Monks construct spiritual mandala to bring wisdom


Jenna Reeves/ Iowa State Daily

The Mystical Arts of Tibet showcased 10 monks working on a sand mandala painting Sept. 22. They will continue to work on the painting and sell Buddhist goods through the rest of the week.

Emi Soupene

The Memorial Union was filled with the sounds of blasting cymbals, a beating drum, blaring horns and chanting Tibetan monks.

The Drepung Loseling Monastery is visiting campus to build a sand mandala. Its members will be placing sand and selling various Buddhist pieces of literature and Tibetan souvenirs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 22 through Sept. 24 and 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Main Lounge of the Memorial Union.

Geshe Loden, spokesman for the monks, has been traveling across the United States with this particular group from Atlanta.

Since February, the group has constructed 19 mandalas.

This is not the first time Ames has hosted Tibetan monks. Three years ago, monks came and built another sand mandala. Thanks to the Multicultural Awareness committee and by popular demand, they have returned.

A sand mandala is a spiritual object in Buddhist cultures. It is a geometric shape that represents the universe. When completed, Buddhists believe it becomes a sacred portal for deities and other universal forces.

Think of it as a large, colorful painting made entirely of sand. Each vivid grain of sand is carefully placed by a metal straw-like instrument and then gently moved with a stick. Together, the tools are referred to as chakpur.

Each mandala is a one-of-a-kind creation. There are many different types of mandalas; each symbolic and meant to serve a specific purpose.

The one being built for Iowa State is known as a Green Tara Mandala and will require four days to build. The green symbolizes wisdom. 

Once it is finished on the fourth day, it is released into an open body of water so it may free the energy from the Tara and allow it to flow.

The mandala for Iowa State will be released into College Creek at 12:45 p.m. Sept. 25.

Ellen Williams, sophomore in public relations, has previously seen a mandala built in Minneapolis.

“I think it is important for students to know about culture because they go to a school with 30,000 students,” Williams said. “It would be a mistake not to recognize diversity.”

The mandala is divided up into four quadrants and a monk must paint and memorize every minute detail of his quadrant. The images on the mandala are based off of Scriptural texts.

Geshe Loden has some words of wisdom for students.

“We need tolerance and patience and wisdom as well to achieve our goals,” Geshe Loden said.

There will also be mandala-themed events Sept. 22 through Sept. 25 in the Memorial Union. this includes a creative workshop where one can build his or her own stone mandala for $2 and a mandala drawing class for $5.