Tibetan Buddhist Monks to Construct Mandala Sand Painting in CFA

Event to be held in conjunction with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's historic visit to UB

By David Wedekindt

Release Date: August 30, 2006 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting Sept. 16-19 in the UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts on the University at Buffalo's North (Amherst) Campus.

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over 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, wood carvings, and so forth. However, the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

In general all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict 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, 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, and will be held at 10 a.m. on Sept. 16. Public access to the ceremony is limited, however alternative viewing areas (via live closed circuit television) will be available within the Center for the Arts.

The lamas will begin 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 chak-pur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Completion of the mandala will take up to 24 hours, and the public will be able to observe the work as it is being performed. Public viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16, with the monks in residence beginning at 11 a.m.; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 17, with the monks in residence from 10 a.m. to noon; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 18, with the monks in residence from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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 will be held at 11 a.m. on Sept. 19. Once again, access is limited, however alternative viewing locations will be made available.

The Mandala Sand Painting is one of five exhibitions hosted by the UB Art Galleries in conjunction with the upcoming visit by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts also will host Building Cultures: Druk White Lotus School: A Sustainable Model for education and Design and Tibetan Art from the Rubin Museum of Art. UB Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, will host Rose Mandala by Chrysanne Stathacos and Thangka Paintings from Western New York Collections. Visit http://www.ubartgalleries.buffalo.edu for more information.