Oak Grove hosts Tibetan monks
by Ellen Sklarz Shapiro
Do you have scooters, televisions, restaurants and mountain
lions? According to the teachings of Buddha, what is the nature
of creativity? Does reincarnation happen to ordinary people or
just to monks and the Dalai Lama?
Those were some of the questions posed by a variety of Oak Grove
School students to eight, warmly receptive, Tibetan monks who
visited the school on Tuesday.
Last March, this group of monks traveled from Gaden Jangtse -
a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in south-central India -
to begin a tour of North America. Hosted by schools, museums,
churches, prisons and private homes, the monks share cultural,
political and spiritual debates, practices and talents. Spreading
a message of world peace and compassion, the tour also calls
attention to the plight of those who have been fleeing from Tibet
since 1959, marking the insurrection against Chinese occupation.
Oak Grove students, from preschoolers to high school seniors,
sat amid the oaks at the 150-acre school's outdoor pavilion for
a colorful program of dance, chanting and debate. Everyone then
gathered to observe the creating of an elaborate, geometrically
designed sand mandala symbolizing harmony and compassion. When
the monks visited the classrooms - in now-familiar, burgundy-and-gold
robes and shaved heads - one of the translators, Sonam Tsephel,
asked students to appreciate everyday liberties that others throughout
the world are often denied.
Seven-year-old Jasper's mom is Sooz Glazebrook, a parent at the
school who wandered over to the pavilion. "I loved how the
interactions were so spontaneous and human it didn't feel staged,"
she said. "This kind of day felt like a natural extension
of the larger Oak Grove community I really appreciate that this
can happen at this school."
Peter Thielke, Oak Grove's program director, helped bring the
monks to the school. "In addition to a strong academic foundation,
Oak Grove places equal importance on understanding our psychological
lives," said Thielke. "Students are encouraged to
investigate the nature of their own thinking and conditioning,
to become aware of image-making, prejudice and opinion, and to
look into how we separate ourselves from one another. Bringing
the Tibetan monks to Oak Grove enriches the students' global
understanding of our world and breaks down barriers; but it also
helps them see that other human beings are looking seriously
into fundamental questions of life.
"The founder of Oak Grove, the late Jiddu Krishnamurti,
often said, 'You are the world, and the world is you.' Our hope
is that our students begin to understand their deep connection
with this planet and to each other and, in so doing, embody a
responsibility based on love and compassion. The presence of
these gentle, sweet monks helped say this in its own beautiful
And for seventh-grader Savannah Horwood - who found this special
day at Oak Grove to be "different and interesting"
- the highlight for her was playing soccer with the monks.
Ojai resident Ellen Sklarz Shapiro has been a journalist
and editor for numerous magazines and newspapers. With experience
that began with New West magazine, she was a feature writer and
editor for the Los Angeles Times, contributing regularly to the
Sunday "Book Review" and creating the weekly "Discoveries"
column. She was also founding editor and columnist for L.A. Style
magazine. With partner Michael Shapiro, Sklarz founded Treshold
Productions, Inc., an independent film production company committed
to producing movies about people and institutions having an affirmative
impact on the world.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley
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