I walked across the sunny lawn of the University of Redlands campus driven by a purpose. I can be an adventurous person, especially with religion. A quiet penchant for goddesses and a fascination of pagan religions leaves me with respect for what I come across outside of the ordinary faith in my area.
Yesterday morning I saw on Facebook that the U of R was hosting monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, who are on a 15-month world tour. The monks are creating a mandala on campus this week.
Three things went into mind.
*Images of monks walking around in my town (definitely out of the ordinary- it's pretty preppy here).
*What exactly is a mandala.
*And how can I pull off taking my 17-month-old son to see a religious ceremony performed by Buddhist monks in a church where everyone would be listening to the chanting and my son would invariably be calling 'Dah' and wanting to run around and annoying anyone that had free time on a Tuesday to check out some monks- mostly college students. Holy run-on sentence, Batman.
We walked into the chapel and I realized my worst fear for the event- there were no other children. Wonder Boy was easily the youngest by about 17 years.
I saw a quick glimpse of a little girl, but she disappeared as quickly as she came.
The students working the event were friendly and full of smiles for Wonder Boy, who zipped around the room politely and was entranced by the large sanctuary where a few people already sat waiting.
I did everything I could think of to prepare him. We looked at the TV showing monks making the sand mandalas, using the scrapers and funnels to control fine fountains of colored sand in intricate designs. We looked at pictures of the monks, and I pointed at them and talked about how were had to be quiet, quiet. We watched people try their hand at a mandala designed by a U of R student and talked to a school friend who had mostly taken my place at the newspaper I used to write for.
Still so glad I got out of that mess, but still miss the job.
We discovered a new-found love of drinking fountains... his sippy was accidentally left in the car.
We walked around the sanctuary after I put my diaper bag down n the very last row, and I held him up and looked at the brightly covered table and items on the stage, dwarfed by the giant stand glass window of Jesus and his followers.
A few people in the crowd smiled and pointed at his enthusiasm.
The speaker introducing the group came on stage, and I quickly gave Wonder Boy a Happy Tot fruit pouch to suck on while he talked. Unfortunately, he talked longer than I thought, and thus began let's-go-run-around-and-get-the-wiggles-out trip Number One.
Trip Number Two came right after One, when I stepped back in and saw he was still talking. After getting his shirt soaked with giddy play in a fountain the monks were taking the stage, and so we stood in the back of the chapel with Wonder Boy watching half-interested and myself whispering in his ear about how we were going to be quiet and watch and be a Good Boy.
When the first startling deep voice began, he stopped looking at someone's skateboard placed beside their seat and watched intently as more and more voices started chanting 'Om'.
The chanting filled the room and almost cleared the space of the outside world, and Wonder Boy's eyes focused on the bright robes and yellow headpieces like a crescent moon. Then he started pointing and shouting 'Dah!' In case anyone around us hadn't noticed the monks.
Trip Number Three.
(Here is a video similar to what we saw.)
This time someone had taken the seat by my bag (really?) but Wonder Boy was entranced when the monks began clanging and beating and blowing various instruments.
He really, really liked that.
And then he had to say how much he liked that, which this time was being drowned out by the sacred noise. He wanted to let anyone still trickling in from a late class that there were monks making noise, and he liked it.
By the time the monks began chanting quietly again, Wonder Boy's head was resting on my chest, and I knew my time was up watching the monks.
We left quieter than we came, and he was asleep in the seat before we left the parking lot.
This video is an example of the monks working on a sand mandala like the one they are creating on the university campus. It will be destroyed in another ceremony.
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