At this time of year the same conversations do the rounds. Isn’t it wonderful to cast away the winter coat and enjoy the sun on our faces? But also – how are we here already?
In the West, when things are good, we want to hit pause. More than this, we just like the idea of things staying the same. It gives us comfort. There’s security in a permanent job – it helps us to buy our forever home, which – if we’re lucky enough – we’ll share with our life partner.
Tibetan people know all too well that all of this is just illusion. For many Tibetans, even their nationality turns out not to be permanent. Yeshi and his brother were both born in Tibet, but now one of them is British and the other American.
Buddhism also teaches that nothing stays the same, that everything is changing all the time. Moment to moment our thoughts and feelings move and shift. The cells in our body, our skin and hair are constantly being replaced. The plants, trees and people around us, our friendships and relationships – everything has its time.
Tibetan monks use a beautiful visual tool that perfectly expresses the changing nature of things. The sand mandala (pictured) is a devotional design made from millions of grains of coloured sand. These mandalas can take days or even weeks to make using a range of specialist tools. Upon completion, the impermanent nature of existence is enacted by the creators who sweep up the grains and disperse them in flowing water.
Back in 2013 we took our son to watch the Tashi Lhunpo monks making a sand mandala at the Pitt Rivers Museum here in Oxford. When they were finished, we followed them to the University Parks and watched them cast the sand into the river from the bridge.
In the West we are conditioned to preserve beauty at all costs, and we tend to think of letting go as hard. But impermanence, say Buddhists, does not need to be all bad. As the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
The Tashi Lhunpo monks are returning to Oxford in early May for a one-off performance at the Town Hall. There will be no sand mandala this time, but plenty to see and experience through masked dance, traditional Tibetan music and sacred mantras. For more info and tickets, click here.
Meanwhile, we’re open again this week all the usual hours, as follows:
Wednesday: 5-9.30pm (dinner only)
Thursday – Saturday: 12-3 (lunch) / 5-9.30pm (dinner)
Thank you so much, everyone. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.
Julie and Yeshi
Opening hours this week:
Thurs – Sat: 12-3pm 🥢 5-9.30pm
☏ 01865 499318