A Grain of Compassion: The Monks Bringing Peace to Leeds with Sacred Sand Mandalas

By Molly Capel and Georgia Spence

South Indian monks visit the UK for the first time to create their sacred mandala.

Today marks the beginning of a three-day ceremony, held at Jamyang Buddhist centre in Holbeck, Leeds. The Drepung Kongpo Khangsten monks, who have travelled from South India, are touring the UK, creating sacred sand mandalas and performing traditional songs and dances to spread the message of peace and compassion.

The sand mandala will take 18 hours to complete, using metal funnels called chak-pur to distribute the sand. The chak-pur is grated with a metal rod, causing vibrations which allow the sand to flow through like liquid. The finished creation will be an intricate design based on the Buddhist god of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, and will contain more than 20 colours of sand.

The Drepung monks have come from South India to spread their message of peace and compassion, through the media of sand artwork.

On Saturday at 7pm, the monks will bring the ceremony to a close by performing a scared dance and song “from the Land of the Snow”, in which they will wear traditional masks and robes. After the mandala is finished and the dance performed, the sand will be swept into the river Aire as a blessing to the water and its evaporation into the clouds, as a blessing to the planet.

Prayer flags, blessed malas and wall hangings were available to buy, with the proceedings all going toward the Lelung Dharma Trust, a UK based charity supporting the advancement of Buddhism and maintenance of monasteries across the world.

Kerry Prest, director of the Jamyang Buddhist centre, was delighted to host the Drepung monks in their first visit to the UK. The centre has recently moved from the city centre to Holbeck, and this ceremony has been seen as a blessing to the new space.

The centre itself hosts weekly sessions of yoga, tai chi and has frequent visits from Buddhist teachers.

The Drepung monks will be in Leeds until the 17th of November, before they continue with their UK tour spreading blessings and compassion.

About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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