Yesterday, I had the opportunity to witness a great event and see a beautiful piece of art being created and then returned to where it came from. It was a sand Mandala created by six Tibetan Buddist monks from Drepung Loseling Phukhang Monastery in South India. The Drepung Monastery was established in Lhasa in 1416. Loseling, or the Hermitage of the Radiant Mind, is its largest department and at one point had ten to fifteen thousand monks. The monastery is in exile with headquarters in the Indian state of Karnataka. A Mandala means a palace, a palace in which the deities reside. By creating it, their minds can enter it.
It took six monks three days to create an amazing work of art that symbolizes universal compassion – something we sorely need these days. The first stop on a six month tour, named “Sacred Tibetan Art” took place in Battle Ground, WA public library.
The colored sand is placed in long metal tubes that have a serrated area in the middle. Another instrument is rubbed against this area which vibrates the grains of sand out of the end of the tube.
When the Mandala has been completed, there is an intricate closing ceremony that includes chanting, playing of instruments and then the dismantling of the mandala.
Its destruction is almost as symbolic as its creation. Lines are first etched into Mandala and then a brush is used to sweep the sand towards the middle.
The sand is collected in a jar which is then taken to a local river. Small packets of the sand are also dispersed to those in attendance for similar dispersal. The sand was taken to the Lewis river where the ceremony continued. After chanting, the deities of the river are asked for permission to return the sand to the water by providing an offering of milk. The sand is then returned with the view that it will then be carried downstream towards the ocean and as it does so will spread the universal compassion with which it was used.
This was a moving event that I am honored to have witnessed. They will be doing similar Mandala up and down the West Coast and if you get a chance to see one being created or to enjoy an opening or closing ceremony I would strongly suggest that you do.
Brought to you by Brian Bailey