The use of motifs, images, text, voices, sound, and authentic Tibetan music and food was part of the plan. The event was inaugurated by the arrival of the monks from the Zongkar Choede monastery at Hunsur, one of the early monasteries of the settlers who were housed in Karnataka State. The mandala was a lesson with patience and dedication, the recreating of sacred geometry with the specific iconography. The process that took five day was a show of dedication and sincerity.
Several people came to be a part of this rare opportunity of the creation of the mandala. The relocation of the mandala in a secular space was another attempt to make the sacred more accessible and make it part of the secular fabric of urban society.
Knots of prayer: another tradition of knotting was learnt from the monks, they thought us to use mind, gesture and the sense of touch to create these knots that are ritually used by Tibetans.
Terracotta lamps, in the shape of the Tibetan butter lamps, were made to order from the local potter and 108 lamps were lit in honor of the Panchen Lama, the youngest political prisoner.
The Tibetan chef created a menu of traditional and special Tibetan dishes to introduce people to another aspect of the culture. A seasoned chef, he whipped out an elaborate spread on every evening during the three days.
Story telling with PATARA was a successful attempt to invite young children to listen to expert story tellers who used a puppet to narrate tales from Tibet. Maps and images were used to illustrate the stories.
Two children’s books, authored by Aravinda , under the banner of Lama Mani books was another project by the Think Tibet group to write, design and print tales of life in exile for the young. These two titles were released as part of the inauguration by the Chief Representative of the Southern Tibetan Settlements, Kunga Dorje.
Art work by children from the Tibetan Children’s Village, Bylakuppe, depicting life and times in Tibet, narrations of atrocity and pastoral was displayed.
Poetry reading by Tenzin Tsundue and Mamata Sagar was the highlight of the event. Sitting in the packed courtyard of the gallery, with a 108 lamps burning in the background, the audience listened to the poet-activist read his strong yet moving words, and listened to him talk about why he wrote them and why he writes his poetry. Mamata’s rendering of the Kannada version of the poetry brought them closer home for many who lingered after the program to find out more.
The publication brought out during the event featured these poems, along with articles on Tibet by Mr Vijay Crishna, well known for his audio-visual presentation, Tibet of Our Minds: A Journey’s End? and Mangalooru Vijay, author of Tibet.
Conversations across Cultures in Exile
These statements were drawn from conversations, interviews and discussions we’ve had with Tibetans – old people and young, monks and lay men, sweater sellers and restaurateurs, activists and friends. Talks of being Tibetan and living in exile were difficult to navigate through and sometimes we encountered coldness too, that had come from years of pain. Sometimes language was a barrier; yet, it was in those moments when a Tibetan struggled to find the right words, did the most honest expressions come out.
About the Mani Lakhor :
The prayer wheels or ‘Mani Lakhor’ are integral to the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Rows and rows of metal cylinders are embossed with the prayer – Om Mani Padme Hum. It is said that turning them in a clockwise direction can earn one great merit and good karma. A Tibetan always stops before the wheel to turn it in prayer.
Taking the symbolism of this Tibetan tradition, we have added aspects that have arisen as a consequence of their situation. Protests and rallies, sorrow and anger, loss and hope have made their way into the Tibetan life. The words in Kannada and English symbolizing their existence in exile are set against images from their current reality.
So, turn the wheel for the Tibetan people. Say a prayer for them. Here even their protest becomes a prayer of resistance and hope.
About the Mandala of Avalokiteshwara
Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig as he is known in Tibetan, is the Buddhist deity who personifies the ideal of compassion. He is portrayed in several different forms, two of the most popular being as a white deity with either four arms or 1000 arms; the extra arms symbolize his ability to help many beings simultaneously.
The Mandala can be described as being the residence of the deities and their retinues. The sand mandala of Avalokiteshvara was originated from the tantric teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. Although depicted on a flat surface, the Mandala is actually three-dimensional, being a “divine mansion” at the center of which resides Avalokiteshvara, surrounded by the deities of his entourage.
The Mandala is seen as a method to bring peace and harmony in the world through the practice of great compassion, wisdom of emptiness and the meditation on the Mandala. A practitioner would familiarize oneself with every detail of the Mandala and the deities within it, engaging in repeated exercises based upon visualizing the pure beings and pure environment which symbolized one’s own being and environment in purified, sublime form. Even to get a glimpse of the Mandala creates a positive impression on the mind of the observer, as it presents a profound potential for perfect enlightenment, which exists within the mind of all beings.
At the end of ritual ceremony, the Mandala will be systematically dismantled and the sand powder of the Mandala will be thrown into a clean river or a sea to remind the impermanence of the world. In fact, it serves to enrich the soil and the mineral resources and to eliminate the untimely death, diseases, famine etc.
The event concluded with a talk on Buddhism by Ven. Tenzin Namdak from the Choe Khor Sum Ling centre. He spoke on Buddhism being one of the paths to a better way of life and managing emotions. His engaging discourse was followed by the sweeping of the sand mandala.
The project was well received and responded by the public as well as Artist community.