Tibetan monks jump start VYCR events 

For Buddhist monks to have joy, they must bring joy to others. 

With that pursuit in mind, the Tibetan monks of the Gaden Shartse Monastery did just that when they visited Colusa last week. 

The traveling program, known as the Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet Tour, officially kicked off the 2018 Virginia Yerxa Community Read project, a yearlong celebration of this year’s book in common, “The Book of Joy,” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.  

“Each year is unique,” said VYCR Organizer Roberta James. “We try to make it that way. Every single year brings some new gift, not just to me personally, but to the community.”

Over two days, March 27-28, the monks performed traditional Tibetan music, answered questions about their monastery, offered healing rituals and personal blessings, and taught the community calligraphy and sand art. 

The Colusa County Library was filled to the brim on March 28 as the monks helped children and adults make temporary painting using colored sand, a ritual of creating something beautiful and then dismantling it once it is completed to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life. “I loved it,” said Emily Gomez, who along with others enjoyed creating a variety of images. “It’s very relaxing.” 

The Sacred Earth tour helps raise money to support the Tibetan refugee community in India, and the 1,600 Buddhist monks who lives at Gaden Shartse. 

“The monks have no country,” said Lobsang Wangchuk, who serves as the USA tour director for the Gaden Shartse Monastery. “They are not citizens of India. They are not citizens anywhere.” 

Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s, Tibetans have lived without basic rights and freedoms, which resulted in thousands of people fleeing the country during the dead of night to settle in India. 

Many young boys and girls enter the monasteries to escape poverty, although they can leave at the age of 18. 

“To be a monk is a great honor,” Wangchuk said. “Every family strives to have at least one of their children enter the monastery.” 

The Sacred Earth tour was the first of several events planned for this year’s community read project, James said.   

The “Book of Joy” is co-authored by Douglas Abrams and summarizes a weeklong conversation between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop, who came together in April 2015 in Dharamsala. 

The Friends of the Library Book Club is also reading this year’s VYCR selection and will discuss the book at their 6:30 meeting in the Morse Conference Room of the Colusa County Library on Thursday, April 5. 

Virginia Yerxa Read Day on April 28 will include yoga and meditation classes, and a panel discussion with Chico State University professors Micki Lennon, Kate McCarthy and Joel Zimbelman, from the Comparative Religion Department, who will be presenting their views of “The Book of Joy.” A question and answer session will follow, James said. ■