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Buddhist monks teaching Michiana about compassion

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks are visiting Michiana.

They’re working with the University of Notre Dame to teach students and people in the community that compassion can unite us.

This is their second visit to Notre Dame. They traveled all the way from a monastery in northern India.

Dominic Vachon is the director of the Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine at Notre Dame.

“Their whole lives are centered on compassion and cultivating compassion,” said Vachon. “So, that is something we’re interested in. Continuing to get better at and they bring so much wisdom about that, so we wanted to invite them to teach us what they know.”

The monks are doing that through art.

Inside the Reading Room at the Jordan Hall of Science, four Tibetan Buddhist Monks sit in a circle.

The sound of dedication fills the room as the monks use metal rods to create vibrations which lay down brightly-colored sand making a World Peace Mandala.

In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is an imaginary palace visualized during meditation. Each object represents some aspect of wisdom or compassion and shows how we can live in harmony.

The sound of each stroke helps students and community members listen to their mission.

“We share compassions and love, kindness,” said one of the monks Yeshi Abgyn. “We try to give a message [of] how do we create world peace?”

The monks say to create world peace, people need to show more compassion to each other. They add we need to build off of on another and work side by side despite our different beliefs.

“Just my thought,” said Abgyn. “People already know that but they forget.”

“When they make this sand mandala, it’s a sacred reflection on impermanence in life, the interdependence of all human beings, and how compassion binds us together,” said Vachon.

The sand will be swept away Friday morning. Half of it will be emptied into a local river. However, the monks mean to do that.

“It really symbolizes our lives that we do the best that we can in making the most beautiful thing that we can for others and that we’re all connected in that and then at the end, it’s swept away, but it becomes part of the cosmic cycle of things,” said Vachon.

“This is our world,” said Abgyn. “We have many friends here, we have to stick together.”


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