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Town Run to carry away monks’ work

By Staff | May 1, 2009

The Mystical Arts of Tibet are at Shepherd University as part of a national cultural tour that has taken them through 25 states since February. Above, monks from the group creat a sand mandala as a meditative excercise. Today during a public ceremony this art will be put into Town Run. Video: www.shepherdstownchronicle.com

The Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala is a work of monumental precision artistry, painstakingly assembled over the last four days in the reading room of the Shepherd University Scarborough Library, created by a team of highly trained Tibetan Bhuddist monks as a meditative exercise.

And today at 3:30 p.m. it will be destroyed.

The intricate sand painting will be swept into oblivion and cerimoniously poured into the Town Run so the healing energies invested in the creation can spread throughout the world.

The mandala is the work of the Tibetan cultural exhibition group Mystical Arts of Tibet and presented by the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd, PASS. It is constructed by arranging millions of grains of colored sand, dispensed from ornate funnels, over a flat surface, strictly adhering to a sacred design.

“The patterns are predetermined.” Says Ven Tenzim Phentsok, spokesperson for The Mystical Arts of Tibet. “There is no artistic freedom.”

The centerpeice of this mandala is Akshobhya, one of the five wisdom Buddha’s, representing wisdom, clarity, and unshakable energy. The creation of a Mandala is said to have a healing effect on the community, dispensing the mirror like wisdom of Akshobhya throughout the town and the university. For Shepherd students facing final exams, a divine dose of wisdom could not have come at a better time.

The Mystical Arts of Tibet are here at Shepherd as part of a national cultural tour that has taken them through 25 states since February. Just last week, reports Phentsok, the group’s mandala presentation at UC Santa Barbara broke attendance records for their art museum. Though no records like that are being kept here at Shepherd, the constant flow of spectators into the reading room of the library testifies to how popular this event is. This is the second time The Mystical Arts of Tibet have travelled through Shepherd, the last being in 2004. Rachel Meads, director of PASS, says it is her goal to bring the group through the community every 4 or 5 years so that every generation of Shepherd students have an opportunity to witness the creation and destruction of the Mandala.

The destruction of the beautiful and fragile Mandala often confuses those unfamiliar with eastern spirituality. Why would something that takes so long to create, something so unversally recognized as beautiful, need to be destroyed. For Buddhists the answer is simple: it’s a contemplation of impermanence.

“There is an end because there is a beginning. There is a birth, so there should be a death.” says Phentsok “it’s better to accept it, than to avoid it. Meditations like the Mandala train the mind and habits in the iimperanence of life.”

The closing ceremony of the Mandala starts today at 3:30 p.m. in the Scarborough Library on Shepherd University and proceeds from there to the front lawn of McMurran Hall.