Culture

To heal a conflicted world

Taos welcomes back Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery

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For more than a quarter of a century, the sacred Tibetan arts of chanting, sand mandala painting, dance and ceremony have been shared across the world as part of the Mystical Arts of Tibet tours by the monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery. The international tours are endorsed by the Dalai Lama. This week, eight Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India will visit Taos as part of their North American tour, “Healing for a Conflicted World.”

On Wednesday (Nov. 29) at 12:30 p.m. Mayor Dan Barrone will read a mayoral proclamation and a Taos Pueblo official will welcome the monks to Taos. At 1:30 p.m., the Zen Buddhist Reverend Yamato will lead those gathered on a peace walk from Taos Plaza to the Earth Day Tree planted in Kit Carson Park. Starting at approximately 2 p.m. there will be an inter-faith celebration at Kit Carson Park with Reverend Yamato, Lakota elder Howard Badhand, First Nations dancers and the Drepung Loseling monks.

At 7 p.m., the public is invited to Tibetan chanting and meditation at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, 240 Morada Lane. Admission is $10, but no one will be turned away for a lack of funds.

Then, on Thursday (Nov. 30), the Tibetan monks will offer a memorial ceremony at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge "for all individuals that made a decision to end their lives at the bridge and prayers for the families and friends that have lost loved ones there. Rev. Yamato Yusen will perform an interfaith service," an announcement reads. The ceremony is planned to begin at 3 p.m.

“It will be a real Tibetan ceremony for healing,” said Harmon Houghton, one of the organizers for the monks’ trip to New Mexico.

“It will be amazing,” added Paymaneh Ghaffari. The director of the Ksitigarbha Tibetan Buddhist Center in Taos. Ghaffari is also helping to organize the monks’ activities in Taos.

Ghaffari said the Ksitigarbha Tibetan Buddhist Center is part of a group called Foundation for the Preservation of the Mayahana Tradition, which is headed by the Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Taos center offers teachings once a week.

While they are in New Mexico the monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery will also be creating an Akshobhya mandala sand painting over a period of 16 days in Santa Fe, at the Seret & Sons Gallery, 121 Sandoval St. The sand painting construction, daily meditation and chanting will take place from Dec. 3-16 with an opening ceremony Saturday, Dec. 2, and a closing ceremony, Sunday, Dec. 17.

Houghton explained that the monks are on tour of North America for 18 months. The theme for this particular tour is “Healing for a Conflicted World.”

Commenting on the theme, Houghton said, “[The monks] always have some kind of a focus for what they put their energy towards which is healing for a conflicted world. They’re traveling all the time and they see so many confused people, and they see anger building up, and their job is to diffuse that wherever it rears its head.”

“Everybody’s on edge for one reason or another,” Houghton continued. “The monks are seeing the conflict that’s existing in the U.S. politically. They don’t take any position at all, but it’s become a worldwide phenomenon. Hopefully, some of the monks will be able to calm some of that anger down. It really is anger and greed combined.”

Ghaffari said the Taos community has been supportive of the monks visit – from the Mabel Dodge Luhan House which has provided accommodations to the responsiveness of the mayor’s office.

“It’s been incredible how everyone has been so helpful,” Ghaffari commented.

Following their trip to New Mexico, the monks of Drepung Loseling will be returning home.

“They’re going back on Dec. 19,” said Houghton. “They’ve been here for 18 months. It’s like a rock tour. They’re in two to three places every week. It’s amazing how much they have seen of Western society.”“They are looking forward to going home, and then they go into retreat. The monastery puts them all in retreat for three months,” Houghton explained.

“Drepung Loseling is like the Harvard [University] of all Tibetan monasteries, they give a real solid education,” said Houghton. “Right now, they’re taking care of the education for 3,000 monks from age 6 up to their geshe degree which is their Ph D ... Drepung gets students from every one of the different Tibetan sects that are around, and they’re well-organized to provide education.”

Houghton emphasized that the monks are good-will ambassadors, whose role is to maintain a sense of sanity and spiritual values. He stressed that they are above all, educators.

“Everybody looks at the monks for some kind of special spiritual powers and abilities, and in fact they’re educators on Buddhist philosophy and precepts and the like. Always, it comes down to being happy in your approach to life, not letting obstacles bring you down. They also very often … will go into diminishing what are normally called the five poisons that keep you from happiness: desire, anger, ignorance or lacking skillful means, pride and jealousy. If you can tone those five poisons down you’ll have a happy life. So, they always bring it down to the simplistic level. It’s not really what you know, it’s what you do.”

Houghton, who has been involved in activities in support of the Tibetan community since the 1970s, said the Tibetan population in Northern New Mexico is concentrated in Santa Fe, with approximately 200-250 families living there. The tours of the Drepung Loseling monks are an important way for Tibetans in North America to stay connected with their religion and culture.

Thursday (Nov. 30) the monks are available to conduct a house or office blessing in Taos. Houghton explained that the house blessing is “a purification ceremony, similar to smudging. Monks will come in, say prayers, ring bells ... It’s a cleansing ceremony to bring in good vibrations.”

To schedule a house blessing, contact Harmon@tibetmedianetwork.com.

The monks will also be providing a Blessing of the Waters ceremony at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday (Nov. 26).

For more information email info@tibetmedianetwork.com or visit mysticalartsoftibet.org.

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