Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meet Dance Mandal Artist: Prajwal

I regularly visit the Tao of Tea inside the Portland Classical Chinese Garden to recharge my soul - and over the years I have gotten to know the fantastic staff very well (special hello to Yvonne, Daniel, and Martin). Prajwal is one of the tea servers there - but I recently discovered he is also an amazing talent, struggling to keep the sacred Buddhist arts of his native Nepal alive. The youngest of six, he was born into a Buddhist family where his father - as 35 generations before him - is a priest. Prajwal followed in his father's footsteps, becoming the 36th, teaching the sacred dance of his homeland. "I enjoy being Buddhist," he says. "Everything good in my life I owe to Buddhist practice and culture." Prajwal soon realized that his culture was slowly disappearing in Nepal, giving way to modernization. Although some of the sacred arts had never been shared with the outside world, he struggled to introduce it to the world in order to preserve it, which has enabled him to meet wonderful people from all corners of the globe. Some of his former students have even gone on to become teachers of the art in Germany and Japan. While teaching in the US he realized that he was able to reach a large audience who cared about keeping his native traditions alive, and soon immigrated. He still has a center in Nepal, which he visits every year, but has also opened the Dance Mandal Institute here in Portland, OR, where he teaches meditation, dharma talk, yoga, and the sacred Buddhist dance he cares about so deeply. Dance Mandal is a foundation of sacred Buddhist arts of Nepal, "dedicated to the preservation and expansion of Charya Nritya [dance as a spiritual discipline] and the related traditions of vocal music and costume-making. With the survival of this sacred dance form threatened by modernization, Dance Mandal travels throughout the world performing and giving workshops while adhering to its original purpose as a profound spiritual discipline." Aside from his art Prajwal is also working to build the first authentic Nepali Buddhist temple outside his native homeland. "This project is a fulfillment of my father's vision of bringing Newar Buddhism and especially Newar temple dance to the world, so that many may benefit from observing and practicing this beautiful and transformative tradition," he explains. "(It) is a major step forward in the preservation, expansion, and exploration of Newar Buddhist art and dance (that also) welcomes other traditions of sacred art and practice to share the space." It is a big undertaking and donations of any kind - helping hands, finances, resources, etc. will be gratefully accepted to support the building of the temple. If you'd like to give a monetary donation you may mail a check to Dance Mandal, 1405 SE 40th Ave., Portland, OR 97214. - or if you prefer to use a credit card you may pay through Pay Pal via the Dance Mandal website ( If you'd like to donate your time please contact Helen ( 503-233-37039).

-Wendy Baylis
Dharma Designs


ara133photography said...

Wow, that was really interesting! Thanks!!!

Dharma Designs said...