Tibetan monks to create sand mandala, present lectures during Nov. 6-9 visit on campus

Construction of a sand mandala painting will be open for public viewing Monday, Nov. 6, through Thursday, Nov. 9, in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center.

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will visit Western Carolina University from Monday, Nov. 6, through Thursday, Nov. 9, to construct a mandala sand painting and deliver a series of four lectures.

The monks’ visit to campus is part of WCU’s Arts and Cultural Events series and The Mystical Arts of Tibet, a world tour produced through the monastery’s North American seat in Atlanta. All activities are free and open to the public.

An opening ceremony for the mandala sand painting will be held at noon Nov. 6 in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. Part of the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand involves the distribution of millions of grains of sand on a flat platform with the use of a metal funnel called a “chak-pur” to form the image of a mandala. The Drepung Monastery monks have created mandala sand paintings at more than 100 museums, art centers and higher education institutions across the U.S. and Europe.

Mandala construction begins with the process of drawing lines on a flat platform, which takes about three hours to complete.

The monks will begin the opening ceremony by consecrating the site with about 30 minutes of chants, music and mantra recitation. After the ceremony, they will start drawing the line design for the mandala, an exacting process that takes about three hours to complete.

Construction of the mandala will be open for public viewing in the UC Grandroom from 1 to 6 p.m. Nov. 6; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, and Wednesday, Nov. 8; and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9.

Traditionally, most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sand is swept up and placed in an urn, with half of it distributed to the audience and the remainder carried by the monks to a nearby body of water for dispersal. The closing ceremony at WCU will begin at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Grandroom.

The monks’ lectures and topics include “Tibet Today: The History of the Diaspora” at 6 p.m. Nov. 6 in the University Center theater; “Meditation: A Tool for Conscious Living at 6 p.m. and “A Buddhist Approach to Working with the Emotions” at 7:30 p.m., both in the UC theater Nov. 7; and “The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala” at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 in the UC Grandroom.

Drepung Monastery was established near Lhasa, Tibet, in 1416, but closed shortly after the Chinese communist invasion of Tibet in 1959, when most of its monks were killed or put into concentration camps. Survivors established a replica in India, and the North American seat of the monastery was established in Atlanta in 1991 to promote trans-cultural understanding and scholarly exchange. It is academically affiliated with Emory University and was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1998.

The monks begin at the center of the mandala and work outward to create a design of exquisite color.

Offered in conjunction with the monks’ visit is the photo exhibit “Tibet: Magical Land of Spiritual Wonders,” which will be on display in the Department of Intercultural Affairs gallery in the UC. The 21 images in the collection were taken by some of the world’s foremost photographers, and the exhibit premiered at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

For more information, contact Brandon Lokey, WCU’s assistant director for campus programs, at 828-227-7206 or bklokey@wcu.edu.