Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tibetan Monks in San Diego

Here are some photos I shot yesterday at the San Diego Natural History Museum. 
Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery started work Wednesday creating a Mandala sand painting, a 2500-year-old Tantric Buddhist healing practice.  They are producing a Green Tara Mandala, which the museum says "Buddhists believe can lead to personal and planetary healing during times of uncertainty and economic crises."

Although I had planned to be on hand early, a surprise last-minute appointment at the UCSD Pain Clinic meant missing the opening ceremonies, which a fellow museum member told me was very impressive. Cymbals, drums, bells and trumpets, accompanied by deep, full-throated chanting filled the three story high open space of the museum's main hall. By the time I arrived on scene three monks had completed the chalk-line layout and had begun to lay down the colored sand from long metal tubes. The tubes, which are tapered, are rubbed vigorously with a sort of wand along a raised metal sawtooth ridge, the vibration sending the grains spilling out the small nozzle end in an incredibly fine stream. The result is a low-tech air brush sort of effect. Their concentration as they worked, as one would expect, was intense, 
their focus complete.

I hung around for several hours, wandering away to look at the various exhibits, including the beautiful new William Stout murals, depicting prehistoric life in the various epochs of our region's past. Bill Stout is an old friend, we first met 40 years ago, at the very first San Diego Comic Con in 1969. Bill is simply one of the very best painters of prehistoric life working today, and the SDNHM is very lucky to 
have secured his services.

I hope to get back to the museum some time over the weekend and see the finished or near-finished image. When completed, the painting will be destroyed sometime on Sunday. This traditional final destruction serves to remind the viewer of the transitory nature of all things, including ourselves.

Here's a link to the museum website, which includes a video of the monks at work; 

Here's a link to the Drepung Loseling Monastery site;

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