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Visiting monks create sand mandala

After completing mandala, monks will dissolve it
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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As three Tibetan Buddhist monks huddle over an unfinished sand mandala, a photographer angles his camera to get the perfect shot.

This photographer, Albert Brisbois, wants to capture these monks in deep concentration as they meticulously place sand on the concentric design. They’re making the iconic Green Tara mandala, which Buddhists believe can lead to healing during times of crises and uncertainty.

For the Fair Oaks resident, watching the monks work is a delight.

“I’ve never seen a mandala before in person, only in pictures,” Brisbois says. “I wanted to be here. This is a spiritual creation and I want to be part of this. They’re creating this beautiful art. It’s something I don’t want to miss in life.”

Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in India are visiting Roseville for 10 days as part of the Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet tour across the United States. Although the monks have toured this country since 1989, this marks only their second visit to Roseville.

“The monks usually go to bigger cities,” says volunteer Jeanne Chesko of Carmichael. “We’re really blessed to get to know them (here).”

The Center of Wellness, in collaboration with Sierra Friends of Tibet and Tibetech.org, are hosting the monks who come from the original Buddhist monastery of the Gelug tradition of Tibet. The Gelug, also known as “Yellow Hats,” is the order of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Cerise LaCore runs the Center of Wellness, based in Roseville.

“I do it because it’s the right thing to do,” LaCore says. “I love their message of peace. I love the unity they seem to bring to the community and I want to bring attention to the cultural genocide they’re experiencing in China.”

That’s what American Indians in the United States went through, she says, which is why members of the Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe will join the monks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, for “Heart to Heart,” a cultural exchange ceremony open to the public.

During the tour, these monks hope to spread peace, harmony, compassion, tolerance, interfaith dialogue and Buddhist teachings, LaCore says. They also raise funds for the education, maintenance, housing and medical needs of monks at Gaden Shartse Monastery located in a Tibetan refugee settlement in Mundgod, India.

Founded in 1409, the monastery was reputed to have more than 5,000 monks at the time of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. Thousands of monasteries were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Tibetans perished.

Monday morning at the Children’s Art Center in Royer Park, three monks — and later four — dressed in robes and tennis shoes work on the mandala, using sand in fluorescent orange, green, yellow, blue and other bright colors. They’ve sketched out the complete mandala and appear to be about one-sixth of the way done. Two other monks walk around greeting visitors as Himalayan music plays in the background.

“I want to learn more about Tibetan culture and I wanted him to see it,” says visitor Laura Jaco, who points to her 2-year-old son.

The pair traveled from Sacramento to see the monks. As for Brisbois, he already knows plenty about the culture, as he’s practiced Buddhism for the past six or seven years, he says. Now retired, he has more time to devote to his spiritual growth.

“I like the kindness, the simplicity,” he says. “(Buddhists) don’t engage in politics. I don’t see the anger that takes place in other religions.”

Brisbois plans to visit the center daily to see the monks create the mandala. The monks will also perform a variety of chanting, dancing and other ancient rituals. On Saturday, the monks will complete the mandala.

The following day, they will destroy their creation. This ritual serves as a blessing to all those present.

“It’s so interesting that they work all week to create this beautiful work of art then they dissolve it,” LaCore says. “It’s a reminder of the impermanence of all things and to live in the moment. It’s a lovely culture, a peaceful culture. I think that’s the way the world needs to go.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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Gaden Shartse Tibetan monks visit Roseville
When: Mandala viewing takes place 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, through Saturday, Feb. 12, and 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13
Where: The Children’s Art Center, 190 Park Drive (at Royer Park) in Roseville
Cost: Free, but donations suggested. All donations go to the nonprofit Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation.
Info: The monks will perform a variety of events open to the public. For a complete schedule, visit www.thecenterofwellness.net.