On Sunday morning, about 50 visitors at the Neighborhood Congregational Church watched as visiting monks from India's Drepung Loseling monastery placed the finishing touches on a brightly-colored three-foot mandala made of sand. It took the men five days to create the design, which was filled with Buddhist symbolism.
*CLICK THE BOX ON THE RIGHT TO SEE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FROM SUNDAY'S CEREMONY -->
And then, with as much calmness as they had used to create the masterpiece, they swept the thousands of grains of sand into a pile at the center of the table.
Some congregation members wept. Some stared in disbelief or fascination as the pile of sand was then transferred into a symbolic vase.
Then the monks led the people outside. The group paraded down St. Anns Drive, turned left on Coast Highway, crossed at Thalia, then walked down the stairs to the Pacific Ocean.
Then the monks poured the sand back into the sea.
The Buddhist mandala disollution ritual represents the impermanence of reality—that the only constant in life is change.
"When [the monks] are here," said NCC Pastor B. J. Beu, "it changes the whole energy of everything. I get this question every year ... 'Well, what's it like to be a Christian church with monks in your church?' Well, you know ... they come in and they pray."
Beu added that the monks hang Tibetan prayer flags, which are symbols of blessings and peace.
"Their presence reminds me of the need for silent meditation," said Beu, "just to take the time every day to be grateful for all of the blessings that come in their many disguises."
Code Green Fitness' Ryan Kollock attended the ceremony with his wife and three children.
"This has been a great experience," said Kollock. "A very peaceful and good community gathering. It just opens you up. It lets you know the real word about everything is just about loving everybody."