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Monk creates mandala in BMU

Tj Carter

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Losang Samten, Buddhist monk, has created three mandalas for Chico State, this being his last one. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Leaving a person’s place of birth behind is difficult, but having to make a journey on foot at 5 years old just to be able to escape danger is not only challenging, but an accomplishment.

 

“It’s a very sad memory when I was the age of 5 leaving Tibet,” said Losang Samten, a Buddhist monk and the creator of the mandala in the Bell Memorial Union. “It took many weeks. The day we left home, we left our clothes, food — we left everything.”

Samten left Tibet to find a safer place to live to get away from Chinese occupation. Chinese troops invaded Tibet in the 1950s, which disrupted the peace and brought violence. Almost 100,000 Tibetans, including Samten and his family, followed the Dalai Lama after this invasion and exiled into India. After Samten’s long journey, he started studying the Buddhist teachings and learned how to create mandalas.

“Joining the Buddhist monastery came about from my interest in the teachings of the Buddha and always being interested since I was a child,” he said. “Because of my condition, it was necessary to learn how to love myself, and how to love and have kindness for the Chinese government and military.”

He became fascinated by mandalas and wanted to create them to spread peace during his time learning about Buddhism. A mandala is a spiritual art form that represents the universe, unity and harmony and has been around for thousands of years.

When creating a mandala, the artist uses special metal tools that look like spikes. The tools are spiraled around a table that the mandala is being made on like a snail shell. They are filled with colored sand and rubbed together to allow the sand to pile up, forming beautiful pieces of work that can take up to three weeks to create. When the mandala is finished, it is brushed away, symbolizing that nothing lasts forever.

Samten has been creating mandalas since he was a teen. The first piece he created in the U.S. was in 1988 in New York.

“It was the first time I had my mandalas displayed in New York City at the New York Museum of Natural History,” he said. “That was such a wonderful opportunity. I was the first to bring this tradition to the U.S.”

Samten travels all over the U.S., spreading the message of peace through his mandala creations. This is the third time that he has created a mandala at Chico State.

“I had many opportunities to do mandalas in the U.S. and this is my fifth one in Chico,” he said. “The first two were at Butte College. This is the third at Chico State.”

The mandala created in the BMU was the blue healing Buddha, which was circled by healing herbs and flowers. It took two weeks to complete and once it was finished, it was brushed away in a ceremony.

The ceremony consisted of participants crowding around the mandala and singing a prayer while children swept the sand into the middle of the table that it was created on. Once the sand was brushed away, it was distributed to everyone in attendance in small bags so they could bring good health and blessings into their home.

“The importance of doing mandalas in the U.S. is promoting compassion and kindness,” he said.

TJ Carter can be reached at [email protected] or @tjdreadhead on Twitter.

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Monk creates mandala in BMU