Buddhist monks to bring Tibetan tradition to Athens in week-long visit

by Grace Hill, The Post Athens, March 6, 2016

Athens, OH (USA) -- For the third time, monks of the Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in India are traveling the states to spread the Dharma, or teaching of the Buddha. This time they will be making a stop in Athens.

<< A group of Tibetan monks from the Labrang Tashikyil Monastery will be visiting OU this week. The monks will be presenting to students and faculty and constructing a peace mandala out of sand on the fifth floor of Baker Center throughout the week.

Seven Tibetan Buddhist monks will be on campus for a week to perform rituals and present students and faculty with educational opportunities. The monks will construct a peace mandala out of sand on the fifth floor of Baker Center throughout the week, ending with destruction of the mandala and dispersal of the sand in the Hocking River. The practice symbolizes impermanence, a central tenet of Buddhism. Extending the teaching, they will perform Chod Puja, a meditative ritual, and a Skeleton Dance in Glidden Recital Hall. The monks also will present a slideshow entitled “Buddhism & a Course in Happiness” in Ellis Hall.

The tour is run in partnership with the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana. Mary Pattison, a volunteer at the center, has helped to coordinate the tour.

Coming from a refugee monastery, the monks focus their teachings on the traditions and culture of Tibet, Pattison said. After Chinese occupation of the country, thousands fled Tibet as refugees, and some went to India, where the monastery is located. The touring monks are both first- and second-generation refugees.

Housing 100 to 120 monks, the monastery conducts the tours in part to raise money. Donations also are needed to provide education and health care to Tibetan children who are reared in the monastery.

The events are being held in conjunction with the Comparative Religion Club. The organization helped to coordinate the visit by organizing, doing public outreach and raising the donations necessary to pay for the visit. Grace Eberly, the organization's co-founder and president, said the club applied for SAC funding to cover the $2,000 donation suggested for the construction of the peace mandala. Donation baskets will be available to the public at several events.

Eberly, a senior studying world religions and biological sciences and a Post columnist, said college students should take advantage of the opportunity of the monks' visit. Though she said she believes students often minimize religion’s role in the world, she said it is still relevant.

“Religion is still really important. It manifests itself in many ways in our contemporary culture,” she said. “There isn’t a decline, but religion is being expressed in new ways.”

Brian Collins, a chair in Indian religion and philosophy, and Associate Professor Jaclyn Maxwell will host the monks in their classrooms to expose students to monastic tradition first hand. The monks will conduct a traditional Tibetan debate. They will offer two presentations depicting monastic life and Tibet, Collins said.

The monks are not looking to convert people, and instead wish to conserve their culture and share their traditions with those interested in a philosophy of compassion and wisdom, Pattison said.

If you go:

Schedule for Buddhist monks in Athens

What: Opening Ceremony for Peace Mandala
    When: 12 p.m., Monday
    Where: Baker Center 5th floor atrium
    Admission: Free, donations accepted

What:  Mandala Construction
    When: 12:30 p.m. - 5 p.m., Monday; 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
    Where: Baker Center 5th floor atrium
    Admission: Free, donations welcome

What: Chod Puja & Skeleton Dance
    When: 7 p.m., Tuesday
    Where: Glidden Recital Hall
    Admission: Free, donations welcome

What: Slideshow: “Buddhism & a Course in Happiness”
    When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
    Where: Ellis 024
    Admission: Free, Donations welcome

What: Mandala destruction and dispersal of sands in Hocking River
    When: 5:30 p.m., Thursday
    Where: Baker Center 5th floor atrium
    Admission: Free, Donations welcome

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