August 31, 2015

Monks Bring Real-Time Sacred Tradition to Children's Museum Exhibit

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The monks of Tashi Kylil monastery are creating a peace sand mandala at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. - The Children's Museum

The monks of Tashi Kylil monastery are creating a peace sand mandala at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

The Children's Museum

INDIANAPOLIS -- “Sacred Journeys,” a new exhibit that explores world religious traditions opened this past weekend at the Children’s Museum. Its early days feature a group of Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala, an intricate painting made of sand.

The monks of Tashi Kylil monastery, in northern India, have ties to Indiana through the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington. Center director Arjia Rinpoche designed the peace mandala they’re making at the museum. It features symbols from some of the world’s major religions.

"I like this mandala, because it also shows other religious symbols, like interfaith and harmony and peace," said Monk Tenpa Phuntsok, who serves as a translator for the group. He says making mandalas in public places is an important way for them to share their religious traditions. They also want to raise awareness – and money – for the monks who are forced to live in exile from Tibet.

"We have seven monks here … they create sand mandalas, but each has their own special knowledge. Some know how to make mandala, some know how to chant, some know how to make offering. All of them they do everything, but some have specialties."

The monks started Friday with a prayer ceremony before settling down around a square white board in a small exhibit room.

Charity Counts, the museum's associate vice president of exhibits, said the monks’ work fits perfectly with the spirit of “Sacred Journeys.”

"Some of these beliefs and practices are in the moment, and what kids get to see with the mandala creation is something that’s in the moment. This is a very longstanding tradition to create a sand mandala, to talk about world peace, and you actually get to witness it," she said.

Sand mandalas are meditations on the beauty and impermanence of life.  They take days to make – but they’re not meant to last -- most of the time. Usually they’re carefully dismantled as soon as they’re finished, but this one will stay – until the exhibit ends on February 21, 2016. 

The monks continue their work on the mandala. A closing ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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