Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sand Mandala

The sand mandala by itself is just an intricate geometric pattern. Looking at a completed mandala, one is struck by how beautiful the design is. However, beautiful sand paintings are not unique to Buddhism. Native Americans and Australian Aborigines also produce beautiful and striking sand art. However, those cultures intend for their art to last. Both cultures have developed elaborate means to preserve their works. This is the primary difference with the Mandala.

But merely creating something that is impermanent does not give that creating any special power. We do not view sand castles as anything special, not even large elaborate ones created by sand castle building professionals. Instead, the unique power of the mandala comes from its arch of creation, from opening ceremony to dissolution, the intricateness of the design and its temporary nature. Even non-Buddhists are struck by the mandala and the rituals that surround it. Recently at Lehigh University, a number of Buddhist monks created a mandala and then dissolved it. The university president who witnessed and participated in the ceremony had this to say: “I learned that only two or three of these are created each year. And the dismantling ceremony that followed it was so beautiful and touching…it was a wonderful experience.” A deputy provost noticed that many of the non-Buddhists in the audience were moved by the dissolution of something so beautiful: “The experience I had as a Western watching this was contradictory since we’re conditioned to preserve beauty. I noticed a lot of people sort of choked up over this as the monks dismantled it.” A Buddhist in the audience summed the ceremony in a way that seems to answer the professors question: “The beauty of the art the monks create just underscores their love of life. Also, it’s a very real appreciation of just how fleeting life is.”

The creation and dissolution of the mandala shows a love of life and teaches a lesson about its impermanence.

Harbrect, Laura. “Sand mandala's dismantling illustrates impermanence of life” Lehigh University News Article October 26, 2007 at accessed 29 January 2008.

Tchaicovsky, Melitta. “Sand Mandala Construction Process” at accessed 29 January 2008.