April 7, 2010

Enlightening Art

Tibetan lamas create a sand mandala in the Tisch Library, one grain at a time

All week long, curious passersby in the Tisch Library paused along the corridor leading to the Tower Cafe. Seated on the floor to one side were two Tibetan Buddhist lamas, clad in maroon robes, painstakingly creating a colorful sand mandala—often one grain at a time.

Invited by the Rev. David O’Leary, the university chaplain, to add another spiritual dimension to a week that saw Passover and Easter, Khenpo Choephel Rinpoche and Lama Konchok Sonam began their work on March 29.

View photos of the creation of a sand mandala by two Tibetan monks at Tisch Library. To play full-screen, click on the icon on the far right. Photos: Alonso Nichols

Carefully drawing lines in pencil with rulers and T-squares, they sketched the pattern for the mandala dedicated to Avalokitesvara, a figure of compassion in Mahayana Buddhism. Then, wearing surgical masks to reduce the chance of damaging the image with an errant breath, they slowly added grains of colored sand.

“We hope to see many students,” Sonam said on his first day at Tisch. And indeed, the sand mandala drew curious looks from a steady stream of students, faculty and staff. “The buzz is something great,” says O’Leary.

In keeping with tradition, the sand mandala will be deconsecrated on Friday, April 9, says O’Leary, and the sand put in running water—in this case, the Mystic River, by the monks who created it. It will be on view at Tisch Library until then.

Goddard Chapel also sponsored two related events, a program with Nick Ribush, director of the Tibetan Buddhist Kurukulla Center in Medford, and a talk by Jonathan Landaw, author of Images of Enlightenment: Tibetan Art in Practice (Snow Lion, 2006).

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