By BRENNA GRITEMAN
A group of Tibetan monks is en route to Findlay this week, having set out from Omaha, Nebraska, in an 11-passenger van.
The monks — five students and a tour director, along with their driver — will arrive in northwest Ohio on Wednesday morning, where they will begin a nearly two-week educational series. Highlights include the creation and dismantling of a sand mandala, private and community healing sessions, leading a chant and offering butter sculpting workshops.
Tour director Lobsang Wangchuk, an ordained monk for over 20 years, said the group’s two-year Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour kicked off with the monks’ arrival in California on May 1, 2017.
“We try to be in a different city every week,” Wangchuk said, explaining it is “primarily a teaching tour.”
Wangchuk is no stranger to Findlay. His mother lived here for nearly 30 years, and he has known Findlay residents Phil Sugden and Carole Elchert personally for 30 years. When the Dalai Lama came to the city in 1991, Wangchuk was his driver.
The monks are from the Gaden Shartse Monastic College in Mundgod, India, originally founded in Tibet in the 15th century. Its pupils — all 1,500 of them — essentially live in a refugee camp, as 48 surviving members of the college fled south across the border into India following the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese in 1949.
Wangchuk explained there are about 400 boys, ages 4-16, studying at the monastery, where they begin by memorizing texts. At age 16, the boys are welcome to go live with the adult students, who study nearly 16 hours a day, six days a week. Basic courses include Tibetan history, literature, poetry, grammar, English and mathematics, which serve as prerequisites to courses in elementary dialectics, Buddhist logic, the Prajnaparamita (the study of wisdom/the heart sutra), Madhyamika philosophy, vinaya (ethics) and Abidharma (epistemology). Optional subjects include painting, calligraphy, tailoring, Tibetan butter sculpture and sand mandala creation.
“It produces superior individuals. Nobody studies like this,” Wangchuk said.
Aside from their famed studiousness, those at the monastery also live simply. Their accommodations, food and instruction are free for the duration of each monk’s life. Their sole belongings — two sets of robes, a bowl, a cup, a spoon and their texts — ensure each monk lives up to one of his primary vows of doing no harm to the environment.
Wangchuk said the primary purpose of the Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour is to share the Tibetan perspective of the Buddha’s teachings with the Western world through empowerments and lectures. It is also a fundraising tour for the monastery. But it is not, in any way, designed to push Buddhism onto others.
“We’re not pushy,” he said. “If someone connects with our lessons, they take it home. If people don’t like it, they leave it behind.”
The Hancock Hotel is hosting the monks for free during the first half of their visit. The group will then move on to a cabin at Camp Berry.
Scheduled events include:
- Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.: Morning Rotary, cost is $6 per person and includes breakfast. Guests are welcome. Email email@example.com to RSVP.
- Wednesday, noon: Opening ceremony for mandala, free and open to the public, at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts.
- Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m.: Lecture on life in the monastery, chant and dialectic debate demonstrations. At MCPA, $15 per person, tickets available at https://marathoncenterarts.org/event/the-gaden-shartse-tibetan-monks/ .
- Thursday, 9 a.m.: Sand mandala, free and open to the public, at MCPA.
- Thursday, 6 p.m.: Mandala dismantling.
- Friday, 5 p.m.: Potluck and panel discussion at Unitarian Universalist Church. Fifty seats available, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Saturday, noon to 2 p.m. and 2:30-4 p.m.: Butter sculpting workshop at Awakening Minds Art. Fifteen people in each session, $20 per person. Register at http://www.awakeningmindsart.org/butter .
- Sunday, 11 a.m.: Brunch at Main Street Deli. Thirty seats available, $15 each, all proceeds go to the monks. RSVP to email@example.com.
- Sunday, 7 p.m., Carey Link presentation, 112 E. Findlay St., Carey, free and open to the public.
- Aug. 6, 2-7 p.m.: Personal healing sessions at Unitarian Universalist Church. Reserve a one-hour session by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Aug. 6, 6 p.m.: Community healing session at Coffee Amici. Open to the public, suggested donation $10-$20.
- Aug. 11, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Private healing sessions at Findlay Hot Yoga. Reserve a one-hour session at email@example.com. Suggested donation $30.
Many of the events will also include an opportunity to purchase merchandise from the monastery.
For more information, visit http://sacredartsoftibettour.org .