Sand mandala brings Buddhist blessings to Elon

Two monks used colored sand in the Numen Lumen Pavilion this week to create a Buddhist symbol that fosters healing and peace for those who view it.

Dozens of people from the campus community attended the closing ceremony on Oct. 24, 2014, for the sand mandala created over the previous two days by monks based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
By Kaitlin Dunn ’16

Buddhist monks from the Kadampa Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, visited Elon University for three days this week to create a sand mandala in the Sacred Space of the Numen Lumen Pavilion.

The campus community had an opportunity to view the monks’ work prior to the mandala’s Friday afternoon ceremonial removal, which was witnessed by dozens of students, faculty, staff and community members.

A mandala is a spiritual symbol in Buddhism that represents the Universe. A traditional mandala is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Sand mandalas are made with colored sand laid in patterns using tubes, funnels and scrapers.

“It brings awareness and blessings to everyone who sees it,” said Kadampa Center outreach coordinator Elise Strevel. “Monks travel to bring these blessings to everyone and to raise awareness about the situation in Tibet, their students at the monastery, and to raise funds for the monastery.”

The monks chanted in prayer Friday afternoon before removing the finished mandala. After they swirled the various colors into the center of the display, sand was placed into small bags and distributed to spectators.

A piece of paper inside each bag read, “Having this sand in your home is very auspicious and it should be kept in a clean, special place.” The paper also gave an example of a ritual the sand could be used for. “When someone passes away, this can be mixed with butter and put on the center or top of the head to help the person’s rebirth.”

The program was sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

Geshe Palden Sangpo was one of the monks who worked on the mandala. Because he has more training, Sango was the monk who worked on all the details of the mandala. His assistant, Gen Norbu, worked on the background.

“We are so happy to make the mandala any time,” he said.

While the monks worked from Oct. 22-24 on the mandala, a CD of monks chanting played in the background. The monks are members of the Sera Jhe temple in South India, where Sangpo was trained. In addition to watching the mandala take shape, visitors could purchase items from Nepal, India and other countries to benefit the monks of Sera Jhe.

Senior Oluwatoberu Jaiyesimi said she was very impressed with mandala, especially after watching the monks work on it.

“I was watching them put the sand into the tubes and tap it out, and they had so much concentration,” Jaiyesimi said. “I know that I could never concentrate that hard, so it was really amazing to watch them.”