Beginning on Monday, March 30, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in conjunction with a Pawleys Island family (selected to host the Sacred Art Tour group) will host the creation of a mandala over a five-day period by a team of Tibetan monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery. In keeping with Buddhist tradition, upon completion, the mandala will then be dispersed into the Atlantic Ocean in a ceremony of worldwide healing. The monks’ visit and work is being underwritten by Gabriella Plaza-Goldschmidt and Dr. Leonard Goldschmidt, Esq. of Pawleys Island.
When Chinese Communists invaded Tibet in 1959, they forced the closure and destruction of the country’s 6,500 monasteries, among them Drepung Monastery, at that time home to more than 7,000 monks and said to be the largest in the world. A few hundred monks managed to escape the holocaust and reestablish their institution in southwest India. Today about 2,000 monks reside at Drepung Gomang and another 3,000 at Drepung Loseling, both located in Karmataka state, India. (A few hundred monks have returned to what remains of the original Tibetan monastery but remain under tight control – and censorship – by the Chinese government.) These surviving monks continue to work to keep the ancient cultural traditions alive.
Among the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of 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 in geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols to form an intricate work of art called a mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning cosmogram or “world in harmony.” Despite its intrinsic beauty, the mandala is created as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.
In addition to its Indian campuses, the monastery has affiliated facilities in Russia, France, Taiwan, and the United States, and conducts periodic Sacred Arts Tours around the world. The mission of these tours is to promote world healing and peace by sharing unique Tibetan Buddhist teachings, while furthering awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization and human rights abuses by the Communist Chinese since 1959.
The opening ceremony, including the beginning of the sand mandala construction, will be at the Art Museum on March 30 from 2 to 6:30 p.m. The monks will continue construction of the mandala the following day, working from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, through Friday, April 3. A closing ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 4, will include a procession carrying the sand painting to the ocean for the ritual of healing.
“The Mandala ceremony is about creating spiritual harmony,” said local tour coordinator Gabriella Plaza-Goldschmidt. “With all our concerns about armed conflicts around the world, and the degradation of our physical environment, we are all striving for that kind of harmonious existence. This is an extraordinary opportunity to experience an ancient ritual of reconciliation and healing, as well as to view the creation of an exquisite work of art.”
While the monks are constructing the mandala, the Art Museum will offer visitors an opportunity to work on a community mandala, mirroring the ancient art form. The Museum will also offer children’s art activities to coordinate with the event. For information about these activities, call the Museum at 843-238-2510.
Yoga in Common, located in the Market Common complex, will also hold meditation workshops while the mandala event is in progress. Visit their website, www.yogaincommon.com, for further information.