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<-Back to WTN Archives Sands of time run out for mandala
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Sunday, July 13, 2003



6. Sands of time run out for mandala


By ELAINE ROSE
The Press
July 13, 2003

ATLANTIC CITY - Sitting at the receiving end of two 12-foot-long horns,
5-year-old twins James and Jesse Thibault covered their ears in anticipation
of the sound that was about to emerge. But their fear soon turned to
fascination, as the boys were enthralled with the cymbals, bells, horns and
drums that seven Tibetan monks used to bless a work of sand art in front of
them.

Even on tippy-toe, the Thibault twins were too short to see the
multi-colored sand mandala spread out on the table at the Atlantic City Art
Center Saturday morning. They have no idea where or what Tibet is. But they
were among about 100 people who strained their necks to see the work before
it all was swept away.

The monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery - re-established in India
after Chinese Communists occupied Tibet in 1959 - were sponsored by the
Stockton Performing Arts Center. They had been in town since Tuesday, as
they created the sand mandala and gave a performance of sacred music and
dance on the Boardwalk.

The mandala - an intricate geometric design about a yard square - is
constructed to create healing energy and to purify the environment, said
group spokesman Tenzin Legden. The many symbols represent values such as
love and compassion. After it is consecrated by the monks, the mandala is
dismantled to show that all things are temporary. The sand is then sprinkled
into a body of water to spread the blessings far and wide.

After about 15 minutes of rhythmic instrumentals and chanting, the oldest
monk circled the mandala several times while ringing a bell. Then he cut
lines through the mandala, and a second monk used a brush to sweep all the
sand to the center.

Grimaces of pain were evident on many faces in the audience, as the work
that took seven men four days to complete was demolished in less than five
minutes.

The ceremony was "pretty powerful," said Belinda Manning of Pleasantville,
as the monks distributed small bags of the blessed sand for people to take
home.

Manning recently lost her father, star Negro League player Max Manning. His
portrait hanging in the adjacent room was a reassurance during the ritual,
she said.

"The universe provides many avenues for you to experience the spirit,"
Manning said.

The monks placed the remaining sand in a small urn, and blasted their horns
and bells as they led a procession to the New Jersey Avenue beach. Several
tourists and beachgoers taking advantage of a perfect sunny day stopped to
watch the ritual.

The monks stood in a line on the beach and chanted one final blessing. Then
10-year-old Nikki Djambinov of Ventnor was given the honor of pouring the
sand into the surf.

Making the Mandala

The question that many Americans ask is how can the monks work so diligently
on a piece of art only to destroy it?

It is a reminder that "existing things are impermanent," Legden said.

The monks meditate as they work on the mandala, Legden said. As they grind
the sand with great precision out of a metal funnel called a chapkur, they
visualize peace and compassion for all sentient beings.

A smaller, less intricate mandala was set up nearby for the public to
experience the process first hand.

Those who chose to attempt the task, with a monk on hand to give
instructions, soon realized how quickly one could enter a trance-like state
while creating a mandala. With focus on a tiny section of the design, and
the task of dropping the sand in just the right place, all thoughts of
worldly matters soon dissolve.

"It starts to flow after a while," said Beverly Blink of Vineland. "It sort
of gets into your subconscious mind."

Twelve-year-old Heather Nuscis of Cape May Court House leaned against the
table, grinding a stick up and down the chakpur to release the sand.

"I thought it was pretty cool, so I came to see the culture," she said.

Her cousin, Laura Barndt, 13, was busy outlining a section of turquoise
sand.

"You have to bend over and you have to be precise," Laura said. "But you
think it's going to be harder than it really is."

Heather's mother, Adella Nuscis, said she took a course in Buddhism at
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and brought the girls to the ritual
to experience the culture. The tonal chants from Tuesday's opening ceremony
awakened some deep feelings.

"To see this come to life after learning about it is incredible," Adella
Nuscis said. "The movies that were shown, the reading that we did, just
don't compare to seeing it in person."

To most of the hundreds of people who witnessed a ceremony or saw Friday
night's performance on the Boardwalk, the monks were all seriousness. There
were some joyful, even comic, parts of the sacred music and dance, but the
words were understood by few.

Nikki Djambinov and her brother George saw a different side of the monks. As
one of the few Buddhists in the area, her family hosted the visitors for
several meals during their stay in town, Nikki said.

"They're really very friendly and playful," Nikki said. "They love playing
Game Cube, soccer and basketball, and running on the beach."

"They also liked scaring us," added George, 8. "They always sneaked up on us
and went 'Boo!'"

To e-mail Elaine Rose at The Press: ERose@pressofac.com


Articles in this Issue:
  1. Photographer's images captured beauty, adventure in nature
  2. Five-day Dharamsala world peace fest concludes
  3. EXPERTS CITE CHINESE PRESSURE TO BACK PROPOSED DAM
  4. A clear-eyed look at Tibet
  5. 16 Bodies Found at Landslide Site on Sichuan-Tibet Highway
  6. Sands of time run out for mandala



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