Thursday, November 4, 2010

Enlightened Art

Maybe you see Tibetan monks creating a sacred sand mandala every day, but since I don't I found this enthralling.

These monks are visiting Pasadena from the Drepung Loseling Phukhang Khangtsen monastery in southern India. (I just love that a monastery has a website.) The monastery was founded 500 years ago in Tibet, but when the Chinese occupied Tibet, as you may know, the Dalai Lama and his followers were forced to relocate their operations.

The Museum's website says, "...sand mandalas depict the world in its divine form, representing a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind." Here, two of the visiting monks use tapered metal tubes to place colored sand grains onto the mandala. When they're finished with one color, they tap the excess out of the tube and it sounds like clinking your fork against your plate.

These guys are experts. The monastery didn't send the new kids on this job. You can see the outline on the table, a blueprint of where this work is headed.

If you're as fascinated by this arcane art form as I am, you can watch it in action for free at the Pacific Asia Museum, every day this week and only this week, from 10am-3:30pm. I missed the opening ceremony yesterday morning. The closing will be Sunday, when this ethereal work will be swept away at 2pm.

And a happy birthday to my brother Stuart! I don't think he checks here, but I like to say it anyway.

21 comments:

Desiree said...

Very cool. What a lesson in attachment.

Petrea said...

Good morning, Des. What does "attachment" mean in this context? Like dedication? (I'm thinking of the opposite of "detachment.")

Margaret said...

Ah! I wanna go!

altadenahiker said...

Wow, thanks for the PSA and great photo. I'm going to go for sure.

Joanne said...

I'm fascinated by the intense, focused concentration going on. It's wonderful to witness!

ben wideman said...

wow - definitely going to have to stop by on my way home after class.

Bellis said...

Don't sneeze!

The concentration involved must bring inner peace, like meditation. I'd try it at home, except my pets would walk all over it.

Petrea said...

Do check it out. Besides the beauty of the mandala, I confess I find the monks themselves interesting. People are people and monks are people, but they've chosen such a different path from mine.

Jean Spitzer said...

Beautiful and interesting--and so far away.

J+P said...

This reminds me of a story some years ago, when monks were interrupted in their painting by a crazy lady. One reported:

"Last month the monks were building a mandala in San Francisco when an apparently disturbed woman approached the platform. Thupten Thokme chuckles as he tells the story. 'We were just finishing the mandala--suddenly one woman come and jumped up and destroyed the mandala. She danced! She says, "It's impermanent! Tibetan culture is dead! I am the CIA!" And we are just looking and laughing. And it was just, What do we do now? So we say, 'No problem.' At that moment we are thinking this is showing impermanence. And all the outside visitors, they're all crying and they're weeping and shouting. They're surprised--'Monks are laughing; we are crying.' But for myself, I wonder if one day I will also die like that. Who can say?"

This is showing impermanence. Amazing.

The full story's here.

Irina said...

So interesting. Do they improvise? Or they have the prepared sample?
Best regards to your brother. So good to have brother.

Petrea said...

They do have something prepared, Irina, but I don't think every detail is planned. The white lines on the table show where the main part of the sand painting will go, but the monks will fill in the details.

I love that story, J.

Bellis said...

Did your brother ride a horse as well, P? Happy Birthday to him!

Petrea said...

We all did, Bellis. The horses we had as kids belonged to all of us and we shared.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I had a neighbor who was involved in this practice. She became my neighbor after her return from a stay/grant at an Indian Monastery. My cat took a liking to her and would visit her daily. Unusual for Tova. Thats how I got to know her

pasadenapio said...

I've seen this done, and it's wonderful. I also love Navajo sand paintings.

Thanks for your recent words of encouragement, Petrea.

Ms M said...

Cool "catch", and great story by J+P. Makes me stop and think a bit....

Petrea said...

Animals make great introductions, PA.

Thinking of you, Ann.

Ms. M, if that's the case I think the monks have reached their goal, at least where you're concerned.

Virginia said...

P,
THis is a fascinating photograph. Lucky you to be able to witness this.
V

Susan Campisi said...

Fascinating. I'm sorry I missed it this week. Maybe I'll go on Sunday to see the mandala swept away. Great post and photo.

Dina said...

Look at that intensity!

I love John's story.

Would be interesting to compare mandala-making and iconography.