Monks' Quiet Blessing In The Furnace Of Politics

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday February 18, 1995

By BRONWEN GAVIN in Canberra

In among the flurry of leadership battles, foresters' demonstrations, political fallout and wheeling and dealing in Canberra's Parliament House, there has been a small pocket of calm for the past two weeks as Tibetan Buddhist monks create a sand artwork to bless Australia.

The two-metre Kalachakra Mandala circle - the "wheel of time" - is an intricate work depicting 722 Buddhist deities, all created by painstakingly placing coloured grains of sand on a cardboard table.

With three monks taking one month to complete the Mandala, a sneeze in the wrong direction can be disastrous. One monk has to wear a mask to avoid breathing too strongly on the delicate sands.

But why build this delicate artwork in Parliament House? Geshe Yama Tseten, the leader of the delegation of monks from the Namgyal Monastery of the Dalai Lama in India, says the home of Australia's Parliament is the perfect venue to bless Australia and promote greater international understanding.

Hundreds of tourists, kept at sneezing and heavy breathing distance away from the working monks, have visited the evolving artwork.

It will be completed by February 27, when "in a lesson of life's impermanence", the work will be destroyed. The symbolism of impermanence will perhaps be most appreciated by Canberra's politicians, many of whom have visited the Mandala.

In a sense, the monks are being watched over by the nation's parliamentarians - photographs of the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and all the other members of the House of Representatives grace the wall overlooking the Mandala.

Some tourists could be heard muttering the hope that the monks' quiet undertaking of their task would rub off on some of our politicians.

© 1995 Sydney Morning Herald

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