Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse Phukhang Monastery are stopping in Charlottesville as part of their two-year Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour throughout the country.
The purpose of the tour is two-fold, said spokesman Lobsang Wangchuk.
“The first reason for the tour is to spread the teachings of the Buddha from the Tibetan perspective,” Wang said. “Secondly, it is to build a new home for 500 monks in the monastery ages four to 80 or 90 whose present building is falling apart.”
The dormitory the monks currently live in houses one-third of the entire monastery and needs to be abandoned because it was built with poor materials in the late 1960s. The monks hope to raise enough money by the end of the tour to construct a new building.
As part of the tour, six monks created a sand mandala at CitySpace Sunday. Sand mandalas, which can take up to 200 hours to construct, represent the architectural layout of the celestial palace of a specific deity. Leena Rose Miller, one of the organizers of the events in Charlottesville, said the community chose the mandala of the Buddha of Compassion for the monks to create.
“Every grain of sand that went into the sand mandala was with the intention of compassion for the Charlottesville community,” Miller said. “In that we chose compassion, we brought that into the broader arena of not necessarily having a Buddhist event. It is a loving, kindness event and thus more of an event for everyone in the community.”
The monks performed a ritual before they started working on the mandala, used sand-filled metal cones to create the center room of the Buddha of Compassion’s palace and then took part in a closing ceremony. Afterwards, the sand was swept away to represent the Buddhist teaching of impermanence and collected in a vase. The vase was brought to Riverview Park so it could be deposited in the Rivanna.
“They did chanting, rang their bells, and said prayers to release the mandala of compassion into the Rivanna,” Miller said. “It was beautiful.”
The monks will hold other events this week, including a teaching on the Four Noble Truths Monday evening, an empowerment session Wednesday and a teaching on death and rebirth Thursday.