Eight Tibetan Lamas from Drepung Loseling Monastery and dozens of onlookers shared the ancient art of Mandala Sand Painting in an opening ceremony at Davidson College last week.
The colorfully dressed monks, played traditional instruments, chanted and prepared the setting for what will become a Mandala work of art promoting wisdom.
Nawang Khenrab Tenzin, the spokesman for the monks, said the art form goes back 2,500 years. “Mandala art is special for meditations. You will see many different patterns that will relate to inner feelings. You train your mind through love and compassion. This is how we share love and peace on this planet. It has to be supported by understanding and wisdom.”
The monks draw an outline of the mandala on a wooden platform and then use a chakpur, metal funnel to gently tap the colored sand in patterns. Millions of grains of sand are laid to form a mandala.
Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram. All mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. On the outer level, they represent the world, on the inner level they represent a map where the human mind is enlightened and on the secret level, they show the balance of all energies. The sand art is said to effect purification and healing on all three levels.
The monks are visiting as part of the free engagement of the Smith Artist Series at Davidson College. “A lot of students have heard of them but have never seen them,” said Ben Gauthier, artist series chairman and a junior at Davidson. “The fact that we’re able to bring them here for a week-long experience is really unique.”
The monks stayed at a guest house on campus, dining with students and getting to know the community. They travel from India to America, touring colleges and museums for one or two years and then return to India so a different group can repeat the journey.
Gail Sullivan of Matthews traveled to Davidson to see the monks. During their recent visit to Wingate University, she was so moved that she had to see them again. “The energy, the spirituality and the symbolism are just incredible to me. It takes on a completely different persona when you hear the chanting,” she said.
“I came because I know nothing and was curious and I just have this feeling that we all need to understand different cultures to know peace,” said Jody Summerhays of Cornelius.