GALLERY: Tibetan Buddhist Monks’ Mandala Beautiful and Fleeting

Tibetan Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery in India returned to campus March 12-15 to create a trademark sand mandala. Sand mandalas are a traditional meditative art form that begins by focusing on the present moment in a creative process spanning several days. It ends with a ceremonial sweeping away that symbolizes the impermanence of worldly things.

This year March Madness was the time and the Alvarez College Union the place, with the bustle of mealtime noise a constant backdrop to the monks' painstaking, deliberate work.

"It's not too hard to work. You just focus on the colors," said Rinchen Wangyal, one of the monks. "It's a great place to be, because everybody comes to see the mandala, and that's what we want."

Wangyal and a half-dozen other saffron-robed monks drew on many hues of sand to build an intricate design. Then, at the closing ceremony, they swept it all ceremoniously into a pile amid rumbling, throat-singing chants and sonorous Tibetan horn tones. Finally came a plain and grateful invocation for what the world needs now: "Thank you for coming here today to promote healing on this earth."

The monks packaged up some of the sand in tiny zip-lock bags for observers to carry away with them. The rest of the sand finished as it started, in the mandala tradition of returning sand to the nourishing, flowing waters whence it symbolically came. In this case, Lake Norman.

During their March Madness visit, the monks also shot an enthusiastic pick-up game of hoops on campus, said host Elizabeth Miller '20, chair of the Union Board's Artists' Series committee.

Drepung Loseling Monastery, founded in Tibet in 1416, makes its home in exile in Dharamsala, India, and has also established the Drepung Loseling Center for Science and Meditation in Atlanta. Monks come to the United States for one-year Mystical Arts of Tibet mandala tours, traveling out of the center in Atlanta. Last summer, Assistant Professor of Physics Michelle Kuchera visited the monastery in India as part of an Emory-Tibet Science Initiative teaching delegation.

John Syme


Photos by Chris Record


  • March 22, 2018