Buddhist monks creating sand mandala in Branford Chapel

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Monks chant during the opening ceremony in Branford Chapel.

Even as Yale students are pulling all-nighters during Reading Week, a group of Buddhist monks and nuns will be doing the same on Wednesday, Dec. 7, when they will chant until dawn as part of a program hosted by Indigo Blue, the Center for Buddhist Life at Yale.

These spiritual figures have traveled to campus from all over the world to celebrate Bodhi Week (Dec. 2–8), marking Buddha’s Enlightenment.

Bruce Blair, Buddhist chaplain and director of Indigo Blue, invites students to “experience an unusual form of study break” by watching the construction of a sand mandala, a ritualistic process celebrating the Buddhist belief in the transience of material life. Geshe Lobsang Tenzin and six Tibetan monks from Gaden Jangtse Tsawa in south India have been building the mandala with colored sands throughout the week in the Branford Chapel in Harkness Tower.

“For both artisan monks and those who come to watch, building a mandala of this kind can serve as a remarkable form of meditation,” Blair explains. “The space we create [in the Branford Chapel] then becomes a place where many different cultures can come together, just like ‘Stillness and Light’ [the daily open meditation held in Battell Chapel] has become a place where everyone can come together and be themselves.”

All members of the Yale community are invited to join the monks for chanting before they begin work at 9:30 a.m. in Branford Chapel. The construction of the sand mandala will continue between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and will be completed by 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Buddhist monks and nuns from Cambodia, Putuoshan (China) and Korea will then join the Gaden Jangtse Tsawa monks and the Buddhist chaplain in the performance of a Mandala Dissolution Ceremony, after which they will take turns chanting throughout the night in Battell Chapel.

Blair emphasizes that all are free to “come and go without hindrance” during any part of the ceremony.

For more information, visit the Indigo Blue website or send email to indigoblue@yale.edu.

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