Bend gets a dose of Buddhist tradition

Monks share spiritual practices, chants and dances as part of U.S. peace tour

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Wearing a large, circular hat, draped in blue, green, white, red and yellow cloth, Nima Dorje spun as another monk chanted, carrying out the Black Hat Dance of Buddhist tradition.

A world away from their monastery in southern India, Nima Dorje and five other monks performed the dance and other Buddhist rituals at the Downtown Bend Public Library on Sunday, part of a nationwide peace tour that’s brought the group to Bend for more than a week.

Nearly 100 people crammed a room at the library to watch and listen as the monks shared parts of their culture.

They opened with a 10-minute chant, mixing their voices with the beating of drums, ringing of bells and clanging of cymbals.

Geshe Dorjee Gyaltsen explained the purpose behind the chants, to incorporate the teachings of Buddha into their meditation and to pray for peace.

“The world is becoming more dangerous,” Gyaltsen said. “Every single person is responsible to save the world, the environment and to bring peace.”

There were lighter moments, too, as Gyaltsen explained some of the pieces of American culture the monks had picked up three months into their year-long tour of the United States.

“I love to watch Animal Planet,” he said, to much laughter. Being a Buddhist in the 21st century means incorporating science and modern medicine into its teachings, and the monks don’t shy away from modern technology. One fiddled with an iPad several minutes before they began their 45-minute presentation.

But the core tenets of their teachings remain: learning to move away from “the poisons of attachment, anger, envy,” Gyaltsen said. “It is talking about how to make a better, more peaceful life.”

Two of the monks, Nima Dorje and Wangdu, specialize in building sand mandalas, a Buddhist tradition in which elaborate symbols are painstakingly created from tiny grains of sand.

The two began creating a mandala in the upstairs section of the library, and continued to work on it Sunday.

Bend resident Shelley Langman and her 9-year-old son, Brian, watched them work.

“Their discipline is really incredible,” she said. “It’s important for people to see that discipline and spirituality come in so many different forms.”

The monks have been in America since March, their trip personally blessed by the Dalai Lama.

They’ve been in Bend since June 18, and will remain in the area through Friday.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com