The Eighth Page

After Poor Translation, Monks’ Mandala Accidentally Destroyed in Rabbit Pond

After a week of meticulous work, the three visiting Buddhist monks from the Namgyal Dratsang Monastery were horrified to see their newly finished mandala dumped into Rabbit Pond. The mandala, a sacred Buddhist sand painting, was dissolved into the pond after a brief ceremony last Friday evening. “We thought we had hired a Tibetan translator to talk to the monks,” said an Academy event organizer, “ but apparently, the translator misinterpreted the monks’ wishes. They created the mandala for the school to keep and cherish for its beauty, not to be unjustly deposited into Rabbit Pond.” As the mandala was slowly lowered into the waters of Rabbit Pond, the monks grew increasingly irritated and appeared to be upset. They began to cry out loudly and threw their arms up in anguish. Spectators interpreted their actions as a ceremonial blessing similar to those that had been performed all week. “My favorite part of the night was when the monks sang as the mandala broke into millions of pieces, rendering it completely destroyed,” said a Lower, unaware of the miscommunication. “We are here to learn about American culture and to teach about Buddhist culture and our lives in Tibet. We have enjoyed our trip thoroughly, but we did not anticipate the American belief that sand paintings can withstand water.” For five days, the mandala was constructed in the George Washington Hall lobby. The monks were visited by students, faculty and administrators and chatted as they worked. “We had a lovely time here at Phillips Academy,” said Tenzin Dosai, one of the monks. “It was quite disappointing to see the mandala obliterated right before our eyes.” The monks spent nearly 20 hours on the mandala with the expectation that it would later be placed on permanent display. The mandala was rich with colors and boasted a beautiful design. A gentle sneeze or gust of wind from the lobby’s doors could have ruined hours of productivity. But it was the translation between Tibetan and English proved to be the greatest threat to the monks’ work. “I suppose we should have been worried when the translator introduced us to the headmaster not as monks, but as ‘scholarly nuns,’” Tenzin said. The translator, Carl Thomas, was reached by phone for an interview. “I don’t exactly ‘speak’ fluent Tibetan. But Tibetan translator jobs pay really well in the United States. So I rented the third season of “Friends” in Tibetan, figuring that would be enough to learn.” Thomas could recited Joey Tribbiani’s signature ‘How you doin’?’ in perfect Tibetan, but comprehensive conversation proved to be too difficult. “I was sad to see them so upset. I wish I knew how to say ‘sorry’ in Tibetan,” Thomas said. The monks’ grins, constant throughout the week, disappeared only momentarily after the mishap. They quickly forgave their translator for the error and enjoyed the evening’s festivities. As they continue on their Compassionate Mandala Tour, the monks will be sure to articulate their needs more clearly. “I do not expect this to happen again. Mr. Carl Thomas, though inept, has taught us each a valuable lesson,” Tenzin said.