Buddhist monks create art to cleanse negativity

By MELINDA MAWDSLEY, The Daily Sentinel, August 3, 2008

Monks make for low-maintenance houseguests

Grand Junction, CO (USA) -- Grand Junction’s Ray and Peggy Pilcher invited six monks with the Gaden Shartse Monastery to stay in their home during the monks’ stay in Mesa County.

The monks are on a U.S. tour, raising awareness about Buddhism and donations for construction of a hospital to serve their monastery and other villages in southern India.

The monastery originally was built in Tibet, but Chinese occupation decades ago forced the Tibetan monks to flee to India.

The Pilchers, both Buddhists, have opened their home to the Gaden Shartse monks for the past 10 years, showing the monks the compassion synonymous with Buddhism.

Ray Pilcher said he has been interested in Buddhist culture since he was young, and his nearly four dozen trips to China and Tibet through the years only furthered that interest.

On Sunday, during a free presentation at Western Colorado Center for the Arts, the Tibetan monks demonstrated the precision and time that goes into making a mandala, which is believed to help cleanse negativity for those who view it, said monk Jangchub Chophel.

The monks used brightly colored sand made from crushed and dyed Indian quartz to create a symbolic representation of Green Tara’s universe. Green Tara is honored in Buddhist culture for being a female Buddha, showing that women can achieve equality in a male-dominated society.

The mandala construction began Saturday and will finish at 6:30 p.m. today during a Green Tara puja and sweeping up ceremony, in which the monks will distribute some of the blessed sand to those in attendance at the Art Center ceremony at 1803 N. Seventh St.

The remaining sand will be thrown in the Colorado River to float downstream. The cleaning of the mandala signifies nothing in the world is permanent, and understanding change is part of balancing life.

The Buddhist monks will be in Grand Junction until Wednesday. From Grand Junction, they head to Hotchkiss and Moab, Utah, before continuing east across the country, Chophel said.

To learn more about Buddhist culture, to bid on silent auction items Ray Pilcher brought back from Tibet or to see the mandala, visit the Art Center from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today.

Money donated will be used to build a hospital in southern India.