Tibetan Monks Return to Campus to Construct Sand Mandala

Mandala from side

For four days, April 17-20, the public will be able to watch as seven Tibetan monks working in Old Chapel create a unique and colorful sand mandala, considered a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.

Painstakingly formed from millions of grains of sand placed on a flat platform and incorporating traditionally prescribed iconography, the mandala includes geometric shapes as well as ancient spiritual symbols.

Public viewing hours are Tuesday through Thursday, April 17-19 from 10 a.m.-noon and 1-6 p.m. and Friday, April 20 from 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.

Evening meditation sessions are scheduled Wednesday, April 18 and Thursday, April 19 from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

All events are free to the public.

The  monks, from the Drepung Loseling Monastary, have awed millions of spectators worldwide with their expertise as well as their generosity and kindness in connecting with people. The monks last created a mandala on campus is 2013.

The art of sand mandala painting in Tibetan is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, literally “mandala of colored powders.”

While the beauty of the sand mandala stands on its own, it is also a symbol of the dedication and discipline of the monks who work ceaselessly 10 hours a day to create the full image.

Traditionally, most sand mandalas are deconstructed shortly after their completion. The deconstruction process is a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are then swept up and placed in an urn. To fulfill the function of healing, half of the swept sand is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony and the remainder is deposited in a nearby body of water to be carried to the ocean and spread throughout the world.

Heading the retinue of monks will be His Eminence Sheling Rinpoche, Geshe Thuten Tendar, recognized as the sixth reincarnation of the Maha Siddha Guru Bhairu, one of the 80 great Buddhist yogis of ancient India. Sheling Rinpoche is known by the Tibetan communities in India as a renowned spiritual healer and teacher.

The sand mandala project, “Healing the Earth: Tibetan Sand Mandala,” is produced by Richard Gere Productions Mystical Arts of Tibet and is presented by the Asian Arts and Culture Program of the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center. Call the Fine Arts Center Box Office at 413/545-2511 for more information.