The Venerable Tenzin Yignyen, an instructor of Asian languages and cultures, was recently featured in an article in the East Hampton Press for creating a sand mandala at the Ross Lower School in Bridgehampton, N.Y. The mandala is a religious image made with colored grains of sand; Yignyen and students dismantled the mandala through a ritualistic ceremony at the end of his visit. Yignyen visits the school every year to teach students about Buddhist theology and rituals.
By visiting Ross School, the article noted Yignyen said he hopes to plant seeds of selflessness in the students so they can grow into peaceful adults.
“I noticed in this country an emphasis on education – that’s the power of this country – but it is material-oriented,” he is quoted. “Our goal in educating them is to make them not only happy individuals but good people who want a peaceful world. The thought in the monastery is part of education is to tell students that they have to educate their hearts.”
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.
The full article about his time at Ross Lower School follows.
The East Hampton Press
Buddhist Monk Returns To Ross Lower School
Shaye Weaver • April 14, 2014
Ross Lower School students were enlightened last week when Lama Tenzin Yignyen, a 52-year-old Buddhist monk originally from Tibet, visited their Bridgehampton classrooms to teach them about Buddhist rituals and theology.Surrounded by Ross students, Lama Tenzin created a sand mandala, which is an intricate diagram created for rituals of initiation and meditation or to purify the environment and its inhabitants and promote harmony in the world. After chanting, he outlined the mandala.
Carefully, he added brilliant blue sand onto the tabletop with a long metal funnel, or Chakpu, starting from the center. Students looked on in wonder.
Each year, Lama Tenzin visits the school, both the upper and lower campuses, to spend time with the students and bestow a little wisdom.
Later in the week, while carefully drawing in the sand on Thursday morning, April 9, he explained the purpose of the mandala-and why at the end of his visit he and the students would dismantle it into the bay at Long Beach in Sag Harbor.
“It is a reminder that nothing lasts forever and only exists in this reality,” he said. “Otherwise, it is our old expectations disappearing.”
He said the blessed sand is offered to the body of water for the benefit of marine life, the environment and all sentient beings.
Very calmly, but joyfully, Lama Tenzin explained that Buddhist thought is centered on the fact that nothing is permanent and change is always happening. “When you go to the river, it’s not the same water,” he said. “Yesterday’s water is long gone. The mind that you came in with this morning is not the same mind.”
With that, he said, it is very important to enjoy the moment, because it passes quickly.
By visiting Ross School, he said he hopes to plant seeds of selflessness in the students so they can grow into peaceful adults.
“I noticed in this country an emphasis on education-that’s the power of this country-but it is material-oriented,” he said. “Our goal in educating them is to make them not only happy individuals but good people who want a peaceful world. The thought in the monastery is part of education is to tell students that they have to educate their hearts.”
He said his goal when he visits schools is to instill in them a love for everyone and stress the importance of patience. “Technology is great, but, on the other hand, it takes all of our energy,” he said. “Be patient, slow down, look deeper.”
Chris Engel, Ross’s director of community programs, said the monk was staying at his house for the week, and that he jumped at the opportunity to host him.
In addition to introducing the concept of silent meals at the Engel home that week-monks eat in silence because eating is part of mindfulness, Mr. Engel said-Lama Tenzin helped change the demeanor of Ross students. “They have more compassion and understanding for all living things,” Mr. Engel said of the students after spending time with the monk. “It’s tied in to the curriculum of global appreciation. We are an integral part of the global community. It’s not just Bridgehampton. It’s the world.”
Lama Tenzin’s visits are sponsored by the school’s parent association, according to Mr. Engel, and have occurred regularly, this being the fifth time.
Lama Tenzin, born in Tibet, escaped to India with his family in 1961, two years after Communist China invaded Tibet. At age 16, entered the monastery and became an ordained monk at age 22.
With a degree in “Master of Sutra and Tantra” studies from the Namgyal Monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, he teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, as a visiting professor of Tibetan Buddhism. He also travels throughout North America by invitation to create sand mandalas and speak on the topic of Tibetan Buddhist arts and philosophy. He lectures on the importance of developing love, kindness, and compassion in every human being in our society in order to create a happy, healthy and peaceful world.
“This is for the future generation-whether they’re good or bad, it is our duty to prepare them,” he said about instilling love and compassion in children. “Even though we plant the seeds and they are not ripe today … they will become beautiful flowers.”