Tibetan Monks Visit Haddonfield to Promote Peace, Understanding
Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery offered insights about Tibetan culture and wisdom about the transient nature of life during an extended visit hosted by the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, in Haddonfield from Nov. 7-11.
The four-day residency included presentations by the monks about their dedication to peace, demonstrations of their prayers and chanting and construction of a gorgeous and intricate three-dimensional sand mandala in the center of the Quaker meetinghouse on Friends Avenue. Their visit concluded with a ceremony featuring prayers and chanting and culminating when the monks swept all their beautiful handiwork into a single mound of sand. Distributing little plastic bags of the sand to some 60-70 curious observers, the monks then offered a final sequence of prayers along the nearby Cooper Creek, where they scattered the confetti-colored sand into the water.
Demolishing the artwork over which the monks labored painstakingly for days symbolizes the impermanence of life and the discipline of letting go of worldly possessions, said Sue Simone, the national coordinator of the Sacred Arts Tour of the Drepong Gomang Monastery.
“Americans could benefit significantly from the spiritual nature of the monks and Tibetan Buddhism,” Simone said. “They are trying to keep alive customs—natural pathways to happiness that work. It’s not about how much we have that makes us happy.”
The monks’ nearly yearlong tour has previously taken them from Key Largo to Kentucky and Kansas City. They will soon return to the monastery in Southern India, home to some 2,000 other monks who have fled oppression in Tibet at the hands of the Chinese government.
Although monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery have previously toured the U.S. and other countries, this was their first visit to South Jersey.
Haddonfield Meeting member Connie Brookes said the group has already been invited to return next year.