Tibetan Buddhist monks complete, dismantle sand mandala in Savannah

By Dash Coleman, Savannah Now, September 29, 2013

Savannah, Georgia (USA) -- More than 1,000 people watched silently Sunday afternoon as eight Tibetan Buddhist monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery chanted in prayer in front of the brightly colored sand mandala painting they spent days constructing inside the Jepson Center. Then, after the toss of a flower, the ceremony was brought to a close as one of the monks circled the ornate tabletop work of art, sweeping it inward until it was a pile of colored sand.

<< Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News A monk carefully begins the process of deconstructing the sand mandala, which was created during the week by Tibetan Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery during a special closing ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Jepson Center.

The deconstruction symbolizes the impermanence of all living things.

"We do the invocation ceremony to invoke the spiritual power within oneself and for the audience," said Gala Rinpoche, the group's head teacher, after the event concluded. "Then from there, we generally try to cultivate the sense of fulfillment, the sense of benefit for others, then we generate the great compassion."

After the ceremony concluded, the monks offered small packets of the colored sand to audience members as keepsakes.

The monks then took the remaining sand and marched - with a couple hundred Savannahians in tow - to River Street, where they performed another ceremony and released the sand into the Savannah River.

"After working for a few days, we believe the sand carries immense positive energy and healing power, and the best way to share it with the world is pouring (it into) water," Gala said. "It will carry the energy through the ocean, benefitting countless living beings - sentient beings - in the ocean and then, through evaporation, through the rain, it will spread all over the world."

This week was the first time the monks have come to Savannah to create a sand mandala painting in more than four years. The event is always popular, and preliminary counts at the entrances Sunday afternoon indicated 1,085 attended the closing ceremony. That's not counting the people who watched from outside the Jepson's glass walls once it became too crowded to allow more occupants inside.

Harry DeLorme, senior curator of education at the Telfair Museums, said this year's residency of the monks may have been the most popular yet.

"This is one of our most requested programs we've ever offered at the Jepson Center," he said. "It really strikes a chord with such a wide variety of people, and there are so many ways that people can appreciate what the monks do. Whether it's on an artistic level, whether it's on a spiritual level, a cultural level, there are so many ways people respond to this. It's become sort of just an incredibly resonant event for a lot of folks."

Local artist Chris Johnson, 26, said he came away from the free ceremony feeling that he had a new cultural experience.

"I'm glad that this is in Savannah," he said. "I'm glad that there was a turnout like it was — all these people trying to get an awareness about their history and know the mandalas and understanding their meaning. It's cool to see that many people involved."

The Telfair Museums' chief executive said she was moved by the experience.

"The whole process of seeing the art evolve over the week — that was incredible, watching the monks bit by bit all week," said director/CEO Lisa Grove. "But I was not expecting how special the closing ceremony was going to feel, the way we had all I guess grown so attached to it and then the act of them destroying it — how emotional that felt. It was really touching. The message that they provided, which was that nothing is permanent, I think it is a lovely, symbolic way to tell that message."

Gala said that while he's used to traveling to plenty of cities across the world for the artistic residencies, some of them big, he found Savannah to be a very spiritual place. Throughout the week, he said, people of all ages would come to the Jepson and ask the monks questions about their culture and religion while they were working on the sand mandala painting.

"I feel it's very spiritual. People came and just mediated," he said. "... I see this more than in other cities. So that's why. And then, of course, I see people smile more and look more friendly."

The monks are headed to Atlanta next, where the Dalai Lama is set to visit Emory University and speak in public next week.


Go to www.savannahnow.com to watch video from Sunday's event and to hear monk Gala Rinpoche talk about the ceremony.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv