Tibetan Buddhist monks to construct sand mandala at UMass

By Aviva Luttrell

A group of visiting Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will be welcomed to the University of Massachusetts campus by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and his wife on Wednesday, Sept. 25, according to a University press release.

For two days, the monks will create a sand mandala in the Fine Arts Center lobby using millions of grains of colored sand poured from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs, according to the release The mandala is a traditional Buddhist symbol of the universe, and is made up of different geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols.

As part of the welcoming ceremony, which is set to take place at 8:30 a.m. in the Fine Arts Center Lobby, Chancellor Subbaswamy will greet the leader of the visiting monks, Geshe Dhondup, and present him with khatas, a type of traditional ceremonial scarf, according to the release.

“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 release said.

The process of creating the mandala involves each monk holding a chak-pur while simultaneously running a metal rod along its surface, causing the sand to flow.

The closing ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Sept. 27 in the FAC Concert Hall. Senator Stan Rosenberg will be a featured speaker at the event.

According to the release, “most sand mandalas are deconstructed shortly after their completion” as a metaphor for how temporary life is. During the process, sand will be swept up and placed into an urn. Following tradition, half will then be distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony as a blessing for health and healing, according to the release. The rest will be deposited in a nearby body of water to carry the healing blessing to the ocean, where it can spread throughout the world.

This event is presented by the UMass Fine Art Center’s Asian Arts & Culture program as part of its 20th anniversary.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected]