Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Monks' Mandala

You'll never guess what I did at work today! After lunch, Brian and I walked down to see the Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery who are spending this week "in residence" at Bucks County Community College. They are making a mandala out of dyed sand on the floor of the Solarium. This thing is so intricate and colorful that I doubt my iPhone photos will do it justice.

When we arrived at the Solarium, the monks were taking a lunch break, but there were many visitors and Bucks-affiliated people gawking at this fantastic work-in-progress. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the design sketched out on the blue base. Sometime tomorrow (approximately 12:30pm), that blue section will be finished and the mandala sand will be swept up in a ceremony and brought to the park where it will be dropped in the creek. Some of the sand will be distributed to the audience as a blessing.

After a few minutes, the monks finished their lunch and returned, one-by-one, to their work.

One monk...
 They hold two long, thin funnels made of metal. One funnel holds the colored sand, and the other is used to tap the sand-holding funnel controlling how fast the sand comes out.

...two monks...

If I were to say that these mandalas are created one grain of sand at a time, I would not be exaggerating. Nevertheless, these expert sand artists covered quite a bit of the mandala while we watched.

...four monks and a basket of tools.
These "sand-painted" mandalas are considered tools for consecrating the earth and people. They represent the universe and its inner and outer meanings. I am no expert on their symbolism, but these monks were kind enough to furnish us with thorough background information on this tradition which is hundreds of years old. All who view the mandala are supposed to experience "profound peace and great joy." This was a welcome inspiring experience in the middle of a mundane work day, and thus did give us peace and joy. ;-)

But wait there's more... everyday this week when I walked past the Solarium on my way to the cafeteria I heard the singing bowls. It's a beautiful, hollow, metal sound and has a pleasing quality. Well, the monks had a table set up with jewelry and prayer flags for sale...and...bowls. Reader, I bought one.
My singing bowl on my desk.
I will now try to make it sing for you.

My video isn't great, so chill out with this guy who has many singing bowls, gongs, and crystals: