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Monday December 5th

Tibetan monks spread culture, message through Sacred Arts Tour

	<p>Tibetan monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery in South India deconstruct their Sacred Sand Mandala during the closing ceremony Monday. </p>
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Tibetan monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery in South India deconstruct their Sacred Sand Mandala during the closing ceremony Monday.

The Sacred Arts Tour 2011 will begin wrapping up Thursday with an Evening of Tibetan Culture and Performance at the Ackland Art Museum.

Eight Buddhist monks from South Asia’s Drepung Gomang Monastic College will finalize the delivery of their message to Chapel Hill locals through a series of detailed talks, ritual dances and religious chants.

“We have three goals for the tour,” said monk Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Dhondup with the help of a translator. “The first goal is we wish to communicate a message of peace, compassion, love and kindness from our Buddhist tradition.

“The second goal is to introduce our culture to the world, and the third is to raise some donations for 2,000 monks.”

The tour — full of sculpture workshops, dance performances and demonstrations — is sponsored by the Drepung Gomang Institute, an American educational, nonprofit organization based out of Louisville, Ky.

“It doesn’t matter what you believe or your religion,” said Jeffrey York, Chapel Hill public arts administrator. “There is a certain kind of order and peacefulness one feels when around the monks.”

York said that close to 200 people per day visited the Chapel Hill Museum to see the monks work.

While there are a number of American groups practicing Tibetan Buddhism, to see a true Tibetan religious and cultural performance is a unique experience, said Lauren Leve, an associate professor of religious studies.

The Drepung Gomang Monastery was established in south India after territorial strife in Tibet in which thousands of Tibetans were displaced or killed. The monastery currently houses 2,000 individuals.

Throughout the tour, the monks created a Green Tara Sand Mandala. A mandala is a three-dimensional drawing made through the meticulous placement of dyed sand particles in a specific, expressive pattern.

Each mandala focuses on a different message. The Green Tara Sacred Sand Mandala encourages individuals to have compassion for all beings.

On Monday, the monks swept away the mandala as part of a ceremony to reflect the impermanence of life. Afterwards, they poured bits of the sand — some of which had been blessed by the Dalai Lama a week earlier in New Jersey — into Bolin Creek.

“The Buddhist tradition is that all things must pass, including mandalas,” Dhondup said.

Contact the Arts Editor at arts@dailytarheel.com.

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