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.” 

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