Photos by Sharon Aron Baron
By Jen Russon
It’s not easy organizing their own family of four, much less adding eight Tibetan Buddhist Monks into their household, but Carrie and Marc Berman are not only enjoying the experience, they’re embracing the moment.
Here for their third Sacred Art Tour, the Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery are staying for seven days with the Bermans and their daughters Sophia, 16, and Jane, 8. Neatly made mattresses with comfortable bedding has turned their living room into a comfortable retreat for the men who live a simple and meditative life.
On this morning, Marc prepared cured bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and steel cut oats for the monks and friends who joined them for breakfast on the patio. Before eating, chant master Geshe Ngawang Sopa led a prayer.
“Prayers are my favorite part of spending time with the monks,” said Jane. Sharing her mother’s striking green eyes, she lit up when the monks were in the room. Even their King Charles Spaniel, Ash, appeared partial to Ven. Geshe Ngawang Jinpu.
“Day three of their visit and we are finally hitting our stride in the breakfast preparation department. Never thought we’d have a ‘Monk B&B’,” said Carrie.
The monks have been spending their days at the Coral Springs Museum of Art for a six-day event full of workshops, meditation and artistic expression, including the creation of a sand mandala for the Buddha of compassion: Chenrezig.
Carrie described them as “the easiest houseguests in the world.” Arriving in Florida only three days ago, they enjoy al fresco dining outside on their back patio overlooking the lake. One of the monks likened the summer heat to what he is used to in India.
Most of the monks speak only Tibetan, but Jinpu, fluent in English, said that he and Jane have a ritual of summoning the others for breakfast by ringing a large bell.
Marc chuckled when a guest asked if the bell came from Deprung Gomang Monastery. No, it was just a Civil War antique, he explained. It was the only war that came up in the peaceful conversation over breakfast.
After the monks leave Coral Springs, they will travel to museums in Stuart and Panama City. The creation and then the final dissolution of the colorful mandala they made is symbolic that nothing is permanent, and attachment – even to things of beauty – is something we are better off without.
At the outdoor patio table, monks paused over their tea to answer questions, or play on the lawn with the children who came to meet them. Seven-year-old Luke asked one of the monks about his life and was surprised to learn that even someone as young as he could become a monk.
Throughout breakfast, the mood remained light, but mindful. The Bermans said it worked out well that the monks’ usual winter visit had been deferred until now – until at least there was some normalcy after the tragedy that took place in February.
“We visited the SOS Children’s Village with them last night,” said Carrie, “and their interaction with the children was just amazing.”
In the short time they have been here, the monks have also been to the restaurants, MOD pizza and Blue Fin; however, a busy work schedule at the museum means mostly eating in.
Carrie, who has mastered the Tibetan greeting of “Tashi delek” will say goodbye to the monks at the end of the week. She said this could be the last time they are able to host them.
“A lot of people are interested in hosting them. We’ve been lucky to have them two years in a row, but I think someone else will get them next time they come to town.”
When it was time for the guests to leave, Jane gathered Ash in her arms for a group photo. Asked if she would cry when the monks move on. Her mother was quick to reply, “I know I will.”
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.