Monday, February 07, 2005

Wellesley Mandala


Circles of Healing, Circles of Peace
Visit by Tibetan Nuns of Keydong Nunnery

Beginning on February 16, eight Tibetan Buddhist nuns from the Keydong Thuk- Che-Cho-Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal will create a sacred sand Mandala at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College. The process concludes on March 1 and on that day the nuns will dismantle the Mandala and its vivid sands will be swept away into the waters of Lake Waban. The creation of the Mandala will be accompanied by an exhibition of Tibetan art on loan from a private collection. In a unique opportunity to share the cultural treasures of Tibet, the public is invited to view the creation of the Mandala.

The Keydong nuns, including Ani Ngawang Tendol, their translator and group leader, are among the first Tibetan Buddhist women to learn this sacred art practice, which was traditionally reserved only for monks. The presence of these women, trained in Tibetan Buddhist practice and arts, challenges centuries of obstacles women have faced.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning circle, cosmogram or “world in harmony.” Sand Mandalas are ancient, two-dimensional paintings created with vibrantly colored sand, representing the perfected environment of an enlightened being - in this case, Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The Mandala is a symbol of enlightened states that align with the physical universe, bringing about healing and peace.

A Mandala can be read as a bird’s-eye view of a celestial palace, with a highly complex and beautiful architecture adorned with symbols and images that represent both the nature of reality and the order of an enlightened mind. At a deeper level, a Mandala is a visual metaphor for the path to enlightenment: its viewers “enter” a world designed to evoke attitudes and understandings of their own deepest nature. A Mandala is both a microcosm and macrocosm and includes the individual and the universe in its transformative power. Upon completion of the intricate designs and complex iconography of the Mandala, it is dismantled and the sand is offered back to the earth as a powerful symbol of the transitory nature of life.

The concept of the Mandala has, in the twentieth century, found a wide range of correspondences. Within Jungian psychology, the Mandala represents an inner wholeness that we all seek to restore. Within modern art, the Mandala painting uses geometric shapes to represent a landscape within the human soul. Within political science and peace studies, the Mandala refers to the combination of the personal with the political, of contemplation with action, and the inherent deep connection between mind, body, and spirit.

Circles of Healing, Circles of Peace is presented by Wellesley College, in cooperation with Trinity College. More than twenty departments, programs and non-profit institutions have joined together to support this sacred art event at Wellesley College.