Buddhist ceremony in BR enchants visitors

by AMY WOLD, The Advocate, May 20, 2013

Baton Rouge, Louisiana (USA) -- The chanting started off deep and guttural as nine Tibetan monks began the opening ceremony Monday for the construction of a mandala sand painting at the Tam Bao Meditation Center in Baton Rouge.

With their eyes closed, the chant blended into a song punctuated by music of drums, horns and hand bells.

Lobsang Dhondup, a Tibetan monk, said creating a mandala, which is an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism, requires rituals, prayers and meditation. These, he said, ensure a friendly environment for the creation of this sacred art.

The monks, who are traveling with the Dalai Lama, came to Baton Rouge to create the mandala over the next four days. People are welcome to come and watch construction of the mandala from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the week.

Visitors also can participate in an evening talk starting at 7:30 p.m. each night.

The closing of the sand mandala when it is destroyed will occur Friday evening after a talk about the symbolism of the sand mandala that starts at 7:30 p.m.

On Friday night, there is a suggested donation of $20 per person and $15 for college students if the person is able. The proceeds will go to the Tibetan monks to support their practice and expenses.

Kim Lee, 30, brought her niece Isabella Lee, 5, to the opening ceremony Monday after having heard the Dalai Lama speak Saturday in New Orleans.

Her cousins helped build the temple that sits on a small piece of land just north of Airline Highway, she said, and her family supports the temple.

"It was interesting. Totally different culture", Kim Lee said of the opening ceremony.

Thay Dao Quang, Abbot of Tam Bao Meditation Center, said he was happy when the monks asked to come to Baton Rouge not only because of the mandala they would create, but also to let the Baton Rouge Buddhist community learn from other outlooks.

He explained there are many variations of Buddhism, so Tibetan Buddhism is different from Vietnamese Buddhism. In fact, he said, Buddhism practices differ in the south, center and north of the country.

"However, the foundation is the same," Quang said.

As the monks started using string and a large wooden compass to lay out the design of the mandala, Sue Ann Conerly, 68, of Greenwell Springs, watched from the side of the room.

Although she had never been to the Tam Bao Meditation Center before, she said she drives by it often on her way to and from home. She saw a notice about the opening ceremony in the newspaper and was interested in checking it out.

"Very, very interesting," Conerly said after the opening ceremony." "I don't know too much about it other than peace. love and tranquility."

She said she planned to come back for some of the lectures throughout the week.

Like many of those who attended the opening ceremony, Cathy Coates, of Baton Rouge, had been to hear the Dalai Lama's speak in New Orleans. She said she knew her mother, who is an avid photographer, would love to hear and see the opening ceremony so she brought her along to the meditation center.

"I've been to Tibet and how often do you get to see Tibetan monks in Baton Rouge?" Coates said.

Another family gathered from across the country to attend the Dalai Lama's visit in New Orleans. Brothers and sisters Frank Lachicotte, of Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte Lachicotte, of Baton Rouge; and Lillian Lachicotte, of San Diego, Calif., had heard of the Dalai Lama's visit and were online to buy tickets as soon as they became available.

"We were able to go to the closing ceremony," Charlotte Lachicotte said. The closing ceremony is when the sand mandala is destroyed and all the sand scooped up. In New Orleans, the crowd then made a procession to the Mississippi River, where the sand was poured into the water.

"And that's the peace to be spread over the whole world," Frank Lachicotte explained.

They attended the opening mandala ceremony in Baton Rouge because they wanted to see the process begin since they'd seen the closing ceremony a few days ago, Charlotte Lachicotte said.

"We couldn't get enough," she said.

The Tibetan monks will stay through Saturday when the center will be celebrating the Buddha's birthday.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv