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Like karma, coming back around

The Gaden Shartse Monastery monks’ 14-month visit to the United States has been a fun journey.

At least, that’s according to Lama Phuntsho, one of the eight touring monks who also serves as the group’s translator.



They’ve stopped at about 60 cities across the country, where the Tibetan monks from India have shared their heritage through lectures, sacred music and dance performances, and the creation of a sand mandala, which is a form of spiritual art.




The monks first visited Nevada County exactly a year ago.

“Everywhere we go, people are nice,” Phuntsho, 38, said Tuesday as he prepared to help with the sand mandala at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley. “We’ve met so many welcoming people. They’re generous and treat us like we’re in their family. It feels very comfortable being here.”

That said, Phuntsho is looking forward to returning home to the monastery, his home for the last 12 years.

“Being a monk is very difficult here,” said Phuntsho, formerly from Bhutan, a small kingdom in the Himalayas. “There’s too many distractions. If you settled here, you’d need a car, a phone, a house, a TV, job.”

“It’s too much. You’d just be covering your budget with no time to think personally, with no time to think inside oneself,” he added. “It’s not a suitable place for a monk.”

It’s a good place, though, for Phuntsho and the seven other monks to share their Buddhist views with the public. Specifically, they encourage people to practice more virtuous acts, generate good actions and practice patience.

“What goes around comes around – we believe that,” Phuntsho said quietly in reference to the average citizen trying to understand nightmarish events, whether it be Tibetan monks fleeing from the Communist Chinese into India or the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

“Slow down and think what are the causes and conditions for why (these different situations) occurred,” Phuntsho suggested, “and then maybe it didn’t happen accidentally. Think deeper. Accept that maybe in a past life, we did something wrong. Then practice more virtuous acts. Violence is never the solution to bring peace.”

Nevada County is the next-to-last stop on the monks’ visit in the United States. The last tour stop will be at Mills College in Oakland from Feb. 4 to Feb. 8.

As they did last year, the monks will present sacred music and dance performances, give dharma (how to become a better person) talks and construct a sand mandala. A sand mandala is constructed with serrated-edge funnels.

Know and Go

WHAT: Tibetan Buddhist monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery in India share their heritage in performances and talks

WHEN: Now through Feb. 3

WHERE: All events at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 410 S. Church St., Grass Valley, except for one event at North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, 17894 Tyler-Foote Crossing Road on the San Juan Ridge

ADMISSION: Suggested $1 to $5 for visiting the sand mandala. Suggested $10 to $20 for sacred music and dance performances, dharma talks and closing mandala ceremony.

INFORMATION: St. Joseph’s Cultural Center at 272-4725 or North Columbia Schoolhouse at 265-2826


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