Tibetan Buddhist Monks Share Culture, Philosophy during Campus Residency

Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Peace Man Dala Articleimage

Sand Script: Tibetan Buddhist monks slowly and carefully designed and created a vibrant, colorful world peace mandala during a recent campus residency. The mandala was poured into Speed Lake at the end of the monks' visit to symbolize the impermanence of life and to spread peace and compassion to all sentient beings.

Tibetan Buddhist monks brought their peaceful worldview to Rose-Hulman during a four-day campus residency, creating a colorful world peace mandala and offering insights from their rich cultural traditions.

From the Labrang Tashi Kyil Monastery in India, the monks shared their spiritual practices with students, faculty, and staff members from February 1-4. Their visit included passing along lessons on meditation, conducting a philosophical debate, hosting a short-course on happiness, and a sacred dance known as a Black Hat Dance. They also explained their Monastery was built by monks who escaped a monastery of the same name located in Tibet after the land was annexed by China in the 1950s.

The monks spent a majority of each day painstakingly constructing the peace mandala, carefully placing brightly colored grains of sand on a four-foot-by-four-foot board. The end result: an intricate and stunning design that featured an image of the globe in the center along with the Four Harmonious Brothers: a bird, rabbit, monkey, and elephant. Outer spheres included symbols from major world religions and the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism.

Despite the hours of highly-detailed work, the monks destroyed the mandala at the end of the fourth day, symbolizing the finite nature of life. To destroy the mandala, the monks used paint brushes to swirl it into a colorful pinwheel design as they uttered a sacred chant. They then handed out small packets of the sand to those watching the ceremony. The last of the mandala's remaining sand was ceremoniously poured from an urn into a campus lake as the monks chanted and played musical instruments.

Peace Man Dala Articleimage2

Here Today: Seven Tibetan Buddhist monks created a world peace-themed mandala over the course of four days that was later destroyed in an instant. The image featured spiritual symbols of peace and harmony.

"Everything, no matter how beautiful, is impermanent," monk Tenpa Phuntsok told a large crowd of students, faculty, and staff members that gathered for the closing ceremony.

Mandala is Sanskrit for "circle," but is often understood as "world in harmony," according to Timothy Grose, assistant professor of China studies, who organized the monks' visit. His goal was to enhance interest in East Asian studies and educate the campus community about different foreign cultures.

"I believe that the monks' visit will inspire our student body to study parts of the world that remain unfamiliar to many college students," Grose says. "I couldn't ask for a better outcome."

At their monastery in India, the monks offer lessons to the local Indian population about Buddhist philosophy, according to Grose.

The monks' visit was made in cooperation with the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana. The group is touring the United States to teach about Buddhism, educate the public about the culture and religion of Tibet, and raise funds for their monastery. This is their third tour across the United States.