Visiting Baltimore to promote "universal peace and compassion," Geshe Nawang Tsondy, a Tibetan monk of the Dalai Lama's Drepung lineage, quickly endeared himself to students at Roland Park Country School on Friday .
"I wish you all the best on your coming exams," he said in English.
But the students' heartiest applause was for one of their own, Anjali Sunita, a 1999 graduate and now director of Baltimore Yoga Village, which has yoga studios in Mount Washington and Hampden.
Sunita, 31, arranged for Tsondy and seven other monks to come to Baltimore as part of their year-long tour of the U.S. that began in January.
Their stay in north Baltimore continues this week and the public is invited to participate in activities ranging from meditation to building an ornate sand mandala..
Upper school girls gathered in Roland Park Country School's Sinex Theater for a special assembly to meet the monks, who were not unlike the girls' own teachers, except that they wore robes, had shaved heads and chanted.
In fact, Tsondy's title, Geshe, translates as "high teacher."
Their talk was moderated by Kaliq Simms, director of diversity and equity education at Roland Park Country School. Simms knelt wit the monks on the Sinex stage.
"I'm glad I could get down, but I don't know if I can get back up," she said.
The monks practice Tibetan Buddhism, a religion led by the Dalai Lama as head monk. He is also the traditional leader of Tibet's government.
Deprung monks, whose roots date to 1416, lived in the Deprung Gomang monastery in Tibet, near the capital of Lhasa, until the invading Chinese government took over the country in 1959.
By then, 5,500 monks had studied there.
The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India with 100 followers to southern India, according to the visiting monks and the monastery's website, http://www.drepunggomang.com.
"We lost our country," Tsondy told the Roland Park Country School students.
Ten years later, 60 monks re-established the Deprung Gomang monastery on land in southern India, donated by the Indian government. Today, 2,000 monks live there. Their daily routine includes prayer, meditation, spiritual "debates," chanting, and, Tsondy told the students, visits to an "Internet cafe."
This is the second visit to Baltimore by a contingent of monks arranged by Sunita, who opened her first Baltimore Yoga Village location in 2007.
This year's visiting monks have already been to Louisville, Ky., home of the Deprung Gomang Institute, as well as to New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and Chapel Hill, N.C. More scheduled stops include Chicago.
Their Baltimore visit started at Roland Park Country School and continued at Divine Life Church, an interfaith church at 5928 Falls Road, where they were scheduled to chant to start the service Friday evening. They were also scheduled to dance at First Unitarian Church downtown during a Tibetan Cultural Arts presentation.
Their weekend schedule included chanting and meditating at the Hampden and Mount Washington studios, and teaching families how to make butter sculptures at the Mount Washington studio in back of the Lake Falls Shopping Center at Falls Road and Lake Avenue.