Geshe Sangpo and Gen Norbu, two Buddhist Monks originally from Tibet, were on Elon University's campus last week through the Truitt Center’s efforts to expose Elon University students to different world cultures.
Sangpo explained the important values of Buddhism, describing it as a way of mind rather than a religion. Buddhism is a lifestyle and thought process that promotes positive thinking and the spreading of good energy during the time individuals spend on earth.
The two monks have been working since Wednesday to complete a Sand Mandala, which is one of the many methods of Buddhist meditation.
Alex Gurber, an Elon student and Truitt Center Interfaith Religious intern, describes the sand mandala as a “2D microcosm of the universe.”
Sand Mandalas attempt to symbolize the interconnections and impermanence of the universe through a two dimensional sand sculpture that is then erased as it is finished. The symbolic destruction of the mandala is an important part of the ritual as it emphasizes the Buddhist philosophy of human impermanence.
SangPo and Norbu are working on a specific type of sand mandala; a Green Tara Sand Mandala, which is an offering to the female Buddha. Through a standard Sand Mandala ritual, four monks spend a week working to complete the pattern before ultimately wiping it away.
At Elon, the Sand Mandala was created on a smaller scale by only 2 monks over a period of 3 days in the Numen Lumen Sacred Space. Before beginning the formal ritual of the Sand Mandala, you first go through a spiritual blessing as a form of reverence to the deities.
Both monks are originally from Tibet, but Sangpo took a less traditional path to becoming a monk. In 1985, when Sangpo was only 12-years-old, he fled from Chinese rule to India. He traveled through the Himalayan Mountains on foot until he reached the Sera Jey Monestary where he studied Buddhism for 17 years. He became the youngest Geshe, which is the title of a Tibetan Buddhist academic degree that is similar to the rank of a doctoral degree, at age 29.
While working to achieve Geshe status, Sangpo had opportunities to work with the Dali Lama, who is considered the living Buddha in Tibetan cultures. Geshe performed sacred rituals once a month at the Dali Lama’s palace from 1996 to 2001.
The Sand Mandala was completed Friday morning, but the final process occurred in the afternoon as the Monks wiped away the pattern, symbolizing the impermanence of the human state on Earth. The process of creating a mandala allows the artist to reflect upon the essence of the universe and their place in it.
SangPo explains a Sand Mandala as “one of the most important types of Buddhist meditation.”