Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A cultural experience from Tibet by Tori

This week, at my middle school, a group of five Tibetan Monks came to make a sand mandala. It turned out amazing. But simply describing the sand mandala wouldn't give it the justice it deserves. I will start with the country of Tibet, then continue on to the Sand Mandala, and finally one of the monks.

This is Tibet. It was a free country, until 1959. After World War Two China conquered Tibet. So, yes, technically Tibet is a part of China, but the monks still like to think of Tibet as an independent country. The capital city of Tibet is Lhasa. Tibet is nicknamed the roof of the world, because of it's high elevation. The lowest elevation is higher then Mt. Saint Helens. The size of Tibet is one third of Europe, and the country neighbors China and India, where some Tibetans live. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader in Tibet, which is unlike the United States, where we keep religion and politics completely separate. The Dalai Lama that is ruling over Tibet right now has won the Nobel Peace prize.
These are four monks working on the Sand Mandala. You can see part of the fifth's arm ( He is putting more sand into the funnels or small tubes they used.) These Tibetan Monks are so skilled in making Sand Mandalas that two of them have PhD's in the art. Historically, the sand came from crushed colored stone. But in Modern days they simply take natural sand and dye it. The design they use is not a simple one, nor do they lay down a machine drawn pattern. They have to memorize the scriptures, and then draw it out with chalk on the table. Originally the monks drew with white chalk, but since it was not very clear, they went over the lines with a blue drawing pencil. 
When you first look at the Sand Mandala, it looks like someone drew a picture with marker. But if you look closely, you can see that they carefully ran sand out of a funnel. This doesn't take a few hours, but a few days! With all the work they put into the Sand Mandala, they must have a special ending ceremony, right? Yes! But a sad one. They brush all the sand into the middle of the table, and then into a bucket, where they transport it to a river, or a place with moving water. Then they release the sand into the water, where it flows into different waters. This is used to symbolize life, which is beautiful, but doesn't last.

This is a table from my school that the monks drew the scripture on.
Part of the unfinished Sand Mandala.
Above is the almost finished Sand Mandala. Now comes the part about one of the Tibetan Monks. Sadly, I cannot remember his name. He didn't speak English, so he had a translator, who told us about parts of his life: He couldn't study what he wanted where he lived, so he fled the country to go live in India. He didn't have a passport, so he had to travel through the mountains. He walked during the night, and slept during the day, so he would escape to police. He studied Sand Mandalas, and then obtained a PhD. In 2007 he traveled across the United States, mostly to high schools and colleges. 
After he was done telling us about himself, he said a few inspirational things as well: The reason many countries are failing to keep their people happy is because they focus only on external things, not internal. So it makes him very happy to see us learning about compassion and love . . . To make a better world you must start with yourself . . . The best people in the world are your teachers and parents. Understand what your parents and teachers are trying to do and follow it . . . . You have to realize the difference between right and wrong, because it is easier to take the bad road . . . . To get respect you don't have to do anything special, just respect others.

Now came the interview part of his visit. We got to ask him many questions, but I'll just write down the best: Question: How long have you been making Sand Mandalas? Answer: I started in 1979
Q: When did you become a Monk? A: I became a monk in 1970
Q: What is your favorite things to do? A: In my free time we discuss many things, and share jokes.
Q: Why did you become a monk? A: Because when I see life, I notice a lot of problems.
Thank you in Tibet is: Tujechhe
Good-bye and hello are: Taishi Delek, Which simply means: Peace be with you.

No comments: