During Dongsung Shabdrung Rinpoche’s teaching this weekend, June 27 and 28, Saturday took on the feeling of a gathering by the fireside. An evening of “Tales of Wisdom,” had been organized. Free and open to all, the event was intended for ages seven and up. Originally conceived to raise funds for the Institute, in the end, the event was offered free of charge in the context of Dhagpo’s fortieth anniversary—the themes of which are, notably, generosity and coming together. This original initiative, proposed by Landrevillage (an association founded by members close to the center) brought together over sixty people—all young at heart and looking to go back in time! No official publicity had been done for the event, but word-of-mouth did its work.
Three tale-tellers and a professional violinist brought the evening to life—Barbara (a volunteer at Dhagpo), Laurette, Marion, and Ine, respectively. The tales for the evening came from various traditions across the world and each story held a certain wisdom. Aside from the theme of wisdom, each storyteller had carte blanche to make her selections, for, as Barbara points out, the key for a storyteller is that a tale speaks to her and it is pointless to impose something that she doesn’t like.
Chairs and cushions circled around a small, improvised stage in the Study Hall, a room more accustomed to seeing teaching and retreats than performances. The curtains were drawn, the light low: the scene was set. Not a single distraction could disturb the already attentive and silent audience. To maintain a connection with ancient oral traditions and a closeness with the audience, the storytellers eschewed the aid of a microphone. One of the storytellers came forward and invited everyone to journey to the Land of Tales. Nothing could be simpler: one simply closes one’s eyes and crosses the river—a rainstick imitates the wondrous sound of water and everyone lets themselves be taken into the magic. Once on the other wise, a musical salut introduces our arrival in the Land of Tales.
And then, the journey begins. At times whispered, at times proclaimed, the discourse came to life from the mouths of the storytellers and in the enchanted mind of the listeners. Barbara, Marion, and Laurette took the stage by turns, while Ine’s music punctuated their stories and transitions—the violin takes on monarchic tones to announce a king or briskly imitates the course of a strong wing carrying away a small character, while the drum marks the steps of Death. The complicity between musician and storyteller is evident; it combines with the storyteller’s gestures to give the stories life. In addition, Marion brought forth a storyboard: a tale illustrated by a miniature stage and cloth puppets created by the storyteller herself.
The audience is literally seduced. Faces are painted with dreamlike smiles, eyes shine; everyone seems taken back to childhood. The reactions follow the characters’ adventures; tenderness, amused smiles, and, at times, anticipation reflect their rapt attention. Dongsung Shabdrung Rinpoche came to listen to the storytelling with interest as well.
And thus the stories unfold, both short and long.
But already it’s finished! We must once more cross the river and leave the Land of Tales. A joyful melody, accompanied by the clapping of the audience, rings out a last time. The audience warmly applauds Barbara, Laurette, Marion, and Ine in thanks for the journey. A bet won: the audience has been conquered and can’t stop smiling. The hour of tales charmed all of these big kids, and many found it too short. It is undeniable; stories are indeed yet another way to bring people together!