Mandala Ceremony Teaches Students – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Mandala Ceremony Teaches Students

Demonstrating the impermanence of life and the Tibetan belief that man-made creations are insignificant, the sand mandala that was on display in the atrium of the Warren Hunting Smith Library recently was destroyed and offered to the waters of Seneca Lake.

“We are guests on this planet, and as such, nothing is permanent,” explains the Venerable Tenzin Yignyen during the dismantling ceremony. “The mandala reminds us of this impermanence, which is a good thing because it both gives us hope when times are hard and makes us value our fortunate times more.”

Created every semester as part of the “Tibetan Mandala” class, the mandala is assembled out of different colored sand by both Tenzin and his students. In keeping with Buddhist tradition, and the now twice-annual HWS tradition, the mandala is then disassembled in a ritual ceremony before the sand is brought to the shore of Seneca Lake and dispersed in the water.

“I have wanted to take the Tibetan Mandala class since my first year,” explains Kazia Berkley-Cramer ’13, an English major and child advocacy minor, who took Yignyen’s class this semester. “Although I found painting time consuming, it was also very relaxing. The painting both offered a break from college and provided a window into another culture that went beyond reading books.”

Yignyen, a scholar-in-residence in Asian languages and cultures, is a high-ranking monk in the Dalai Lama’s personal monastery. A member of the HWS faculty since 1998, he holds a degree of Master of Sutra and Tantra studies from the Namgyal Monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. In addition to creating the mandala, he is an instructor in meditation, Tibetan Buddhism and art, as well as Asian studies.

Prior to joining the Colleges, Yignyen taught Tibetan Buddhism, art and language at Namgyal branch monastery in Ithaca, N.Y. for three years. He has created sand mandalas in many museums and educational institutions throughout the United States including the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, and the Asia Society in New York City.

For more information about Tenzin and the mandalas, visit

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