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Tibetan Buddhist Monks to construct Mandala sand painting at NDSU

Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting March 7-10 in the Lower Level of the NDSU Memorial Union.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram. These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas or woodcarvings. But perhaps the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

The images take days or weeks to form by placing millions of grains of sand painstakingly into place.

“I was drawn to the event because of how unique it is,” said Joseph Vetter, Lively Arts Coordinator for Campus Attractions. “It’s also nice because students will have many opportunities to witness the creation of a sand mandala during a full week of activities, instead of a one-time event.”

In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. The outer level represents the world in its divine form; the inner level represents a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; and the secret level depicts the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony scheduled for March 7 at 11 a.m., during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation.

The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn. To fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing. The closing ceremony is scheduled for March 10 at 3 p.m.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit

Schedule of events

March 7

          11 a.m.  Sand Mandala

          Opening ceremony
          Memorial Union Lower Level

          7 p.m.  Lecture: The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala
Memorial Union Great room

March 8

          11:30 a.m.  Lecture: Opening the Heart: Arousing the Mind of Universal Kindness
 Memorial Union Great room

March 10

          3 p.m.  Lecture: Sand Mandala

          Closing ceremony
          Memorial Union Lower Level

          4 p.m.  Lecture: The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala/Reception
          Memorial Union Gallery

Mandala viewing hours

Monday, March 7, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Tuesday, March 8, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wednesday, March 9, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Thursday, March 10, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.


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North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
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Last Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 3:10:14 PM
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