A talk on a Tibetan Song by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu


Tibetan Dance Performance in Adeje, Canary Islands, Spain February 2014 Photo courtesy of I Jaroszewska

Tibetan Dance Performance in Adeje, Canary Islands, Spain February 2014
Photo courtesy of I Jaroszewska

drá nag – Black Tent

Drá nag means black tent. The black tent is the home of Tibetan nomads. When Tibetan nomads go somewhere in the summertime, they use a cotton tent. The nomads cannot live in a cotton tent in very high altitudes in Tibet, so they use this black tent, which is very thick and made from yak wool. They also change the tents every year. It is not necessary to change the entire tent, but two or three times a year to change just the entrance. That way the tent is always fresh and good. So this is called drá nag.

Nomadic culture is very important for Tibetans because Tibetan civilization developed more in this way, from the beginning, not as a society with houses and big buildings. For example, in Central Tibet we have the Potala Palace, but most places did not develop in that way. Western Tibet is the source of Tibetan culture and knowledge, which is the ancient Shang Shung Kingdom. In the ancient kingdom, the Tibetans lived in caves in the mountains in the winter, but from spring until the end of autumn, they were nomads going everywhere. For that reason the life of Tibetans is mostly based on this nomadic culture.

So the continuation of this nomadic culture is very important for Tibetans. For that reason this song called Black Tent is important for the understanding of how the life of most Tibetans is. It is not sufficient that Tibetan nomads are taken to the city and given flats, etc. –  it is not sufficient because this is not the life of Tibetans. So today we have many kinds of these problems, particularly in the nomadic places. This tendency to develop only the cities is a general tendency of globalization in the world today, but for Tibetan culture it is extremely important that the life of the nomads continues. If there are no nomads, Tibet is finished.

So drá nag is a very nice song that says:

sòd-nam rin-qen rig-bai líŋ-bǔ

tò ~  jíd ~dán gǎŋ-ris tà~ nas~ gor ~ .

means high level, high place jíd dán means marvelous. gǎŋ-ris means all mountains of snow. tà~ nas~ gor is all around in Tibet everywhere.

yár me-dog baŋ-ka dàb~ nas~ xád~  .

in summer all meadows are full of flowers, a very enjoyable place.

bǒd ~  qyug ~bo bǔ-yi gyán~ qa~ qòg ye ~

any Tibetans who have animals and live a nomadic life, this is something like an ornament for these people; it is indispensable in those places.

dròg~ drá-nag tòŋ ~na sem-ba-dro~  .

When I (the singer) see the nomads with black tents, then I feel very happy.

Because most of these singers grew up in China and are living most of the time in China, in China there are no black tents, there are no nomadic places. That is the reason the song says: when I see the black tents I am very happy. That is true. Also when I see, even on television, nomads and tents, etc. it makes me happy. That is an example, for them they feel something concrete.

ye ~  dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

Then the singer is repeating, repeating, repeating that he feels very happy.

dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

         ye~         ye~         ye~         ye,

                  drá~ nag~ tòŋ~ na,

         dròg ~ drá-nag   tòŋ ~na  sem-ba-dro~  .


qyug  da ~nor lug-sùm gó~ nas~ gyás ~ .

Also animals, like horses, yaks, sheep (da ~nor lug) are increasing in their places

kyim sá-caŋ cò-va naŋ~ nas~ gyid~   .

Also outside the tents there are all these kinds of animals, inside are the families, which are also happy and living with their system.

gǎŋ  ka-va jan-gyĭ gyán~ qa~ qòg ye~

gǎŋ means place in Tibet. Particularly East Tibet is divided in six gǎŋ,  gǎŋ is a kind of county. So, these nomads are something like ornaments of these places.

dròg~ drá-nag tòŋ ~na sem-ba-dro~  .

so when I see the nomads, I feel very happy

ye ~             dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

                  dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

         ye~         ye~         ye~         ye,

                  drá~ nag~ tòŋ~ na,

         dròg ~ drá-nag   tòŋ ~na  sem-ba-dro~  .


xǒ  ~  hǒ ~ma mi-sǎd gyá~ cò~ kyìl ~ .

means yogurt.  hǒma means milk. mi-sǎd is a big quantity of milk. gycò kyìl is just like water in the ocean

mar qyùr-va sǎd-med ri~ vo~ zeg~   .

mar means butter. qyùrva is cheese. sǎd-med ri~ vo~ zeg, also they produce such a quantity. Because particularly nomads are producing a lot of these products and then they go to the farmers in the south, because farmers have grains etc, their own production. Then the farmers and nomads are exchanging, because in the nomad places these products do not grow. For that reason it is very important for their lives.

yul  ~  qol-sùm mi-yi gyán~ qa~ qòg ye ~

All this quantity of production is becoming something like an ornament, an indispensable ornament of all Tibetans of the three groups. The three groups are Central Tibet, Kham and Amdo.

 dròg~ drá-nag tòŋ ~na sem-ba-dro~  .

         ye ~             dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

                  dròg ~ drá-nag-tòŋ~ na,

         ye~         ye~         ye~         ye,

                  drá~ nag~ tòŋ~ na,

         dròg ~ drá-nag   tòŋ ~na  sem-ba-dro~  .


qos  ~  ma ~ni dǎr-jog deŋ~ nas ~ gyod ~ .

qos is dharma, teaching. mani is mantra, Om mani padma hum principally, and then the Avalokitesvara mantra. dǎr-jog means flags. We have many kinds of flags, not the small ones but a little longer flags, like these [in the gonpa], these are called dǎr-jog. The small ones are called lungta, you should know that. Lungta and dǎr-jog is different. The very big dǎr-jog are called jogqen. So there are many dǎr-jog flying above these nomad tents

sǔr qon-tag ga-va  qyog~ xír~ zès~   .

sǔr means the corner of these tents. qon-tag means there are three [columns] for maintaining [holding up], the opening. For example, in these tents, at least in the four directions, there needs to be at least four columns, otherwise they do not remain. There not only four, there are many. And inside there are also columns. Nomad tents are not like our tents in general, they are not like that, they are very big. For example, rich families in ancient times, when I went there, there were many, many rich families, etc. and inside one tent there were twelve columns a line, that is an example. There are two sides, one side is for the female family, the other is for the male and guests, etc., can arrive on the left side, and the right side is where the females work, producing milk products etc. ga-va is columns.  qyog~ xír~ zès is in all directions, also outside in the tent for the opening there are many kind of small columns.

dròg  ~  drá-nag caŋ-gĭ bǔ~ quŋ~ ŋas ye ~ ,

I am a boy from the nomads who grew up in a tent, so I pay homage, pay respect for my home (even if he is not leaving [in it] in this moment). And for that reason he is saying and singing that

kyim~ kyed-la gá ~vai lú-yáŋ-yin~  .

kyim~ kyed-la gá means I love, I like that house and I am paying respect

ye~           kyim~khyed-la gá~ vai~,

                           kyim~ kyed-la-gá~ vai~,

         ye~         ye~         ye~         ye~.

                           kyed~ la~ ga~ vai~,

         kyim~kyed-la gá ~vai~ lú-yáŋ-yin~ .

Transcribed by Rita Bizzotto





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