Buddhist monks teach, create traditional paintings

The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture welcomed Tibetan Buddhist monks to paint a sand mandala in the Native Peoples of Tennessee gallery. The event ran from Sept. 22 to Sept. 25 and was part of the Buddhist Art of the Himalayas exhibit.

Sand mandala paintings are one of the most unique, artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism because they can take days or weeks to complete. The process includes placing millions of grains of colored sand onto a sketched drawing.

Monks worked on the painting from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. through Thursday, and concluded on Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Lindsey Wainwright, coordinator of academic programs at UT, said the museum contacted the Buddhist monk group called the Mystical Arts of Tibet, and arranged a time for the group to visit the museum.

“We were looking for programming for an exhibit this fall of Tibetan Buddhist art that connected with the (Buddhist Art of the Himalayas) exhibit itself that would engage students,” she said.

Michael Ferguson, a freshman majoring in mathematics at UT, visited the exhibit because he could hear the sound of the opening ceremony during class.

He was interested in the opening ceremony because of the way the group incorporated traditions and modern techniques.

“It’s amazing to be able to see something like this on campus. I don’t know of what level of religious meaning this has to them, so for them to do this is amazing and I hope we can see more things like this on campus,” he said.

McClung Museum joins a list of more than 100 museums, art centers and universities in the United States and Europe that Buddhist monks have created mandalas for.

“I think the opportunity for students to have this first hand experience is really special,” said Wainwright.

A community painting is also being held, where any student or resident can learn how the painting is made and help paint the piece.

To learn more about the exhibit’s upcoming events, click here.

Featured image by Brianna Bivens

Featured video by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt

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