Monday, October 10, 2011

Monks to make sacred mandala at Randolph College

Seven Buddhist monks from India will share the sacred, healing art of colorful sand painting at Randolph College this month.

During the week of October 24, the monks will create a Medicine Buddha sand mandala in Houston Memorial Chapel at Randolph College. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the chapel will be open so members of the Randolph community and the general public can watch the sacred art.

During the week, the monks will live in a residence hall on campus, said Suzanne Bessenger, the religious studies professor who invited the monks.

“It’s an opportunity for students to interact with a culture and lifestyle that isn’t all that accessible to them in the United States,” said Bessenger.

The monks are from Tashikyl, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Dehra Dun, India. A Buddhist cultural center in Indiana is hosting them for a tour of the United States.

From September through November, they are traveling the country to share their culture and their religion through workshops and demonstration programs.

Bessenger learned through a friend that the monks had about a week-long gap in their schedule. She worked with other groups in the college to invite the monks.

She asked the monks to demonstrate the mandala, a sacred Tibetan Buddhist art form that creates a beautiful five-foot square painting from colorful sand. Specifically, they will create a Medicine Buddha mandala, which promises healing.

The opening ceremony will be held Monday, October 24, at 12:40 p.m. The monks will consecrate the chapel using chanting and the music from sacred horns. Then they will begin the exacting task of forming the detailed artwork with millions of grains of sand.

Mandala Demonstration at Randolph College
Opening Ceremony: Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, 12:40 p.m.
Closing Ceremony: Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, 3 p.m.
Open for public viewing 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily.
Location: Houston Memorial Chapel

When they complete the artwork, they will hold a closing ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday, October 28. They consecrate the mandala and then dismantle it—symbolizing the impermanence of all that exists. They will sweep up the colorful sand and pour it into the James River, allowing the healing energy to be carried through water to the rest of the world.

However, they will save out some sand from the mandala made at Randolph College so they can carry it and its healing energy the following week when they participate in the Aids Walk in Washington, D.C.

Randolph College’s current quality enhancement plan is titled “Bridges Not Walls,” emphasizing the College’s ability to build bridges between cultures and help students develop intercultural competency. Bessenger said the monks mandala demonstration is a great opportunity for the College to practice its “Bridges Not Walls” ideals.