More Than Just Music

By Sue Mazingo, Practitioner and Communications Volunteer

The Rhythm of the Earth music festival hosted by Deer Park Monastery last week was a uniquely beautiful experience.

I went to the festival excited to hear great music and spend the day outdoors with like-minded people. And I did these things. The bands were fun and talented; there were monastic jams, whimsical children’s songs, wholesome rap, and drumming. I danced and sang along with the crowd.

But I carried away so much more than a good time, something deeper and unexpected. I carried away a hope for the future of the earth, for our children and grandchildren.

It was not your typical music festival experience.

For one thing, attendees practiced noble silence for the first four or five hours, including three walking meditations from stage to stage.

We watched indigenous Kumeyaay people sing and drum in an oak grove to honor their ancestors who inhabited the land before us. In harmony with Plum Village tradition, they spoke of the way they walk softly on the land and paid homage to the Bodhisattva statues that are scattered around the scene.

Sacred Circle: Native Drums and Voices

In the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall, we listened to the Deer Park Monastic Choir call to Avalokiteshvara in a moving prayer to end the suffering of all living beings. 

We listened to inspiring stories about Sister Chan Khong, a nun who dedicated herself to social change during the Vietnam/American war and became Thay’s first disciple, helping him establish engaged Buddhism. We watched clips of interviews filmmaker Wouter Verhoeven conducted while shadowing Sr. Chan Khong (True Emptiness) and were moved by the work and perspective of this loving, peaceful Bodhisattva. 

At the Main Stage in Solidity Hamlet, we ate bánh mì sandwiches made by the local Vietnamese sangha in silence after listening to the sound of crumpling paper as we unwrapped our sandwiches. 

Monastics lead Mindful Eating from the stage

Then the fun and lively performances of the talented musical line up brought lots of dancing, smiling, and joy all around. This included the Deer Park Monastic Band featuring Glenwood Crow, Joe Reilly and the Community Gardeners,  Born I, the Free Cloud Collective, and Makeda and the World Cultural Center Drum and Dance Band.

Although I did not stay until the end, the festival closed with a silent sitting meditation led by Brother Phap Luu.

I’ve been going to Deer Park for years, but I felt my understanding of the practice broadening. It was astounding to be surrounded by such loving and supportive people and music under the sun while the wind rustled leaves in the trees around me and the song birds contributed.

The experience was profound. 

The loving energy of the attendees was palpable and gave me hope for the future. We can change the world with love, one person at a time. And with Thay’s following, thousands of people are already doing their part.

View from the Stupa at Deer Park Monastery

To view photos of the music festival or watch the replay of the performances, click here.