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    Tibetan monks create sacred sand mandala of compassion at Bellarmine
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    The holidays are stressful. Duh.

    We seem to to be more worried about insignificant things--horrible traffic, store hours, discount pricing--than about the "reason for the season"--peace, love, and goodwill to all mankind. Again, duh. 

    And for busy parents and overbooked kids, it just gets worse. Making or buying gifts, studying for finals, holiday performances--it just seems there are not enough hours in the day.

    Well here's an event that will surely make you stop, take a deep breath, and perhaps even give you the opportunity to experience some calm in the December storm. And it's a great teaching moment for your kids.

    Tibetan monks of Drepung Gomang monastery will be visiting the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University November 26-30 to create a mandala, or large, three-dimensional sacred sand painting. You can watch them daily from 10:00am - 5:00pm. The symbolic mandala is a type of fluid, changing prayer that the Buddhists create on their world tours in order to bring peace and healing to our tumultuous modern life. The Sanskrit word "mandala" actually means "world in harmony."

    So, OK. But what is it exactly? Here's a good explanation from The Merton Center's website:

    "The mandala is a formal geometric pattern showing the floor plan of a sacred mansion. Once the diagram is drawn, in the following days you see millions of grains of colored sand painstakingly laid into place. The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, is poured on the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a "chakpur" which is scraped by another metal rod to cause sufficient vibration for the grains of sand to trickle out of its end. The two "chakpurs" are said to symbolize the union of wisdom and compassion."

    Most interesting to me is the closing ceremony, when in order to show the impermanence of our silly little lives, the monks whisk away those millions of grains of sand and their days-long artistic efforts and blow the healing energies of the mandala out into the world. That closing ceremony will be on December 3 at 11:00am.

    The opening ceremony for the Sacred Sand Mandala of Compassion will be November 26 at 12:00pm.

    An introduction to the mandala (probably with a much better explanation than I can give) will be November 29 at 3:00pm.

    The Thomas Merton Center is on the second floor of the W.L. Lyons Brown Library at Bellarmine. Viewing the creation of the mandala is free and open to all, which this time of year, is a gift on its own. 

    Photos: courtesy of Bellarmine University and Artur Bogacki/

    Closing ceremony-blowing the grains of sand away
    Tibetan monks of Drepung Gomang monastery

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    Anna Frye's picture

    About Anna Frye

    After living in Chicago, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Colorado, my husband and I made our (hopefully? probably?) final move back to Louisville, where I was born and raised.'s nice to be home. Now I'm busy making sure my three little ones learn to love the quirks and traditions of their new hometown: Kentucky Derby Festival, no school on Oaks Day, grits and hot browns (not necessarily together), monograms, parks, festivals, and even our seasonal allergies.

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