Tibetan Buddhist Monks will Construct a Mandala Sand Painting and Perform Special Ceremonies at Saint Joseph’s College

Mandala Sand PaintingCan you imagine painstakingly arranging millions of grains of colored sand into a pattern over several days–an act of sacred prayer–only to then destroy the intricate design? This is what the Tibetan Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery will do at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish over the course of four days from October 16, 2017 to October 19, 2017. They will construct this traditional sand-painted mandala–a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram” or a representation of the universe–on a raised flat platform inside of the College’s Stone Barn at Sebago Lake. The public will be welcome to watch. 

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most exquisite that the monks have shared at more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities across the United States and Europe. The mandala is an ancient tool believed to heal the earth and its inhabitants.

Sr. Marilyn Sunderman, RSM, Ph.D. and Professor of Theology said, "The upcoming presence of Buddhist monks on our campus will be an enriching interreligious and intercultural experience.  It will be wonderful to watch a mandala being brought to life and then deconstructed, all of which is sacred activity. Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, embraced having different traditions understand one another and have closer relationships. Throughout the existence of the Sisters of Mercy community worldwide, religious hospitality has been an important characteristic and continues to be so today." Saint Joseph’s College was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1912 and the Sisters continue to sponsor the College.

“As Maine’s Catholic liberal arts college in the Mercy tradition, it will be an honor to extend our hospitality to the monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery and to welcome them to our community. Members of the public and our students will benefit greatly from meeting them and learning about their spiritual tradition. This is especially significant for us as this event is the first for our Center for Faith and Spirituality at Saint Joseph’s College,” said Vice President and Chief Sponsorship and Mission Integration Officer Dr. Michael Sanderl.

The mandala sand painting will begin with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation, and will occur on October 16, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The monks will begin to construct the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days, they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chak-pur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sand to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The Tibetan Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery explain that “the waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.” 

The closing ceremony occurs on October 19, 2017 at 5 p.m.

Monday, October 16

Opening Ceremony @ 1 p.m.

Mandala Sand Painting Viewing available until 6 p.m.

Tuesday, October 17

Exhibit Open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Wednesday, October 18

Exhibit Open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.          

Thursday, October 19

Exhibit Open 10 a.m.

Closing Ceremony 5 - 6 p.m.

Public is welcome. If you have a group of ten or more, please reserve your space by emailing vpmission@sjcme.edu. The Stone Barn is located across the street and just past the College entrance. For more information and event details, please contact:  Dr. Michael Sanderl, Vice President and Chief Sponsorship and Mission Integration Officer at  vpmission@sjcme.edu or  207-893-7705.