The monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery were recently in Dallas for the annual residency at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The organization has been supporting our interest in sharing Tibet for seventeen years: seventeen mandalas, almost 200 monks, prayer flag exchanges, high school students immersed in widening worlds–each year our world getting a little bit bigger and a lot smaller at the same time.
The week’s planning and coordination has become fine-tuned by our skillful team: schedules are full with community dinners, school visits; the altar is prepared with fresh fruit, flowers and milk; the table upon which the mandala will be constructed is painted with a fresh coat of silky black paint. I consider the layers: white chalk lines from various mandalas over the years all here on this table I hope we will always use.
Each year the group of ten or eleven men selected to participate in the US tour are different. Occasionally we may re-unite with a Geshe or a driver who has been here before, but generally our meetings are new and very literally once-in-this lifetime.
The staff at the museum loves this experience, and this passion shows in how much care and concern they devote to the week. No day is too long, every moment to be with these young buddhist scholars is the moment to be in–and nothing else matters. I watched them laugh and play, I watched them ask questions, practicing both English and Tibetan with equal patience and respect: both parties were in the moment to learn.
Is this not compassion manifest? A young team of museum employees taking these monks of a similar age into their care and expressing sincere interest in their story, their hopes and experiences. Similarly, these young monks, seeing Texas for the first time: days spent intensely hunched over the mandala: creating Amitayus in a majestic universe helping us all get a little more comfortable with the realities of time and impermanence.
What is the cumulative impact of years of witnessing the construction and creation of mandala after mandala? Are we more comfortable with endings and beginnings? Are we more patient? I see the pilgrims return year after year, and I wonder how their lives are different. I know mine is. I send only peace and gratitude to those who make the Mystical Arts of Tibet possible, and to the monks who work through aching muscles and fatigue. Dallas is better because of them.