The Jersey Journal, Published: Apr 25, 2014
Jersey City received a lesson on the impermanence of life a bit earlier than planned today, when a toddler mistook a Buddhist sand mandala for a playground this morning, smudging the center and sides and almost destroying days of painstaking work.
Three Tibetan monks have been hard at work since Monday morning on the mandala, which are created and then destroyed in a ceremony to symbolize the fleeting nature of life. That ceremony, a 2,500-year Tibetan tradition, was scheduled for later today.
The mandala, made from millions of grains of sand in various hues, was about one hour from completion.
Councilman at large Daniel Rivera was inside the rotunda when it happened, along with dozens of individuals who came to 280 Grove St. for a naturalization ceremony this morning.
Rivera said the levity in the rotunda ended as soon as the boy jumped onto the mandala.
“Everybody’s heart stopped,” he said.
When the monks arrived at City Hall this morning, an ashen-faced mayor’s aide greeted them, showing them the damage. It had occurred only moments before.
The monks seemed stricken at first, but Geshe Wangdu, a Tibetan monk who lives in Jersey City and who helped arrange for the three monks who created the mandala to visit here from South India, brushed the incident off.
“What can we do?” Wangdu said.
Initially, Wangdu said that while the monks could fix the sides of the mandala, where only tiny portions were disrupted, the middle section, which had depicted eight Buddhas but is now a swirl of colored sand, could not be salvaged.
But within an hour, while 30 residents were inside the City Council chambers across the hall becoming U.S. citizens, the monks found two tables, had them placed them over the mandala and went to work repairing the damage.
“They didn’t want to disappoint anybody,” said Lobsang Chodak, of Newark, whose sister is providing a temporary home for the monks here in Jersey City.
Chodak added that the child who damaged the mandala inadvertently taught everyone the lesson it’s supposed to impart.
“It’s so beautiful and then, next thing, it’s gone,” he said.
A witness said the boy was whisked out of City Hall shortly after he damaged the mandala. His mother was one of 30 who became a U.S. citizen during today’s naturalization event, he said.
The official mandala destruction ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. today at City Hall.