Even as controversy continues over who controls the “roof of the world,” Wingate University students and the larger community can experience the culture of Tibet this fall when monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery take part in the University’s International Education Week, set to begin Monday.
“When these monks last visited Wingate, in 2012, it was a truly transformational learning experience for our students,” says Laura Kratt, director of the Batte Center, where the monks will create a colorful mandala sand painting, perform their multiphonic chanting and share other practices that originated in this mountainous region three miles above sea level.
The artists on the Mystical Arts of Tibet tour are not professional performers. They are actual monks who are taking time off from their contemplation and study to share their cultural traditions. The monks‘ Drepung Monastery opened in 1416 near Lhasa, Tibet, but closed after the Chinese communist invasion in 1959. Many of the monks were killed or detained, but survivors created a replica of the monastery in India, where the Dalai Lama now lives in exile. They travel the world painting and performing in part to publicize their plight and that of Tibet itself, which remains under Chinese control.
Their sand painting — one of the most unique and exquisite traditions of Tantric Buddhism — involves the monks painstakingly laying millions of grains of sand in place on a flat platform over a period of days. They see the production of the artwork as a meditative practice for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants. As a metaphor for life’s impermanence, the mandala is deconstructed shortly after it is completed. Sands are ceremonially swept into an urn, with half distributed to the audience and the rest deposited in a local body of water to carry a “healing blessing” on to the sea.
According to Kratt, Wingate students will have the opportunity to try their hands at sand painting with a separate community mandala project, in which they will be involved from the design stage through execution.
She said additional opportunities for experiential learning may include discussions about meditative practice and multiphonic chanting as well as chapel and interactive classroom visits from the monks. The five-day residency will conclude with a public performance that students can attend for free.
Kratt received a grant from the Wingate University Board of Visitors to help fund the Mystical Arts of Tibet residency. Other money was provided by the Batte Center, and the Lyceum and International Studies programs. The departments of Religion and Philosophy, History and Political Science, and Campus Ministry will be involved in this residency, according to the grant application. The monks’ program is academically affiliated with Emory University and endorsed by the Dalai Lama. They share their cultural traditions to help foster world peace and a greater awareness of the Tibetan situation.
The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, visited Wingate in 1995 under the auspices of the Jesse Helms Center. He was scheduled to come to Raleigh in October, but postponed his visit to the spring of 2018.
Mystical Arts of Tibet Mandala Sand Painting schedule
Opening Ceremony: Monday, noon, Batte Center Rotunda. Monks will make music, chant and recite prayers and mantras before beginning the mandala. Admission is free.
Wingate Sand Painting: Monday, 1-6 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Friday, 10-11 a.m. visitors to the Batte Center can try sand painting on a mandala designed by WU student Asherel Kaseorg. Admission is free.
Mandala in Context: Food & Culture: Tuesday, 2-4 p.m. The Office of International Programs will share information about the mandala and different ways that visitors can interact with the exhibit in the Batte Center. Tibetan refreshments will be served at this free event.
Lecture: Opening the Heart: Arousing the Mind of Universal Kindness: Thursday, Nov. 16, 4 p.m., McGee Theatre. Senior lama Geshe Loden will speak at this free Lyceum event.
Mandala Closing Ceremony: Friday, Nov. 17, noon, Batte Rotunda. The compassion mandala will be deconstructed and the sand carried to the waters in front of Stegall to be returned to the earth as a blessing of healing for the world. Admission is free.
Mystical Arts of Tibet: Friday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., McGee Theatre. Multiphonic singers from Tibet’s Drepung Loseling Monastery will share temple music and dances. Tickets are $25/$10. WU students get in free with their ID. Faculty and staff receive a discount. Ticket information is available at CarolinaTix.
Nov. 9, 2017