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Public invited to watch monks create sand mandala at St. Petersburg gallery

The hundreds of people who showed up to watch a Buddhist monk create a vividly detailed sand mandala last year in a local museum will get another chance to witness the ancient art form in practice. Eight Tibetan monks from a monastery in India will create an intricate mandala over six days at Florida CraftArt Galleries in St. Petersburg starting Tuesday.

A symbol of the Buddhist lesson that life is beautiful and impermanent, the intricate mandala is created in a meditative sequence of laying down brightly colored sand in repetitive patterns. They use a chakpur, a fluted, cone-shaped tool, to pour tiny lines of sand into a circular pattern that holds meaning in their symbols, colors and placement.

More than 800 people were drawn to the dismantling ceremony last January at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg when the sand was swept up and scattered into the nearby waters of Tampa Bay.

Katie Deits, the new executive director at Florida CraftArt Galleries, said she has seen how mandalas can draw crowds. She knew it would be a good fit with the gallery.

It isn't unusual to see visitors stopping by several times during construction and closing their eyes to take in the peaceful chucka-chucka-chucka sound of the tapping of the chakpur to release sand. The Buddhists believe the rhythmic repetition has a meditative, calming effect and produces a sense of peace just by gazing at it.

"Watching the monks and when they chant together and their overall peaceful vibe, the experience and the discovery of Tibentan culture was amazing," Diets said.

Starting with an opening ceremony Tuesday, the monks of the Drepung Gomang monastery visiting CraftArt will share Tibetan culture and traditions, and offer lessons on compassion. Tibetan works of art will also be for sale. There are several community activities surrounding the mandala construction and there will be daily chanting

Sunday brings a dismantling ceremony where a crowd will walk six blocks from the gallery to the bay to scatter the swept-up sand into the water as a symbol of the cycle of life.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

If you go

Sand Mandala: Eight Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang monastery in India will create the mandala, which was designed by the Dalai Lama and depicts all religions in harmony. It's free to watch at Florida CraftArt Galleries, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 821-7391.

Daily chanting: 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday.

Art and Spirituality Talk: Wednesday 1:30 p.m., led by Unitarian Universalist minister Jack Donovan and poet Maureen McDole of Keep St. Pete Lit.

Guided Meditation: Bring pillows or mats 3:45-4:30 p.m. Friday.

Rock Painting Workshop: Led by the monks 10:30 a.m.-noon Saturday. $10 donations requested.

Dissolution Ceremony: The monks will sweep up the mandala and proceed to the bay, where they will scatter the sand into the water and perform a Buddhist blessing. Starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Public invited to watch monks create sand mandala at St. Petersburg gallery 01/30/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 3:00pm]
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