Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in India drew hundreds of visitors to Drake’s campus in September to watch the astounding creation of an intricate mandala formed with millions of grains of colored sand. Organized by The Comparison Project, the monks’ hosted several cultural events throughout their weeklong visit that were free and open to the public.
“Given the emphasis our campus is placing on multicultural and global understanding, we saw this as a great opportunity not only for Drake students but also the entire campus and the community,” says Tim Knepper, department chair and associate professor of philosophy.
An artistic tradition for Tibetan Buddhists, the mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe, and its purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones. It is crafted with colored sand painstakingly applied using small tube-like straws, funnels, and scrapers. Once complete, the mandala is destroyed, symbolizing the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
“Our theme for The Comparison Project is Religion Beyond Words. We’re looking at ways in which religion is performed rather than spoken or articulated, so the creation of the sand mandala was a perfect fit,” says Knepper. “We’ll continue to explore these topics and themes over the next two years.”
The Comparison Project (TCP) is generously supported by the Drake University Humanities Center, Humanities Iowa, the Medbury Fund, The Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, Des Moines Area Religious Council, and Cultivating Compassion: The Richard Deming Foundation. TCP will host seven additional events throughout the 2013-2014 academic year.
Visit www.flickr.com/photos/drakeu/sets/72157635477223118/ to view photo highlights from the events.