Earlier this week, Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery from Karnataka, India were visiting Lehigh to create a sand mandala in the Linderman Library. I didn’t think it was possible to make Linderman’s rotunda any more beautiful! A Sand Mandala is essentially a 3-D sand painting which is an ancient Tibetan art form. They serve as spiritual and ritual symbols in Buddhism, and they traditionally represent the universe. Mandalas are understood to be a vehicle to help generate compassion, realize the impermanence of reality, and promote the social/cosmic healing of the environment. They were here on behalf of International Affairs and also to spread awareness about Tibetan Buddhist culture and to raise money for the Drepung Gomang Monastic University. According to its official site, the university is one of the most highly regarded institutions for learning, contemplating and practicing Tibetan Buddhist thoughts and science.
It was incredible to watch them create this beautiful piece of art. It is ritual that sand mandalas are destroyed once they are completed to symbolize the Buddhist belief in the impermanent nature of material life. At the closing ceremony, the monks swept up the sand and put some in small bags to give those in attendance. The rest is to be poured into a body of water, in this case the Lehigh River, which would then carry the sand’s healing energies throughout the world. It’s said any water that touches the sand carries peace wherever it flows.
Seeing the creation of the sand mandala was a fantastic experience. I sat in the Library on Tuesday for nearly two hours just watching the Monks chisel the sand onto the landscape; it was so peaceful and enlightening. For them to spend days creating it just to destroy it once they finished symbolizes a lot. Also, if you’re a House of Cards fan like I am, then you saw an example of a sand mandala being created in the newest season. I thought it would be marvelous to see one in person while watching the show, and once I heard the monks were coming to Lehigh to create one I was excited to get to witness such a tremendous ritual and art form. The Lehigh community is very diverse and inclusionary and I think it is a great thing all the school does to introduce students to new and different cultures.