Sunday, September 4, 2011

Buddhist Personality : Nawong Khechog

Nawang Khechog is a Grammy nominee and one of Tibet's formost world music composer and musician. He is also one of the first Tibetan musicians to be able to break into international world music scene with his original and authentic musical compositions (solo and collaborative albums) to be distributed around the world through different record label. In 2007 Nawang received Tibetan Music Award ( Special Recognition , similar to Life Time Achievement Award) and International Civil Golden Award , The highest civilian award of Nepal.

Nawang was a monk for 11 years and studied Buddhist philosophy and meditation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan masters. He also lived as hermit, meditating in the Himalayan foothills for several years under the guidance of His Holiness

Nawang was born into a nomadic family in Eastern Tibet, on a high mountain plateau, where trees can not grow and the wind whispers through the grasslands. He learned about life's lessons and survival at an early age. When he was only three years old, a yogi meditator convinced his father that it would be devastating for their family to remain in Tibet, so they fled the land. the family travelled thousands of miles to India on the backs of yaks. Following a treacherous three year journey, the yogi's prediction came true in 1959, when China took over Tibet. Nawang's family still suffered - most of his family, including his two younger sisters perished in the hot climate of India

Later, he emigrated to Australia, where he heard the soundtrack to the film, "Silk Road," by Japanese synthesizer musician Kitaro. After moving to the United States and launching his own performing career, Khechog was thrilled when Kitaro asked him to perform together for a benefit concert.

"Then he asked me to join his world tour. I said yes. I had been his fan since I heard the 'Silk Road' music," he says.

He then moved from New York to the Boulder area to be near his new musical collaborator, who lived for many years in the mountains in nearby Ward.

"I love Colorado so much. I said, 'Hey, this is it.' I never went back to New York," Khechog says.

Since coming to the United States, he has performed with a veritable who's who of contemporary musicians, including Philip Glass, Trey Anastasio of Phish, David Bowie, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., R. Carlos Nakai, Beastie Boys, U2, A Tribe Called Quest and Pearl Jam.

In 2008, he suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident in India in which his niece was killed. And upon returning to the United States, the 57-year-old experienced a heart attack, He also gives workshops in "Awakening Kindness" around the country.

This month, Nawong will hold a concert to commenmorate the September 11 terrorist attack. Due to his brain injury and heart attack, he hasn't performed in years. For his Sept. 11 concert (see box for details), he'll use instruments from around the world -- a South American flute, Tibetan wind instruments, ocarinas, a "nose flute" from Hawaii, an Australian didgeridoo

Still a practicing Buddhist, Khechog dispels the notion that a non-violent way of living entirely precludes the necessity for fighting. The Sept. 11 attacks, he says, are one example.

"For Buddhism we believe in Buddhist, compassionate, non-violent approach. But we also believe that you can't sometimes just totally be non-violent and peaceful. Sometimes you have to be a little bit tough," he says. Osama bin Laden, Khechog says, deserved compassion, but also "he had to die; he can't be alive."

But, he says, the hurt and horror of Sept. 11 should not become fuel for vengeance, anger or hatred. Just the opposite, in fact.

"The most important lesson to learn out of Sept. 11 is to become more kind and compassionate and loving," he says