by Joan Hellyer
A group of Buddhist monks recently brought their message of “compassion, love and kindness” to Bucks County Community College.
The eight monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India arrived at BCCC on September 16th and got right to work on creating a sand mandala, one of the oldest artistic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
They set up shop in the solarium room of the busy Rollins Center at the college’s Newtown Township campus – where passersby often stopped to watch them work.
“I feel happy when people show interest and want to learn something new,” said group leader Minyak Rinpoche. “It is a pleasure to be here.”
Over the course of four days, the eight group members took turns working in teams of four to bring the mandala to life.
The monks sat on pillows around an approximate six-foot by six-foot blue-painted piece of wood while chiseling intricate lines outward from the center of the art work.
Once they finished carving an area they poured millions of grains of brightly-colored sand from a funnel shaped tool called a “chakpur” in the carved wood.
“It’s the work of God,” Newtown Township resident Nancy Martin said while examining the completed mandala. “It is all about peace. That is how they live their lives all day long. This shows the peace of their lives.”
The monks originally planned to disassemble the completed mandala on September 20th to bring the sand to the nearby Neshaminy Creek and send good vibes into the world via the waterway.
However, the Newtown Township campus was closed for much of that morning because of a water main break.
Once they were able to get back on campus, the monks pushed the sand from the mandala into one pile during a prayerful closing ceremony in the solarium room.
In addition to creating the mandala during their visit, the monks also staged a performance of prayers and songs native to their culture at the college’s Zlock Performing Arts Center.
“We hope people take the lessons and are able to change their lives so they can seek ultimate happiness,” Rinpoche explained.
The monks are just getting started on their yearlong “Sacred Arts Tour 2019-2020 of Drepung Gomang Monastery.”
In addition to sharing their artistic and spiritual gifts, the monks also are collecting donations to provide medical services to their fellow holy men at the monastery.
To learn more about the monks and their mission go to drepunggomang.org.
PHOTO CAP: Minyak Rinpoche speaks to Newtown Township residents Susan Thompson and Peter and Nancy Martin about the completed mandala.