"I have driven here with a friend not only to see this mandala, but also because my inner pig has turned me into a hungry ghost. I am upset about the U.S. war on Iraq and need some answers. On one Sunday night each month, a Buddhist friend picks up Lobsang in Philadelphia and brings him back to my Unity church in Emmaus, where he leads meditations and teaches loving kindness and compassion. He does the same with his Wheel of Life sand mandalas, which won a $10,000 fellowship last year from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I was present one evening when Lobsang taught a chief tenet of Buddhism: to be aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life. I believe this implicitly, yet it brought up some questions in my mind: how will we, and to what extent, defend the people of Iraq? should we use violence to protect ourselves in life-threatening situations? is killing ever justified, and if so, might the American president be absolved for killing to protect whatever it is that he is defending?
I am really in Philadelphia to ask these questions and am pleased that Lobsang is credentialed to answer them. He has been at the center of war and peace.
In 1959, at age six, he escaped the Chinese invasion of Tibet and grew up near the exiled Dalai Lama in Dharmsala, India, where he studied at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, became a Buddhist monk and served as ritual dance master at the Dalai Lama's personal monastery. He had the honor and joy of being the Dalai Lama's personal attendant and later on played that role in the Disney film, "Kundun." He was also the movie's master sand painter and religious advisor.
Lobsang is a thoughtful and sensitive person, as I discover over lunch in the clattering cafeteria of the Community College of Philadelphia. He has won notoriety by being the first Tibetan monk to paint a sand mandala in America, a story covered in New York City by Time Magazine. The next year, in 1989, he painted another mandala for the University of Pennsylvania Museum and was asked to return to Philadelphia to establish a meditation center (tibetanbuddhist.org
). He did so and has since founded Buddhist meditation centers in New York City, Reno, El Paso and Hartford, Conn."