Background: When I received a call about 11 years ago to coordinate a tour for the monks of Drepung Gomang monastery in Maryland, it was one of the greatest blessings of my life. I was given an opportunity to do my small part in helping to highlight parts of a Tibetan Buddhist culture made illegal in their homeland through the colonial Chinese regime and the additional blessing to raise funds for basic needs of 2,000 monks, many Tibetan refugees, living in and carrying out their traditions in a monastery in India.
For seven years annually, stopping only for Covid, hundreds, if not thousands, of people gathered in the Baltimore and Washington DC area, to learn from and absorb the energy of a group of monks who offered donation-based teachings on compassion and impermanence, impermanent art, and meditation. We listened to chant after chant each day to start and end projects, meals, and tea ceremonies. Some years we went on the radio or simply chanted in front of the White House for peace.
There were events for children, some for free or by nominal donation in disadvantaged areas of Baltimore as well as in our yoga centers, local Universities, schools, cancer support center, churches, storefronts, symphony, and other venues.
We watched dances that are illegal in Tibet under Chinese occupation. The monks made alters that would have been illegal in Tibet. We heard instruments we have never seen.
And probably most memorably, we witnessed the making and destruction of sand mandalas from the medicine Buddha mandala, Buddha of Compassion mandala, Green Tara mandala, and a modern mandala designed of His Holiness himself, the world peace mandala.