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David-Neel, Alexandra - Podang monastery musicians, the



Type of Spiritual Experience


The experience is difficult to classify as she definitely had a heightening of emotion and a sense of ‘beings’ but no communication and no visions or hallucinations.  Some might have dismissed this as simply an emotional reaction, but this is not in fact how she described it

A description of the experience

With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet – Alexandra David-Neel

The religious music which I heard at Podang twice a day, before dawn and at sunset, enchanted me. The small orchestra consisted of two gyalings (a kind of haut-boy), two ragdoitgs (a huge Teban trumpet) and two kettle-drums.

A bell striking a special rhythm, peculiar to Eastern temples, was sounded as prelude. After a few moments silence the deep-toned ragdongs rumbled for a while, then the gyalings by themselves sang a slow musical phrase -supremely moving in its simplicity. They repeated it with variations, supported by the basic notes of the ragdongs in which finally joined the kettle-drums that imitated the thunder rolling in the distance.

The melody flowed as smoothly as the water of a deep river, without interruption, emphasis or passion.

It produced a strange, acute impression of distress, as if all the suffering of the beings wandering from world to world, since the beginning of the ages, was breathed out in this weary, desperate lamentation.

What musician, inspired without his knowing, had found this leit motif of universal sorrow? And how, with this heterogeneous orchestra, could men devoid of any artistic sense render it with such heart-rending fervour?-This remained a mystery which the musician monks would have been unable to explain.

I had to be content to listen to them, while watching the dawn come up behind the mountains, or in the darkening of the sunset sky

The source of the experience

David-Neel, Alexandra

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Listening to sound and music


Listening to music