Vassar Today

The Way of All Things

Nine Tibetan Buddhist monks came to Vassar last November, and during their week-long visit they offered lessons both sublime and mundane. The monks were on campus to construct a mandala of sand as part of Tibet Awareness Week, sponsored by the Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). “We hope that we can educate the students about our culture, one which has the potential to make one’s life better and more peaceful,” said LegDen, a 24-year-old monk, through an interpreter.

A steady stream of visitors viewed the monks at work, and large crowds attended the opening and closing ceremonies. When the creators of the intricate artwork brushed it out of existence during closing ceremonies, they transformed the mandala into a metaphor for the impermanence of life.

On another level entirely, the monks challenged preconceived notions simply by being present daily in the Retreat, where, draped in their rust-red robes, they were observed enjoying such American delights as hamburgers and mounds of french fries. And, as reported in the November 22 edition of the New York Times, they even gave at least one Vassar student a lesson in bowling at the nearby Mardi Bob’s Hoe-Bowl. As the sophomore told the Times, “[A]fter they taught me how, I tripled my score!”