The last few days Penn State Berks has been host to the “Mandala Sand Painting Exhibition” by Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. I did not see a write up about it on the PSU Berks site, but you can check out the monks’ site here. I heard a lot of students saying how amazing the sand painting was and when I finally got a chance to check it out I was not disappointed. It was brilliant.
Yet one question comes to mind. This is not a malicious or loaded question. I am fully in favor of this exhibit and think it certainly benefits the campus life of students. But I could not help but wonder whether such an exhibition by Christian monks would be so welcomed on campus?
The Tibetan monks are clearly religious. As they did the sand painting, there was a picture of the Dalai Lama behind them in a prominent place, akin to a religious icon. I make no claim to be an expert on Buddhism, but this was clearly a pro-religious group. Would a group of Christian monks from Italy doing sculptures be as welcomed on campus? What if while they sculpted, there was a picture of Jesus or a cross prominently in the background?
I hope this does not sound like I am playing the persecution card. And I understand that our country has a history of ties to the Christian faith while eastern religions, like Buddhism, are foreign to us. I mean, the obvious difference is that there are numerous Christian students on campus who hold Bible studies, pray and talk to their peers about Christian faith. So I am not saying Christianity is underrepresented in any way.
I merely think it is interesting that this obviously religious exhibition was so welcomed on campus. It surprised me. Maybe I am probing too deeply, but I am not sure what to make of it.