There are many variations of Buddhism, but they can all be fit into three major schools of thought. While we can find every type of Buddhism in every part of the world, the earliest form of Buddhism, based on the words of the Buddha, is practiced mainly in Southeast Asia. It is called Theravada, which translates to “the doctrine of the elders”. Its primary goal is to end suffering.
Roughly 500 years after the Buddha, the second form of Buddhism arose, called Mahayana. It is largely practiced in the rest of Asia, as for example in China, Japan, and Korea. It focuses on gaining enlightenment so as to develop compassion and use it to help all other beings.
The third form of Buddhism was practiced originally in Tibet. It is called Vajrayana or “the diamond vehicle”. Its’ main influence came from Padmasambhava, who visited Tibet in the 700s. This form of Buddhism is the most advanced, and practitioners learn the methods of the other two forms of Buddhism and then add to it.
They believe that the physical has an effect on the spiritual and thus they do much chanting, and engage in many rituals and symbolic displays, such as the magnificent sand painting that they will produce over the next four days.
They also consider themselves Mahayana Buddhists and they dedicate everything they do “for the benefit of all beings”. Those very words are on their lips and minds many times each day. Even in their daily lives, if they do something that is good for them, such as simple exercise, they offer its results “for the benefit of all beings”. If they have a piece of good fortune, they offer it “for the benefit of all beings”.
At their monasteries, they hang prayer flags so that when they flap in the breeze, the prayers written on them will carry over the wind “for the benefit of all beings”. The same is true when they spin a prayer wheel. When they chant; when they meditate; when they construct these magnificent mandalas – they offer them “for the benefit of all beings”. In fact, on the final day they will have a ceremony, and sweep all of their hard work into a pile of rainbow colored sand. They will put some of this sand in bags and give it to you for your benefit. They will carry the rest of the sand to the nearest body of water and pour it into the stream so that it will rise and fall back to the Earth “for the benefit of all beings”.
The monks are here to bless us. You will find them to be friendly and helpful. Geshe Loden will be happy to answer questions you may have about what they are doing, and all the monks are happy to pose for pictures with you and your children.
Join us now as the monks begin the construction of the mandala, which will be “for the benefit of all beings”.