Columbus will experience a new kind of art residency. The Mystical Arts of Tibet, direct from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India, will bring their multifaceted and unique programming to the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts for five days.
The monks of Drepung Loseling will bring two main programs to Columbus — a two-hour stage performance called “Sacred Music Sacred Dance for World Healing” and their Mandala Sand Painting exhibition.
Norm Easterbrook, RiverCenter’s executive director, is looking forward to the residency very much.
“The Mystical Arts of Tibet tour brings the artistry, legendary discipline and the ancient sounds of Tibetan chanting and sacred music,” he said. “We are especially pleased that the monks will be in residence creating a magnificent sand mandala leading up to their Friday evening performance.”
The monks will begin their time in Columbus with an Opening Ceremony at 1 p.m. Tuesday. In every city that the Drepung Loseling monks visit, they create a sand mandala. The sand mandala painting is created as a gift of blessing to the community. Mandala viewing will be accessible in the RiverCenter lobby during the day, and the creation process can be viewed at no charge.
Friday night’s stage performance will feature multi-phonic singing, a unique vocal technique for which the monks are particularly renowned, as well as traditional instruments such as the 10-foot long dung-chen horns, drums, bells, cymbals and gyaling trumpets.
The creation of the mandala will be finished Saturday morning. Then, just one hour later, the sand painting will be dismantled and disbursed in the waters of the Chattahoochee River. This ceremony and procession to the river will take place on Saturday at noon.
The monks of Drepung Loseling have been touring the world since 1988. According to the group’s press information, the monks are “endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere with the direct guidance of Drepung Loseling Monastery in India.” Each monk is chosen to tour for a specific reason or skill set he possesses, and there are only nine monks per group.
The tours given by the monks have three basic purposes: to make a contribution to world peace and healing through sacred art; to generate a greater awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization; and to raise support for the Tibetan refugee community in India. The Drepung Loseling monks have represented Tibet all over the world, and consider it a great honor to do so.
Many might wonder whether these artists are true monks or not. According to the group’s information, “The artists are monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery, which has been re-established in exile in south India.” They are monks first and foremost.
The monks are not professional musicians or artists, either. “The performers on The Mystical Arts of Tibet tour are not full-time professionals; rather they are genuine monks who are taking time off from their life-long devotion to contemplation and study to participate in the tour,” their press package states. “At the end of each tour the monks return to Drepung Loseling Monastery to continue their vocation.”
Easterbrook is anxious for Columbus to experience such a different type of artistry and entertainment. “To observe the mandala sand painting, the ceremony that surrounds the painting, and the concert is a once in a lifetime experience that is mystifying, uplifting and refreshing,” he said.
For more information on the Mystic Arts of Tibet or to purchase tickets to Friday’s performance, visit rivercenter.org.