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Tibetan monks create mandala in temple.

Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush

WORCESTER - Phuntsok Tsundue and Lobsang Damchoe knelt down upon the highly-polished floor of the Linh Son Temple Wednesday afternoon and, with small rods, gently tapped metal cylindrical sieves that were held in their left hands.

A few grains of finely-crushed marble spilled, unseen to most eyes, onto the mandala.

Mandalas are colorful representations of the universe and of celestial elements that are intended to inspire Buddhists and others to establish a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and enlightenment.

The sacred piece being tediously assembled at the Ruthven Avenue temple, as a gift to Worcester area residents, symbolizes compassion.

Mr. Tsundue and Mr. Damchoe, along with two other visiting Tibetan monks, had been meticulously working on the time consuming project since Monday and planned to have the intricate piece ready for a ritual ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the temple.

"Through this mandala, the monks are hoping that people will think of peace and of compassion for others," said Nima Nedup, an interpreter for the monks.

The four monks have been touring North America to bring attention to China's oppression of Buddhist monks in Tibet and to heighten awareness of Tibetan Buddhist tradition among those of other religious traditions.

The visit was timed to coincide with the staging of the Olympics in China.

They're also trying to raise money to finish construction of the monastery and monastic college that they are associated with in Mundgod, India.

The four are members of the Gaden Jangtse monastery established in 1409 near Lhasa, Tibet, by the Buddhist scholar Je Tsong Khapa.

At one time, it was the second largest Tibetan monastery, housing about 7,000 monks.

Today, nothing remains of the facility.

The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959 and began plundering and destroying monasteries and temples.

Since the occupation, millions have been killed, thousands of monasteries have been leveled, ancient scriptures have been burned, and the Tibetan language itself has been outlawed.

Many monks fled and about 300 from the Gaden Jangtse monastery began building a new temple in south central India around 1960.

Today, there are about 2,600 monks at the monastery.

The Gaden Jangtse monks have helped re-settle Tibetan refugees, as well as providing health care and education to the needy.

"There has been a lot of international pressure, especially around the Olympics, but the Chinese continue their persecution," Mr. Nedup said.

Mr. Nedup said Tibetan Buddhists have been using the Olympics to bring attention to the "Free Tibet" movement.

"We've never wanted a boycott of the Olympics because these games are a way of promoting harmony and peace in the world," Mr. Nedup said.

"On the other hand, we're using the Olympics to let people know what is happening in Tibet. We're asking the Chinese to respect the human rights of all."

Jeffrey Bailey, a local leader for Jhamtse International and a co-convener of the Interreligious Forum of Worcester, said the visit also affords area residents a chance to learn more about Buddhism.

"The response has been very good," he said.

"The visit is a way of sharing Tibetan culture and spiritual heritage."

The monks' visit is sponsored by the Interreligious Forum, the temple, Jhamtse International, the Worcester Zen community and Boundless Way Zen.

The monks have met with residents and presented programs at the temple and at the First Unitarian Church on Main Street.

Buddhism is a major world religion founded about 500 B.C. by Gautama Siddhartha, who came to be known by his followers as the Buddha.

It has about 250 million adherents in India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, and southeast Asia, and more elsewhere.

Buddhists believe that proper mind states can help an individual reach peace of mind or nirvana.

ART: PHOTOS

PHOTOG: ALEX WITKOWICZ

CUTLINE: (1) Lobsang Damchoe, left, and Phuntsok Tsundue work on a sand mandala at the Linh Son Temple on Ruthven Avenue in Worcester. (2) Phuntsok Tsundue works on the mandala as a gift to Worcester area residents.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 23, 2008
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