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Tibetan monks to create, destroy mandala art

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Tibetan Buddhist monks will grace Lincoln this week with a special type of painting – spiritual sand painting.

As part of the “Arts of Tibet: Object and Performance” exhibit at the Lentz Center for Asian Culture, Hewit Place, 1155 Q St., monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Ga., will construct a mandala sand painting.

Tantric Buddhism involves many artistic traditions, but painting with colored sand grains is one of the most exquisite.

On the Mystical Arts of Tibet Web site,, mandala sand painting is explained as follows:

Millions of brightly colored sand particles are carefully placed on a flat platform with a traditional metal funnel called a chak-pur. A metal rod is run along its grated surface.

The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid, allowing for the creation of images to form the mandala.

A mandala is a circular design containing geometric shapes and images of deities symbolizing the universe.

All mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. The creation of the sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on three levels.

On the outer level, mandalas 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 one.

On the secret level, a mandala depicts the perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.

When the sand painting is finished, the monks will destroy it. This symbolizes the impermanence in life.

Half of the sand will be distributed to the audience, and the other half will be carried to and deposited in the nearest body of water.

The waters then carry the “blessing” to the ocean where it can spread throughout the world for planetary healing.

Barbara Banks, Lentz Center director and curator, said the process was very intricate.

Every mandala is created for a specific reason, she said, and this one was picked by the Dalai Lama specifically for the United States after Sept. 11.

She said it is spiritually called upon for conflict resolution.

“It takes them a number of days (to make), and then they destroy it in a final ceremony, so it’s quite dramatic,” Banks said.

Umica D’Souza, a senior architecture major who works at the Lentz Center, said she was excited to witness the mandala sand construction.

D’Souza, who is originally from India, isn’t Buddhist. However, she was interested in the philosophy of the mandala.

“I think it is good for students to experience new cultures,” D’Souza said.

She said the healing aspect of the art, such as that of a mandala, was a good thing for people to be exposed to.


The Mystical Arts of Tibet mandala sand construction will occur daily from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day starting Tuesday and lasting until Saturday.

The closing ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Admission to the Lentz Center is free, but a donation of $2 is suggested.

The monks will also perform “Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing” on Friday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and youth at the Lied Center box office, 301 N. 12th St.

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