©2012 Randolph College
The monks brought the blessed sand with them from India, where they selected the rocks, crushed them, and colored them.
After the opening ceremony, the monks began carefully drawing the intricate design of the Medicine Buddha Mandala.
The monks place each grain of sand by scraping a chak-pur, a ridge-lined funnel, with a rod. The movement drops the sand onto the platform.
The monks spent a week creating the mandala in Randolph College's Houston Memorial Chapel.
Creating a mandala requires the monks to spend hours hunched over the platform.
The monks shared their culture and beliefs with with students, faculty, and staff.
By day three, the monks had completed about half of the mandala.
The group of monks toured the United States last fall. Their purpose was to educate people about Buddhism and to raise money for their monastery, which provides housing, food, and education for indigent boys and orphans.
The mandala is created using different symbols, textures, and colors.
Community members were allowed to watch the monks each day.
The creation of a mandala, an artistic representation of the divine world of a Buddha, is meant to consecrate the Earth and heal its inhabitants.
The monks began work on the outer edges during day four.
The process of creating a mandala takes physical and mental strength. The monks spend years memorizing the intricate details.
During their stay on campus, the monks were able to closely interact with students, faculty, staff, and community members.
The monks add the finishing details on day five.
The monks spend as many as 8 to 10 hours a day hunched forward over crossed legs as they sprinkle sand from the chak-purs.
Students from the Randolph College Nursery School visited the Chapel to watch the process.
On day five, the monks held a closing ceremony. Houston Memorial Chapel was filled with staff, faculty, students, and community members.
During the closing ceremony, the monks sweep the mandala away, symbolizing the impermanent nature of existence.
Buddhists believe the blessed sand from the mandala has healing power. After the ceremony, audience members were offered small bags of the sand.
Community members follow the monks across campus to a creek for the last part of the ceremony.
The monks pour the remaining sand into the water so that it will carry the healing blessings to the world.
"This was an event that had both College-wide and Lynchburg-wide appeal and participation and both active and passive learning opportunities," said Suzanne Bessinger, the Randolph College religious studies professor who organized the event. "That is the promise of a liberal arts education, and of Randolph College in particular--a life more abundant."