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Tibetan Mystery Play (part 2)

"What an unforgettable sight to see the super-human fibres of saints and of celestial
and demoniacal beings emerge from the dark cavelike portals of the main temple, ma-
jestically descending the long flight of steps down to the courtyard, accompanied by the thundering blasts of twelve-foot long horns and the slow rhythm of deep kettle drums.  Thousands of people who occupy every inch of ground round the open space in the centre of the courtyard, as well as the open space in the centre of the courtyard, as well as the open verandas, balconies, and roofs of the adjoining buildings, hold their breath in spellbound silence.  Step by step the awe-inspiring figures descend: under the
multi-coloured royal umbrella Padmasambhava himself, the great apostle and master of all majic arts, followed by the various forms and incarnations which he assumed in his multifarious activities in the service of mankind: as Buddha-Sakyamuni. as king, as scholar, as Yogi, as monk, and in his terrible forms: as the subuer of demons and pro-
tector of the Sacred Law, etc.  In measured dance-steps and with mystic gestures they circle the open space around the tall prayer-flag in the centre of the courtyard, while the rhythmically swelling and ebbing sounds of a full monastic orchestra mingle with the recitation of holy scriptures and prayers, invoking the blessings of Buddhas and saints and glorifying their deeds and words.  Clouds of incense rise to heaven and the air vibrates with the deep voices of giant trombones and drums.

But while those awe-inspiring figures solemnly wheel around, the almost unbearable tension and exaltation, which has gripped the spectators, is suddenly relieved by the appearance of two grotesquely grinning masks, whose bearers are aping the movements of the sacred dancers and seem to mock the Buddhas and even the terrifying Defenders of the Faith.  They are weaving in and out of the solemn circle, gaping into the faces of
the dancers, as if defying and ridiculing both the divine and the demoniacal powers.
These, however, seem to take no notice and move on with unperturbed dignity.

The effect is astonishing: far from destroying the atmosphere of wonder and sacred-
ness, the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous rather seems to deepen the sense of reality, in which the highest and lowest have their place, and condition each
other, thus giving perspective and proportion to our conception of the world and of

By experiencing the opposite pole of reality simultaneously, we actually intensify them.  They are like the counterpoints in a musical composition: they widen the amplitude of our emotional response by creating a kind of inner space through the distance of simul-
taneouly experienced opposites.  The wider the amplitude, the greater the depth or in-
tensity of our experience.  Tragedy and comedy are forever interwoven in the events of our life, seriousness and a sense of humour do not exclude each other, on the contrary, they constitute and indicate the fullness and completeness of human experience and the capacity to see the relativity of all things and all 'truths' and especially of our own 

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