Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tibetan monks perform Buddhist ritual at Texas State

By Scot Wortner

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery visited Texas State to bless the area with the creation and destruction of a Buddhist mandala. The week-long visit concluded with the lamas leading a procession across campus and pouring the sand remains of the mandala into the San Marcos River where its blessings may spread around the world.

                   Chanting by the Drepung Loseling monks       All photos by Scot Wortner

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monks bless the San Marcos River

By Hollie O'Connor

After four days of hard work and painstaking attention to detail, Tibetan Monks on Texas State’s campus finished colorful artwork made entirely of sand that spanned about 2 feet in diameter. 
Then on Friday, they destroyed it. 
The artwork, a traditional Buddhist mandala, is a symbol of the universe. The monks are from Drepung Loseling Monastery near Atlanta, Ga. and created the mandala as part of this year’s Common Experience program. Lobsang Dhondup, one of the visiting monks, explained the ceremonial destruction of the symbol to a crowd of more than 100 people in the LBJ Student Center.
“Destruction is part of creation,” Dhondup said. “Destruction comes from construction. Going is the end of coming. Departure is the end of meeting. Life goes that way.” 
The ceremony began with a low-pitched chant by the monks as they stood behind the mandala. They would occasionally interrupt the chant by playing colorful instruments, including a drum, bell and large horns that reached the ground. 
Eventually, one of the monks began to dismantle the mandala by drawing lines through it. Another monk swept sand toward the center with a brush, making a spiral design. 
After the mandala was swept off of the table and the chant ended, the monks distributed sand to members of the crowd. The sand is good for healing and meditation, according to traditions that date back 2,500 years. 
“We believe every (grain of) sand is equally powerful to heal, exactly like the full circle,” Dhondup said. “There is a great connection there.”
The monks then began a procession from the LBJ Student Center through The Quad to Sewell Park, where they blessed the San Marcos River. They chanted as one of the monks threw flowers into the river, then poured in the remaining sand.
The procession of of the Tibetan monks to the
San Marcos River begins Feb. 8 from the LBJ Student Center. 
The monks believe the sand nourishes and invokes the river spirit, which becomes a source of healing. 
“The river is connected to the ocean and carries the blessing to the millions of beings down there. Then, through evaporation, (it) goes into the air and brings healing everywhere,” Dhondup said. 
The ceremony was emotional for some observers and many said they had never seen anything like it before. 
Savannah Cohen, communication design freshman, came to the event with her friends. 
“It was very beautiful,” Cohen said. “I liked when they tossed the flowers into the river.”
For others, the ceremony was a reminder of the river’s importance in the community. It roused memories of recent drama in which city council members voted to allow apartments to be developed on riverfront property.
“It was amazing and timely considering everything that has been happening with development in sensitive areas,” said Bridget Phillips, San Marcos resident. “I hope that it helps bring peace and connection with city officials and citizens.” 

Monks offer knowledge; enlightenment into lives

Video by: Faith Jaschke 

By: Faith Jaschke

Chants filled the small room off to the side of the library entrance. More than 100 audience members, both young and old, attended a meet and greet Monday at the San Marcos Public Library with Tibetan monks. It began with a five minute chant by the monks that encompassed the space.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tibetan monks leave TXST students with cultural taste

Hundreds of observers file in to LBJ's hallway to
watch the closing ceremony of the Common Experience
Photo by: Jordan Brewer 
By: Jordan Brewer

The concept behind the 2013 spring Common Experience for Texas State students was more than entertainment, the committee wanted students and faculty to experience something new and fresh.

The Tibetan monks have been more than impressed with the experience while they have been at Texas State University this past week according to spokesperson Lobsang Dhondup. Although they are pleased with their experience, the objective in mind was to leave a lasting impression with the members of the university.

"(The experience) is more than we expected," Dhondup said. "We have a lot of students coming to us and asking questions. We want to have compassion with our activities. We were able to practice and provide a sense of peace to the students."

The Common Experiences have always been a way to bring culturally different aspects to students and faculty. In the fall, author and speaker Kelsey Timmerman told stories of his international travels to thousands of Texas State students with hopes that they would start to pay attention to the cultures and nations of the world around them.

This spring's Common Experience has the same goal in mind. The Tibetan monks purpose is a whole lot more than an "hour long show" according to Music Professor Daris Hale. They intend to provide a moving, spritually sound "enlightenment."

"We were looking for international groups," Hale said. "We were looking for a group that would bring something that was not very common here. It was more than a one-hour show that students could come see, but a more meaningful experience of their practices and rituals."

Hale made the recommendation with the Texas State students and faculty in mind, hoping they could learn a thing or two about the world around them but also to enjoy the process. While the Tibetan monks were busy focusing on their mandala which took a week to complete, students were working on their own mandala, one in the form of Texas State's cornerstone, Old Main.

The Common Experience has been successful yet again and not just due to the tremendous turnout but more because of the involvement of the surrounding community. Co-chairmen of the Common Experience, Diann McCabe, loved the idea Hale recommended because of new and exciting traditions it would provide for the local supporters.

"When anyone makes a recommendation, everyone says 'that's great let's figure out how that would be,'" McCabe said. "[Hale] did a lot of work to bring in information about (the Tibetan monks). (We wanted) the students to be curious about the world and to know they are not just an individual on this campus but that they are a lot of beautiful experiences in the world that they should see."

The "Mystical Arts of Tibet" brought not only dances, a mandala and rhythmic overtures to their blessings for San Marcos but also a peak of Eastern cultures.But also a glimmer of peace and common unity for the world. It brought the traditions of Tibet and Texas State together for five very memorable days.
The student-made mandala which was creatively depicting Texas State's cornerstone, Old Main.
Photo by: Jordan Brewer

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Work on the mandala continues

The Tibetan Monks visiting Texas State from the Deprung Loseling Monestary near Atlanta were still hard at work Thursday afternoon on a ceremonial sand mandala.

The mandala, a traditional Buddhist symbol of the universe, is made entirely of colored sand. The monks have been working on it since they arrived at the university Monday. By Thursday, only the outermost parts of the circle remained to be filled.

"When you create from the center out, you're watching what kind of meaning and message it's going to give," said Lobsang Dhondup, one of the visiting monks.

The intricate artwork is made by scooping the sand into tiny ridged funnels, then rubbing a stick over the sides knocking sand out little by little.

"The pattern, story and mystic understanding (of the mandala) has been passed down from the masters," Dhondup said.

There has been a constant crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members alike in the Student Center watching the monks work this week. Some even came from out of town specifically to see them.

One such person was Amy, who did not want to give her last name because she called in sick to work for the chance to see the monks. Amy is a Buddhist herself and was excited to look at the mandala to find her own meaning in it.

She had previously tried to see the monks at the Austin Museum of Art, but the event was so crowded she couldn't get a good look.

"I think it's fortunate we get to see them so close," Amy said.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tibetan monks arrive to bless Texas State

By Scot Wortner

Tibetan monks are visiting Texas State University and creating a mandala which will bless the area and later be dismantled for part of the school’s “Common Experience” program.

Drepung Loseling Lamas                                                                                                              Photo by Scot Wortner
The lamas from the Drepung Loseling Monastery kicked off their weeklong visit today at the LBJ Student Center by starting the creation of a traditional Buddhist sand mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and the work of art is used to bless certain regions with compassion, understanding and wisdom.

Monks visit Texas State in Jan. 28-Feb. 1

For information about the visit, check the Common Experience calendar, or the monks' website.