Sand Mandala

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

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4 thoughts on “Sand Mandala

  • September 17, 2019 at 12:18 PM

    Seeing the laypersons surrounding the destruction of the mandala generates a sense of disillusionment through the sympathy of dependent origination with their awestruck semblances. The pristine beauty of the mandala being transitioned into impermanence is a lesson that every sentient being in the cosmos must endure, including the entirety of every molecule in the world system that he or she sustains the short and precious life within. Suffering is real, none of us are exempt from death- every living being, without exception, must face this impermanence no matter how elaborate and compounded the nature of his or her aggregates may be.

    It has always amazed me, the detatchment that refuge in monks holds propensity for, whatever lineage one is in.

  • January 20, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    Very Impressive photographs !!
    I wish to point out here,

    1) The Drepung Loseling Phukhang Monastery is in the city of Lhasa. It is not in South India. Lhasa is a city and administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.

    2) The monastery is not in exile. Monastery is like a school.

    3) The “living master Lobsang Tenzin” was in exile. He has now ascended throng of Sharpa Choeje, the second highest lama in Gelupa sect.

  • August 9, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    This construction-destruction happens at every corner of life. Symbolism is littered everywhere. This had Buddhist monks and a ceremony attached to it, and that seems unique to the western world. I wish we showed a similar respect to the intricate things such as electronics that we create and dump daily. But if we did that everytime then that will become mundane as well. In India these rituals have lost their symbolic meaning because it happens too often. The monks teach us to slow-down and not hold on to things. These things have been cliched over the years but they are getting harder and harder to do in our lives. I am going through my own issues with hanging on to life and not letting them go. But sharing these esoteric things via blog atleast reminds us of those cliches. Thank you.

  • August 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Thank you for sharing you beautiful photos. I went to this in Minnesota and still have my sand that the Monks gave to me.
    It is nice to get to our roots.


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