See a Group of Tibetan Monks Create a Sacred Sand Mandala in Live-Time at the Cincinnati Art Museum

The group of eight monks will stay in Cincy from Nov. 13-18.

click to enlarge The group of Tibetan monks will come to CAM as part of a U.S.-wide tour. - Provided by Cincinnati Art Museum
Provided by Cincinnati Art Museum
The group of Tibetan monks will come to CAM as part of a U.S.-wide tour.

A group of eight Tibetan monks will visit the Cincinnati Art Museum to create a sacred sand mandala, rich with ornate designs, from Nov. 13-18.

The art form stems from Tibetan tradition, in which a sand mandala (a geometric figure steeped in religious and spiritual symbolism) is created and then destroyed, with the remains released into a nearby river, where the waters are thought to carry the art’s healing energy to the rest of the world. Made from colored sand, the ritual is meant to symbolize Buddhist belief in the ephemeral, fleeting nature of life.  

The monks are visiting from a Buddhist monastery located in South India — dubbed Drepung Gomang — which was founded in 1416. They’ll start by pouring the sand onto the mandala platform using a “chakpur,” aka a narrow metal funnel, which is then grazed by another rod (the duo symbolizes the fusing of wisdom and compassion). The vibrations cause grains of sand to spill out.

The pit stop in Cincinnati is in conjunction with a U.S.-wide tour, meant to share Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Tibetan culture at large. Jewelry, crafts and more will be available for purchase, with proceeds being used to house, feed and educate not only the monks, but also their surrounding community, including orphans and refugees.

This isn’t the first time they’ve seen the Queen City. Along with visiting the CAM three times prior, the group has also made stops at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County as well as Mount St. Joseph University.

“In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meaning,” says a press release. “On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind; and on the secret level, they predict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.”

On these three levels, the sand is thought to affect the healing and cleansing process; mandala literally translates as “world harmony.”

This time, the creation — which will take place in the Great Hall and is free to the public — will be made as similar ongoing exhibits that explore Asian culture can be explored. Namely, The Fabric of India (on view until Jan. 6; requires a special exhibition fee) and Collecting Calligraphy: Arts of the Islamic World (free admission).

Throughout their stint, viewers can see the process of the sand mandala from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15. An opening ceremony will kick things off on Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. and a closing ceremony will take place. Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org



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