News Release

February 23, 2009

Contact: Chris DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Tibetan Buddhist Culture Coming to UConn Medical School

Student Invites Monks to Build Sand Mandala at Health Center March 1-6

FARMINGTON, CONN. – The University of Connecticut Health Center will welcome six monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastic University of Tibetan Buddhism in South India March 1 through 6. They will spend the week constructing a sand mandala, a sacred art form made of colored sand, with each particle representing an aspect of wisdom or guiding principle.

“They will be here to demonstrate the transient beauty of life to the patients, employees and students at the UConn Health Center,” says Christian Kakowski, a member of the UConn School of Medicine Class of 2012, who organized the visit. “Six days will be dedicated to the creation of a stunningly intricate sand painting; five minutes will then honor its destruction. In the process, a valuable lesson about life’s fragile balance will be learned.”

An opening ceremony Sunday, March 1, at 2 p.m. will include chants, music and mantra recitation in the Food Court in the Health Center’s main building. There, the monks will create the Sacred Sand Mandala of the Medicine Buddha, which, according to Tibetan culture, generates powers of healing. They’ll be at work each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This is an important student event, and it promises to be a fascinating cultural event,” says Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, dean of the UConn School of Medicine and the Health Center’s vice president for health affairs. “We certainly encourage members of the public to join our students, faculty and staff in witnessing the meticulous creation of the Medicine Buddha mandala.”

The closing ceremony, at 5 p.m. Friday, March 6, will feature the dismantling of the mandala. The monks will offer most of the sand to the audience in small bags as blessings for personal health and healing. They’ll pour the rest of the sand into a nearby body of water to symbolize the spread of the mandala’s healing energies.

The public is invited to both ceremonies and is also welcome to come to the food court to observe and photograph the mandala during and after its construction. The completed mandala will remain intact for only a brief period before the closing ceremony.

As an undergraduate at UConn, Kakowski developed an interest in Tibetan culture while serving as a driver for a group of monks touring the U.S. and later as a member of a film crew working on a documentary about monks. After college he traveled throughout Canada with a group of Tibetan artists to introduce ancient Tibetan traditions. Kakowski worked with Diversity Allies, a committee within the UConn Health Center’s Office of Diversity and Equity, to arrange the monks’ visit.

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