Monks and Mayans Meet at Hacienda Tres Rios

Wednesday was the first day of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter at Hacienda Tres Rios, a luxury eco resort located in the Riviera Maya. The goal of this event is to showcase the unique ceremonies of local Mayan communities and Tibetan monks, oftentimes combining the two. The fusion of the Mayan and Tibetan cultures was truly astounding; even though they’re set on opposite sides of the world, the two groups demonstrated some striking similarities!

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery checked in to the resort on Tuesday wearing brightly-colored robes, and the following day began to share their traditions with guests and visitors at Hacienda Tres Rios along with local Mayan performers wearing colorful Yucatecan garb.

Opening Ceremony

In the morning, we made our way out to the beautiful, untouched beach at Hacienda Tres Rios, where a tent had been set up as a stage for the Mayan dancers and Tibetan monks. The ceremony began with opening words from the event’s organizers from Richard Gere Productions, Producciones Arte Maya and Hacienda Tres Rios.

The arrival of the Tibetan monks was a sight to see as they rowed onto the beach and were greeted by the Mayan community with drums and the blowing of conch shells.

As the Tibetan monks lined up under the tent, I was blown away by the combination of the bright monks robes, the white Mayan clothing with vividly colored details, and the mostly-white, flowy outfits of the audience. Beautiful!

We all looked on as the monks began to chant a deep, slow song, which was followed by the Mayan community presenting them with local gifts. Afterwards, Mayan performers with incense and colorful outfits began to dance for the monks and the audience on the sand, hailing the four cardinal points in a fascinating show.

The Sand Mandala

After the opening ceremony, we were led to the resort’s immense lobby to witness the opening of the monks’ sand mandala, a beautiful and elaborate piece of art that the monks will continue to work on until the end of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter on Sunday.

The sand mandala ceremony began with several minutes of chanting by the Tibetan monks. They took out didgeridoo instruments (long horns) along with some colorful trumpets and drums. The entire lobby began to vibrate and I thought, “Wow! Those didgeridoos are powerful!” until I realized that it was the monks deep, gutteral chanting that was making the room shake. Incredible! Whenever the monks began to play their other instruments, I noticed it sounded similar to mariachi music, but played with different notes and combinations.

To create the sand mandala, the monks first measured and traced out chalk lines on the center table using string and rulers. They had a separate table filled with brightly colored sand, and they tapped on detailed straw-like instruments to filter the sand into its exact spot on the mandala.

Guests at the resort will be able to view the mandala-making process throughout the rest of the week. The unveiling will be on Sunday September 16, at which time the mandala will also be destroyed. The monks explained to the audience that the mandala is destroyed to represent how fleeting and temporary our life on this earth is. A stunning work of art with a profound message.

The Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter runs until this Sunday at the All Inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios resort. If you’re vacationing in the area this weekend, I recommend you spend a day at the resort to experience the ceremonies, rituals and conferences that will be going on throughout the day.