Tibetan Buddhist Monks Visit SMCM in Grand Style


St. Mary, Maryland (USA) -- On Monday, Sept. 15 twelve Tibetan Buddhist monks from Tibet’s Drepung Loseling Monastery opened their four-day visit designed to create an exquisite geometric sand painting, called a “mandala,” at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Spokesperson from the college, John Schroeder introduced the monks and answered a few questions from the audience prior to the ceremony’s beginning. One such question, “Did the monks travel all the way from India just to visit St. Mary’s College?” was answered, “No, the monastery chooses two masters and 10 students each year to travel the world to demonstrate the art and life of the Buddhists.

For the question, “Are they really monks? Schroeder answered, “Yes, most have been in training since they were boys.”

During the monks’ visit to SMCM, the local community will have opportunities to attend public lectures and watch the monks in ceremonial garb carefully construct the sand painting. The monks will painstakingly place millions of grains of sand into place on a flat platform over a period of days to form the image of a mandala.

“Mandala” is a Sanskrit word for the subject of a Tibetan sand painting. Formed of a traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool in Buddhism for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants. The design symbolizes the universe and its powers. It represents the world in its divine form, a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into an enlightened mind, and the perfect balance of the energies of the body and the clear dimension of the mind.

On Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., the monks will continue the effort as they pour millions of grains of colored sand into the mandala outline. At 5 p.m. there will be a lecture, “The Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and Religion.” The construction continues throughout the day on Wednesday, and then at 5 p.m., there will be another lecture, “Symbolism of Mandala.” The senior monk in the delegation will describe the significance of the sand mandala.

The monks will complete the construction process on Thursday until 4 p.m. and then the closing ceremonies will be held at 5 p.m. During the closing ceremony, after continuing to create the mandala, the monks will dismantle it by sweeping up the colored sand. They will then lead a procession, which the public is invited to join, to a pond on campus. There, they will pour the sand into the water, symbolizing the Buddhist idea of the impermanence of life.