Tibetan monks create colorful sand painting, promote compassion at Coral Springs museum

Tibetan monks, creating a mandala sand painting during a tour of the U.S., seek to spread spiritual healing through their art. Craig Davis/Craigslegz.com

By Craig Davis, Craigslegz.com


Watching Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery begin work on a sacred mandala sand painting designed to promote compassion in the world couldn’t have been better timed than the week of the presidential inauguration.

The spiritual creation is the centerpiece of the Sacred Art Tour at the Coral Springs (Fla.) Museum of Art, Jan. 17-22, 2017.

The mandala is an ancient art form in Tibetan Buddhism in which colored sands are used in a painstaking process to create an intricate mural with spiritual significance. Each design has a different meaning, conveys a distinctive influential energy.

Last year the monks created a healing mandala at the Coral Springs event. The Buddha of Compassion (Chenrezig) was chosen for this year in light of everything going on the world, a museum official said.

The juxtaposition of events also brought to mind a memorable episode of the Netflix show “House of Cards” in which a similar group of Tibetan monks created a mandala sand painting inside the White House of fictional President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey).

The set piece served as a metaphor for the theme of the episode, “Nothing is Forever.”

Every mandala is stunning in its beauty and complexity. Each meets the same fate.

The monks near completion of the Mandala of Compassion. Fran Davis/Craigslegz.com

As soon as it is completed, the millions of grains of sand that make up the design are swept away to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists. The sand is then poured into a nearby river or stream to enable the waters to spread the spiritual message from the artwork.

Hopefully, some of the vibe that the Tibetans refer to as Chenrezig can find its way into the collective consciousness. That is what, in their view, comes from those who sincerely act for the benefit of others without concern for fame, profit, social position or recognition.

That feeling, at least, was in the air on a weekday morning when the eight monks strolled through the Peace Garden outside the museum in Coral Springs before beginning their ritual blessing of the mandala. That ceremony took place seated around the board that would become the mandala over the next few days.

These monks are on a tour of the United States to raise funds to support more than 2,000 of their brethren — Tibetan monk refugees as well as others from the Himalayan region of India, Mongolia and Russia — at their monastery in South India.

Their melodic chants were soothing, uplifting. For a moment all the cacophony and conflict that is so difficult to avoid these days seemed to melt away.

Peace of mind is where you create it for yourself. It was easier to find in this setting.

Monk begin the painstaking process of mapping out their intricate design for the mandala. Fran Davis/Craigslegz.com

The monks begin the painstaking process of creating the mandala by sketching out the design on a board.

The monks begin the painstaking process of creating the mandala by sketching out the design on a board.

The monks were to do a blessing of the mandala each morning before resuming their work. A time-lapse video of the creation of the mandala will be accessible on the museum website.

Visitors can watch the progress at the museum and take part in related events and workshops throughout the week — the schedule is on the museum Facebook page and website.

The mandala dissolution ceremony will be at 3 p.m. on Jan. 22 when the monks will destroy their creation while distributing its karma as a vessel of positive change by scattering the sand into the stream behind the museum.

If only their next gig was scheduled for the White House.

The Tibetan monks on the Sacred Art Tour are working to raise money for others at the Drepung Goman Monastery in South India. Craig Davis/Craigslegz.com
The monks use colorful sand to create their mandala. Fran Davis/Craigslegz.com
The monks are working to support their monastery in India. Fran Davis/Craigslegz.com

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