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Living Mandala Takes Root at Emory

It all began with a trip to Dharamsala, India, in the summer of 2010.

An Emory Arts delegation comprised of University vice president and secretary Rosemary Magee, visual arts professor Julia Kjelgaard, dance professor Anna Leo, director of education at the Carlos Museum Elizabeth Hornor, associate VP of communications Nancy Seideman, senior editor Hal Jacobs and others met with His Holiness the Karmapa, one of the highest incarnate lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

At his monastery, along with Emory-Tibet Partnership director Geshe Lobsang Negi, an Emory study-abroad class and guests, they learned about the Karmapa’s idea to develop a  Living Mandala as a creative way of inspiring Tibetans and others to appreciate and value the environment. For the Karmapa, the construction is a spiritual practice much like the Tibetan Buddhist practice of the “mandala offering,” whereby the spiritual aspirant offers up the entire universe in purified form to the enlightened beings. (A mandala is a sacred representation of the universe as it appears from the perspective of full enlightenment.)

The seed was planted, leading the Emory Arts delegation to collaborate with others on campus to create a space that would reflect the convergence of spirituality, environmental care, healing, and the arts. Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the Chapel and Religious Life, offered to host this Living Mandala in the Pitts Garden so as to honor those who have come before us and whose memories continue to live among us.

On seeing the work in progress, Lobsang Nyandak, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the U.S., said he believes it is the first living mandala in North America.

The garden was kicked off with a public ground laying and a blessing ceremony on March 26, 2012,  led by Geshe Lobsang Negi and monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery. Students and the public, under the direction of University Landscape Architect James Johnson, moved dirt and gravel and tended to plants over the next several days. The final consecration ceremony was held March 29 with the Drepung Loseling monks in attendance.

See Emory news release about 2012 Tibet Week

Short Videos about Emory’s Living Mandala

Photo #1 by Juana Clem McGhee, #2 by Myron McGhee, #3 by Hal Jacobs.

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