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Tibetan Buddhist Monks to create Mandala sand painting at NDSU

Published: 18 February 2011

Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting March 7-10 in the Lower Level of the NDSU Memorial Union.

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand is one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform for a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. To date, the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram. These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas or woodcarvings. Perhaps the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. The outer level represents the world in its divine form; the inner level represents a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; and the secret level depicts the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony scheduled for March 7 at 11 a.m., during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation.

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 closing ceremony is scheduled for March 10 at 3 p.m.

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Schedule of events

March 7

11 a.m.           Sand Mandala
                         Opening ceremony
                         Memorial Union Lower Level

7 p.m.             Lecture: The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala
                        Memorial Union Great room

March 8

11:30 a.m.      Lecture: Opening the Heart: Arousing the Mind of Universal Kindness
                          Memorial Union Great room

March 10

3 p.m.         Lecture: Sand Mandala
                    Closing ceremony
                    Memorial Union Lower Level

4 p.m.             Lecture: The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala/Reception
                        Memorial Union Gallery


Mandala viewing hours

Monday, March 7, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Tuesday, March 8, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wednesday, March 9, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Thursday, March 10, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.


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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013