By Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
Starting Monday, October 31, to Friday, November 4, a group of Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery came to UMass Dartmouth to perform a sacred ritual for healing and the creation of a mandala sand painting.
The week began with the opening ceremony held in the Grand Reading Room for the mandala sand painting, on Monday.
The monks opened with remarks by their translator, Geshe Loden, who spoke about the monks in Tibet and their ancient rituals.
In the middle of the week, on Wednesday at 6 p.m., a multiphonic concert was held by the monks in which they performed with traditional costumes. And on Friday at 4 p.m., the closing ceremony was held in which the monks gathered up the sand and poured it into a moving body of water after one final chant.
Organized by the Frederick Douglas Unity House, the SAIL office, Center for Religious Studies, the College of Liberal Arts, Chartwells, the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and the Student Government Association, it was a large collaborative effort.
With direction by LaSella Hall, the monks were invited to UMass Dartmouth to perform this ritual.
The Tibetan monks had come up from a monastery in Atlanta, Georgia, invited by Hall. The original monastery that is on the border of India and China is Drepung Loseling, which houses over 4,000 monks.
The mandala painting is considered to be one of the monks’ most important ceremonies. “Mandala is an ancient tradition dating back to the time of Buddha,” said Loden.
With the ability to create twelve different sand mandalas, the monks created one in the library living room on campus.
The ceremony was to implore the local and higher deity of the Tibetan religion to bless their ritual and to request their permission to perform in the area. They played on several traditional Tibetan instruments in order to further beseech the deities for their permission.
Blessed with the healing energies through the process of chanting and outlining the designs, the colored sand that the monks used to make the mandala would become infused with these healing energies.
From then on, after a final blessing and a closing ceremony, the monks would then take the sand and pour into a moving body of water in belief that the healing energies would then become a part of the world.
The ritual continued then with the monks outlining the design they wished to use for the mandala, which was based on freedom from violence and peace as stated by Loden.
They proceeded to use various tools such as rulers, specialized stencils, and silver flutes known as chakra that funneled the sand when applied with pressure in various amounts. With the sand and chakra, they filled in the outlines they had drawn on the table with white pencil and chalk.
As the process continued, the monks also held a concert in order to celebrate their culture and also enhance the ritual. Featured within were special traditional dances such as the Dance of the Snow Leopard, in which they were dressed in colorful garb.
The concert lasted for two hours, featuring six-eight songs and displaying many parts of Tibetan culture, including the ways in which the monks traditionally debated.
Meanwhile, throughout the week, the monks continued to work on the mandala, finally finishing it before 2 p.m. on Friday, November 4. They then held a closing ceremony, with ritual chants to bless the sand.
Gathering it up, they then took it to a moving body of water off campus in a procession, and poured it there so that it would distribute amongst the world.