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ONU to host Tibetan monks

Oct 3, 2011

Ohio Northern University will host six Tibetan monks for the Gaden Shartse Monks’ Tour from Oct. 12-19.
“The global population of Tibetan monks is not very large, so we are privileged to have six of them visiting Ada simultaneously,” said Suzanne Morrison, associate professor of religion. “The monks will share their culture with the campus community and with people from the surrounding area through both formal programs and informal, face-to-face interactions.”
The goals of this tour are to spread peace, harmony, compassion and tolerance through cultural exchange, interfaith dialog and Buddhist teachings. During their stay at Ohio Northern, the monks will share many traditions with the community, such as sacred ritual dances, music and chanting, and teachings.
The sacred dances were created to transform negative elements and obstacles in the world into positive conditions, but they also are full-stage performances that aim to bring the ancient Tibetan culture from the Himalayan Mountains to the audience by using throat singing, multi-phonic chanting, costumes and dance.
ONU’s campus also will experience the sacred art of sand “mandala,” which literally means “that which extracts the essence.” Tibetan Buddhists use many different types of sand mandalas, cosmic diagrams that represent the dwelling place or celestial mansion of a deity. There are multi-layered symbolic images throughout the “palace,” where iconography, placement and color all have significance. To the learned Tibetan Buddhist monk, the mandala represents his vision of the entire universe.
While at ONU, the monks will create a two-dimensional sand mandala, the most creative and labor-intensive. Requiring incredible amounts of concentration, this mandala will be completed in three to five days. Once finished, the mandala will be blessed and then ritually dissolved. The rest of the sand will be poured into water to bless and purify the surrounding environment and all sentient beings living there.
Also while on campus, the Tibetan monks will visit classrooms and lecture on these topics: The Four Noble Truths, Karma, The Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, and Death, Bardo and Rebirth.
“The programs we have selected are both educational and entertaining, and watching Tibetan monks dance or hearing them chant in person is far more worthwhile than seeing them in a movie,” Morrison said. “A sand mandala is so beautiful that it has to be seen up close to be believed. I really encourage people to take advantage of the opportunity to become acquainted with Tibet through these monks.”
Because the program is fully funded, all of the Tibetan monk events will be free and open to the public. The monks will be selling artifacts from Tibet around campus; cash is required for these purchases.
Gaden Shartse Monastery, founded in 1409 and located in the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, is the oldest Buddhist monastery belonging to the Gelupa lineage. Gaden Shartse is well known for its strong educational studies, which are combined with moral discipline, and they train monks in different areas of vocations, religious music, arts, sculpture and administrative work.
 “The Tibetan people have endured much suffering in recent decades, but most have retained the optimism and friendliness that have long characterized their society,” Morrison said.
The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 forced Gaden Shartse to relocate to India. This relocation dropped the number of monks as well as the people who understand and practice the ancient Tibetan culture. Since then, refugees have made efforts to re-establish the monastery.
The Gaden Shartse Monks’ Tour was founded in 1989 and seeks to preserve and share the ancient Tibetan culture and traditions. They have partnered with the Gaden Shartse Monastery and Thubten Dhargye Ling Buddhist Center to help spread their knowledge of sacred earth and healing arts with the United States.
The monks’ visit to Ohio Northern is sponsored by ONU’s Cultural and Special Events Committee (CASE), English Chapel, Freed Center for the Performing Arts, and the departments of philosophy and religion, music, and art.