Tibetan Monks to create intricate sacred sand paintings at Fairfield University

Tibetan Monks to create intricate sacred sand paintings at Fairfield University

Eleven Tibetan monks will perform the exquisite sacred art of mandala sand painting over four days in Fairfield University's Barone Campus Center, as part of the Fairfield University Student Association's ongoing series of multicultural events on campus. The monks, part of the Mystical Art of Tibet world tour, will perform an opening consecration ceremony with music and chanting at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and complete the painstaking process with a one-hour closing ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.

The public is invited to view the sand painting from noon to 6 p.m. on Feb. 8; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 9; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 10; and during the closing ceremony from 1 to 2 p.m. on Feb. 11. Visitors can try their hand at smaller mandalas of the University logo with assistance from FUSA members.

The Mystical Arts of Tibet world tour is a program of the Drepung Loseling Monastery through its North American seat, the Drepung Loseling Institute in Atlanta. Established in 1998 and inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the institute provides academic and spiritual programs and seeks to preserve the Tibetan culture and promote trans-cultural understanding and scholarly exchange.

Of all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand is among the most unique. In Tibetan, the art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor , or "mandala of colored powders." Formed of a traditional iconography of geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.

To create a mandala, the monks draw an outline on a wooden platform and, over several days, lay on colored sand through metal funnels that cause it to flow like liquid. About five feet by five feet when finished, the mandala is destroyed shortly after completion as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. Half of the sands are distributed among the audience and others are released in a body of water in the monks' effort to spread planetary healing.

Drepung Monastery was established near Lhasa, Tibet, in 1416. It had four departments, of which Loseling, or "The Hermitage of the Radiant Mind," was the largest, housing 75 percent of Drepung's 10,000 to 15,000 monks. After the Chinese Communist government took control of Tibet in 1959 and closed monasteries, about 250 Drepung Loseling monks moved the institution to India, where there are now about 2,500 monks.

Posted On: 01-27-2006 10:01 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 145