Ithaca, N.Y. — Up on South Hill, 17 monks from Ithaca and India are nearing the end of the 14-day ceremony known as “Kalachakra.”

The front of the Dü Khor Choe Ling Monastery in Ithaca. (Kyle Friend/Ithaca Voice)

“This ritual is for world peace,” said Ngawang Dhondup, administrator of the monastery for the last eight years, “and all prosperity.”

The ceremony, which began on Sept. 1, “serves as a symbolic means to help connect students in a deeper and subtler way to the different levels of Kalachakra teachings and practices,” according to a statement by the Namgyal Monastery, the North American seat of the Dalai Lama.

Kalachakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel of time.” It’s connected to some of the most complex teachings in the Buddhist tradition.

(Kyle Friend/Ithaca Voice)

“This is a more important retreat than the usual ones,” said John Sutton, who has been a student of the monastery since 1995. “The usual ones center around general Buddhist philosophy and tenets. This has a more particularly specific purpose.”

Dozens of volunteers and visitors packed inside the monastery on Friday to watch the monks, donned in yellow and burgundy robes, perform ritual chanting to the rhythm of a bell.

With their eyes closed and their legs crossed, the monks chanted as a photograph of the 14th Dalai Lama looked over them.

A photo of the Dalai Lama taken during his October 2007 visit to Ithaca.

Besides chanting, the ceremony includes various types of rituals including dances, prayers and meditation practice sessions.

But one of the most important parts of the ceremony is the creating of a “sand mandala,” a geometric work that symbolizes the universe in the Buddhist religion.

The sand mandala in the monastery. It took four monks three days to complete it, according to John Sutton, student at the monastery. (Kyle Friend/Ithaca Voice)

The ceremony is taking place at Dü Khor Choe Ling, located on Route 96B, past Ithaca College. This location was built after the monastery received a “generous donation to address some of the needs of the monastery for expanded housing and facilities for retreats,” according to an informational brochure.

About 37 students study at the monastery located on Aurora Street, said Dhondup.

(Kyle Friend/Ithaca Voice)

The ceremony will conclude on September 14 with prayers at 4:30. The event is free and open to the public.


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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: kyleafriend@gmail.com.