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Chipper Monks

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By Stephen Lega

The concept of non-attachment is an important part of Buddhist philosophy. In spite of that, many Marion Countians couldn’t help feeling close to the seven monks from the Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery who visited the community last week.

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“It’s been a true blessing, and I wish they would be here for a month, forever,” said Mary Batt, who hosted the monks during their stay.

 Batt and her husband, Jay, offered to host the monks when they learned they would be coming to Lebanon for a week. She certainly didn’t regret her decision.

“They are the best houseguests that anyone could ever have,” Batt said. “After spending a week with them, they’re like family.”

While in Lebanon, the monks engaged the community in a variety of ways — teaching arts classes for children at the Marion County Heritage Center, offering a cooking class, serving a meal at The Stillhouse restaurant, and demonstrating ceremonial dances, chanting and even a debate during a cultural program at Angelic Hall.

The most visible part of their stay, however, was the creation of the world peace mandala at the Marion County Public Library. Starting the morning of Oct. 8, the monks used sand in a variety of colors to create the artwork. With a tools called chakpurs, they spent hours carefully creating a piece that included an image of the Earth and symbols for the world’s major religious traditions.

After working on the mandala for four days, the monks held another ceremony to destroy it. The sand was then collected and released in a waterway at Popes Creek Ranch as a way to spread the blessing of the mandala.

Tenpa Dhargya, 26, also called Dawa, has been a monk since he was 4 years old. He explained that the monks destroy the mandala as a reminder of the impermanance of all things.

“Even though it is very attractive and very beautiful, it will be destroyed one day,” Dawa said.

In Buddhist philosophy, the First Noble Truth is that life is suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by people’s desires.

According to the Third Noble Truth, people can overcome their suffering by ending their desires.

“Non-attachment is very important in Tibetan Buddhism,” Dawa said. “If you can stop your attachments, it is very easy to get enlightened.”

The Fourth Noble Truth is to follow the eight-fold path, a guide to correct behavior to help Buddhists end their attachments, and therefore their suffering.

And yet, Tibetans, including Tibetan Buddhists, have suffered. 

The Chinese government claims Tibet  as part of China. Geshe Palden, 42, said China invaded Tibet in 1959. As a result of that invasion, 6,000 Buddhist monasteries were destroyed and tens of thousands of people were killed.

While the violence in Tibet is not as widespread today, Palden said that people who speak out politically are sometimes arrested or disappear. 

Palden left Tibet in 2006 and went to India as a refugee. Many Tibetan Buddhists have relocated to India since the Chinese occupation started. 

That is also why their monastery is located in India.

Lebanon was just one stop for the monks during their tour of the United States. They arrived in America on April 14, and they will return to India on Nov. 28, according to Tenpa Phuntsok, 26.

While they are here, they hope to share what they have learned in the monastery and to raise money to support their monastery, Phuntsok said.

Last week was their second stop in Kentucky. Earlier this year, they spent a week in Frankfort, and they liked it so much they wanted to return to the Bluegrass State. 

Phuntsok said the people of Kentucky have given the monks love and compassion, and they tried to return that love and compassion as well.

Lebanon native Charlie Pearl got to know the monks during their trip to Frankfort, and he was their contact when they were looking for another community to visit in Kentucky.

And Pearl was with the monks throughout much of their time in Central Kentucky, including trips to the Loretto Motherhouse and the Abby of Gethsemane on Saturday.

“It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life,” Pearl said.

He was also impressed by the reception they received from Lebanon. That included assistance from organizations, businesses and individuals.

Batt agreed.

“The community came together to embrace a different culture,” she said. “And they embraced our community.”

Want to learn more about the monks?

The seven Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery who visited Lebanon last week are on a tour of the United States. While here, they are being hosted at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Ind.

At the tmbcc.org website, you can find links with biographies of the monks and more information about their tour. Part of the reason they are in the U.S. is to raise money for their monastery in Dehra Dun, India. While in Lebanon, they hoped to raise $2,000. According to Charlie Pearl, who helped arrange their stay in Lebanon, they raised $9,538 last week.