Tibetan Buddhist Monks Will be Artists-in-Residence at Glen Urquhart School

Glen Urquhart School in Beverly Farms will welcome The Mystical Arts of Tibet this November for a week-long residency on campus. Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a mandala sand painting from November 12 to 15. Students, teachers, families, and community members will enjoy the opportunity to learn and participate in this beautiful and painstaking act of art and ritual as the monks share their performance. To date, the lamas have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. Opportunities for drop-in observation, in the GUS upper school building, will be Monday through Wednesday, at 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and at our Thursday Pre-K to Grade 8 Open House Event from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

From 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. A Sanskrit word meaning "sacred cosmogram," a mandala can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, wood carvings, and more. However, the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

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 on Monday morning. The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on a wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands while using a traditional metal funnel called a "chakpur" while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform. A closing ceremony, to be held Thursday afternoon, will "destroy" the mandala as a metaphor for the impermanence of life.

As part of the social emotional curriculum at Glen Urquhart School, students are encouraged to learn and employ techniques to reduce stress and promote mindfulness. During the monks' residence, teachers will integrate lessons in math, art, movement, and social studies as they participate in the celebration of the mandala sand painting. Read more about these practices at GUS in second grade educator and mindfulness expert Elliott Buck's recent article, "Self-Awareness + Student Success: Mindfulness in Practice at GUS."

Joanna Murphy Scott