Mandala Teacher's Guide
1: Listen to Monks Chanting (Elementary, Secondary)
Play the video Yamantaka Mandala: The Creation of a Sand Painting for your students. Tibetan monks believe that vocal and instrumental sacred music helps their journey to spiritual enlightenment. Have the students describe the sounds they hear. What are the voices like? How many voices are there? What is the tempo? What instruments do they hear? What mood does the music create?
Discuss the following terms:
Bass--A low tone. Tibetan monks are known for their sustained chanting over an extremely low tone. Training for this technique begins in childhood.
Chant--A rhythmic, monotonous utterance or song. Monks chant to consecrate a sacred space.
Pedal point--A low tone that continues while other music is played or sung above it.
Tempo Pace--In chanting, the slower the tempo, the more important the occasion.
Unison--Sung together as one voice. The choral chant of Buddhist monks is sung in unison over a pedal point.
2: Listen and Look (Secondary, Visual Arts)
Have the students look at the poster of the mandala as they listen to the monks chant during the blessings before and after the mandala's creation. Does the music have anything in common with the visual qualities of the mandala? Is the music conducive to meditation? Why?
3: Select Your Own Music (Elementary, Secondary, Visual Arts)
Have the students think about an activity important to them that requires special concentration. Then discuss what music they would select to listen to before, during, or after they engaged in that activity.
Suggested Music and Sources
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Edited by Stanley Sadie. London and Washington, D.C.: Macmillan, 1980.
World Sounds: Buddhist Chant I. Namgyal Monastery, Dharmalala. JVC VICG-5039-2. CD of Buddhist chant and instruments in a ceremony for the goddess Paldenlhamo.
Yamantaka Mandala: The Creation of a Sand Painting. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1992. A short video on the process of creating the mandala, which includes examples of Buddhist chant. Also available on-line.