'My heart was torn out of me': monks in Penticton, B.C. greeted with slashed tires

A visit to Penticton, B.C. for a group of monks touring a gallery show about world peace started off less than zen.

'It is very necessary at this time, the message of peace and compassion,' says the group's head lama

A group of touring monks will be building a sand mandala at the Penticton Art Gallery until Sunday. (Penticton Art Gallery)

A visit to Penticton, B.C. for a group of monks started off less than zen. 

The monks — who are touring a gallery show about world peace — drove to the city from San Francisco on Tuesday and parked their trailer overnight outside the Penticton Art Gallery.

The next morning, they discovered the tires had been slashed.

"My heart was torn out of me. I just felt totally sick to my stomach," gallery director Paul Crawford told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West.

"We invite these people to come up as our guests on a mission of peace and forgiveness. Our show is all about healing. To have this right off the get go certainly doesn't bode well."

Paul Crawford said the tires were deliberately punctured. (Paul Crawford/Supplied)

'Message of peace'

The monks come from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Georgia, and are currently on the Mystical Arts of Tibet tour endorsed by the Dalai Lamai.

As part of the exhibition, the monks will be constructing a sand mandala in the Penticton gallery.

The painstaking process involves dropping individual grains of sands onto a platform to form the mandala, a spiritual symbol in Buddhism.

Gesha-Thupten Lowden Lah, the group's head lama, brushed off the incident, but noted the importance of their visit.

"It is very necessary at this time, the message of peace and compassion," he said.

Crawford was initially dismayed. He posted about the incident online Wednesday morning and was met with an outpouring of support.

A local tire shop has since offered to replace the slashed tires free of charge.

The monks will be in Penticton until Sunday, when they'll consecrate the mandala in a closing ceremony and release the sand in Okanagan Lake to symbolize the Buddist belief in the transitory nature of material life.

Crawford said he doesn't need to know who slashed the tires, but hopes the culprit will spend some time in the gallery and meditate with the monks.

"Try to find in your own heart why you needed to do this," he said.

With files from CBC's Radio West