For the first time on Martha's Vineyard, a group of touring Tibetan Buddhist monks will perform a fundraising benefit of traditional dance, music and chanting rituals, as well as construct an ornate circular mandala made entirely of sand in various colors.
The multiphonic singers of Drepung Loseling Monastery, whose soundtrack of the 1997 film "Seven Years in Tibet" was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, will begin designing the mandala on Thursday, June 19, in the regional high school cafeteria. Visitors are welcome to observe the highly ritualized process from 12 noon to 4 pm daily through Sunday. The closing ceremony at the completion of the mandala is intended to dramatically illustrate the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence.
Of all the artistic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand is one of the most unusual and exquisite. In Tibetan, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means "mandala of colored powders." Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks.
Formed of an iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.
It begins with an outline of the mandala. The following days see the laying of the colored sands, which is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.
After their completion, the sand mandalas are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited, to be spread throughout the world for planetary healing.
From Thursday through Sunday, the monks will be available to perform blessings and ceremonies for Islanders for donations.
Photo courtesy of mysticalartsoftibet.org
The monks, traveling as members of Mystical Arts of Tibet World Tour, will perform traditional Tibetan music and dances at the regional high school auditorium on Friday, June 20, at 7:30 pm. All proceeds from the $20 tickets for Saturday's performance will benefit the more than 3,000 refugee monks in India, and to preserve the Tibetan culture, which it remains threatened by the Chinese Communist government.
Advance tickets are available at the door and are on sale at the Chilmark Store, Alley's in West Tisbury, Alley Cat on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, Glimpse of Tibet in Oak Buffs, and Vintage Jewelry in Edgartown. For further information, contact Cris Mayhew at 627-7558, 508-221-0265, or at Mizzcrizz@aol.com.
Perry Garfinkel of West Tisbury is the author of "Buddha or Bust: In Search of Truth, Meaning and Happiness."