I recently had the great pleasure of seeing the Drupung Gomang Monks building a mandala. Whilst beautiful and captivating in itself, it was not the mandala that left the biggest impression on me. The monks involved were of various ages, but they had one thing in common: their peace and calm. Nothing less than what one would expect from a monk of course! But being in their presence had a profound effect on me. As I watched their hands busy at work, their gaze intent on the mandala as it almost melodically took shape, I wondered about their aching shoulders and backs. It was close to the time when they would be ending for the day, and I imagined that they would rise from their work with relief, stretching their aching muscles, eager to have some rest.
Instead, they maintained a calm and ease – their willing smiles remained and they continued to engage with the group that had been watching their work. A child asked whether he could try using the chakpur (the tool used to create the mandala) and I expected the monk to politely refuse the request. Instead, the young monk smiled and happily showed the child how to funnel the sand through the chakpur to create patterns. He then went on to spell out some of the children’s names using his colored sand, much to their delight.
I wondered at this…how at the end of a long day at work we may snap at a loved one seeking our attention; how our patience can be worn so thin at the slightest of irritations as we go about the mundane tasks that fill our day. I was in the presence of some highly spiritual souls, calmly living their lives as we all should – in devotion to the Higher Power from which we came, in service to mankind (the sand of the mandala would be used to bring healing energies to a nearby waterway), all in placid and joyful oneness with everything around them.
Now, every time I feel frustration at some minor event, I force myself to recall the look I saw on the monk’s face as the child made his request to use the precious chakpur. There was a lot of love in that look, an acknowledgement that everyone has the right to use a chakpur, to create a sacred pattern, to be in service to God and mankind…that we all are spiritual souls, albeit at various stages of growth and enlightenment, with no right to judge anyone.
I wish for all of us the love and patience of that monk.