Tibetan monks say goodbye after annual visit to Nevada County (PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com

Tibetan monks say goodbye after annual visit to Nevada County (PHOTO GALLERY)

Buddhism is often associated with a number of things. Peace, kindness, spirituality are just a few. But this past weekend, the Tibetan monks and people who brought them to the community, shared one specific quality: gratitude.

Joseph Guida, creator of the Sierra Friends of Tibet, shared his appreciation for the monks, his many volunteers, and the county residents who participated in the two-week festivities. He expressed this sentiment at the closing ceremony of the Tibetan monk events on Saturday at the Banner Community Guild.

“The monks wouldn’t come without you,” said Guida, “and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The monks themselves expressed their gratitude.

“You can fill a stadium of 15,000 people with the Dalai Lama, but it’s difficult to get 1,500 people to care about Tibet.”— Melanie Sullivan

“We have been completely taken care of,” said Tibetan monk Geshe Wangyal at the event, after expressing his thanks for being accepted into the community.

For the past two weeks, the monks have been hosting a variety of projects, providing blessings, teachings, and sharing their practice with county residents around the area, and at their host site, the Banner Community Guild.

“This is a common space,” said John Pomeroy, building manager for the Banner Community Guild. “We have anarchists and Trumpists and everyone in between.” Each year, Buddhists are added to that diverse amalgam of people.

Taking Action

The two-week event is meant to be spiritual, not political, according to the monks and some volunteers. Many with the Sierra Friends of Tibet try to honor that wish.

“The monks visit is never political,” said Melanie Sullivan, volunteer with the Sierra Friends of Tibet. “They are on a spiritual mission.”

Still, the issue of Chinese annexation of the former independent state strikes a chord with many from the Sierra Friends of Tibet, as they see it as a great injustice for the Tibetans and their culture.

“A culture was invaded and colonized for 60 years and Tibetans never fought back,” said Joseph Guida, who created the Sierra Friends of Tibet, adding that the monks always responded with peace.

Many organization members hope that county residents take action to push for renewed Tibetan sovereignty. Sullivan suggested people “call an elected official and raising concern about Tibet,” noting that since 2009 about 155 Tibetans have self-immolated — burned themselves to death — to protest Chinese occupation.

The volunteer added that although many people enjoy listening to the Dalai Lama, it’s quite difficult to get people to care about political freedom and independence for Tibetans.

“You can fill a stadium of 15,000 people with the Dalai Lama, but it’s difficult to get 1,500 people to care about Tibet,” she said.

After the monks leave, the Sierra Friends of Tibet will continue fighting for Tibetan freedoms, hoping to bring others on board the movement.

“It’s a world class tragedy that should be in history books,” said Guida. “So what it means to me to do this is we’re raising awareness to all these people that come (to the events), to all the people that read the newspaper or listen to radio to hopefully get young people to hear this so that they’ll become activists.”

What’s Next

On Saturday, the monks chanted prayers for about 30 minutes behind a sand mandala they created over their two-week stay, and then proceeded to sweep up the mandala, blending its blues, reds, greens and yellows into a small mound of sand in the table’s center. As is tradition, they swept sand from the mandala into small plastic bags for audience members and volunteers to take home, expressing the sentiment that everything arises to pass away, according to Guida.

“For me, (the event) is like a river,” said Guida. “The monks come and go, which is also the Buddhist teachings of non-attachment.”

This week, the monks are heading to Paradise to bless the town and the first responders who defended against the wildfire that devastated the area in November.

Although the monks won’t return to Nevada County until next year, Sierra Friends of Tibet members reminded the audience that one Buddhist monk, Geshe Lobsang Tsultrim, is in the area, teaching Buddhist philosophy and practice.

“When the tour goes, the Dharma stays,” said Guida.

To learn more about Geshe Lobsang Tsultrim’s teachings, visit http://www.sierrafriendsoftibet.net or call Guida at 530-798-9576.

Contact Staff Writer Sam Corey at scorey@theunion.com or 530-477-4219.

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