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March 02, 2006

Mystical Arts of Tibet Coming to ULM Campus

As part of the “Windows on the Orient” theme, ULM’s School of Visual and Performing Arts and the Campus Activities Board will present the Mystical Arts of Tibet. Eleven monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will be on campus March 13-17 presenting several events and performances.

The monks will construct a mandala sand painting in Brown Gym each day, Monday thru Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Opening mandala ceremonies are at noon on Monday, March 13; closing mandala ceremonies are at noon on Friday, March 17.  The week will culminate with a performance of music and dance in Brown Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 17.  

Of all 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 to form the image of a mandala. To date, the monks have created mandala sand paintings in over 100 U. S. museums, generally breaking all past attendance records.  

The subject of a Tibetan sand painting is known in Sanskrit as a mandala, or cosmogram, of which there are many types.  In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings.  On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into an enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels, and the Monroe mandala will be constructed especially for residents of Louisiana and the  recent hurricane disasters.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation, and will be held at noon on March 13. The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform.  On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chak-pur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.  

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life.  The sands 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. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.  The closing ceremony will be at noon on March 17.

At 7:30 p.m. on March 17 in Brown Theatre, the multiphonic singers of Tibet’s Drepung Loseling Monastery, whose sellout performances in Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center received national acclaim, will perform as part of their international tour of “Sacred Music and Sacred Dance for World Healing.”

The Sacred Music Sacred Dance tour is produced by Richard Gere Productions and Drepung Loseling Institute, the North American Seat of Drepung Loseling Monastery, with the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The tour has three basic purposes: to make a contribution to world healing and peace movements; to generate a greater awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization; and to raise support for the refugee community in India.

The performance features multiphonic singing, wherein the monks simultaneously intone three notes of a chord. The Drepung Loseling monks are particularly renowned for this unique singing. They also utilize traditional instruments such as 10-foot long dungchen trumpets, drums, bells, cymbals and gyaling horns. Rich brocade costumes and masked dances, such as the “Dance of the Sacred Snow Lion,” add to the exotic splendor.

The monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery have a distinguished modern-day musical history. On past tours the monks have performed with Kitaro, Paul Simon, Philip Glass, Eddie Brickell, Natalie Merchant, Patti Smith, the Beastie Boys, and the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, to name a few.  In addition, two of their recordings achieved top 10 listings on the New Age charts: “Tibetan Sacred Temple Music” (Shining Star Productions), California and “Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing” (Music and Arts Program of America).  Their most recent recording, “Compassion” (Milennia Music), pairs them with the Abbey of Gethsemani Scoloa in an encounter of Gregorian Chant with Tibetan multiphonic singing.

The Drepung Loseling monks have also participated in Hollywood’s two major movies on Tibet. Their music ws featured on the Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack of the film “Seven Years in Tibet,” and they performed with Philip Glass at Lincoln Center, NY, in the premier presentation of his award-winning music for the Martin Scorsese film “Kundun” (Disney).

In response to the September 11 tragedies, they had the honor of creating special mandalas and leading prayer ceremonies and meditations in New York City and Washington. Organized in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, these events were dedicated to the healing and protection of America.

The mandala paintings are free to the public; Concert tickets for the evening of the 17th are $10 for the public and free to university students, faculty and staff with id. Group rates are available. Call 318-342-3811 for reservations and information.

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