Circle of Life

Pointing at a peace sign in the middle of a brilliantly colored, circular sand-painted mosaic, 14-year-old Melva Carter said she learned Buddhist principles by working alongside Buddhist monks.

“I learned compassion, kindness, respect and love,” she said. “By working with the monks, they show you how to share. They work with you with patience.”

During a free four-week program at the Watts Towers Arts Center, the secrets of the Buddhist mandala--circular graphic symbols depicting the totality of the universe that may date back to 600 BC--are being shared with youths such as Melva.

In the program titled “Healing Violence Through Art,” which began Aug. 2, three Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., are working with 100 5- to 16-year-olds. While the monks construct a traditional Wheel of Compassion, the youths have


been creating one of their own, painting images with colored sand that reflect their culture.

For the Buddhists, dismantling the mandalas is as important as creating them. On Aug. 30 at 11 a.m.--after the mandalas have fulfilled their purpose, according to the monks--the monks and the children will sweep away the colored sand.

For Buddhist monk Champa Lhuno, working with the youths has been a learning experience.

“In Asian countries, children are asked to copy. In Western countries, children are taught to create by themselves. Both are good, but this is another way of teaching,” he said.



“Healing Violence Through Art,” through Aug. 30, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Watts Towers Arts Center, 1727 E. 107th St.; free; (213) 485-1795.