Tibetan monks visit New Orleans to spread message of hope, religious freedom

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NEW ORLEANS - Ceremonial chanting greeted visitors to the New Orleans Healing Center Tuesday.

Eight Tibetan monks are in town, creating a sand mandala in which the monks will create a masterpiece using colored sand, then destroy the piece to demonstrate the brevity of one lifetime.

The sand mandala under construction at the Healing Center will be a "Tara Buddha," or a Lady Buddha, when it's complete.

The monks said they will distribute some of the sand to people as a blessing before dumping the Lady Buddha into the Mississippi River.

"Most of these monks came from Tibet as a refugee and lived in South India," said Ven. Tsering Phuntsok. "Their voice is to share to the world that they also need the rights -- they are human being -- they need rights of preservation of their religion and culture."