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Tibetan Monks to Visit Westminster College Oct. 13-19

Posted on Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery will visit Westminster College Oct. 13-19 in the McKelvey Campus Center (MCC), creating a sand mandala and offering a series of events that are free and open to the public.

A sand mandala will be constructed on the lower level of MCC over the seven days and will be swept up in a ceremonial dissolution. There are many different types of mandalas; each represents the architectural layout of the dwelling place of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. There are multi-layered symbolic images throughout the dwelling, where iconography, placement, and color all have significance. Additionally, the mandala is used during the initiation of a monk into a high form of meditation; and to the learned monk, the mandala represents his vision of the universe.

A general performance will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Witherspoon Rooms in MCC.  The performance includes the Dakini dance, performed when offering a long life prayer to one's Root Guru; the Deer dance, performed to inspire love and compassion; and the Yak dance, performed to celebrate the relationship the Yak has to Tibetan culture.

A healing ritual will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Witherspoon Rooms in MCC. The ritual has three stages: purification and removing of negativities; removing subtle negative imprints; and offering protection.

Ceremonial dissolution of the sand mandala is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 on the ground floor of MCC.  Despite the hours of painstaking effort and intense concentration required to construct the beautiful and meaningful artifact, the final product is not meant to be preserved but to be dismantled and ceremonially "dissolved." In upholding the principle that life is transient, the monks sweep up the mandala and place the sand in a river, lake, or ocean as an offering to purify the surrounding environment. In this case, the monks will place the sand in Westminster's Brittain Lake.

The visit is sponsored by the Heinz Endowment.  

Contact Dr. Bryan Rennie, Vira I. Heinz professor of religion and chair of the department of religion, history, philosophy, and classics, at 724-946-7151 or email for more information.

An example of a sand mandala, created to represent the architectural layout of the dwelling place of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.
A Tibetan monk adds symbolic images to a sand mandala.
Tibetan monks perform a spiritual dance.