Ven. Tenzin Yignyen, Mandala in News – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Ven. Tenzin Yignyen, Mandala in News

The Venerable Tenzin Yignyen, an instructor of Asian languages and cultures, was recently featured in a Democrat and Chronicle article for creating a sand mandala in the entranceway of the Harley School in Brighton, N.Y. The mandala is a religious image made with colored grains of sand. Yignyen has been working on the mandala at the Harley School for two weeks. It depicts the “Buddha of Infinite Compassion,” it notes, adding:

“It also shows ‘how to get rid of hatred, anger (and) jealousy,’ Yignyen said. The image, he said, dates back 2,500 years to the Gautama Buddha.”

Yignyen, a high-ranking monk within the Dalai Lama’s personal monastery, has taught at the Colleges since 1998. He was ordained as a monk and entered Namgyal Monastery in Dharmsala, India in 1969. He completed studies of the monastery, including the monastic rituals and philosophical studies. In 1985, he received the monastery’s highest degree, “Master of Sutra and Tantra” with highest honor, which is equivalent to a Ph.D.

He has constructed sand mandalas in many different venues, including colleges and schools, art museums, Times Square in New York City and at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, D.C. He has also constructed mandalas in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia.

Creation of the mandala at the Harley School “began with a ceremony of music and chants,” according to the article. “On Friday, the mandala will be dismantled in another ritualistic ceremony that will emphasize the impermanence of life.” As is customary, the sand will be discarded in water, in this case Allens Creek.

The full article follows.


Democrat and Chronicle
Two monks create sand mandala at Harley School

Ashwin Verghese • Staff writer • March 26, 2009

BRIGHTON – As the Lama Venerable Tenzin Yignyen works on his sand painting in the entranceway of the Harley School, curious students will sometimes stop to watch.

Yignyen, a Tibetan-born Buddhist monk, likes to ask them questions about the meaning of contentment and happiness, and the children in turn have many queries about the image he’s working on.

“They have a lot of questions,” Yignyen said.

Yignyen, a professor of Tibetan Buddhism at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, has been designing a multicolored sand mandala – a religious image made with millions of grains of sand – just inside the main doors of the Harley School for almost two weeks.

The mandala, which is 6-feet in diameter, depicts the “Buddha of Infinite Compassion,” an image comprised of various shapes and symbols that is designed to teach love and compassion.

It also shows “how to get rid of hatred, anger (and) jealousy,” Yignyen said. The image, he said, dates back 2,500 years to the Gautama Buddha.

Yignyen, who was ordained by the Dalai Lama, has made smaller mandalas at the school the past two years.

This year, he is being assisted by Tenzin Norbu, another Tibetan-born monk.

The two monks use metal funnels known as chakpurs to move the sand into place.
While the monks have been working, some students have been making their own miniature mandalas.

Siobhan Holcomb, an art teacher, had her kids use plastic straws to create smaller mandalas in class.

Bob Kane, an English teacher who arranged for the two monks to come to the school, said he hopes the mandala will teach the students about beauty.

Creation of the mandala began last Monday with a ceremony of music and chants.
On Friday, the mandala will be dismantled in another ritualistic ceremony that will emphasize the impermanence of life.

The sand will be given to the audience as a blessing and then will be dropped into Allens Creek so it can flow to all the waters of the world.

“Rather than trying to hold onto the beauty and keep it for oneself,” Kane said, “you appreciate it for what is. It’s OK to let it go.”

Sean Sullivan, 17, is one student who sometimes likes to stop and watch the mandala being made.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Sullivan, of Rochester.

Sullivan, a senior at the school, said he is curious about Buddhism. “I’m kind of looking into it,” he said.