Tibetan Buddhist monks complete then destroy mandala

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MANCHESTER — After laboring over the sacred mandala of compassion for most of five days, the Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery destroyed their work Saturday as hundreds looked on.

The closing ceremony for the eventful week was emotional, with many in the audience wiping away tears as a monk swept the colorful sand in an arcing pattern as he circled the mandala.

While he swept the sand into a pile, the other monks chanted prayers to release the mandala's energy.

Before the beginning of the ceremony, the leader of the monks, Minyak Rinpoche, told the crowd that they were very happy to have spent time in

Manchester.

"We feel the love from you," the Rinpoche said. "We feel very happy and loved. We feel very happy here."

The Rinpoche noted that people they had met were close to each other and carried with them measures of compassion.

"Please, I hope you always carry your compassion," the Rinpoche said. "Whatever you do, carry it on. Have compassion. Everybody has the same possibility to do great things."

He said the antidote to ignorance is wisdom and people can combat suffering.

"When we know of the causes of suffering, we can prevent those causes from coming again," the Rinpoche said.

The monks developed close relationships with many who came to see them during their week in Manchester.

They enjoyed posing for photos with children and were eager to try their varying degrees of English prowess. Geshe Lobsang Yonten eagerly shared that he had been studying English for one year, learning it from YouTube for 10 minutes per day as he manned the table where they sold items, the funds from which would be sent back to fund their monastery of more than 2,000 monks in southern India.

The monks began their commitment of just more than a year about two months ago. They travel from location to location, arriving on Sunday and creating a mandala through the week and closing it out on Saturday before moving on.

The Rinpoche's English was good and he served as the spokesman for the group.

Aa a Rinpoche, Minyak was declared by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be a reincarnation sent to continue the work of the fifth Minyak Rinpoche, and to continue his legacy.

That came when he was 5 years old. He and his parents chose to accept the honor and he entered the Drepung Gomang Monastery to begin his Buddhist studies. Now 37, Minyak Rinpoche is the spiritual leader of the traveling monks on the Sacred Arts Tour 2019-2020.

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The monks were brought to Manchester by Andrea Ross, who saw the group in another location and began working to try to get them to come to Manchester.

Last spring she got the call she had been waiting for.

"They asked if they could come in October," Ross said. "I said, 'they can come tomorrow.'"

Ross and her husband hosted the monks in her home in Manchester, but the monks took care of the Ross family, cooking for them and caring for them as family.

When Minyak Rinpoche saw Andrea Ross looking worn down, he brought her food and made her eat.

Before the closing ceremony began, Minyak Rinpoche explained a little bit about the mandala that had been created in the final moments before it was destroyed.

He pointed out the five colors that represented five wisdoms, the eight petals representing the eight chakras, the four gates representing the four truths. The entire mandala is full of symbolism from the colors to the symbols to the numbers of items included.

With that, the ceremony began with chants and music before the Rinpoche and another monk circled the mandala praying.

Minyak Rinpoche then took pinches of sand from the center and four other places, before using his finger to slide through the sand pushing in from the edge to the center on each of the four sides. He then repeated it in between to divide the mandala into eight pie-shaped areas.

Next, Geshe Ngawang Damcho began to sweep the sand of the mandala, brushing inward from the edge toward the center in arching strokes, progressing around the mandala. As he continued, the other monks chanted, their singing growing to fill the room.

The geshe continued around several times as the pile of sand in the middle grew until at last all of the sand was in the pile.

He then placed small yellow flowers in the pile.

As this happened, the room was silent, but many people were seen wiping their eyes during the ceremony.

When the ceremony ended Saturday at Equinox Pond, the monks seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

They eagerly posed for photos as a group and with the dozens of people who had come to witness the event.

They then broke up and posed for more photos and even whipped out their cell phones to capture the beauty of Vermont for themselves, which some people thought was kind of ironic considering they had spent the week amazing people with their beautiful artwork.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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