Tibetan Monks Create Masterpiece


Sean Lee

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


About a dozen Tibetan monks are in Grand Forks to create a truly beautiful work of art, now a work in progress on display at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

The monks are working on a sand mandala, a colorful “painting” consisting of many colors of dyed sand. Each grain is meticulously placed by hand by each monk through a long metal tube, allowing great precision. A religious opening ceremony Tuesday morning marked the beginning of the work, which will be completed on Friday.

The demonstration is part of the University’s Interfaith Week, featuring presentations from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths through the week.

On Tuesday, the monks spoke about their faiths.

“Meditation is not a religious practice at all,” said Nawang Khenrab, who spoke on behalf of and translated for monk Geshe Damcho. “We eat nourishing meals for our physical health. At the same time, we meditate for mental health.

“In the 21st century, there have been many increases in destruction to world peace and in inequality,” said Damcho. “We should start a dialogue that leads and opens the heart.”

Many topics were covered during the hour-long lecture at the Museum of Art on the campus, yet the duo focused on ridding oneself of hateful and angry thoughts.

“Anger itself is the real enemy,” Damcho said. “Anger is not the measure of our minds, unlike other thoughts, it is secondary by nature.

Buddhism, along with many other Eastern religions, focuses on self-healing through meditation and inner peace. In many ways, the sand mandala symbolizes the extremely long process to peace, grain-by-grain.

Another great symbolism is the intentional destruction of the artwork.

Shortly after the mandala is completed, the monks will sweep off half the sand and distribute small amounts to the audience in the closing ceremony. The rest of the sand will be carried off and released in the English Coulee – back into nature.

The closing ceremony will take place at noon on Friday at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Admission is free and the general public are welcome to attend.