Many years ago, I had the privilege of observing a Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandala ceremony. For several days, Buddhist monks work together to create a colorful mandala with millions of pieces of dyed sand. The designs are extremely intricate and the monks chant during the creation process as a form of meditation. The patience and precision involved with the process is breathtaking.
A mandala is a symbol that represents the universe.The word “mandala” is a Sanskrit word for “disk”and mandalas are initially formed with a circle. Mandalas have been used throughout history as a means of focusing attention and therefore creating a tranquil state of mind for meditation. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, the mandala has served as a central figure in not only sacred artwork but also many meditational practices. This concept originally came from the East but has been used in Western cultures as well.
I love the idea of the mandala because it is simply captivating in design and beauty. So when the monks reached the end of the Sand Mandala ceremony, I was awe-struck when they immediately began to destroy their creation. My first reaction was to rush forward in order to stop them from ruining their masterpiece but I stood rooted. I couldn’t move forward and I couldn’t speak. Then, it was explained that the sand mandala is meant to generate compassion and to symbolize the impermanence of existence. The colorful sand is mixed together and collected in a vessel to be poured into a nearby river. These ceremonies are symbolic in many ways and I would urge anyone watch one if possible.
I shed many tears as I watched the stunning mandala turn to nothing more than a lump of sand but the meaning behind it has stuck with me throughout the years. Transformation and impermanence are all around us. We can cling to material things for a finite amount of time. None of us can cheat the cycle, the circle. That’s just the way it is.
Below, there are photos of a few mandalas from one of my books. “Meditating With Mandalas” by David Fontana gives the reader a basic understanding of mandalas and how they are used.