Monday, November 19, 2007

The lesson of the mandala....

Mandala is the Sanskrit word for completion or circle. Up until a few years ago, I had never heard the word or had any idea that a mandala was a 'thing'.

In 2004, Lama Tentzin came to my daughter's school to build a sand mandala. The Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which symbolises the transitory nature of things. As part of Buddhist canon, all things material are seen as transitory. A sand mandala is an example of this, being that once it has been built and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished, it is systematically destroyed.

The kids were able to watch Lama Tentzin slowly and methodically build the beautiful mandala over the five day school week, while talking with him about peace, harmony and love. They meditated with him in the morning and listened to his prayers before he began work on the mandala each day. At the end of the week, they watched him dismantle the mandala and accompanied Lama Tentzin and the mandala to the beach where the sand was returned to nature.

My daughter talked about-and still talks about-Lama Tentzin. She was as fascinated by his mandala building skills as she was by being able to talk to him-about anything. It was a great experience for her.

Lama Tentzin was able to return in 2005 and 2006 and once again, the kids watched and listened in wonder as he built the mandala and talked with the them about peace and compassion. As he prayed in his native tounge, the kids were mesmerized-and so were the adults.

As it turned out, not all of the parents were as thrilled with this experience as I was. They felt that the school was supporting a religious agenda that was not to their liking. I don't know if Lama Tentzin will return this year.

I was angry when I found out about this-really angry. I wondered how people could NOT want to expose their kids to other ways of thinking and doing things. In a world that revolves around material things and a 'keep up with the Jones's' mentality, wouldn't the gentle message that 'things' aren't as important as respect and compassion for our fellow man be universal?

There have been other similar incidents that have occurred and, frankly, surprised me. But I have stopped being angry. That never has done me any good.

I am trying to live the message of compassion that Lama Tentzin was intent on teaching us. Compassion for the people who are so wrapped up in their own agendas taht they can't see the universality of messages unless they are delivered in a certain way. I have compassion for the children who are missing out on a very special experience. I have compassion for my child who has to live in a world where the sheer beauty of something like a mandala can get lost in people's fear.

I am also trying to be compassionate with myself-which is the hardest lesson of all.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful for the message of the mandala.

With respect,

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