If you go

What: Monks from India's Gaden Shartse monastery constructing Vajrasattva mandala

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-6 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday with Vajrasattva Empowerment at 3 p.m. and Dissolution Ceremony at 5 p.m.

Where: Boulder Public Library's Canyon Gallery, 1001 Arapahoe Ave.

Cost: Free

More info: sacredsandmandala.com

A group of red-robed monks from India's Gaden Shartse Monastic Community meditated under the towering sycamore tree on Naropa University's campus Tuesday, clutching prayer beads while chanting and praying during a two-hour cleansing ceremony.

Dozens were left with a clean karmic slate — and got blessing cords that were blessed by the Dalai Lama to prove it.

"You had your karmic slate cleaned completely, so there are no blemishes, no obstructions and no reason to mess up down the road," said Dennis Tuma, of Boulder Valley Friends of Tibet and an organizer of the ceremony. "Unless, of course, in actions of body, speech and mind, you act inappropriately."

In other words, go forward appropriately.

The blessing ceremony was an introduction to the monks' five-day construction of a Buddha Vajrasattva mandala at the Boulder Public Library's Canyon Gallery, 1001 Arapahoe Ave., that will begin Wednesday and finish up on Sunday. The event is part of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival that starts Friday at the library.


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"It's an honor and a blessing to have an opportunity to receive a blessing from these monks because their energy is so compassionate and filled with love," said Naropa senior Shruti Grace Sankalapuram. "So whatever love that you already feel in your heart, it expands and you realize that the world is beautiful. Just being in their presence reminds you of that already. I feel grateful."

Geshe lama Phuntsho, chief translator and leader of the blessing ceremony, said the mandala will take roughly 200 hours to construct. Vajrasattva, he said, is a deity that represents the principle of purification.

"There are so many negativities in this world right now, so the purpose of creating this mandala is to cleanse the difficulties," Phuntsho said.

Which is what bestowed upon a crowd of roughly 100 people Tuesday, cleansing with four prayers: one to cleanse the environment, the second to protect from the reign of suffering and bring positive energy, the third for a long and healthy life and the final a Golden Nectar offering of prayers.

"This is for protections, because we often know we need lots of guidance in our lives and we can get very low, very down," Phuntsho said of the Golden Nectar offering. "We can feel lost in the middle of the way, we don't know where we are going, we don't know what's happening. This prayer protects, guides and leads us to the right direction."

Naropa students, faculty and Boulder residents filled the lawn in front of the Allen Ginsberg Library to partake in the blessing.

"For the whole university, students, faculty, everybody radiating out to the rest of the world starting right here, the monks have just cleaned up and kicked it," said Tuma. "When you look at a protection cord, it reminds you that you were here today and got the blessing and it's always with you."

The monks are on a two-year fundraising tour of the United States to build and support their Tibetan refugee community in India.

Charles Lief, president of Naropa, introduced the ceremony, citing the "great trial" the Tibetan people have faced for decades due to political turmoil, including Naropa's founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who led hundreds of people into India as they fled China. Rinpoche taught at the University of Colorado in 1971, then founded Naropa in 1974, Lief said.

"The lamas here have also been part of lineages that have gone through similar kinds of difficulties," said Lief. "It's a remarkable thing to imagine being uprooted from our homeland and yet hold the responsibility for maintaining a spiritual tradition."

Phuntsho said that Gaden Shartse was one of the first monastic universities, founded in Tibet in 1409. It was destroyed after 1959 during the cultural revolution, then rebuilt in 1970 in south India by only a fraction of the surviving monks, Phuntsho said. It's only partially rebuilt and needs funding to allow the monks to continue their study, he said.

Tuma, an organizer and key in helping to bring the monks on their U.S. tour, has set up a crowdfunding project to help them raise money. On Sunday, Vajrasattva Empowerment will run from noon to 6 p.m. in the Boulder Public Library's Canyon Gallery including the Dissolution Ceremony of the mandala at 5 p.m. when the monks sweep up the Sacralized Sand that took hundreds of hours to create and distribute it to those in attendance.

"We try our best to share what we have learned," said Phuntsho.

Tuma called the monks' visit a benefit to Boulder, a place he said is anchored in positive energy and "ambient sanity."

"It's all about helping people and from a place of giving," Tuma said, "from a place where the compassion is part of the tapestry of this town and we want to bump it up."

Tuma said the lamas will create a "celestial palace" with the mandala ceremony to help elevate Boulder. Boulder, in turn, can repay the compassion by donating to help a once-ravished monastery rebuild.

"We all have a common wish," said Phuntsho. "You or I, or the richest or the poorest, or the smallest insect or the biggest animal, we all have two common wishes: we don't want suffering, we want happiness. The highest way to repay the kindness is to overcome the suffering of all the living beings in the environment. That's when compassion comes in, with that practice."

Tuma said the monks are available for house and business blessings for a $350 suggested donation in the mornings and evenings, as they will be constructing the mandala during the day. Tuma can be reached at 970-379-0983 or dtuma49@gmail.com to schedule blessings.

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants