The first day back to school after spring break is usually not a cause for celebration as students and teachers lament the end of vacation. But on Monday at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, Lama Tenzin Yignyen, a Buddhist monk, helped ease the transition back to school.

“He encouraged us to really focus on the present and focus specifically on our actions towards one another,” said director of school, Pete Steedman. “You could hear a pin drop as we listened to him. It was quite a moment.”

Mr. Yignyen, a Buddhism professor at Hobart and William Smith College, is visiting the charter school for the first time this week to guide daily meditation sessions and construct a mandala. The mandala is a sand-based painting which includes an intricate array of colors and symbols working together to serve as a guide to practicing compassion.

Mr. Yignyen travels to schools around the country to construct mandalas and teach kids about Buddhist values. Mr. Steedman learned about his work through Maribeth Macaisa, the school’s head of technology and friend of Mr. Yignyen’s, and decided it would be a great opportunity for the school.

“I use this art as a tool to tell the students how necessary [it is] to develop a good heart,” Mr. Yignyen said, while working on the mandala earlier this week. He set up shop on a blue table in the middle of a busy hallway so that everyone could observe his work and ask questions.

Mr. Steedman said he was worried someone might bump into the mandala, but there were no issues.

“One of our pillars at the school is respect. It was wonderful to see that instantly — students of all ages, whether they’re a kindergartener or a senior, instantly knew that this was an individual to be respected and a practice to be respected,” Mr. Steedman said.

Each symbol in the mandala represents the traits one must have to practice compassion — appreciation, patience, generosity and wisdom, Mr. Yignyen said.

“If you have compassion you will not hurt other people, you will not harm other people. If possible you will help other people,” he said. “One kind of medicine that can cure every disease is compassion.” During the morning meditation sessions there were discussions on the difference between love and compassion, Mr. Steedman said, as well as the importance of practicing both. Love is a feeling of attachment whereas compassion is an understanding that everyone is trying to get through the world the best they can and so it is important to be sympathetic as a result, Mr. Steedman said.

“You’ve got first and second graders who are riveted by this and we can say with certainty that they’d never heard about that difference,” Mr. Steedman said. “It was a great message for them.”

At the end of the week Mr. Yignyen will dismantle the mandala to teach that nothing lasts forever.

“When everything goes wrong, it’s very bad but that also has an end,” Mr. Yignyen said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel which gives you some courage, some hope.”