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The path to enlightenment

Cassie Pence

If you’re curious about Buddhism, there is a rare opportunity to learn about it in an open environment ” from seven Bhutanese monks, who will lecture in Vail today through Sunday.

Lama Karma, a monk for 22 years in Bhutan, leads the Bhutanese Buddhist Monk Tour. A Boulder-based Summit group, working with the Summit Dharma Center, helped organize the stop in Vail. This tour is special because it marks the first time the Bhutanese government has allowed Bhutanese Buddhist monks to travel to the United States. The monks are traveling to raise funds for temple and monastery repairs.

Bhutan is a country nestled in the eastern part of the Himalayas. It is the only Bhuddist kingdom in the world. It’s not an easy country to travel to. The government safeguards its traditional culture and lifestyle, which is largely intact, with a controlled tourism policy. One aspect of the policy is guests must spend at least $200 a day when visiting.



His Holiness Dorji Lopen Rinpoche, one of Bhutan’s highest living spiritual teachers, or Lama, will teach from the Buddhist Kagyu lineage during the tour. He instructs today from 6-8 p.m. on “Buddha Nature” at the Claggett-Rey Gallery. The talk is open to the public.

The highlight of the tour is the construction of a large sand mandala. Four monks will spend two to three days using sacred, blessed multicolored sand to create a representative shape. The monks feel out the vibe of the community and build the mandala by hand to represent whatever virtue the community needs most, like compassion. William Rey, Claggett-Rey Gallery owner, donated his space in Vail Village for the construction.



Dance and music play a very important role in Bhutan. Dancing unites the population, marking the passing of seasons and communal occasions in each village or community. Lama dancing, one of the Buddhist world’s most intriguing spiritual displays, takes place Friday at 6 p.m.

Lama dancing was brought to Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, a saint that propagated Buddhism in Bhutan and instituted religious and government structure in the country. There are two types of dances, or Chhams, in Buddhism.

One category of Chhams is performed by lay people and the other by ordained monks. Dances convey spiritual messages to people and also introduce the concept of karma and cause and effect to the viewer. The dances help to purify negativity surrounding the audience witnessing the dance.



During the mask dances, deities of the tantric teaches remove misfortunes through their power and blessings. All evil spirits that are preventing the spread of Chhoe, the doctrine of Dharma, are suppressed so that Buddha can be abundant and bring joy, happiness and peace to all beings.

The Buddhist festival also presents a slide show on the kingdom of Bhutan and astrology readings and divinations with Tsipe Lopen, an astrologer and highly trained Lama.

After answering a few questions like name, time and place of birth, as well as your mother and father’s place of birth, Lopen will map your birth chart, which is supposed to help advise you on life’s path. He will also perform divinations which will assist you with making auspicious decisions. Each astrological reading is by appointment only.

For more information on Lopen’s readings, contact Susan Makin-Dolan at (970) 471-2141. For general information on the monk tour, contact Lama Karma at (303) 956-9534.

To contact Cassie Pence, call (970) 949-0555 ext 612. She is an editor for the Vail Daily, based in Vail, Colorado.


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