Dolphin Galleries’ Sand Mandala Exhibit is Dissolved (But Not Forgotten).

By: Rhiannon Lee Mansur

Dolphin Galleries’ Sand Mandala Exhibit is Dissolved (But Not Forgotten) 

Worcester State University- From Sep. 20-22, three Tibetan Buddhist monks created a sand mandala in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery. It was dissolved on Friday, Sep. 30.

A sand mandala is a colorful and intricate representation of a buddha, space, or experience, according to Buddhist Info’s article “Sand Mandalas— Why Do Monks Create, Then Destroy Them?To create the mandala, a process that can take weeks, the monks use funnels known as chak-pur to direct dyed sand on a premade graph. When finished, the monks sweep the sands to the center and dissolve the display to symbolize the transient nature of being.

Only taking three days, the Dolphin Gallery’s mandala was a testament to the hard work and dedication of its crafters. This sand mandala was a representation of Manjushri or the bodhisattva of wisdom. Three monks – Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche, Lopen Rabjee Wangchuk, and Lama Jigmey Tenzin – were in charge of its creation. These esteemed monks come from South India’s Namdroling Monastery. They spent the three days not only building the mandala, but allowing students to view their lectures, prayer, and meditation. The premier was a success, with students crammed to see the opening ceremony and the start of the exhibition. A time lapse of their artistry can be viewed here, but the prayer and interviews are only for those lucky enough to have heard it in person.

The exhibit cultivated an emotional reaction from its viewers. 

“My favorite part was when they were praying,” said Lily Allen, 18, a resident computer sciences major. “It sounded very beautiful. I respect the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a monk.” 

Jill Watts, a local artist and long-time resident of Main South Worcester who has been a practicing Buddhist for twenty years, went to the Dolphin Gallery many times to witness the various parts of the event. As someone who worked as a geriatric clinician, Watts believes that the western concept of death is too negative. To her, the process of the sand mandala encapsulates the essence of eastern ideology.

“We should all embrace impermanence,” Watts said. “It is the best thing about making art. Everything that arises from the fruit and from the emptiness—everything dissolves to its original, divine source.”

Honor Program’s Director Cleve Wiese oversaw the exhibition with the Tibetan Buddhist monks. He also dissolved the mandala under the guidance of Khenpo Norgay Rinpoche.

Bags of the sand from the mandala are available in the Honors Office in the Learning Resource Center; email for more information.

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