Tucker’s Mandala moment

by Frank Schroth

Tucker 2nd Graders with Ms. Gillooly and Mr. Yignyen

Tucker 2nd Graders with Ms. Gillooly and Mr. Yignyen

This week, students at the Tucker school witnessed the creation of and learned about Buddhist mandalas. Tenzin Yignyen, a Buddhist monk, set up a space in the gym and over the course of the week he painstakingly created one the intricate sand paintings that are used as teaching and meditation tools by Buddhists.

Mr. Yignyen, an instructor from Hobart College, was born in Tibet and raised in India. He creates mandalas in a variety of settings: hospitals, prisons, schools. The mandalas have a theme. For prisons it is love; for schools it is compassion.

He created the mandala on a 4′ square table over 4 days. He explained that larger mandalas, 9′ or 10′, can take 4 monks up to 6 weeks. All aspects of the mandala have significance. Here is the mandala he was just about finished with:


Mandala at Tucker

The colors are: yellow (earth), white (water), blue (air), red (fire), and green (space). The five drawings also have significance. The flower in the center is “loving kindness;” then, starting at the 12:00 position and moving clockwise, there is patience, humility, wisdom, and appreciation.

By the end of today, it will be gone. It will be “go away” in a special ceremony. As Mr. Yignyen explained “nothing is permanent, everything is temporary.”

Along with the creation of the mandala, Mr. Yignyen had erected a special place.


I mistakenly asked about a place of worship and was quickly corrected. Buddhists do not worship – it is about teaching and learning “to produce more good hearted human beings.”

This unique and compelling educational opportunity was made possible by a grant art teacher Jess Gillooly applied for and was awarded. It is difficult in a short post to capture the mulitple teaching opportunities this afforded whose curiosity, excitement, and wonder was almost palpable, but it was easy to see that the overall experience was a tremendous learning opportunity for all. Here is Tinzen Yignyen at work. Click on an image for a larger view. At the bottom of the post is a short video.


Tenzin Yignyen is an Instructor of Asian Languages and Cultures at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. You can learn more about him and mandalas on his web site.

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