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Monks Make Mandala at Unity of Fairfax

Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will perform a sacred dance at Unity of Fairfax Church July 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will perform a sacred dance at Unity of Fairfax Church July 26 at 7:30 p.m.

July 23, 7:30 p.m.—Opening ceremony with chanting (free)

July 24-27—Creation of mandala (free, hours posted at http://www.unityo...>

July 24, 7:30 p.m.—Lecture on Tibet Today (ticket required, $15)

July 26, 7:30 p.m.—Sacred music, sacred dance (ticket required, $20 adults, $15 children)

July 27, 7:30 p.m.—Lecture on symbolism of the sand mandala (ticket required, $15)

July 28, 2:00 p.m.—Closing ceremony (free) Unity of Fairfax worship services with chanting at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (open to the public, donations appreciated)

Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a mandala sand painting and perform related ritual ceremonies July 23-28 at Unity of Fairfax Church, 2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton (www.unityoffairfax.org). The sand painting and performances are part of The Mystical Arts of Tibet world tour (www.mysticalartsoftibet.org). From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days to form the image of a mandala, which is then dismantled as a symbol of impermanence. To date the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe including the Arthur Sackler Gallery, Washington and the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. They also created healing mandalas in New York and Washington, D.C., following the 09/11 terrorist attacks.

The monks visiting Unity of Fairfax will create the Akshobhya mandala for peace and conflict resolution. The mandala work begins with a dramatic opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation. The opening ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be held July 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity of Fairfax sanctuary. The lamas begin the mandala construction by drawing an outline on a 4’ by 4’ wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid. Visitors are welcome to observe this process during hours posted on the Unity of Fairfax web site: http://www.unityoffairfax.org/auspicious-event. Related performances of sacred music and dance during the monks’ visit will feature multiphonic singing, wherein the monks simultaneously intone three notes of a chord. The Drepung Loseling monks are renowned for this unique singing and their use of traditional instruments. In addition to sellout performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, the monks have twice been featured artists at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., and in July 2003 they represented Tibet in the Cultural Olympiad of Greece, a pre-Olympic celebration of World Sacred Music and Dance. The Loseling monks also have performed with such modern-day artists as Kitaro, Paul Simon, Philip Glass, Eddie Brickell, Natalie Merchant, Patti Smith, the Beastie Boys and the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart.

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Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will create a sand painting, by grouping tiny piles of colored sand to form the shape and image of a mandala. The mandala will be created at various times, July 24-27 (find hours at http://www.unityoffairfax.org/auspicious-event).

At the closing ceremony, following tradition, the sand mandala is destroyed as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. Sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the monks deposit the remainder in a nearby body of water. The waters carry the grains infused with healing blessings for peace to the ocean where currents spread them throughout the world for planetary healing. The closing ceremony for the Unity of Fairfax mandala, also open to the public, will be held on July 28 at 2 p.m., following Sunday services.

In addition to the free events, three ticketed performances will be held in the Unity of Fairfax sanctuary during the week-long visit by the monks: a lecture on Tibet Today, July 24, 7:30 p.m.; Sacred Music, Sacred Dance, July 26, 7:30 p.m.; and a lecture on the Symbolism of the Mandala, July 27, 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the Unity of Fairfax website, http://www.unityoffairfax.org/auspicious-event or call the Unity of Fairfax office, 703-281-1767.