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Buddhist Monk Speaks on Ideology In His Art

September 14, 2010

The Daily Gazette
September 9, 2010

Swarthmore -- Tibetan Buddhist monk Losang Samten
has spent the past week in McCabe creating a
mandala: a traditional Tibetan art form intended
to uplift and benefit not only the viewers but
also the environment. (The Gazette also has a
video of the process.) This week, visitors to
McCabe were invited to watch him create the
mandala; visitors are also welcome to the
ceremonial destruction of the mandala this
Saturday. His lecture on Thursday, "Tibetan
Buddhism and the Art of Sand Mandalas,”
emphasized the Buddhist ideologies interwoven in his mandala.

Losang Samten, born in central Tibet, fled with
his family to Nepal in 1959 and later moved to
Dharamsala India. Before moving to his current
residence in Philadelphia, Samten studied at the
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and received
a Master’s in Buddhist Philosophy. In 1988,
Samten was instructed by the 14th Dalai Lama to
come to the U.S. to demonstrate the meditative
art of sand painting. This was the first time a
Tibetan mandala was showcased in the U.S. Since
then, he has created sand mandalas at various
places, including the American Museum of Natural
History in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum
of Art, and the Asian Art Museum in San
Francisco. Currently Samten is a spiritual leader
of the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia.

In his lecture, Samten stressed appreciation for
things already had, saying that this is something
he has found lacking from the general lifestyle
of the American people. Samten contrasted this
perspective from his own experience when he was a
student in Tibet. For lunch, they were only given
a piece of bread and tea with powdered milk. He
said that he and his friends would rotate days in
which one friend would eat each person’s share of
bread, so that at least someone could have a day
relieved from chronic hunger. In America there is
a plethora of food and choices, and yet there is
also is a tendency to want more. Samten discussed
how these two types of lifestyles, although
extremely different, are interdependently connected.
The partially completed mandala in McCabe. Photo by Ellen Sanchez.

Samten gave another example illustrating the idea
of interdependence, a central Buddhist ideology.
"Yoga comes from Yogi,” he said. “Yogi in India
means meditation. It was not very popular.
However, here in America, people do Yoga as
exercise. And now everywhere in Delhi people are
doing yoga in the parks.” He explains that the
everyday actions here in America affect everyone
else in the world. "Because of that," Samten
said, "kindness and compassion is so important."

After the lecture, when asked what inspires him
to create this form of art, Samten replied,
"Personally, during the creation of the mandala
it brings joy. It also brings a sense of peace to
oneself and I try to teach peace to others
through my own art as they see me go through the process of this creation.”

On Saturday at 11:40 am, following the completion
of the mandala and a special procession, it will
be ritually destroyed, and the pieces dispersed
in the Crum creek. The impermanence of the
mandala is an integral part of the teaching it symbolizes.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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