In one of the most unusual displays in recent memory, a group of nine monks have started a sand painting in the K-State Student Union Courtyard. Crowds of people have walked by in the past two days to see the monks’ methodical artistry.
Beth Bailey, Assitant Director of the Union, said the image, or mandala, was picked for K-State because applied to the students and teachers.
“Each mandala has a special meaning. Because we are at an institution of higher education, the Union Program Council multicultural co-chairs chose the Manjushri mandala, which is the Buddha that represents wisdom. This mandala was chosen in order to bless the Union and the university.”
While the monks are originally from Tibet, their home monastery is currently in India due to problems with the Chinese government which governs Tibet.
Nawang Khenrab, spokesman for the monks, said the monks most talented in sand painting are sent to other countries to show the off the paintings.
“This mandala art was initiated by Buddha Shakyamuni 2,500 years ago, and they have to memorize the text of mandala as taught by Buddha Shakyamuni,” Khenrab said. “When they do lines, they have to do it exactly as stated in the text.”
The monks do about 35 engagements per year, and when they are not painting they stay at a monastery in Atlanta, Georgia. Every monk is in then the United States for about a year and a half, and when they are done with their tour other monks will replace them.
Khenrab said the purpose of the paintings is to help bring global peace, Tibet awareness, and help with fundraising.
Monks spend hours making the designs with colored sand, filling in marks that were made with chalk at the beginning of the week.
Trent Yakle, junior in accounting, was one of the many spectators.
“It’s interesting how much experience and skill goes into it and how intricate it is,” Yakle said. “I wonder what’s going through their head as they make it, what motivates them.”
Near the cordoned off area the monks worked in, tables were set up for merchandise along with a table were the curious could try out their own sand painting.
Blair Johnson, junior in math and co-head of the Union Programming Council multicultural committee, said bringing the monks, spokesman, and driver to K-State was significant work.
“It was a long process, they have an agent in Georgia responsible for their touring in the United States, so it was negotiating prices, photos, their diet, we had to plan out their meals,” Johnson said. “Now that they’re here it’s a lot of checking in on them.”
Johnson said during the day the monks are given meal passes at the Union, and four of them are staying with host families.
The monks visited K-State five years ago, and Johnson said some people are driving from as far away as Kansas City to see the monks at work.