A Tibetan sand mandala has come to UT.

If I hadn't taken Hinduism as one of my upper-level non-US distribution classes, I would be unaware of the significance and rare opportunity that this event offers.

So I must begin by thanking UT for two things: making me take an upper level, non-US history distribution class, and bringing a Tibetan mandala to UT.

You may have unknowingly passed the simple white posters with "mandala" in yellow writing, like all the other posters that splatter the campus with color and ALL CAPS attention-getters. It caught my attention though, and thank goodness it did.

For those of you who know nothing of a mandala, my hope is to persuade you to go view it either today or Thursday before it is ritualistically destroyed.

(If you are a Eastern guru and know about the mandala, forgive me for my brief and shallow overview.)

Mandala is a Sanskrit word, loosely translating to "circle." At the focal point of the mandala, there is a circle; like our spirit, the circle has no beginning or end. It is a spiritual and ritualistic microcosm of the universe, attempting to conclusively reflect the oneness of life through balance.

The geometric outline is meticulously predetermined, especially in sand mandalas. The Monks use complex measurements, checking and rechecking the design to assure perfect use of symmetry and empty space.

Sand mandalas are made from naturally dyed sand and transferred to the mandala through small tubes, funnels, and scrapers.

White, yellow, red, blue, green, and pink are among the most common sand mandala colors. Sometimes corn meal or flower pollen are used as a substitute for sand.

A group of monks typically work on the mandala together, and the project can take weeks to complete due to the immense amount of intricate details and controlled precision used to make one. The monks usually create from the middle outwards.

The geometric interior outline is called a Yantra, a square with "gate" entrances on each side. The Yantra represents the organization or machine like quality within every contextual structure. In the case of a sand mandala, it attempts to represent a three dimensional projection in a two dimensional space.

This structure is thought to bring insight to reality by elaborating on things that provide a space of liberation.

And the mandala includes more than just the Yantra. It can hold different themes, at times containing hundreds of deities inside. Other times, they are just devoted to one deity or a special occasion.

Encompassing many metaphorical meanings, the mandala shows the organization of life: the planets, our sun, and our circle of friends all connected to animals, plants, and minerals. Carl Young called it "The archetype for wholeness."

To me, the mandala is the expression of a deep longing for a visual map that integrates an image of the self with one of the rest of the world. Its purpose can vary from use as a spiritual teaching tool to use as a sacred space in which we meditate, reflect, and induce trances. Visiting one could have powerful effects, including realizing and communicating with the spiritual force.

Finally, the mandala is ritually destroyed to express the instability of visual forms. Its destruction is of equal importance to its creation; the monks take great care to obliterate it with order.

The sand is then collected, wrapped in silk and sent down a stream to be released back to nature.

If for nothing else, visit the event – you probably won't have another chance to see a sand mandala, and you certainly won't have a chance to experience its creation and destruction.

Don't miss this opportunity to view a spiritual artwork live and die in Knoxville.

Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at jmrozins@utk.edu.