Kenora lets Tibetan monks go

By Jon Thompson, Kenora Daily Miner and News, July 9, 2007

Kenora, Ontario (Canada) -- All things eventually come to an end. Onlookers commented that considering the spinoff effects of the sand mandala constructed by Tibetan monks in Kenora this week, it had almost taken on characteristics of a living being.

A ceremony of chanting and music ran its course witnessed by a crowd sweltering in the inside heat and clinging to every window of the window outside. Then the meditative masterpiece comprising millions of grains of coloured sand was swept into a pile with a brush while ringing a bell, symbolic of male and female involvement respectively.    

The interpreter for the group explained. “Some of you think ‘oh, you put so much energy into it and now you’re dismantling it. Well, everything is momentarily changing. Everything is impermanent. Any kind of phenomenon comes into existence, every moment changes it and eventually it is destroyed.”

An impromptu parade clogged traffic on Main Street for a moment on its way to the waterfront to complete the ceremony. Infused with days of prayer and intention for all beings not to suffer, the sand was said to hold incredible spiritual power.

Like the helpless last grains in an hourglass, the sand fell from the hands of guru Geshe Lobzang Sam Dup through the surface of the water to the bottom of the Lake of the Woods.

The Buddhists believe that there are beings with spirits but no form living in the water called “nagas” that will be blessed by the compassionate energy put forth in the construction of the sand mandala. They put it in the water because they understand it as the best way of blessing all living things. Once it is in the water cycle, the theory goes, the blessing will cover a great deal more space than through putting it anywhere.     

Charles Wagamese sat through the Wednesday to Friday sessions in their entirety. He reflected on his observations as the platoon of volunteers tore down what remained of the backdrop for the eight-day Tibetan Buddhist cultural marathon.

“Indigenous cultures have a lot of wisdom and a proven record of being able to sustain ourselves and sustain the lands that we occupy. To spend time with the Tibetans gave me a chance to confirm that.

“The sand mandala and the meditation were like beadwork only the beads were a lot smaller.”

“I felt like I was at a funeral afterwards,” said Diane Millard, one of the co-ordinators of Kenora’s Buddhist Study Group, reconvening this fall. “It’s like life, being in all your glory and then you die.” Millard insisted that she didn’t identify as a Buddhist but that there is much to learn from studying the Eastern religion.

She can be reached at 557-3654 for those interested in getting involved.

There was a strong sense in the peaceful teardown after the event that organizers had achieved their original aims of bringing the community together and exposing people to new and different ideas. Some even expressed relief that there would be time for reflection over the summer to allow everyone to digest the events of the past week and move on.

For them to try to hold on to it would have felt wrong.