A cacophony of sound and colors filled the turret of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union on the sunny afternoon of October 22 at Springfield College.
Six monks stood in a perfect row, all dressed in traditional garments consisting of a bright red thawb, which is similar to a woman’s dress, and a flourescent orange toga draped over their shoulders. The most eye catching piece of their attire was the beaming yellow hats shaped like mohawks sitting atop their heads.
Two of the monks gripped large horns, blowing into them and creating a massive noise most likened to the wail of a golden tuba. The others grasped drums and bells, with all of the instruments coming together to represent the beauty of the Buddhist deities. This was the Opening Ceremony of the Mandala Sand Painting.
The Drepung Loseling Monastery is an organization that is dedicated to preserving this Tibetan Buddhist ritual and tradition.
Mandala Sand Painting is said to be purifying and healing towards those involved with and those surrounding the project. Enlightening the mind and body, as well as enlightening the surrounding world, is the ultimate goal of the mandala.
Jeremy Vera, a junior at Springfield College, visited Tibet this past summer to study Buddhism and was present during the Opening Ceremony. “A mandala is basically a ritual location, for lack of a better term, so that deities can reside in that,” said Vera. “So whatever they’re making in there is meant for some being to reside in.”
The general process of creating the mandala is completed in six steps. The Opening Ceremony is the first, with chants, prayers, and music present in order to bless the site advantageous to creating the Mandala.
Next is the Drawing of the Lines. This consists of extending pieces of string cloaked in chalk across the black table and quickly snapping them down in order to set the layout of where the colored sand will go.
The third step is called the actual Mandala Construction, where the monks will then fill in the previously laid out lines with colored sand, creating symbols and shapes to form the mandala. After that, the mandala is completed and final blessings will be said to invoke the deities from within the mandala, bringing peace to those surrounding it.
The fifth step is the Dismantling of the Mandala, where the millions of sand particles are swept off of the table. This symbolizes the impermanence of life and how even the most beautiful things in life will not stay. Some of the sand is also given to onlookers for longevity and blessings.
The final step is the Dispersal of the Sand. The remaining sand on the black table will be swept into a nearby body of water. This is done in order to disperse the blessings that the mandala carries throughout the world, supplying the living with peace and wisdom.
The monks are an organization primarily focused on mindfulness, which they said can be achieved through being completely aware of what you are doing, even in your regular daily activities.
“When you are breathing, think: I am breathing. When you are eating, think: I am eating,” translated one of the younger men during Tuesday night’s Mindfulness Meeting. This imparting of wisdom, along with the meaning of the mandala, is what the monastery is trying to give as their gift to the world.