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Tibetan monks bring peace to Worcester veterans

By Elaine Thompson
Telegram &Amp; Gazette / December 24, 2011
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SHREWSBURY, Mass.—As Dan Horne sat watching the Tibetan monks' ritual of chanting and singing, he said he felt a sense of peace wash over him.

"It's very calming, very soothing. You just feel good after you experience something like this. I wish they could stay longer," said Horne, a 1969 graduate of Westborough High School. The Vietnam War-era Air Force veteran is one of about two dozen veterans who are staying in Independence Hall at Veterans Inc. at 59 South St. for up to two years while they get their lives on track.

The agency, as part of its health and wellness program, hosted seven Gaden Jangtse Tibetan Buddhist monks who are on a national world peace cultural tour they say is to bring attention to China's oppression of the Tibetan people and Buddhist monks and to heighten awareness of their culture and religion.

About 40 people watched in awe during an hour-long ritual in which the monks sat with legs folded beneath them on a thick oriental rug near the podium in the chapel and chanted and used Tibetan horns, bells, cymbals and a drum to make music. Afterward, the men began constructing a mandala, a brightly colored intricate piece of art designed with a mixture of white sand and food coloring. The symmetrical sand painting, in honor of the Dali Lama, helps to promote compassion among people, they say.

"It brings peace, love and kindness. Compassion is a very important practice for all people," said 49-year-old Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, who led the group.

D. Zeutas-Broer, owner of Pure Energy Yoga in Worcester, sat in a chair with her legs folded beneath her as she watched the ritual. She said many of her yoga clients are trauma victims.

"I feel like they have an important cause as a country in exile," Zeutas-Broer said. "I think that any group gathering where people are focused on mindfulness and peace is important."

The Tibetan people have been under forced rule of Chinese occupiers since 1959. Geshe Tenzin said many people from Tibet lost their lives from the weather and wild animals as they walked to freedom in India.

He said people of different religions need to reach out and share their religion and cultures.

"In Tibet, we don't have freedom or opportunities, especially the young people. It's a bad situation, they don't get an education," he said.

Bob Fancy, 81, of Worcester, a retired school principal who looks 15 years younger, said he has been practicing Buddhism for the past year. He attends Buddhism lessons at the Unitarian Church in Northborough on Thursdays and at the chapel at Harvard University, his alma mater, on Tuesday nights. He said walking meditation he does in the woods to be with nature has helped change his life for the better. He also skis and works out every day.

"I have bipolar and I was on medications for five years. Because of my meditation, I've been able to give up all my drugs," he said.

Denis Leary, executive director of Veterans Inc., said the different cultural experience is good for the community as well as the veterans. But, particularly for the veterans, the experience is a step in helping them to reinvent themselves by overcoming challenges they're faced with.

"You hear the term reinventing yourself the idea of this is in perfect harmony of what the Buddhists are all about," he said.

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