ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF Love Freo Blog
From their monastery in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, the Gyuto Monks of Tibet have become much loved annual visitors to Australia since their first successful tour to Australia in 1994. Their 700 year old pure tradition of tantric ritual and ceremony makes them a precious and highly respected monastery in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon.
The Gyuto Monks of Tibet are the unique masters of a deep harmonic overtone chanting. Trained over many years, each monk has the capacity to chant in three octaves at once. The sound has been compared to the resonance of a drum or didgeridoo and is reputed to have a transformative effect on the physical as well as emotional body. A fascinating aspect of the Gyuto Monks’ sound is that it is not personality based, or dependent on individual voices for its impact.
The ancient harmonic chanting of the Gyuto Monks is a deep recitation of the Buddha’s teachings, which form a secret and mysterious pathway to tantric transformation. It is an expression of no-self or selflessness or emptiness. There is no independent “self” or “I” either in us or in the world around us. Everything in the universe exists because of its dependence on something else. Nothing can be born or sustained by itself. The universe is interdependent.
Mandalas are works of sacred geometric art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism. The word “mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that generally means “circle.
From 19 June to 29 June 2012, over ten days, visiting Gyuto Monks created a spectacular Sand Mandala in the Fremantle Town Hall, Western Australia. The monks spent hours every day carefully applying sand using small metal tubes to form the circular mandala diagram. Once completed, the mandala was destroyed, as a symbol of the im-permanence of all.
Architectural in structure, the complex and richly coloured designs of the Sand Mandalas have remained unchanged for over 500 years, the skills and secret meanings passed faithfully down through the generations from teacher to student. The monks make these exquisite mandalas from memory, approaching the task within the framework of ancient ceremonial Tantric ritual, and bringing to the process extraordinary patience and concentration.
The Sand Mandala is built from coloured sand, ground from rock from the Himalayas, and then poured precisely onto the mandala design using a ‘chak-pu‘, a cone-shaped, fine-tipped metal funnel. To adjust the sand once it is on the blueprint, a metal scraper called a ‘gyud-ti‘ (tantric knife) is used. The mandala is constructed from the center outwards. Once the mandala is completed, it is then dismantled, first by the removal of each of the deities represented in the mandala and then with a ‘dorje’, the head lama cuts through the main lines, thus cutting the energy of the mandala.
The remaining sand is then swept up into the center of the mandala and placed in an urn. In a ritual procession, the monks then carry the sand to the nearest moving water, where the sand is symbolically scattered to demonstrate life’s impermanence.
The mandala is, in essence, a visualization tool, a symbol of a perfect world in which we are all perfect beings practicing the pure loving kindness and compassion that is innate in all living beings. Visualizing oneself in the center of this perfect world of the mandala creates the conditions for us to behave towards others with kindness and compassion, which in turn, causes them to develop a similar outlook and leads to the creation of such a perfect world.