Tibetan monks in Palo Alto

We have five Tibetan Buddhist monks visiting the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palo Alto, from the Drepung Loseling Phukhang Monastery. They’re working on creating a sand mandala, which will be completed by Sunday:

Here’s a close-up:

Last night, they had an opening ceremony, which involved about ten minutes of chanting. They wore elaborate yellow headdresses, and accompanied their chanting with a bell and a pair of cymbals. Part of their chanting involves overtone singing, which produced exceptionally low notes. (I happened to be sitting next to Marsha, a professional singer who knows a great deal about chanting, and asked her about the technique, but she said she couldn’t speak with any certainty about their specific technique.) All of the chanting tended to stay in the lower ranges of their voices, and was quite powerful and loud. You can find recordings of this type of chanting on the Web, but they simply don’t capture what it’s like to be sitting a couple of yards away when the monks are chanting.

Now they’re working on creating the sand mandala. As their work on the mandala progresses over the next few days, I’ll post more photos. (Link to a photo on the church Web site.) I’m also including a press release below, which gives more details.


For immediate release

Contact: Dan Harper
Tel.: 650-494-0541×28
Email: danharper@uucpa.org


A group of five Tibetan Buddhist monks will create a sand mandala in the Fireside Room of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA), 505 E. Charleston Rd., Palo Alto., beginning Wednesday, January 12, through Sunday, January 16, 2011. The monks, from of Drepung Loseling Phukhang Monastery in South India, are on a three-month tour of the west coast to construct sand mandalas, also known as sand paintings.

“We are honored to host the monks,” said the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, senior minister of UUCPA. “This is a unique opportunity for increasing interfaith understanding.”

The public is invited to view the monks at work, and to attend the opening and closing ceremonies. The opening ceremony will be from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room at UUCPA.

The sand mandala can be appreciated simply as a piece of time-based art. But according to Tibetan Buddhist belief, the creation of a Sand Mandala is meant to create a profound experience of compassion. The monks state that the positive effects of a Sand Mandala radiates out over an entire region, blessing the environment and the beings therein, as an effort for world peace.

Once created, the Sand Mandala is destroyed in the closing ceremony, as an example of the impermanence of life. The closing ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 16, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Both the opening and closing ceremonies include traditional Tibetan Buddhist chanting and music.

This event is free to the public. All ages are welcome to attend. For additional information, contact the UUCPA office at 650-494-0541.

Opening Ceremony: Wed., Jan. 12, 7:00-7:30 p.m.
Sand mandala construction: Thurs., Jan. 13 – Sat., Jan. 15, 9-5
The monks will chant during at each Sunday service at UUCPA:
Sun., Jan. 16, at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.
Closing Ceremony: Sun., Jan. 16, 12:30-1:30 p.m.


For more information about this event or about Tibetan sand painting, contact Rev. Dan Harper of UUCPA at 650-494-0541

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