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Tibetan Buddhist Monks to Construct Large-Scale Symbolic Sand Painting at the Blanton Museum of Art

Tibetan Buddhist Monks at the Blanton Museum of Art (photo courtesy of the Drepung Loseling Monastery)

Tibetan Buddhist Monks at the Blanton Museum of Art (photo courtesy of the Drepung Loseling Monastery)

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has invited monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery to create a 5-foot sand mandala within the museum’s Rapoport Atrium. Hosted in conjunction with Into the Sacred City, an exhibition of Tibetan artworks currently on view from the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, The Sand Mandala Project will run January 9-13, 2013. The public is invited to view the active creation of the piece and its associated sacred ceremonies.

Of all the artistic traditions of Tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism, sand painting ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Mandalas—Sanskrit for “sacred cosmograms”—can be created with various media, but the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand. During the creation of these sacred and symbolic works, millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. The resulting images carry multiple 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 an enlightened mind; and on the “secret” level they depict the perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.

The event will begin January 9 with an opening ceremony of chanting, music, and mantra recitation. (Monks use these techniques to consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness.) The creation of the mandala will start with the monks drawing an outline on a wooden platform. On the following days, they will lay millions of grains of colored sand using a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur. In the final step of the process, and serving as a metaphor for the impermanence of life, the mandala will be destroyed. The project will conclude on January 13 with a closing ceremony, during which the sand will be swept up and half distributed to the audience and the remainder carried to nearby Waller Creek for dispersal. Waters carry a healing blessing to the ocean, and from there, the sand spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.

Schedule of Events

Opening Ceremony, Wednesday, January 9

Experience the beauty of this ancient ritual and blessing of the space as monks prepare for the creation of the mandala.

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Ceremonial chanting and music

1:30–4:30 p.m.
Line drawing for the mandala

Thursday, January 10
Sand painting continues

Friday, January 11
Sand painting continues

Symbolism of the Sand Mandala (Lecture), Saturday, January 12
2 p.m., Blanton Auditorium

Join monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery for a talk on the meaning of the sand mandala. Lean how, by creating these sacred artworks, we bring creative energy into our lives and attune to natural perfection.

Closing Ceremonies, Sunday, January 13
In a ceremony representing the impermanence of all that exists, the monks will dismantle the sand mandala.

2–2:30 p.m.
Sand painting completed

2:30–3:30 p.m.
Disassembly of sand painting. Monks will sweep up the colored sand and distribute half to the audience and place the remainder in an urn to be dispersed in Waller Creek

3:30–4:30 p.m.
Procession to Waller Creek for Dispersal of remaining sand

Funding for this program is provided by Judy and Charles Tate and Leslie and Jack Blanton, Jr.  Additional funding is provided by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Carolyn Harris Hynson Centennial Endowment at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Related Posts

Blanton Museum of Art Presents Never Exhibited Sacred Tibetan Art – September 14, 2012

Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery Return to the Crow Collection of Asian Art – August 16, 2011

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