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By Charlie Pearl
The Tibetan Buddhist monks from Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery in India are gone now, on to other U.S. cities to create world peace sand paintings.
But those fortunate enough to have spent time with them on their seven-day visit to Lebanon won’t forget the experience.
Their genuine kindness, gentleness, compassion and love for everybody is contagious. You feel the ripples of peace.
I’ll also remember forever the hospitality, generosity and friendliness of the people of Lebanon and Marion County; and Frankfort earlier this year.
When asked in January by Arjia Rinpoche, director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Ind., if I would arrange programs for the touring monks in Frankfort, I said, “yes.” But truthfully, I didn’t know how successful we would be.
There aren’t a lot of Buddhists in Frankfort and the Bible Belt. However, I thought it was a great opportunity to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation. Several friends agreed to help, and had wonderful contacts to spread the word.
We were hoping to raise $2,000, the suggested donation for the monks to build an intricate world peace mandala, which takes four days to complete.
Bloomington’s Mary Pattison, the overall tour coordinator, eased my mind when she said, “Don’t worry, Charlie, just raise what you can and the monks will be happy to be there. You will thoroughly enjoy having them in your community.”
We raised more than $12,000 for their poor refugee monastery in Dehra Dun, India.
I was stunned and couldn’t get my mind around how it had happened. What I did understand was, the monks wanted to return to Kentucky before their tour ended.
My mind said Lexington would be the ideal place for them to go on their second visit because of the larger population and a Tibetan Buddhist Center is there. But my heart said Lebanon and Marion County, where I grew up.
I had no expectations of raising anywhere near what we did in our capital. So I was surprised again the night before the monks left for St. Louis when I heard they had received $9,538 in Lebanon, which includes donations to all of the events and sales from their merchandise made by Tibetan refugees in India. That’s amazing for a town much smaller than Frankfort.
Every donation made, a nickel to hundreds of dollars, was cherished by the monks.
Besides the beauty of the artwork and the friendliness and happiness of the artists in the Marion County Public Library, the click-click-click of the metal instruments the monks use to put the colorful, powdery sand on the wooden board was calming and mesmerizing. Tibetans believe the mandala has a positive effect on all who see it, as each particle of dyed sand personifies goodness.
More important than the fundraising, I think we planted little seeds of compassion during their visit. Now all our community garden needs is a sprinkling of love and little acts of kindness every day.
I feel blessed to have a Baptist and Catholic background to blend with my love of Buddhism, which was sparked many years ago by the writings of the late Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani.
In elementary school years, I learned many Bible verses and songs. The song I loved most was, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
We’re all One. I learned that before I was 10, and have never forgotten it. I thank Lebanon Baptist Church for that. It sounds so right, so simple.
On Memorial Day weekend this year, we had an Interfaith Tibetan Dinner at the Church of the Ascension in Frankfort. Dr. Chuck Queen, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, spoke. The crowd loved him.
I invited him to speak at an interfaith dinner at Jane and State Senator Jimmy Higdon’s home while the Tibetan monks were in Lebanon. He couldn’t attend because of a prior commitment. But here is an excerpt from his talk in May:
“Healthy religion says we are loved, cherished and accepted just as we are.
“I am learning to see God everywhere. I have come to believe we are one people who live in one world – and God pervades every part of our world and dwells in every person. We are all connected.
“Despite our many differences we are sisters and brothers sharing a common humanity and a common identity. I am finding it easier to be grateful every day for just being alive, for being aboard this great ship called life.”
I’ve been saying for years the more I study Buddhism, the closer I feel to Jesus. It makes more sense than ever after having spent a week in my hometown with all of you and seven Tibetan monks. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life. Thank you.