Tibetan Monks Stopping Through Baltimore to Impart Wisdom, Raise Funds for Their Monastery

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Monks deconstruct a sacred sand mandala during a 2013 visit to Kentucky. Still via YouTube/Drepung Gomang Institute.

Baltimoreans can seek out some added peace and harmony this week from real Tibetan monks during a series of planned meditations, cultural events and ceremonies.

Baltimore Yoga Village in Mt. Washington and Hampden is playing host to the devout followers of the Dalai Lama, who are visiting from the Drepung Gomang Monastery of southern India.

The monks are members of one of the “Great Three” of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. They’re traveling the United States for their Sacred Arts Tour, which raises awareness of their spiritual teachings and collects donations for their 2,300-monk congregation in India, where they’ve been living in exile for decades after the Chinese violently pushed them out of Tibet in 1959.

Maura Roth-Gormley, an instructor with Baltimore Yoga Village, said the studio helped plan the monks’ visit to Baltimore.

There will be eight monks in all visiting the city, she said.

The week’s events kicked off today with a meditation and Q&A from 7:30-8:30 a.m. at the yoga center’s Hampden studio in the repurposed Mill Centre. Sessions will happen each morning through Thursday, May 4.

“Come sit with the monks for a peaceful start to your day. Meditate in their presence and learn the basics of single pointed focus,” reads a description from Baltimore Yoga Village’s website.

A main attraction of the monks’ weeklong visit to Baltimore is the five-by-five-foot sand mandala they will meticulously construct at Baltimore Yoga Village’s Mount Washington location. In a delicate process, they’ll guide thousands of grains of sand into a rich, colorful display of a mandala promoting world peace on the floor of the studio. Then, at the end of the week, they erase it as if it never was, in a demonstration of the value of impermanence.

The art “serves as a deep prayer to restore order and harmony to the environment,” according to Baltimore Yoga Village.

The kickoff for the building of the mandala will include chanting and prayer. It runs from 6:30-8 p.m. tonight. The monks will finish up during a closing ceremony starting Friday, May 5, at 5:30 p.m.

Other events planned with the monks this week will include a Tibetan cultural pageant at the University of Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon, a lecture on the philosophies of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon and meditation and Q&A session at the Barn at HopeWell Cancer Support in Lutherville on Wednesday evening.

Baltimore Yoga Village has also organized events at Goucher College, the Friends School of Baltimore, Inspiration Community and the McKim Community Association.

The yoga studio’s founder, Anjali Sunita, said in an email that the monks have been visiting the city since 2011, and that this will be their fourth visit.

Families in the Baltimore area are hosting them during their stay here, she said.

Click here for their full schedule.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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