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Tibetan Monks To Create Sand Mandala During Visit To Norman

May 26, 2008

Transcript Staff Writer
The Norman Transcript (Oklahoma)
May 24 2008

Tibetan Monks will visit Norman Tuesday though Saturday to share
their culture through the artistic creation of a sand mandala.

"It's a unique opportunity for our community to experience this
culture through their practices and through their art," said Marial
Martyn, Norman resident who is helping to host the monks' visit to Norman.

The monks will create the Buddha of Medicine (Menla) mandala 9 a.m-5
p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. This event at St. Stephens United
Methodist Church, 1801 W. Brooks, will be free and open to the public.

The monks come from the Gaden Shartse Monastic College which was
originally founded in Tibet in the 15th century. The college, now
located in Mundgod, Karnataka, India, offers an in-depth education in
all aspects of Buddhist philosophy and practice.

The monks visiting Norman are on a national tour, sharing the Tibetan
culture and Buddhist beliefs. Their visit will also include evening
lectures at St. Stephens 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

During their visit to Norman, the monks will create the Menla mandala
representing the dwelling of the Medicine Buddha and the physical and
mental health of all beings. Those who attend the creation of the
sand mandala will learn the cultural meanings associated with the
Buddha of Medicine mandala.

The sand mandala is about 4 feet square and made of grains of sand in
35 different colors, said Lobsang Wangchuk, an American-born monk who
is organizing the national tour for the monks that will stop in
Norman this week.

In the center of the mandala will be a circle of eight medicine
buddhas about three inches high. Then the monks will work outward
from the center. The artwork is very detailed; The monks work on it 9
a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through May 31. The two-dimensional sand
mandala will require between 75 and 125 hours of effort, with several
monks working at a time.

"It's something that has to be seen," Wangchuk said. "It represents
the mansion of this particular buddha."

There are many different types of mandalas used by Tibetan Buddhists.
The sand mandalas are the most creative, labor-intensive and
concentration-intensive of all mandalas.

The sand mandalas are made of powdered and dyed stone, sand, dust,
flowers, and charcoal, according to a press release.

The sand is applied very precisely by the gentle tapping of a
sand-filled metal cone that has had its tip removed. The master must
be the first to initiate the mandala, and does so by being the first
to pour the sand. The outline of the mandala is defined by the
holding of a string that is dipped in chalk and then "snapped" in the
appropriate place.

The monks believe the buddha represented in this mandala has the
power to restore the environment and heal, among other things, Wangchuk said.

"We believe they have the power to remove negative imprints from
one's mind," he said.

When the sand mandala is complete, the monks will ask the buddha to
descend on it and bless it.

After all that work, the monks will dissolve the mandala. This
symbolizes the impermanence of all things.

During the dissolution, Wangchuk said, the sand is distributed for
use in blessings. Some of the sand will be distributed in the local
water supply.

Viewing the mandala is free and open to the public, but donations
will be accepted.

Part of the reason for the monks' tour is to raise money for the
Gaden Shartse monastery's hospital in India. The monks' 2006 tour
raised money to build the hospital, but it now stands empty, Wangchuk said.

The money raised on this tour will pay for doctors and medicine for
the hospital, in the hopes that it will serve anyone who comes to the
hospital for free, he said.

For more information, call Martyn at 364-3115 or visit
www.myspace.com/tibetanmonksinnorman or www.gardenshartsetour.org.

This program is made possible, in part, by the Norman Arts Council
Grant Program, funded by the Norman Hotel/Motel Tax, along with St.
Stephens United Methodist Church, Friends Along the Path, Wellness in
Norman and The Wellness Counseling Center.
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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