PTK Welcomes Monks, Meditation, Mandala


Photo Credit: Mathew Lewis

Members of the Drepung Loseling Monastery use colored sand to construct a mandala as part of The Mystical Arts of Tibet showcase hosted on the South campus.

In an effort to bring cultural awareness to East Harris County, two organizations from San Jacinto College hosted a group of Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery at the South campus beginning Nov. 9, for a week of lectures, presentations, and community activities.

The monks are touring a showcase called The Mystical Arts of Tibet and according to their website, are endorsed by the Dalia Lama “as a means of promoting world peace and healing through sacred performing art.”

The week of events began with the construction of a sand mandala Oct. 9. The website explains this type of art is “formed of a traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.”

Matt Lewis, mathematics professor and Lyceum Committee chair said this is the first time the South campus hosted the showcase, and he credits student Nichole Moran with locating the monastery while researching sacred sand painting online for a fine arts class.

According to Elizabeth McKinley, business professor and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) adviser for Alpha Gamma Zeta chapter, the group’s visit to the South campus was sponsored by the SJC Lyceum Committee and the South campus chapter of PTK.

“Moran investigated the monastery and presented the idea to the head of our College’s Lyceum Committee,” McKinley added. “This was a big project and it took a lot of coordination between many parties.”

McKinley said the monks worked on the sand mandala during the week and the public was invited to watch. Meanwhile, they presented lectures over varying topics entitled Meditation, Enlightenment, Emotions, and the Meaning of the Mandala.

“Prior to the event, PTK hosted a district-wide contest to come up with the best design for the community sand mandala, and the SJC seal was selected as the winner,” she added.

Lewis said that they wanted to expose students and the surrounding community to educational opportunities they might not otherwise have.

“That the Lamas of Drepung Loseling brought beautiful messages of tolerance and compassion and self-improvement was a bonus,” Lewis said. “This was a very rich experience at San Jacinto College and a lot of that is due to the enthusiastic support of the students and community.”

Closing ceremonies were held Nov. 13 when the monks “dismantled” the mandala and distributed the sand to all in attendance. The website states, “This is done as a metaphor of the impermanence of life.”

McKinley noted, the event was organized in order to bring a message of diversity to the public by “learning about different cultures, dedication, the significance of meditation and other forms of enlightenment.”

She added, “We wanted to show how to express oneself creatively through art. Symbolism in art abounds and can be a great medium to demonstrate one’s beliefs and traditions.”