Watch videos of the Sacred Art Tour of Tibetan Monks at Florida CraftArt
On January 31, Florida CraftArt welcomed eight exiled Tibetan Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India who created a sand mandala in our exhibition gallery. This was a great experience where they shared Tibetan culture and traditions, as well as offered us universal lessons on compassion and impermanence.
Eight Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India brought to St. Petersburg teachings of ancient ways and beliefs that create the possibility of global peace, non-violent conflict resolution, compassion and wisdom. Highlighting their visit from January 31 to February 5 was the creation in Florida CraftArt’s exhibition gallery of a Sacred World Peace Sand Mandala that was designed by the Dalai Lama and depicts all religions in harmony.
This visit is part of the monk’s nationwide 2017 Sacred Arts Tour, formed to share and preserve the spiritually artistic expression of the Tibetan culture. The monks demonstrate and express their peaceful ways through living art, ritual, dance and chanting.
During the opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, January 31, the monks chanted, played long Tibetan horns and consecrate the site of the mandala. Immediately following, they drew the lines for the design of the mandala on a base. Throughout its creation, the monks poured millions of grains of sand from a funnel-shaped metal tool known as the chakpur. This funnel is filled with colored sand and is then rasped to release a fine stream of sand. The artists begin at the center of the 4-foot wide mandala and work outward.
Sand paintings are an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism. “Mandala” is a Sanskrit word meaning “cosmogram,” or “world in harmony.” Drawn in three-dimensional forms of sand, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, signifying “mandala of colored powders” in Tibetan. In general, mandalas have outer, inner and secret meaning. On the outer level, they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind; and on the secret level, they predict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.
During the closing ceremony on Sunday, February 5 at 1 p.m., the monks dismantled the mandala, swept up the colored sand to symbolize the impermanence of all phenomena. It is meant to be a teaching to show that everything that exists has a beginning, a middle and an end. Then monks led a procession to Tampa Bay where they deposited the sand and performed a Buddhist blessing of Tampa Bay.
The Drepung Gomang Monastery houses 2,000 monks, providing food, health care, and education for monks living in exile from their home country of Tibet. Between 1959 and 1961 most of Tibet’s 6000+ monasteries were destroyed when the Cultural Revolution Red Guards began to inflict a campaign of organized terror and vandalism throughout all of China and Tibet, to prevent religious freedom and cultural expression. The Dalai Lama escaped, accepted land from India, and established the Tibetan government in exile. Since 1959, Tibetans have reestablished their monasteries in India, housing tens of thousands of monks, and creating schools, hospitals libraries and archives so they can continue their traditions and culture. Tibetan crafts created at the monastery were available for purchase during the cultural tour, with all funds raised helping to provide support for the monastery.
As the monks have taken vows of poverty, Florida CraftArt was responsible for housing and feeding them during their visit. The Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg was a sponsor, and the apartment complex 430 Beacon generously donated living quarters. The following restaurants hosted the monks: Hawkers, Hook’s Sushi, Iberian Rooster and Deuces BBQ. Studio@620 hosted the monks for a private dinner. Chairs were provided by Coast to Coast Event Rental. Committee members were Sarah Butz, Rev. Jack Donovan, Lin Jorgensen, Shay Routh, Kelly Ruoff and Rhonda Sanborn, along with staff members Katie Deits, Janie Lorenz, Liz Rogers and Julia Cullver.