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Tibetan Spiritual Leader Dalai Lama to take part in Kalachakra Ceremony in Bodh Gaya

The Kalachakra ceremony would be held in Bodh Gaya, from January 3 to January 14, 2017

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Dharamsala, October 24, 2016: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will participate in the ‘Kalachakra’ (Wheel of Time) ceremony in Bodh Gaya this January and pray for world peace, a Tibetan body announced on Monday.

“The Kalachakra ceremony would be held in Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment, from January 3-14,” the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said in a statement.

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Organisers of the ceremony said the Kalachakra is held for world peace and for the smooth flourishing of Tibetan Buddhism.

During the first three days of the Kalachakra, the Dalai Lama, along with the monks of Namgyal Monastery and senior Lamas, will conduct rituals to consecrate the venue, it said.

From January 6 to 8, he will give preliminary teachings on Shantideva’s “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” (Chodjug) and Kamalashila’s “The Middling Stages of Meditation” (Gomrim Barpa).

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On January 9, the Kalachakra ritual dance will be performed by the monks of Namgyal Monastery.

From January 10 to 13, he will confer the Kalachakra initiation, followed by a long-life empowerment and a ceremony of offering prayers for the long life of the Dalai Lama on January 14.

Since 1954, the Dalai Lama has given 33 Kalachakra initiations, including four times at Bodh Gaya (in 1974, 1985, 2003 and 2012).

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The last Kalachakra was also held in Bodh Gaya in 2012 and drew over 200,000 devotees from across the world, including about 8,000-10,000 from Tibet, the statement said.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959. The Tibetan administration-in-exile is based in this northern Indian hill town. India is home to some 100,000 Tibetan exiles. (IANS)

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

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.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

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.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

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.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“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.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

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.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

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)