As you’ve hopefully seen on our website (or Facebook or Twitter) Pacific Asia Museum is excited to host a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks next week as they create a sand mandala. They’ll have an opening Blessing Ceremony on Wednesday, September 5 at 10:30 a.m. and then begin working on the intricate artwork through Sunday, September 9. On that Sunday, we’ll be free all day and host the Dissolution Ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Both ceremonies include chanting and music as the monks bless the Changing Exhibition Gallery where they’ll work. During the Dissolution Ceremony, the monks will sweep away the mandala and distribute the sand to everyone present.
The mandala is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist art form that involves the careful placement of colored sand in a design that references the world in its divine form, a path for the mind to reach enlightenment, and balance. But before the monks begin creating the mandala, they first hold a Blessing Ceremony that includes chanting, mantras and music to invoke Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. During the ceremony, the monks will use two traditional objects: a bell and a dorje (in Tibetan) or vajra (in Sanskrit). The bell is traditionally held in the left hand and symbolizes the female and wisdom, while the dorje is held in the right and symbolizes the male and the “thunderbolt of enlightenment.” These implements are also common motifs throughout South and East Asian art– look for them within our galleries on your next visit!
After the Blessing Ceremony the monks will begin creating the mandala. This intricate design is extremely labor-intensive, and up to four monks at a time will work for five days. To see the progress of a previous mandala created at Pacific Asia Museum, check out this Flickr album from last year and these YouTube videos showing how the monks “draw” with the sand. Using a bronze funnel-like instrument called a chakpur and a bronze wand, the monks release a fine stream of sand by moving the wand across the grooves of the chakpur. The finished mandala will be about four feet across.
Don’t miss this great opportunity to see this beautiful artwork created in our galleries. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, pictures and video, and watch the blog for another story next week!~CM
Image: Dorje, Tibet, c. 1700, Bronze, Gift of Alyce and T.J. Smith, 1997.66.153.