Buddhist monks share traditions

By Colette M. Jenkins, Beacon Journal, Nov 11, 2008

Public invited to Tallmadge to watch Tibetan holy men demonstrate ancient rituals

TALLMADGE, Ohio (USA) -- The chanting, singing and bell-ringing inside Unity Chapel of Light this week are meant to inspire peace and compassion.

''We want to share some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism and give people a chance to experience our culture and religion,'' said Geshe Gankar Tulka Rinpoche, through a translator. ''We are not promoting Buddhism, but hope that people from other traditions can learn from us and we can learn from them.''

Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Dzindu Monastery in India, and two other Tibetan Buddhist monks will be at the church at 503 Northwest Ave. through Saturday. Their visit is part of a U.S. tour to give the public an opportunity to learn about ancient Buddhist traditions through lectures, prayers and ritual ceremonies. They are also constructing a sand mandala in the church fellowship hall and offering blessings of homes and businesses.

The goal of the tour is to build awareness of Buddhism, to spread the word of love and understanding and to raise money for their monastery and its monks and nuns, who have been exiled from Tibet. The monastery is now based in Mundgod, India.

''I've never met more peaceful, compassionate and loving people who exhibit those qualities in their daily lives,'' said Gloria Ireland, president of the Ohio Metaphysical Society. ''My prayer is that people in our community will be able to connect with their spirit of love and compassion and respond to each other with that same kind of compassion and love.''

Ireland's philosophical group, which meets at Unity Chapel of Light, is co-sponsoring the monks' visit, which is their second visit to the Tallmadge church in four years. Rinpoche said this week's visit has been a time to reconnect with friends.

One of those friends, Bruce Sugarberg, said the monks' visit helps his church promote the message of unity and tolerance. He describes the monks as ''genuinely holy people.

''The Unity movement believes in diversity, We believe all religions are valid and that there are many paths to the same result,'' Sugarberg said. ''We can learn a lot about love, peace, tranquility and selflessness from the monks' teachings.''

The maroon- and gold-clad monks opened their visit on Friday with a presentation on energy healing. Over the weekend, they shared basic teachings of Buddhism and conducted a healing service and an opening ceremony for the mandala. During the ritual ceremony, the monks chanted prayers to bless the ground on which the sand mandala is being built and invited the angels to come and bless the area.

On Monday, the monks visited children in shelters and continued constructing the mandala, made of colorful sands. Its pattern is organized around a unifying center. The mandala represents the universe, or wholeness. The monks will spend many hours over the next several days creating the intricate symbol as a way to educate people about the culture of Tibet.

When it is finished on Saturday, the monks will gather in a ceremony, chanting in deep tones while they sweep their mandala into a jar to be emptied into a nearby body of water as a blessing. The emptying into the water symbolizes the circle of life. The dismantling of the mandala demonstrates the impermanence of life.

''The mandala is a road map for a practitioner to get the divine qualities of compassion and love,'' Rinpoche said through his translator, Tenzin Bhuchung, of Tallmadge. ''The colors represent the elements of earth, wind, fire, water and space. The colors also represent different types of blessings. The white is for purification, the yellow for increasing things like wisdom, and so on.''

The public is invited to view the construction of the mandala 2 to 8 p.m. today and Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Rinpoche will teach about meditation from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Saturday, a White Tara Empowerment lecture will be presented from 10 a.m. to noon, and a teaching about monastic life in India is 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

The closing ceremony and dismantling of the mandala is 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. An offering for the monks is being accepted at the door for all events. For a complete list of events or to schedule a blessing or consultation with Rinpoche, call 330-459-3162 or visit http:// www.unitychapeloflight.org.

Rinpoche, who was ordained by the Dalai Lama, is the founder and director of Khacholing Center in Minnesota. ''We believe all religious traditions can learn from each other,'' Rinpoche said. ''Our tradition is broad but we hope people understand that the [goal] of Buddhism is to transform our minds from a negative state to a more wholesome, positive state.''