Buddhist Monks Share Artistry At Augie

by Perry Groten, Keloland.com, November 12, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, SD (USA) -- Augustana University is celebrating International Education Week one tiny grain at a time.  The school has invited a group of Buddhist monks from India to sprinkle creativity into the school commons.

Any sudden movements during this painstaking process will only invite divine disaster.

"I've heard some people joking about, oh that would be terrible if they would sneeze and yeah, that would be bad," Augustana junior Katelyn Johnson said.

Through their intricate artistry, these Buddhist monks are bestowing a blessing of wisdom onto Augustana University.   They use funnels to sprinkle millions of grains of crushed marble into a colorful design called a mandala depicting the Buddha of Wisdom wielding a sword.

"It represents the cutting of our ignorance and the scripture brings wisdom and knowledge," Buddhist monk Geshe Loden said.

Augustana brought the monks to campus as part of International Education Week.

"We get a lot of different American culture which is great, I love that aspect, but we thought it'd be neat to bring something from global culture into our atmosphere here at Augustana," Johnson said.

Hunched over a table for hours at a time can be physically taxing, so the monks work in shifts to give each other, and their aching necks, a break.

"I talk to them, they go back to their hotels and I'm like, 'Do you want to get out and see the town?'  They're like we're tired, so they just want to go back and rest," Johnson said.

But once they finish their week-long project, the monks won't step back and admire their work.  Instead, like shaking an Etch-a-Sketch, they'll sweep up all the grains from the tabletop erasing their mandala.   A final act act symbolizing that nothing, not the beauty of the monks' artistry, or even their sore backs, lasts forever.

Augustana will hold a talk on the sacred mandala Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Back Alley of the Augie campus.

A closing ceremony will be held Friday at 7 p.m. in the Siverson Lounge of the commons.