyuto Monastery. The prayer to Mahakala is the first chant practiced by young monks in the monastery and is central to the life of a Gyuto Monk. In a special room in the temple in the early hours of the morning, it is chanted daily by a lone monk. This excerpt features Lobsang Tsetan chanting and playing the traditional Nga Chen drum, accompanied by Ash Dargan on the Didgeridoo. We again have the chance to hear one of the Gyuto Monks in his beautiful, non-harmonic voice.
7. Lament for a Lost Home
A signature piece in our collaboration is a setting of contemporary Iraqi poet Bader Shakir Al-Sayyab’s, poem A Stranger by the Gulf. With text selected by Iraqi string master Nawres Al-Freh (joza and violin), this new composition by Kim Cunio sees Heather Lee soar in her operatic voice while the monks chant at their deepest in a cycle of 6 beats. Here we experience longing, hope and an exquisite collaboration between the monks, Kim, Heather and Nawres; with a shared symbolism between both Tibet and Iraq as a lost homeland for the thousands of refugees forced to flee.
“Ashamso Ajmalo Fi Biladi Men Siwaha! Hatta Althalam Honaka Ajmal Fa Howa Yah tathino Aliraq.”
“The sun is more beautiful in my country than any other, and darkness Even darkness–there, is more beautiful, for it embraces Iraq.”
8. As the Sun Sets
After spending time with the Gyuto Monks, Kim Cunio played this short piece in response to the feeling engendered by sitting with them in the beauty of their simple Tibetan Gompa in Rosebank, Byron Bay, NSW.
9. The Suffering of the World
It is sometimes said that the favourite prayer of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is this exquisite aspirational prayer by Shantideva, an 8th century Buddhist monk. Thinking of all that the Gyuto Monks offer to the world, Kim Cunio has written a new setting of this piece, sung by Samarai (Babu) Cunio, Kim and Heather’s 9 year old son, accompanied by Kim on piano and strings. This prayer motivates us to remove suffering wherever we see it.
“As long as space abides As long as the world abides So long may I abide Removing, the suffering of the world.”
10. Dedication for the Good of Others
Our practice and the recording is sealed by this act of dedication, and the perfect sound of the Gyuto Monks takes us back to the world, our intention and motivation strengthened.