Ithaca College to Welcome Tibetan Buddhist Monks for Creation of Mandala

By Dan DeCaria, September 14, 2023
Construction of mandala will take place on campus from October 4 to October 9.

Ithaca College is proud to announce that it will be welcoming several monks from Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located just south of the IC campus, who will construct a mandala inside the upper atrium of the Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise. The creation of the mandala in the home to the college’s School of Business will center a week of programming and learning opportunities beginning Tuesday, October 3, and extending through Monday, October 9.

For those unable to attend in person, the event will be livestreamed, and time-lapse photography of the construction will be available.

The mandala that is planned for Ithaca College will be constructed out of multi-colored sand and is dedicated to Chenrezig, the bodhisattva (highly advanced spiritual being) of compassion, also known as Avalokiteśvara. Tibetan Buddhists traditionally recognize Chenrezig as the patron of Tibet and view the XIV Dalai Lama as an emanation of Chenrezig in the physical world.

The construction of the mandala will begin on Wednesday, October 4, with a brief ceremony led by Ithaca College President La Jerne Terry Cornish and representatives from Namgyal Monastery at 10:00 a.m. in the upper atrium of the School of Business. The construction of the mandala will continue throughout the week with the monks working 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Each day, beginning at 3:00 p.m., the monks will do ritual chanting followed by a brief meditation session.

Once completed, the mandala will remain on display until 4:00 p.m. on Monday, October 9, at which point the monks will lead a dissolution ceremony involving the gathering of the sand and a procession to Muller Chapel Pond. The ritual pouring of the sand into the body of water, in addition to formally dismissing the mandala-deity, powerfully expresses the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence and is believed to spread the karmic merit accumulated by the construction of the mandala to all sentient beings. Following the dissolution ceremony, there will be a special reception with light refreshments and continued conversation at Muller Chapel.

In addition to the creation of the mandala and the dissolution ceremony, there will also be many additional learning opportunities during the course of the week. These events kick off on Tuesday, October 3, and end with the dissolution ceremony on Monday, October 9. 

The goal of many of these learning opportunities is to provide members of the community hands-on experiences throughout the week’s events.

“When we did this last year, we had a lot of campus guests on the weekend from out of state,” said Diana Dimitrova, director of IC’s International Student and Scholar Services programs. “What we realized was that, for some people, the tangible aspect is important, and we wanted to give people a tangible opportunity to create things in their own way, not just observe things.

“We want people to see that there’s a range of ways to engage with this experience, and we want to provide some background for the experience, so they understand what the significance of this is,” she continued. “We’re inviting folks to place this in their own experience. There’s something about us as humans that makes us look at these bigger pictures. We give significance to them, and this is one example of that.”

Schedule of Events--All Are Free and Open to the Public
  • Tues., October 3: 12:00-1:00 p.m. (Klingenstein Lounge) | “Sacred Objects” sharing and discussion session curated by David Salomon, Associate Professor, Department of Art, Art History, and Architecture at Ithaca College.
  • Wed., October 4: 6:30-8:00 p.m. (Park School of Communications Room 279)| Film Screening of “My Reincarnation”
  • Thur., October 5: 12:00-1:00 p.m. (Klingenstein Lounge) | Religion Roundtable with Department of Philosophy and Religion and Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
  • Thur., October 5: 6:00-8:00 p.m. (Klingenstein Lounge) | Public Lecture, “Communal Transcendence: Mandala Creation and Shared Imagination,” by Jane-Marie Law, Associate Professor of Religion at Cornell University
  • Sun., October 8: 10:00 AM – 12:00 p.m. (The Soil Factory – 142 Ithaca Beer Drive, Ithaca, NY) | Mandala Open House Part 1 – Explore mandala making through weaving and mending techniques with local artist-educator Kathrin Achenbach.
  • Sun., October 8: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. (Business School Upper and Lower Atriums) | Mandala Open House Part 2 – Explore mandala making and learning more about Buddhist traditions and religious symbols at this event for all ages curated by Ithaca College students Nandini Agarwal, Zoe Kwasnicki, and Prakriti Panwar.

All events related to this project are open to all students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. To learn more about mandalas, see a full schedule of events, and view images and videos of the mandala created on IC’s campus during the Fall 2022 semester, visit the Tibetan Buddhist Mandala Project website. Please stay tuned for additional updates during the coming weeks!

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