Designs on Compassion Tibetan Monks Bring Buddhism to Jacksonville

Article excerpt

Using two long, skinny funnels, Jampa Rinpoche gently released grains of red sand on a flat piece of wood, creating a design that resembled something from an Oriental rug.

The Tibetan Buddhist monk and two others from India visiting Jacksonville have spent the past two days on the floor of the Hai-Duc Buddhist Temple. They are working on a sand painting, called a mandala, that will be finished tomorrow. They will share Buddhist teachings this weekend.

Jacksonville is the latest stop for the monks, who are touring North America to teach about Buddhism and to raise $20,000 to build a larger prayer hall at their monastery in India.

It's a good learning opportunity, said Michael Turnquist, one of approximately 600 Jacksonville residents who practice Buddhism, an Asian religion that seeks liberation from suffering through mental and moral self-purification.

Buddhists are to refrain from harming living things, lying, stealing, using intoxicants or using sex in an abusive way. Because it involves mandalas, special prayers, chants and incense burning, Tibetan Buddhism is the most

ritualistic of the four forms of Buddhism, said Christopher Queen, a lecturer on religion at Harvard University and author of a book on Buddhism in the West.

"It's a very grounded, very earthly approach," said Turnquist, who practices Tibetan Buddhism. "It makes good common sense."

The ultimate for Buddhists is reaching nirvana -- inner peace.

Visiting monk Pasang Gelek said his back aches from creating mandala after mandala in dozens of cities across the country. And being the only English speaker, he translates for the group and can't always find the right words. …


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