Francis Byrne / youthjournalism.org
The mandala built at the Trinity College Austin Arts Center
By Francis Byrne
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – A recent mandala exhibit at the Trinity College Austin Arts Center showed the Buddhist art of sand.
“Mandala: The Sacred Art of Sand,” was open at the college for about a month before closing over the weekend.
The Buddhist nuns who came to the U.S. from Nepal to show this off are incredibly skilled, using metal tubes to form intricate designs with colored sand.
Before entering the room where the mandala is being made, you had to remove your shoes, as is customary in their culture, and the atmosphere inside brought you into another world. There was a distinct smell of incense, and as I walked in, the nuns were in the middle of a melodic chant.
They were all dressed in simple red robes with nearly all of their hair cut off.
The mandala, a large circle with intricate symbols, sat alone in the middle of the room, with a backdrop of an altar of the current Dalai Lama.
There was a space where visitors could try the art of mandala making, and the nuns even treated some of them to a display of their skill as they worked on the mandala. The process is extremely physically straining, as it requires them to bend over at unnatural angles and take great care with the delicate sand grains.
The nuns escaped brutal treatment in Tibet to form the Keydong Thuk-Che-Cho-Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are building a new monastery and their trip to the U.S. was, in part, a way to raise funds for this.
On October 14, the day after the exhibit closed, the mandala was destroyed by being put back into the Connecticut River, as is custom with the work of art in Buddhist culture.
Seeing the mandala was is a great experience, and I’m glad I did. I recommend that anyone who has a chance to see a mandala do so when they can.