Monks, Meditation, and Merging

Monks%2C+Meditation%2C+and+Merging

Aleni MacKarey

Drepung Gomang monastery monks visit campus

Photos by Sarah Walko ‘15 and courtesy of lafayette.edu

While students slid into their flip-flops and began claiming territory on the sunny quad during the past week, Lafayette’s special guests donned different outfits.

The Monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery for Advanced Studies and Practices on Buddhist Philosophy resided on campus for three days to invite Lafayette community members to be a part of their culture and their traditions. Prior to their arrival on campus, Lafayette hosted a brown bag lunch discussion to introduce students to Tibetan Buddhism. The week began with a ceremony where the mandala was constructed out of sand. This is a sort of gated square that, when opened, reveals a circle with a center point, symbolizing the universe.

Scott Bradley ‘16 was immediately attracted to the sand presentation.

“I thought it was a very interesting ritual,” Bradley said. “The symbolism behind everything they do is amazing. The way in which the monks, and all Buddhists for that matter acknowledge the impermanence of life and possessions really gives an idea to reflect on.”

Community members were also encouraged to attend one of several meditation sessions, where the monks would instruct them on how to release inner tension and find peace with their current states. Attendees brought cushions, towels and even sweatshirts to take part in this unique experience.

Over the course of the three days, the monks could be seen in their traditional garb, walking around Lower Farinon, striking up conversations with students and soliciting their business to help support Tibetan fundraisers. The monks also led prayer and chanting events and discussions with other groups on campus.

Ashley Ellis ‘16, a Math and Religious Studies double major, said, “I wanted to go because I think watching and observing a religious ritual is a unique opportunity to see into a somewhat intimate part of a person’s life.”

One of the favorite events for students on campus was the yak dance. The monks kept a beat on their tambourines and percussion interments while several others danced in front of Hogg, dressed as the yak. This Buddhist figurehead symbolizes a dual-persona caretaker of earth’s natural treasures.

“The visit [from the Monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery] was a reminder of how lucky we are here at Lafayette,” Allie Shumeyko ‘14 said. “I’ve never imagined I’d get to experience the opening prayer ceremony, the creation of a mandala, and a yak dance right here on campus.”