Five Days in Milledgeville
Tibetan Monks Share Their Culture for Five Days in Milledgeville
The third time proved to be the charm for 12 Atlanta-based Tibetan monks who descended on Milledgeville, Georgia recently during a “Town and Gown” arts sponsored visit — a partnership between Milledgeville Allied Arts and Georgia College & State University’s Arts Unlimited Committee.
At the heart of this cultural exchange was the opportunity to encounter and engage the way of monks with the Drepung Loseling Monastery’s North American seat in the backyard of Georgia’s official liberal arts college. Their stay included meditation and educational workshops, a ceromonial opening and closing, and the making of the mandala (a multi colored managerie of sand intricately and laboreously layered by the hands of the monks using specialized instruments).
The free public viewing had those watching transfixed, and well represented an aspect of their story appropriately titled, “The Mystical Arts of Tibet” tour. The monks also visited in 2006 and 2008. Milledgeville Allied Arts program coordinator, Brian Renko, was present, as well. He stated that the activities of the week provided an enriching and unique experience for Central Georgians. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the public to experience a culture that’s slowly dying,” he said. “I think that it adds to our culture.”
Geshe Thubten Lodan, spokesperson for the monks, observed that the ancient, spiritual act of mandala making has healing power. Lodan described the process of one filled with the best of intent. “We believe that the mandala making is important, because it respresents creating something of peace and compassion and releasing it into the environment,” stated Lodan.
A conversation with GSCU sophmore Maggie Foster of Marietta revealed that the monks’ visit was not in vain. The history major was greatly moved by her encounter with the group at the arts center. “I like to explore and find cool stuff to do and jumped at the chance to see them. I think it’s great that the college and these organizations presented this because it’s a great additional learning opportunity,” said Foster.
Prior to the closing ceremony during the early stages of its construction Geshe Lodan expressed the monks desire. “By people glimpsing the mandala we hope that they will get some peace and harmony,” he said. “And it will help them long term if they continue in such a mental state.”
The closing ceremony included a fortunate few attendees, who received urns containing the remains of the mandala after its destruction by the monks. The additional remnents were then transported via a processional to the Oconee River and scattered with the hopes that the love, compassion and positive work put into the mandala’s creation will serve as a healing to the Earth and its inhabitants.