Monday, May 28, 2007

When strangling children is not in your job description

Did you hear the one about the eight Buddhist monks who were two full days into building a sand painting on the floor of Union Station in Kansas City as part of a yearlong tour to raise money for their monastery when an unattended toddler wandered past the ropes and did a stomp dance all over the painting, completely destroying it? We did when we brought our girls to see Union Station this weekend. We arrived in the massive lobby with our heads in the air admiring the architectural details and light play of the structure soaring way above our heads. We wandered over to see what was engaging the crowd near the post office. A group of monks were just finishing the redo of their intricate sand mandala which, I was told, represented compassion. The painting is created by pouring brightly colored sand into a metal funnel called a chakbu which is then rubbed gently with another stick in order to guide the application of the sand. It's a very slow process. As soon as the painting is finished it is destroyed. We happened to walk up just as the finishing lines were being added. At 2 pm a ceremony began in which the monks chanted, bowed, prayed and went through a number of mysterious motions such as unspooling and draping diaphonus white fabric over the shoulder of one and intermittently banging symbols and blowing horns. I found a birds' eye view on the second floor from which to watch so, unfortunately, I could not hear the monks address the crowd. The ceremony went on for 45 minutes but it seemed much longer as my perch was directly over the air conditioning vent and my fingers slowly became frostbitten. They ceremony seemed to cresendo multiple times and I gave up trying to figure out when we'd reached the culmination of events. Finally, one of the monks reached to the center and plucked up a fingerful of sand. From there the destruction quickly commenced. In moments the design was a pile of putty colored sand which was swept from the table, destined for home gardens or the Missouri River. In the end it seemed the monks' destruction process only reinterated toddler's: nothing is permanent. The toddler just performed it a lot less ceremonially.
Click the post title to see the toddler's sand dance.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I saw it on the news the other night. How neat that you got there at just the right "hour." Their compassion is admirable but I'm glad the love of God is permanent.

Jenni said...

The artwork is beautiful, and I love the title of this entry. It made me laugh as well as that naughty little boy.