Saturday, April 21, 2012

Prayer as Art as Prayer

Saturday is usually our chore and errand day but today we decided to make it a “date day.”  The cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping will get done eventually.   Today was a day to enjoy the beautiful weather and each other.   We rode the DART train which gave Weber a break from the stress of driving in Dallas.   Imagine my surprise when I ran into one of my students on the train!
We headed downtown to the Asian Arts Center where the monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are creating a sand mandala.  This is an annual event, one that I have wanted to see for several years but never have.  It was amazing!

The monks spend a week creating this intricate mandala (sacred circle) by carefully and prayerfully tapping tiny grains of colored sand onto a pattern of chalked lines.  I believe that this mandala was started and Monday and is to be finished tonight.  In a ceremony tomorrow, the sand that is this beautiful circle will be swept up and dispersed into a local waterway.  What took many men a week to create will be erased in minutes and carried away by the water.  This ritual is symbolic of the Buddhist precept of impermanence.  We should be fully present and live into the now because in an instant this moment will be gone forever.
As is usually the case with both museum exhibits I was sure that photography would not be allowed so I did not take my camera.  Imagine my surprise when I overheard someone ask the docent if photography was allowed and he said, “Yes, but with no flash.”  In that moment I was disappointed that I did not have my camera and excited that the camera on my phone has the potential for taking decent pictures.  In a recent interview Annie Leibovitz was asked what kind of camera she preferred.  She said that she has become quite fond of the camera on her iPhone.  If its good enough for her, its good enough for me.  So, all of the photos in this post were taken on my phone and have not been edited.  Somehow editing them seemed contradictory to living into the moment.
The monk is holding the tool used to place the sand.  It is a  hollow cone.  The sand is filled from the widest end.  The smaller end has a tiny opening.  To apply the sand, the monk taps the cone causing small amounts of the sand to be released.  
This is part of the altar that stands near the mandala.  In the last picture you can see that  a  picture of the Dalai Lama is placed in the center.
The mandala
The pots of colored sand
The chalk lines showing the parts of that mandala still to be completed.
The tools used.  At the top are the cones that are filled with sand.  There are also compasses, a few pots of sand and pillows that are used to rest their non-drawing hand. 

This is my favorite picture.
"Prayer becomes art becomes prayer."

Through prayer the monks create these magnificent pieces of art.  Witnessing it draws us into prayer.

After being enveloped by the power and beauty of the mandala and its creation, we boarded the train and travelled a few stops to a movie theater that is showing the movie Bully.  This is not a movie that one “enjoys” but is a good movie.  There is no mystery as to what it is about; its title says it all.  This documentary looks at how widespread bullying is in schools and its devastating effects on children, their families, schools and communities.  Sadly, bullying is an epidemic that no researchers are investing time, energy or money into finding a cure.  This task is falling to the families of those children who have succumbed to bullies and taken their own lives.
Bully was far from the romantic comedy that often becomes a date movie however, I am glad that we saw it together.  As educators, it is our job to do the best we can to keep each of our students safe from physical and emotional bullying.  This may not be easy but it is necessary.  Every student, teacher and administrator has a moral responsibility to commit to reducing bullying in our schools.  If we can slow the spread of this awful dis-ease in our schools perhaps we can then keep it from spreading to our workplaces, highways and other public places.  

Despite the seriousness of the movie, we had a fun day.  Every now and then it is healthy to break from the normal routine.  Weber and I needed to do that today.