Tibetan Monks Share Their Culture for 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 ceremonial opening and closing, and the making of the mandala (a multi colored menagerie of sand intricately and laboriously layered by the hands of the monks using specialized instruments).

The mandala was constructed during afternoons and early evenings over the course of the five day event at Allen’s Market the home of Milledgeville Allied Arts. As observers entered the quaint, historic downtown building, the outpouring of positive energy put forth by the monks as they focused intensely on the placement of the dyed sand particles drew them in towards the monks’ diligence and the evolving mandala of Avalokiteshvara or enlightened being of compassion.

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 represents creating something of peace and compassion and releasing it into the environment,” stated Lodan.

A conversation with GSCU sophomore 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 remnants 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clarence Thomas is a seasoned media professional with years of experience in the areas of: writing, video production, journalism, public & media relations, event planning, public speaking, crisis communications, marketing, photography, social networking and media consulting. He loves sharing information and enjoys doing so as a freelance writer for RetroWarehouse. Contact him at thomas4111@cox.net.

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