Buddhist monks to create exquisite mandala at Case-Geyer

By Brittany Messenger, Colgate University, November 2, 2007

Ithaca, NY (USA) -- Students and faculty will not be the only ones working in the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology next week.

Two Tibetan monks from Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., will be creating a sand mandala in the reading room on the library's third floor. (See this webcam to watch them work).

The monks will work Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. 4 p.m. each day. Their visit will culminate with dissolution of the mandala into Taylor Lake Saturday morning.

Mandalas are circular diagrams containing hundreds of sacred symbols drawn with fine, colored grains of sand.  Of all the traditional Tibetan ritual practices, the art of painting with colored sand is one of the most unique and exquisite.

The monks' visit was organized by the Buddhist Student Association and Professor Vic Mansfield's Core 179: Tibet course, in conjunction with library administrators.

At the library the monks will create the mandala of Avalokiteshvara, which is also known as the Wheel of Compassion Mandala.

After days of painstakingly precise placement of sand, the mandala will be completely dismantled by the monks.  By casting the sand into a body of water, the fleetingness and impermanence of all things is emphasized.

At the same time, as the sand enters the water, the kindness of the deity is distributed into the community to benefit all beings.

"It is believed that the building of the Tibetan sand mandala actually brings a positive spiritual contribution to the area," explained Mansfield.  "From that point of view, it's a blessing for Colgate."

Related events will include a lecture at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, in Case-Geyer Room 560 by noted Tibetan scholar Craig Preston.

Thomas Brackett, Colgate professor emeritus and founder of the Brackett Education Fund in Burma/Myanmar, will speak on his work at 4:15 p.m. Thursday Nov. 8. in Persson Auditorium.