The Mystical Arts of Tibet visits Memorial Union


Courtesy of Student Union Board

The Mystical Arts of Tibet visits Memorial Union

Emily Benda

Starting Sept. 22, Iowa State will host The Mystical Arts of Tibet who will spend four days in the Memorial Union creating the sacred sand mandala and educating viewers about their culture.

This art is created by drawing an outline of the intricate mandala and pouring colored sand from metal funnels into specific areas. The monks will spend about 6 to 8 hours each day for three days constructing the mandala.

However, Gala Rinpoche, The Mystical Arts of Tibet’s media spokesperson, said watching the sand mandala painting can teach viewers how to become happy and manage your life.

“The sand mandala is the GPS for our spiritual journey,” Rinpoche said. “Why GPS? Because it gets us to the destination we want to go.”

According to Rinpoche, everything about the sand mandala has meaning. Each color symbolizes an element of the earth. Other sections represent the path to nirvana, a transcendent state where there is no suffering, desire, or sense of self.  

Once the mandala has been finished, it is taken apart by the monks to represent another necessary life lesson.

“This reminds us of the impermanence of life and how to accept when things change, especially in a bad way,” Rinpoche said.

The sacred sand will also be given to those in attendance for the closing ceremony Sept. 25.

“This is really going to be the most exciting time for people to come and watch,” said Natasha Porizkova, co-director of Multicultural Awareness for Student Union Board.

Those who receive the colored sand also receive the spiritual healing the monks believe the mandala brings. Remaining sand from the mandala will be dispersed into a nearby creek to eventually lead to the ocean and bring planetary healing.

The monks have been touring the United States for decades and are very grateful to any institution that invites them to share such a significant part of their culture.

Students are strongly encouraged to frequently check out the mandala construction in the Main Lounge of the Memorial Union. Rinpoche recommends five to 10 minutes everyday to get a true idea of how quickly the mandala is created.

“The best way to learn about the sand mandala, or anything, is to ask questions,” Rinpoche said. 

During the mandala construction, there will be translators and other leaders who will be available to answer any questions. A lecture will also be given at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Sun Room to give a more in-depth explanation as to the significance of the sand mandala.

The Workspace will have related sessions for students to continue their cultural experience by making stone and embroidered mandalas.

“By bringing in these Tibetan monks, students are exposed to something that very few people ever get to see,” said Kashaan Merchant, co-director of Multicultural Awareness for SUB. “Why would you not go?”

The Mystical Arts of Tibet will begin with an opening ceremony Sept. 22 at 12 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Memorial Union. Traditional mandala crafts will be available in The Workspace from 2 to 10 p.m. Sept. 22 through 25.

The sacred sand mandala painting will conclude with a closing ceremony and the dispersal of sand at 12 p.m. Sept. 25. For more information and dates, go to