Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting October 14 to 18 in the McIlroy Gallery at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center located on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College.
This artistic tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, painting with colored sand, ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. To date, the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.
The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony on Tuesday, October 14 at 10:00 a.m. During this time the lamas will consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation. The gallery will be open following the opening ceremony until 4:00 pm and on October 15, 16, and 17 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm for the public to watch the monks create the mandala. A reception for the exhibit will be held on Friday, October 17 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. On October 18, the gallery will open for special Saturday hours from 9:00 am through the closing ceremony which begins promptly at 2:00 pm.
During closing ceremonies on October 18 at 2:00 p.m., the painting will be dismantled. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of all that exists. The sands will be swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half will be distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder will be deposited in Turkey Creek so that the healing blessing of the mandala may be spread throughout the area.
The exhibit and all related events are free of charge and open to the public. For more information call the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries at 729-6044. Groups are encouraged to call ahead and may arrange for an art gallery docent to host the group and explain the exhibit.
This is the third time the Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery have created a mandala at the college's arts complex. Previous visits were the most highly attended art exhibitions in the history of the college's art galleries. The Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center is conveniently located on the Niceville Campus of Northwest Florida State College at 100 College Boulevard between State Highways 285 and 85 and is easily accessible from Interstate 10 or the Mid-Bay Bridge.
The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram or "world in harmony". These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, wood carvings, and so forth. However, the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.
In general all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. 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 enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels.