Monks visit in flurry of color

Second annual pilgrimage to the U.S. includes the Tibetan monks making a universal compassion mandala with colored sand.

September 22, 2011|By Joanna Clay
  • Tibetan Monks Jigme Wangchuk, left, and Tamrin Tsering begin the process of creating a sand mandala of compassion during the opening ceremonies of Tibet Cultural Week at Neighborhood Congregational Church.
Tibetan Monks Jigme Wangchuk, left, and Tamrin Tsering… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Vibrantly colored banners and echoes of prayers filled the Neighborhood Congregational Church on Wednesday with the arrival of Tibetan monks and the start of Tibet Cultural Week.

Many parishioners fell into a meditative state as the Gaden Jangtse Tsawa monks recited prayers and chants while seated cross-legged on the floor of the church. Throughout the service they played long, flute-like instruments that bellowed in between chants.

Scrolls with bright illustrations and an image of the Dalai Lama sat on the altar behind them.

"It is such an honor to have these holy men with us," the Rev. B.J. Beu told the congregation of about 50.

This is the second year the monks have made the pilgrimage to the United States, a program that started in partnership with Tibet Handicrafts' owner Tenpa Dorjee.

The church has had its Tibetan prayer banners up all year in the church's courtyard and in the sanctuary. The congregants also made their own banners with prayers.


"This church is a Christian church, but it's open to all spiritual paths," Beu said. "You don't have to abandon certain beliefs or philosophies to believe something else."

He pointed out the monks' attention to detail, which was evident in the making of a sand mandala, which they started an hour into the morning service.

The monks will work for five days on the mandala, which is an intricate design made with colored sand.

The mandala the monks chose is called the universal compassion mandala. One of the monks, Geshe Tenzin Sherab, explained that mandala translated means "taking essence."

"Essence here refers to attainment of the state of enlightenment," he said.

He explained that essence cannot be given.

"Enlightenment is something you must take within yourself," he said.

Beu said he hopes viewers can take something away from their experiences this week, which includes a Tibetan Bazaar and a sacred dance.

"It's all done to promote compassion," he said. "I think a larger value of compassion would be a welcome element in our political, communal and religious discourse."

Tibet Cultural Week ends Monday. For more information, visit

Twitter: @joannaclay

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