San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Children’s Museum Humming and Clicking

WHEN the rumbled chants haveceased, the incense sticks smoked outand the monks, rocking slightly totheir own vocal hypnosis, have rosewithout a warning word in anyWestern language, the northern wingof the Children’s Museum begins tohum and clink.Three Tibetan Buddhist monks,legs folded beneath them, hunch overpencil-like funnels and pour coloredsand onto a marked surface, as theyhave all week.They are making the KalachakraMandala, a flat representation of asacred mansion and its 722 divineresidents that they will destroy shortlyafter they finish (see related story,page W-10). They will pour the sandin complicated figures within thestraight lines of their plan markedon the surface on which theysit until the mandala isfinished, before thearrival of the DalaiLama to Costa Rica.THE roombuzzes with themetallic drone of theserrated funnelsscraping against eachother, as if it wereinfested with steel cicadas,and the clinking of the funnelsto empty the final grains. The soundscease when the monks gather moresand from the plastic containersaround them, and when they speak,sporadically, during their mostlyvoiceless labor, in the same baritonesthat recall the morning’s chants.The monks, the three constructingthe mandala and a fourth whospeaks Spanish and is here as a kindof public relations rep with a scheduleof visits and interviews, and tofield questions and share insights,even stories and jokes, with curiousmuseum visitors, are from foreignmonasteries and are in Costa Rica forthe first time.One of those pouring sand on themandala is Tenzin Thutop, who livesin a Tibetan monastery in New Yorkand is from Dharamsala, India, thehome of the Dalai Lama who is inexile from his home in Tibet (TT,Sept. 17).The Kalachakra Mandala, hesaid, “focuses on peace, harmony. Ittransforms negative mind to positive.For us, it is almost like a daily (meditation)practice.”FOR everyone else, or those wholook on this mandala, at least, itmay induce a feeling ofpeace.“I hope they (peoplewho see them working)can learn fromthis, trying to reducenegative emotions,trying to obtainpeaceful emotions,”Thutop said.The Dalai Lama,quoted on the Web site forthe Tibetan Government inexile – – said thedeities of the Kalachakra, those 722incorporated into the design, create aheartening atmosphere and reducetension and violence in the world.“It is a way of planting a seed, and the seed will have a karmic effect. One doesn’tneed to be present at the Kalachakra ceremonyin order to receive its benefits,” he said.RATHER than worshipping a god as a separateand possibly external thing, Thutop saidthose in the mandala “signify qualities that westrive to obtain. We have the seeds (of those qualities).The seeds are weak for the present, so wehave to make the seeds flourish– qualities like boundlesscompassion, boundless love.We have to out the seed toripen. Right now our seed isblocked by negative emotion.We have to apply antidotes– wisdom, realizingdifferent truths.“Since Costa Rica is avery special country – theyare disarmed – that meansexternally they are peaceful.But there’s a mental level –anger, jealousy … In order toget rid of this we have to finda method how to overcomethese destructive feelings. Ihope they can learn, slowly.They can ask questions howto deal with these emotionswhile they watch the mandala.”The inauguration of theconstruction of the mandala last week was attendedby hundreds of Costa Rican and foreigners. Itopened with a chant by the four visiting monksfollowed by a short concert of samples from traditionalTibetan music, dance, and opera byTibetan singer and songwriter Tashi DhondupSharzur.WHEN he put the violin-like piwang and theflutelike lingu aside to sing, his voice was a forcethat made the beautiful notes of the instrumentsseem flimsy. The songs were reminiscent of moremelodic Native American chants. He ended theperformance by thanking the audience, inEnglish, for listing to his “not-very-good voice.”A recording of his music is available for sale atthe museum.Thubten Wangchen, director of the TibetHouse in Barcelona, Spain (, said in a speech before the ribbon-cuttingceremony that Costa Rica and Tibet are “veryclose,” and this visit to Costa Rica is a “great gift”to the Dalai Lama.This week and until Sept. 28 when he is at themuseum, he will be answeringthe questions of thosearound the mandala. He isliable to speak about suchsubjects as time, reincarnationand problem solving,but through ready examples,stories and quick laughter.THE best way to solve aproblem is to distance yourselffrom it first, like youwould run out of a burningbuilding before figuring outhow to douse the flames, hesaid.“Problems are mentaltrickery,” he said.In talking about differenceshe points to the peoplegathered around him, pointsout their different ages,clothes, and jobs as proofthat “differences are natural.”On war, he said “war always disturbs humansociety. If we could manage something withoutbloodshed it is best. This is pity, but it is happeningeverywhere.”He and other monks have prayed for AlQaeda, he said, that “they should stop and openwisdom to light.”The monks hold a ceremony every morning at9 a.m. for about half an hour before beginningwork on the mandala. It is open to the public andanyone can take a cushion from a stack and jointhem in the meditation.

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