Something sacred in Carbondale | PostIndependent.com

Something sacred in Carbondale

Jessica Cabe
jcabe@postindependent.com

Walk into the gym at Carbondale's Third Street Center the next two days and your hectic life might seem like less of a concern.

Tibetan monks of southern India's Gaden Shartse Monastery are slowly, methodically working on Carbondale's first sand mandala, being made as part of Carbondale Compassion Days.

Compassion Days are a weeklong celebration of mindfulness and peace put together by the Way of Compassion Foundation. The week has also featured cultural and religious educational events in the evenings, but the Buddhist monks have been working on their sand mandala all day, every day, since Tuesday.

A dissolution ceremony, in which the days of intricate work will be swept away, will bring the week to a close at 5 p.m. Saturday. Anyone in attendance will receive a small bag of the sand used, and some of the sand will be poured into the Roaring Fork River.

"The idea of a sand mandala is to create an environment of compassion and to bless the whole area," said John Bruna, founder and director of the Way of Compassion Foundation, based in the Third Street Center. "I've had the good fortune of traveling with the monks, and I don't even know how many I've seen created. But the way it brings people together is just amazing."

Bruna said a steady flow of spectators have come by to watch the making of the mandala. On Wednesday morning, Carbondale resident Dustin Brunson sat with his eyes closed next to his young son, Remi, listening to the sound of the sand pourer in the practiced hands of a monk.

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"It's just so beautiful — it's so simple and powerful and colorful," Brunson said. "I've been very grateful to have this happening here."

He gestured to his son and added, "He says he wants to stay here all day, all week, to watch the whole thing."

Geshe Phuntsho, who has been a monk for 32 years, said the mandala is representing the Buddha of Compassion and his celestial universe. Anyone who comes to witness the making of the mandala will be affected, he said.

"Creating this sand mandala is to plant the seeds of compassion," he said. "It is to show the celestial universe of one enlightened being. If we practice love and compassion, we also can achieve the same celestial universe."

The dissolution ceremony is a way to remind ourselves of the impermanence of the physical world, he said.

"While we have the precious opportunity of having this human life, we have to make proper use of it because we have so much potential," he said. "But at the same time, we cannot cling to that because it is impermanent."

Bruna said the dissolution of a sand mandala does not destroy it, but rather transforms it.

"A lot of people think you destroy a mandala, and I say, well, you don't destroy it; it takes a new form, and it lives on with a higher purpose," he said. "Some people use it to bless their own property, and the river carries it on. And sometimes it's just a little bag of sand to remember a really wonderful time visiting a culture that is filled with love and compassion."

Brunson said he has visited Tibet and was touched by how the people honor nature, much like the people of Carbondale love their land.

"They honor the water and the valleys and the mountains in so many ways," he said of Tibetans. "It's so beautiful, the honoring of nature as a spiritual being. I think there's the same consciousness here. People really love the valley and the earth here.

"I love things that honor the sacred, and what they're making is a symbol of the universe. What they're making, they give it away like a gift."

See the Sand Mandala

The monks will be working on the sand mandala from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Third Street Center, with the dissolution ceremony beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday.