Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour returns to Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour returns to Grass Valley

Michael Rohm
Special to The Union

For the 18th consecutive year, Sierra Friends of Tibet are hosting the Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour at St. Joseph's Cultural Center in downtown Grass Valley. Between Feb. 16 and March 4, a cohort of five Tibetan Buddhist monks will perform the ancient functions of their faith, including the construction of a sand mandala, an annual highlight.

The two-week residency officially begins 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, with a welcome ceremony that includes the blessing of the forthcoming sand mandala construction process, as well as blessings for St. Joseph's and its inhabitants.

In keeping with the tone of the opening ceremony, the Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour will include opportunities for the monks to perform house, land and business blessings, an ancient ritual of chanted prayers for prosperity, healing and happiness. Blessings can also be extended to individuals, groups, and — for the first time — pets.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 3, inside the Banner Grange, the monks will perform blessings on all furry and feathered friends before moving outside to bless the larger animals. Leashes, carrying cases, and cages must be used during the donations-based event.

Additional activities during the residency include a cooking class; lectures on karma, meditation, and love; and family art, one of the more popular events available.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 and 24, families are invited to join the monks for a five-station day of creation. Activities include watercolor, line and color pencil drawings of mandalas, ritual cake making, and live sand mandala construction.

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"Last year was the first time we did the family art event," said Joseph Guida, founder of Sierra Friends of Tibet. "It was so successful that we're bringing it back."

Through it all, the five monks will continue their meditative mandala creation. This ancient Buddhist practice of symbolic sand designs will be on display throughout the two-week residency.

When the mandala is finished, there will be a special ritual to bless it and mark its completion, after which the mandala will be ritually dissolved to highlight the Buddhist view of impermanence — a standing-room-only event, according to Guida.

After the dissolution of the Mandala, small portions of the sand will be offered as gifts to members of the audience.

The rest of the sand will be taken to Wolf Creek in Grass Valley on Sunday, March 4, where, following a short ceremony, it will be poured into the water as a blessing for the water and the surrounding environment.

Tour with a purpose

The five monks who comprise the 2018 Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour represent Gaden Shartse, a monastery in the Tibetan Refugee Settlement near Mundgod in South India. The monastery is home to nearly 1,500 monks living in exile in India, whose existence and ancient culture continue to thrive in large part because of the donations received during the annual Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour.

"The tour is two-fold," said Guida. "The first purpose is to preserve their culture and prove to the people of America that it is worth preserving. The second purpose to raise funds for their monastery."

All funds raised during the tour are given directly to Gaden Shartse for the cost of education, medical needs, housing, food, and building maintenance of the monastery. Donations are accepted throughout the two-week residency, and all are welcome to attend and participate in the numerous activities.

"When you go into the hall and observe the monks, you get a very special feeling," Guida said. "They emanate happiness, spirituality and laugher. I think that's something everybody wants in their lives."

For more detailed information on the upcoming activities, visit http://www.sierrafriendsoftibet.org.

Michael Rohm is a freelance writer for The Union and can be reached at mirohm13@gmail.com.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour

WHEN: Feb. 16 to March 4. Daily viewing from 10 a.m. until closing (time depends on evening activity).

WHERE: St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 410 South Church St., Grass Valley

INFO: For more information visit http://www.sierrafriendsoftibet.org