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The Monks of Gaden Shartse plan unique visit to USD campus

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota will host the Monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery, Sept. 23-27.

While on campus, the monks will create a “sand mandala” in the atrium of the Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Mandalas are a two-dimensional, colored sand painting where the sand is applied very precisely by the gentle tapping of a sand-filled metal cone that has had its tip removed. Upon completion of the mandala, the monks will purposely destroy the work of art, sweep up the mandala and place the sand in a river to help purify the surrounding environment.

“At first we were anxious for art students to have the opportunity to see a traditional sand mandala being created but as we opened the door for more departments and the community to get involved in this visit, we began to see that this was much bigger than having artists visit campus, this was a true cultural exchange for everyone,” said Cory Knedler, chair of the USD Department of Art. “The monks will be visiting 16 different classes, from music to medicine, and will discuss topics from mediation to communication and world peace.”

The monks are part of Gaden Shartse Monastic College, located in Mundgod, India, and founded in 1969 as an effort to re-establish one of the great monastic Tibetan traditions. A leader in the field of Buddhist and Tibetan education, Gaden Shartse has more than 1,600 residents, including students, teachers, scholars and spiritual practitioners.

In addition to creating the sand mandala, the Monks of Gaden Shartse will visit USD classrooms throughout the week and discuss Tibetan culture, and perform traditional music and dance at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Aalfs Auditorium. This performance is free and open to the public while viewers are also welcome to observe and take photos during the daily creation of the sand mandala. There will also be an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 23, and a closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27 in the atrium of the Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building.

For more information about the Monks of Gaden Shartse visit to USD, please contact the College of Fine Arts at or call (605) 677-5481. More information about the Gaden Shartse Monastic College is available online at


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Hanna DeLange
USD News