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Tibetan Buddhist Monks Visit Ohio Northern

October—“The global population of Tibetan monks is not very large, so we were privileged to have six of them visiting Ada simultaneously,” said Suzanne Morrison, associate professor of religion. “The monks shared their culture with the campus community and with people from the surrounding area through both formal programs and informal, face-to-face interactions.”

The goals of this tour were to spread peace, harmony, compassion and tolerance through cultural exchange, interfaith dialog and Buddhist teachings. During their stay at Ohio Northern, the monks shared many traditions with the community, such as sacred ritual dances, music and chanting, and teachings.

ONU’s campus also experienced the sacred art of sand “mandala,” which literally means “that which extracts the essence.” Tibetan Buddhists use many different types of sand mandalas, cosmic diagrams that represent the dwelling place or celestial mansion of a deity. There are multi-layered symbolic images throughout the “palace,” where iconography, placement and color all have significance. To the learned Tibetan Buddhist monk, the mandala represents his vision of the entire universe.

While at the Elzay Gallery of Art, the monks created a two-dimensional sand mandala, the most creative and labor-intensive. Requiring incredible amounts of concentration, this mandala was completed in five days. Once finished, the mandala was blessed and then ritually dissolved. The rest of the sand was poured into Hog Creek near Ada to bless and purify the surrounding environment and all sentient beings living there.

Also while on campus, the Tibetan monks visited classrooms and lectured on these topics: The Four Noble Truths, Karma, The Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, and Death, Bardo and Rebirth.

“The programs we selected were both educational and entertaining, and watching Tibetan monks dance or hearing them chant in person was far more worthwhile than seeing them in a movie,” Morrison said. “The sand mandala was so beautiful that it had to be seen up close to be believed.”

The monks’ visit to Ohio Northern was sponsored by ONU’s Cultural and Special Events Committee (CASE), the English Chapel, Freed Center for the Performing Arts, and the departments of philosophy and religion, music, and art and design.

The 2010–11 year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bachelor of Arts degree in art at Ohio Northern University. Growing from a single-discipline school, the department offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensions, three-dimensions and art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is also recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2010-11 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.