You Moving Stars

July 31st, 2017

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Premiered February 2018 at Scripps College, March 2018 at the University of Montana–Missoula, and May 2018 at the Salzburg Mozarteum, with generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Recorded for Volume 3, Voices of the Pearl, forthcoming summer 2018.

Rising Canadian composer Emilie Lebel sets female voices from the Therīgāthā in Pali, and the Golden Light Sūtra in early Chinese from the Dunhuang scroll owned by Scripps College, the women’s liberal arts college within the Claremont Consortium. For voice(s), guitar/harp, and electronics.  The Dunhuang scroll held by Scripps’s Denison Library is the seventh scroll of the Sūtra on the Supreme King of Golden Light, more commonly known as the Golden Light Sūtra. There were three translations of this text from Sanskrit to Chinese, with this edition completed in the seventh century by the Tang Dynasty monk Yijing (義淨). The Therīgāthā is the earliest collection of women’s literature known in the world, and it collects spiritual poems by and about early female disciples of the historical Buddha (from approximately 5th century BCE).

Texts and Translations
With special thanks to Andrew Nguy and Bryan Levman for textual assistance)

Chinese texts: excerpted from seventh scroll of the Sūtra on the Supreme King of Golden Light, more commonly known as the Golden Light Sūtra. (from the holdings of the Special Collections of Scripps College’s Denison Library)

Pali texts: excerpted from the early collection of texts by and about early Buddhist female disciples of the historical Buddha, the Therīgāthā, in the verses of Mittātherīgāthā & Mittātherīgāthāvaṇṇanā 

 

四方星辰及日月,

The stars and constellations of the four directions and the sun and moon

威神擁護得延年;

With their august spiritual support and protection, longevity is obtained.

sājja ekena bhattena, muṇḍā saṅghāṭipārutā

With shaven head, with one meal per day, wrapped in my (nun’s) robe

devakāyaṃ na patthehaṃ, vineyya hadaye daran”ti

(Now) I do not wish (to be reborn in) a group of gods; I have excised anxiety from my heart.

吉祥安隱福德增,

Auspiciousness, stability, and blessings and virtue are increased

災變厄難皆除遣。

Disasters and difficulties are completely averted and eradicated.

 

sājja ekena bhattena, muṇḍā saṅghāṭipārutā

With shaven head, with one meal per day, wrapped in my (nun’s) robe

devakāyaṃ na patthehaṃ, vineyya hadaye daran”ti

(Now) I do not wish (to be reborn in) a group of gods; I have excised anxiety from my heart.

 

…日月…星辰…

…sun, moon,… constellations

 

    • We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
    • Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

 

 

This work sets female voices from the Therīgāthāin Pali and the Golden Light Sūtra in early Chinese from the Dunhuang scroll. It is the seventh scroll of the Sūtra on the Supreme King of Golden Light, more commonly known as the Golden Light Sūtra. The Therīgāthā is the earliest collection of women’s literature known in the world, and it collects spiritual poems by and about early female disciples of the historical Buddha (from approximately 5th century BCE).

–Emilie LeBel

 

I first learned of this scroll of Buddhist texts held by Denison Library during an independent study on calligraphy in Spring 2016 at Scripps, under the guidance of Professor Kitty Maryatt. Drawing from my background in Buddhist texts, I helped to identify it for the Special Collections catalog. Purportedly from the Dunhuang caves in China, it is an exquisite piece of calligraphy by a monastic scribe, dating to perhaps one thousand years ago. I hand-copied an excerpt for an exhibition at Scripps, and this caught the eye of Professor Anne Harley, who suggested that we incorporate the scroll’s story of the powers of the Hindu goddess and Buddhist protector Sarasvati into today’s premiered work.

–Andrew Nguy (PO ’19)

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Detail from a 9th-century painting on silk found at Dunhuang, of a woman, likely in the process of being led by Avalokiteshvara after death.

Detail from a 9th-century painting on silk found at Dunhuang, of a woman, likely in the process of being led by Avalokiteshvara after death.