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Entrance of the Clowns

Even before the monks, the Atsaras* - clowns or the jesters - take the stage. Their masks and their excessive poses will challenge the monks. They count as the representatives of the Acaryas, the religious masters of India. They are the only ones that are allowed to poke fun at the religion.

However, in their jokes their is hidden a deep religious meaning: Buddhism teaches that prajnaparamita*, the absolute truth, remains closed to man as long he stays within the cycle of rebirths. According to this, that which is performed by the monks cannot be this ultimate insight. Here the role of the clowns is to qualify that which is portrayed with regard to this insight.

Not every viewer will understand the philosophical background behind the clowns' carrying on. All, however, will be entertained by their jokes and the coarsest kind of erotically suggestive remarks. In this respect also, the Atsaras* are allowed to break with supposed tabus. Decency and good manners are also relative and are, in the end, only a product of the human spirit. Seen in this way, the crossing of boundaries can also lead to enlightenment.


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A masked dancer, disguised as a clown, comments on what is happening in the performance. He takes on an important role, especially when the audience tires.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

Next to their jokes the clowns, usually portrayed by monks, also explain to their audience in simple words what one can see in the performance.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

The often obscene comments of the clowns remind one of the stories out of the life of the holy Drukpa Künle.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber