Hindu statesman Rajan Zed recently urged Liverpool (a Sydney suburb) City Council to keep beef off the menu of interfaith lunches and dinners.
In an email to the President of Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed; Kiersten Fishburn, Council’s Director Community and Culture, wrote back on August 9: “I can assure you that at the recent interfaith lunch beef was not served. We appreciate that many cultures and faiths have particular dietary prohibitions…”
The interfaith lunch, Per Fishburn, held on August 2, was attended by about 500 people.
Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) on Friday, thanked Liverpool City Council for understanding the concerns of Hindu community, as cow was held sacred by Hindus and was considered the seat of many deities. Consuming beef was considered sacrilegious among Hindus.
Zed had earlier said that with its population increasingly diverse, Liverpool Council should be respectful to all the faith traditions while deciding menu for interfaith lunches and dinners; as purpose of interfaith gatherings was to bring diverse traditions to sit and eat together in fellowship displaying harmonious coexistence.
Rajan Zed had also pointed out that Liverpool Council should walk the talk and seriously follow its own tagline which stated “creating our future together” and its own guiding principle of “We will be fair and just.”
According to the Council’s website, Liverpool’s 40 percent population is born overseas in over 150 countries, with Fiji and India being among the top ten. Liverpool residents speak over 140 different languages and about half of its residents speak language other than English at home (Hindi being among the top ten). Hinduism has increased in Liverpool since 2006.
Ned Mannoun, Gus Ballout and Carl Wulff are Mayor, Deputy Mayor and CEO of City Council of Liverpool, which was “founded” in 1810. Prominent people associated with Liverpool include: cricketer Michael Clarke, Olympic swimmer Michael Wenden, footballer Mark Bosnich and entertainer Nathan Foley.
According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Decades of mandalas
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.
“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”
VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.
Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.
“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”
When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.
“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.
Nothing is permanent
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.
“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”
Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.
“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.
Beauty comes and goes
After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.
“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”
Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.
To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.
“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)