Skip to content ↓

The world goes round the mandala

The Chenrezig Mandala, to be constructed by Buddhist monks at MIT commencing March 3.
The Chenrezig Mandala, to be constructed by Buddhist monks at MIT commencing March 3.

Buddhist monks will begin construction of the Chenrezig Mandala--an intricate three-dimensional image made of colored sand that's intended to bring compassion, acceptance and peace into the world--at Simmons Hall on March 3. They will work daily until its completion, probably on March 7.

The mandala will be constructed on a wooden platform a few feet above the ground, grain of sand by grain of sand according to instructions found in a thousand-year-old text. The completed mandala will be four feet in diameter. Tenzin Yignyen, a monk from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., who has constructed several mandalas with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, will lead the project. He will be assisted by Tenzin L.S. Priyadarshi, the Buddhist chaplain at MIT, who organized the event with help from a team of Simmons Hall residents, including faculty and staff.

"Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning 'cosmograph,' a three-dimensional map of the universe. Its construction symbolizes construction of the universe as we would want it to be in a three-dimensional circular pattern where many things come together and everything finds its proper place," Priyadarshi said.

"There are different kinds of mandalas with different patterns. This one is the mandala of the Buddha of compassion; it is supposed to construct a world of compassion, acceptance and peace. With it, we are asking the question: What do we do with our diversity and how may we actualize the compassionate side of being human?" he said.

After completing the mandala, which represents the universe as well as the impermanence of this world, the monks will carry it to one of the bridges spanning the Charles River and pour the sand into the river so its message of peace and compassion can be carried along by the flowing water.

The monks invite the MIT community to view the mandala-making and to pray, chant and meditate with them. They will hold an opening ceremony on Thursday, March 4 at 7 p.m. for MIT community members only, who may view the construction at any time. Public viewing hours are at Simmons Hall (229 Vassar St., Cambridge) on Friday, March 5 from 2-6 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-7 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Buddhist community at MIT has planned other events in conjunction with the mandala, including a panel session with Professor Emeritus Mel King at the Sidney-Pacific Residence Hall on Friday, March 5 at 7 p.m.; a children's mandala-making session (MIT only) on Saturday from 2-5 p.m.; and a screening of "The Lost Treasures of Tibet" on Sunday at 6 p.m. The monks will dismantle the mandala at 10 a.m. Monday.

All events will be held in Simmons Hall unless otherwise noted. For more information, go to

- Denise Brehm
MIT News Office

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News