Tibetan monks perform sacred Buddhist ritual at Horniman

Photo: Tserkamo Monastery

Eight Buddhist monks will be creating a sacred sand painting this week at the Horniman Museum, as part of a festival celebrating Tibetan culture.

The monks, from the Tskeramo Monastery in India, marked the start of the Sacred Himalaya festival yesterday with a traditional Black Hat dance accompanied by Tibetan Horns. This was done to consecrate the site before the sand painting, the mandala, was constructed.

Despite the heavy snow, visitors managed to witness the event which normally takes place behind monastery doors.

Elizabeth Perkins, a 40 year old teacher from New York described the ceremony as “beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”

“I’ve come here out of a love for Tibet. Every song and sound is a blessing in itself,” she said.

The monks will spend the next few days placing together thousands of tiny coloured grains of sand, in the Forest Hill museum, to create the geometric tantic design of the painting. On the fourth day, they will destroy their creation.

Lama Samtem, one of the monks involved in the festival, described the significance of this act. “You have to remember that although the creation of the mandala is important so is its destruction too, as it symbolises the impermanence of life.”

Sand will then be offered to people as a blessing to take home with them.  The eight monks, who reside in the foothills of the Himalayas, have been touring 11 countries in Europe and London is their last stop before they head back to India.

In addition to showing people sacred Buddhist rituals, the monks want to highlight the plight of Tibet, which has been controlled by China for nearly half a century.

On Saturday they will perform a centuries old ceremony at the Michael Croft Theatre at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich. It will combine monastic chamber music, chants and vibrant masked dance, demonstrating the Buddhist concepts of love, compassion and tolerance.

Proceeds go to the Ladakhi flood victims’ relief as well as to the monastery and the attached orphanage.

The Sacred Arts of the Himalaya event will take on Saturday December 4 at the Michael Croft Theatre at Alleyn’s School.  To book tickets go onto www.ticketweb.co.ukhttp://www.ticketweb.co.uk/user/?region=gb_london&query=detail&event=415036.

More information about the monks can be found here: http://www.treasurehimalaya.eu/ Front page image of monk painting mandala is by Anuj Kumar Pradhan.

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