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General News · 21st October 2009
Jeanette Taylor
Five Tibetan monks from Gaden Jangtse Monastery will be in residence at Campbell River Art Gallery from October 27 to November 4 as part of a Canada-wide tour. They'll start each day with their traditional chants to the sound of horns, transporting Gallery visitors into a little-known culture. Their daily project will be the creation of an intricate mandala, made from fine grains of coloured sand in the centre of the Gallery, but they'll also attend community events.

The monks live in exile in India in a large monastery that supports over two thousand Tibetans. Some of the monks visiting Campbell River were born in India after China forcefully occupied Tibet in 1959. Geshe Lobsang Chodak, the senior monk on this tour is among those born in exile. He began his studies in Buddhism in 1979 and holds a doctorate. Like several of the others in this group he has travelled extensively on behalf of his monastery, in Europe, Chile and Canada. Tamding Sichoe, also born in India, entered the monastery at the age of seven and is the chant master for the tour group.

Others like Lodoe Gyatso fled their homeland after the Chinese occupation. Lodoe was 17 when he crossed the mountains to India and entered the Gaden Jangtse Monastery to study Buddhism. He's now an expert in several art practices being demonstrated at the Art Gallery and a chant master as well. Tashi Gyaltsen was just 15 when he escaped Tibet in 1987, eventually become an administrator at the Gaden Jangtse college.

The monks will follow the exacting guidance of Sopa Gyamtso, the mandala master, who ensures the layout of the intricate lines, forms and colours follow the protocol for an art form that is created as an act of prayer. There are a variety of choices of mandalas, each with its own specific focus, from world peace to compassion. At the end of their nine day stay, the group's spiritual leader, the Rinpoche, will sweep the mandala into a pile of coloured sand in a public ritual that includes casting the sand into the sea from the Fishing Pier. This dismantling surprises westerners but for the monks it's an exercise in letting go, in non-attachment to objects.

Their Canadian tour, which nears completion with their Campbell River visit, is a way to share their culture, art and spiritual practice. It's also designed to raise funds to support the hundreds of exiled Tibetans attached to their monastery. The youngest novice living there is six and the oldest monk is 96. Most of the younger members have recently escaped from Tibet, fleeing inhuman treatment and the lack of education in occupied Tibet.

The monks will also attend a variety of community events in the region. On October 30 at 7:45 they'll give a traditional dance and music performance at the Quadra Island Community Centre prior to the screening of the Tibetan documentary “Unmistaken Child”. On November 1 they'll lead meditation and Buddhist teaching at the Quadra Community Center at 11:00 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch. Later that day they'll travel to Cortes Island for a public blessing of Squirrel Cove and a performance of rituals, dance, chants and debate at the Mansons Community Hall. On November 2 they'll participate in the Olympic Torch events, blessing the newly opened Spirit Square Park next to the Gallery at about 11:20 a.m. The final event on their roster is a music and dance performance at a public film screening at Timberline Secondary School on November 3 at 7:00 p.m. Several evenings remain open for the monks to give performances or to give private blessings.

The Tibetan monks' residency and creation of the sand mandala at the Gallery is sponsored by Klari Varallyai of CR Physiotherapy Clinic. They will be at work on the mandala daily from 10 to noon and 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. except Sunday, from October 27 to November 4. There is a suggested donation of $5, to support the monastery. For more information about their program call the Gallery, located in downtown Campbell River at Tyee Plaza, at 250-287-2261.
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo
Dave O'Neill photo