Tibetan Monks to Be Welcomed to UMass Amherst by Chancellor


DATE:           Wednesday, Sept. 25

TIME:            8:30 a.m.

PLACE:         Fine Arts Center Lobby, UMass Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and his wife, Mala, will formally welcome a contingent of Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery to campus, where they will construct a sand mandala, a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.

From Sept. 25-27, the monks will be painstakingly assembling the mandala using millions of grains of colored sand to create a traditional iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols.

Chancellor Subbaswamy will give an address greeting the honored Geshe Dhondup, the leader of the Tibetan monks creating the mandala, and present him with traditional katas (scarves) as a part of the welcome. The monks will then consecrate the mandala area with prayers and multi-phonic chants, Tibetan long horn trumpets and cymbals. They will then begin the geometric drawing symbolizing the universe that will house the Buddha.

The sand is poured from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are deconstructed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor of 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.

At the closing ceremony in the FAC Concert Hall on Friday, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg will be a featured speaker.

The sand mandala event is presented by the UMass Fine Art Center’s Asian Arts & Culture program, which is marking its 20th anniversary.