Tibetan monks in Austin

Some Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse monastery are visiting Austin. They made a sand mandala at City Hall over the past week, and yesterday they held a ceremony in which they destroyed it. My friend Tom and I went to see it.

Quite a crowd had gathered at City Hall, with people on the stairs and balconies, gazing down. Bumped into old friends Rebecca and Jutta.

One of the monks was American and explained things well. He said one monk was a geshe and described what it takes to become a geshe (20 years of monastic academic studies and a lot of winning debates with other monks). Another was a lama, a title indicating an honored dharma teacher.

You can see their wonderful hats.

They chanted for a long time. I couldn’t understand a word, but I liked it. I recorded it on my iPhone but can’t figure out how to upload a voice memo to my blog, so you can just imagine the chanting.

After destroying the sand mandala with paint brushes, they gave each person attending a small bag of the sand and suggested it was good for two things — to sprinkle on the four corners of your property as a blessing for your home, and to rub a bit of it into the crown chakra of a dying person to ensure a good rebirth.

I couldn’t resist making the final photo my new masthead photo!

So what is this ceremony about? Nonattachment. A visual lesson about creating something of beauty, intricacy, and special meaning, with highly focused, meticulous, and lengthy labor, and then destroying that creation — because life is change and nothing is permanent — and releasing it back to the Source. The practice of presence. Equanimity.

I loved their energy. One of the monks in particular just radiated so much intelligent alive awareness in his mostly silent presence (and no, he wasn’t the geshe or the lama). I felt connected energetically to them all. They radiated such deep well-being.

Here’s a link to their activities for their remaining time in Austin.

Circling the sand painting

Destroying the sand painting

Chanting at the lake...

...as a monk pours the sand into the lake

Ceremony over, posing for photos

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