Widening cultural horizons

Lindsay Adams

Tibetan monks come to campus

Tibetan monks at UMKC.
Tibetan monks at UMKC.

From Sept. 6 through 10 UMKC will be hosting Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery. The monks will be all around the campus during this time and will be visiting classes at UMKC. Monk and student interaction is encouraged. “The leader of the Tibetan Drepung Gomang tour group is Geshe Lobsang Dhondup. The title of ‘Geshe’ is the equivalent of Ph.D. in Western,” said Communication Studies Faculty member Kevin P. Mullin.

This is an opportunity for exploration into different cultural traditions and religions. UMKC is widening cultural horizons in the Midwest. The Tibetan culture is one that is fairly obscure to most. This will give UMKC students the chance to gain more knowledge about this fascinating culture.

According to Mullin, “Their five-day presence on campus allows Midwestern students direct access to individuals that are steeped in an ancient tradition that has not changed much in the last 2,000 years because of Tibet’s isolated location in the Himalayan mountains. Their culture is under fire from the Chinese government, as China continues to expand occupation of Tibet. The Drepung Gomang Monastic College, founded in 1416, is now part of a Tibetan refugee resettlement community, which was set up in India to accept refugees who were fleeing Tibet after the Chinese invasion of 1959. Over one million Tibetans have been killed, and hundreds of monasteries destroyed, since the invasion.”

There is also the occasion for students to watch the monks create an interfaith sand mandala in Katz Hall, Room 101 – The Exhibition Hall.

A mandala is an intricate painting made of colored sand. The art form in Tibetan is called dul-tson-kyil-kyor which translates to “mandala of colored powders.” Mandala means “center and circumference” and the sand painting is circular in shape.

Sand mandalas are a traditional and ancient form of art in Tibet. Often mandalas depict central figures of the Buddhist religion, using involved geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbolism.

Mandalas are built as spiritual tools for re-consecrating the earth as well as all those who live within it. They are said to bring purification. Mandalas are created and destroyed with specific ceremony.

The monks will create a mandala with a diameter of about four feet in four days. On Sept. 10, the Monks will perform a closing ceremony. The monks will chant with musical accompaniment from flutes, cymbals, drums, and horns, followed by a ritualistic destruction of the mandala.

After the destruction of the mandala, they will sweep up the sand, and as is traditional they will throw the sand into a moving body of water.

The mandalas are used to spread healing through the world. The monks throw the sand in the water in the hope that the water will flow to the ocean and carry the blessing throughout the entire world. The monks will release the sand into Brush Creek, which flows along Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard.

During the visit, the university has planned a showcase to display the cultural rituals of Tibet such as dance, costumes, chanting, and debate.

For more information on the Tibetan Monks and the events planned on campus, please contact the Communication Studies Department at www.cas.umkc.edu/communication_studies/ContactUs.asp.

Dates and times when the mandala is open to the public are:

On Sept. 6, 7 and 9, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, the prayers begin at 9:30 a.m. and the work ends at 4:30 p.m.

On Sept. 8, Thursday, the prayers begin at 11:30 a.m. and the work ends at 7 p.m.

On Sept. 10, Saturday, there will be a final viewing from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Closing Ceremony takes place from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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