Monks from Ganden* Monastery, one of the three largest historical monasteries in Tibet’s Gelug school of Vajrayana Buddhism, are spending time in Aspen and nearby Carbondale, Colorado. Monks from Ganden Monastery have toured the United States since 1992 as part of efforts to preserve Tibetan culture. Their events also serve to help with fundraising for activities by the monks living at the monastery in India.
In Aspen, the monks recently completed a sand mandala for the public, and plan to offer further talks, empowerments, personal consultations, business and house blessings, and musical events as well as an Aspen Mountain Top Blessing on 14 July.
In Carbondale, the monks have been invited to bless the grand re-opening of the Way of Compassion Dharma Center—the only Buddhist center in the area—and will spend five days offering cultural events centered around the creation of a sand mandala. The re-opening ceremony will take place on 15 July at 7pm MDT.
The Way of Compassion Dharma Center aims to raise US$15,000 to cover the monks’ travel costs as well as to fund the addition of a new meditation hall in their Dharma center. “It’s neat to host them and time it with the opening,” said the director and founder of the center, John Bruna, who has toured with the monks in the past. “If you ever find yourself meeting the Dalai Lama,” Bruna jokingly warned, “Be careful. You might get a haircut.” (The Sopris Sun)
The sand mandala planned for the Carbondale visit will honor the Buddha of Compassion (Tib: Chenrezig), who is believed to be embodied in the Dalai Lama. The creation of the mandala will be open to the public and will take place from 9am–5pm MDT on 15 July. Further events include a tea offering on 16 July, a healing ritual on 17 July, and an empowerment practice on 18 July. On 19 July, the sand mandala will be consecrated and dissolved, a practice that marks the impermanence of all things. In an additional activity on 17 July, monks will teach children and adults how to create traditional butter and barley flour sculptures.
These events mark some of the first major in-person Buddhist gatherings in the US after 15 months of canceled and online events and teachings. John Bruna said he was seeing “a real need to connect in person,” evidenced by registration for their first in-person retreat of 2021 filling up in days. The pandemic “pulled the cover from illusion” and presented “an opportunity for people to wake up from autopilot,” Bruna noted. “People were forced to spend time with themselves and their family,” allowing them to “reassess their life and relationships.” (The Sopris Sun)
Nonetheless, the center noted increased attendance for many events during the pandemic as offerings were moved online. Many new attendees joined from far away from the center’s physical location. Reflecting on this, Bruna said: “We will continue our online programs as we embrace new ways for all of us to cultivate these important methods to develop more compassion, loving-kindness, wisdom, and inner peace.” (The Sopris Sun)
All events are open to the public and are by donation. A full schedule and contact information for personal appointments can be found at The Way of Compassion Dharma Center’s website. Bruna believes that mindfulness “provides meaning and stability in challenging times.” (The Sopris Sun)
Ganden Monastery was founded to the northeast of Lhasa, Tibet, in 1409 by Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1966 it was re-established in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. The abbot of the monastery—called the Ganden Tripa—is the head of the Gelug school.
* Also commonly transliterated as “Gaden.”
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