Tibetan Buddhist monks create a slice of world peace in Colorado Springs, one grain of sand at a time

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Pleasant, intriguing humming produced by thin metal funnels painstakingly being rubbed together at the hands of Tibetan Buddhist monks, who this week are creating a sand mandala in Colorado Springs, reaches deep into the human core, leaving solace and beauty behind.
Just what the world needs, says Geshe Khenrap Chaeden.
The Dalai Lama-ordained Buddhist teacher leads the 2023-24 Drepung Gomang Sacred Arts Tour Group, which is in town to build the ancient art form, teach people about Buddhism, and share customs of food and fellowship.
“Peace is important. It’s all people’s responsibility to come together in love for peace and happiness,” Chaeden said Wednesday.
Ten months after arriving in the United States, seven monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery have made their 35th stopover at Unity Spiritual Center In the Rockies.
The monastery has been located in India since the Buddhist monks were exiled from Tibet in 1959 by the Chinese Communist Party. The religious community of refugees has 2,300 people today, who rely on the caravanning monks’ fundraising efforts to live.
The monks are creating an Interfaith World Peace Mandala in the spiritual center’s sanctuary at 1945 Mesa Road, where the public can view the process from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Dressed in traditional burgundy and yellow robes, monks remove their shoes, pull up cushions to sit on, pick up their funnels and deposit colored grains of sand in an intricate circular pattern on a 5-foot-by-5-foot wooden board on the floor.
The geometric Interfaith World Peace image presents graphics from 12 religions that flank the innermost circle of a globe encasing a dove of peace.
The next ring speaks of the four elements in nature and the four seasons, followed by a circle of the eight symbols of Buddhism. Lastly, a multi-colored ring depicts how the world shines as everyone comes together in peace, Chaeden explains.
The buzzing vibration emitted during the method used to fashion the temporary work of art is the antithesis of the irritating cicada.
Instead of setting teeth on edge, the soothing high-pitched rhythm of the monks’ dedication to the ancient craft balances the mind and body.
“It’s so meditating, calming and centering,” said the Rev. Dr. Ahriana Platten, interim minister of Unity Spiritual Center In the Rockies. “That sound clears your mind and brings you to a place of comfort and ease.”
The monks pray constantly as they set about the centuries-old work of constructing the mandala, which means “world in harmony” in Sanskrit.
The art also is intended to serve as a visual prayer that encourages healing, peace, purification and spiritual focus for creators and onlookers.
Of special significance is that each granule of sand that forms the predetermined pattern represents a tear shed by people affected by violence. Blending the sand with tools embodies unity, nonviolence and compassion.
“To have in our city this world prayer for harmony amongst all religions at a time when there’s so much religious tension around the world is wonderful,” Platten said. “The work happens over a week here but the impact, the prayer and the blessings carry forward.”
A sand mandala is destroyed after its completion to signify the impermanence of existence and in keeping with the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
A public “dissolve the mandala” ceremony will happen at 11 a.m. Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., the public can view the completed mandala before the ritualistic destruction.
Then, the sand will be swept in circles and poured into water, which is said to disperse the mandala’s healing energies throughout the world.
Each attendee will receive a small packet of the sand to release in their gardens, and a caravan led by the monks to a moving body of water to distribute the remaining sand also is scheduled.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, participants will reconvene at Unity Spiritual Center for a Tibetan Cultural Pageant, an event for children and adults with costumed snow lions, dancers, music and singing.
The monks will attend Sunday’s 10 a.m. religious service at the spiritual center before they take off for their next destination, Kansas City, where they repeat the schedule.
This is the first time the monks have returned to Colorado Springs since 2018.
Platten expects up to 1,000 people to participate in the week’s activities.
For Michael K., who watched the mandala construction on Wednesday, the event has become a spiritual discipline.
“It’s a meditative practice, watching them in their meditation,” he said. “What they’re doing is not just beautiful but meditative also, and I love visiting this holy place, too.”
The monks also sell wares the monks have made — such as bracelets, necklaces, wall hangings, purses and other goods — and accept donations that they forward to the monastery to pay for the refugees’ living expenses and operational costs.

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