Buddhist monks to demonstrate Mandala sand painting at college

Guardian Online, December 7, 2006

Ozark, AR (USA) -- Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery in Tibet will soon leave the Himalayas and begin their journey to the Ozark foothills to build a Mandala sand painting at Lyon College.

<< A Buddhist Mandala

The monks are visiting Lyon as part of this year’s Diversity Week program, which is slated to run from Jan. 16-19, all sponsored by the Student Activities Council and the Convocations Committee.

The monks will perform an opening ceremony at 11 a.m. Jan. 16, and the closing ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 19. All the monks’ events during the week will be held in Holloway Theater.

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a Mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram.”

These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, woodcarvings, and so forth. However, the most spectacular and popular are those made from colored sand.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness.

The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.

“The Student Activities Council is also planning a community sand painting aspect where visitors can use the monks’ tools to help us make our own sand painting in our own design,” said Amber Millwee, director of student activities. “The event is sponsored through convocations, SAC, Campus Ministries and is in honor of Diversity Week here at Lyon.”

For more information on the event or other Diversity Week programs, call Millwee at 698-4369.