Tibetan monks bring artistic, religious traditions to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Tibetan monks bring artistic, religious traditions to Aspen

Loren Sackett

Tibetan monks of Ganden Shartse Monastery will bring a weeklong celebration of Tibetan religious and artistic traditions to Aspen, starting Thursday.

The group’s fourth visit to Aspen in the past 10 years is part of their 1999 North American fund-raising tour, which will continue through next March.

Their visit this year will include music, the building of a sand mandala, teaching and healing.

A “Peace Jam” concert at the Paepcke Auditorium on Monday, Aug. 16 will bring local musicians Jimmy Ibbotson, Tom Paxton, and Elijah together with world-renowned Tibetan flautist Nawang Khechog and the monks for an evening of Tibetan and American music. The event will raise funds for the Ganden Shartse Monastery of India and Surmang Monastery in occupied Tibet.

Tibetan born Nawang combines traditional Tibetan instruments with those of other cultures during his performances. He performed in Aspen last winter with Peter Kater at the Wheeler Opera House.

Tickets for the Peace Jam are $20, or $10 for students and seniors, and will be available at the door starting at 6:30 p.m.

Ganden Shartse Monastery was founded in 1969, when refugees from invaded Tibet settled in southern India. It has grown in size from 15 monks to 3,000 students, teachers, and spiritual practitioners. Funds are being raised for the monastery to build a new debate courtyard, improve meals, and provide better textbooks for the students. Some tour proceeds will also be sent to help the Surmang Monastery in Tibet, where Western students of the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche have been working side by side with local monks and villagers to rebuild and revitalize this ancient monastic community.

For their Aspen visit, the six Tibetan monks will “be here long enough for people to actually spend some time with them,” said local organizer Dennis Tuma.

One of their eagerly awaited ceremonies will be the creation of a Yamantaka mandala, or circular sand painting, in which colorful sands are painstakingly applied to form a magnificent pattern. Creating a sand mandala is a sacred event to the Tibetans, as it is a manifestation of the Buddha’s Enlightened Mind intended to benefit all sentient beings, Tuma explained.

The mandala is a “form of blessing all beings,” he said. Everyone is welcome to stop by the Aspen Wellness Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 12-18, to witness the mandala’s construction.

Building sand mandalas is an ancient practice, said Tuma, and is “essentially an offering to the meditational deities.” He describes a mandala as a “two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional idea – a blueprint of a Buddha’s palace and grounds.” The mandala represents an ideal universe and carries the hope that it will contribute to world peace because viewers will be affected by it.

Each of the monks who helps build the mandala has committed every detail of the blueprint to memory. They first “lay out the design, and then start filling out this incredible” pattern, said Tuma. The time spent building the mandala is a time of meditation for the monks.

At the end of the mandala’s creation, the monks will perform a ceremony to portray the impermanence of everything that exists. To show that “all things that are born, die” – a prominent Buddhist philosophy – the monks will sweep the mandala into a pile and take the sands to a river, where they will be dumped. The ritual of the mandala as a whole “promotes the health and well-being of the Earth, upon which we are dependent as the basis of our existence,” Tuma said.

The monks will also be available to perform individual and group healing ceremonies. Two accomplished ritual masters are traveling with this group to perform blessing ceremonies for private homes and businesses to invoke the presence of “wisdom beings” to stimulate virtuous activity, according to Tuma.

Donations are accepted for these services and people are encouraged to make appointments soon, as the time available is limited. These cleansing ceremonies are designed to remove the obstacles to happiness. Tuma describes them as “healing activities to help reach people, and allow them to look at things differently.”

For more information on the visiting monks and activities, contact the Roaring Fork Friends of Tibet at 923-4090 or e-mail at zgrubs@rof.net.


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