A group of touring Tibetan Buddhist monks will perform traditional dance and music, as well as construct an ornate circular mandala made entirely of sand in variously colors – the first time such a Tibetan ritual has taken place on the Vineyard — over the coming week.
The monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery, whose soundtrack for the Brad Pitt film Seven Years in Tibet was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, will begin to make the mandala on Thursday, June 19, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School cafeteria. Visitors are welcome to observe the process from noon to 4 p.m. daily through Sunday, June 22, when they complete the mandala with a closing ceremony illustrating the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence.
The monks will perform traditional Tibetan music and dance at the high school’s Performing Arts Center on Friday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for the performance; the mandala exhibition is free, though donations are accepted. All proceeds will benefit the monks’ efforts to support more than 3,000 refugee monks in India and to preserve the Tibetan culture. In conjunction with Richard Gere Productions, the monastery oversees a program for sponsoring monks in training at Drepung Loseling Monastery.
The monastery was established in the early 15th century in Lhasa, Tibet. When the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet in 1959, some 250 monks from Drepung Loseling escaped and rebuilt their center in South India. In 1991 they established Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc. in Atlanta, Ga., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion. In 1998 Drepung Loseling established academic affiliation with Emory University.
In Tibetan, the art of sand mandala painting is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means “mandala of colored powders.” The sand is meticulously laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks.
A mandala is a circular form with geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols. The laying of the colored sands is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.
After their completion, the sand mandalas are swept up and placed in an urn. Half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony; the rest is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited, to be spread throughout the world for healing. The closing ceremony will be enacted on the Vineyard at a waterside location to be announced.
While on the Island, the monks will also be available to perform blessings and ceremonies for individuals, families, groups and businesses, on a donation basis.
Advance tickets are on sale at: the Chilmark Store, Alley’s in West Tisbury, Alley Cat on Main street in Vineyard Haven, the Glimpse of Tibet on Circuit avenue in Oak Buffs, and Vintage Jewelry on North Summer street in Edgartown. Checks, made to Drepung Loseling Inc., are tax-deductible. Tickets also are available at the door. For details, call 508-627-7558 or 508-221-0265, or e-mail Mizzcrizz@aol.com.