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The Sand Mandala

Mandala means literally "that which extracts the essence." There are many different types of mandalas used by Tibetan Buddhists. They can be created in either two or three dimensions. The ones on the monks' tour will be two-dimensional sand mandalas. These are without doubt the most creative, labor-intensive, and concentration-intensive of all mandalas created.

The mandalas created on the tour will require between 75 and 125 hours of effort, completed by several monks at a time.

Each sand mandala represents the architectural layout of the entire palace of a specific deity. The Menla mandala, for example, represents the dwelling of the Medicine Buddha, who embodies the perfection of the physical and mental health of all beings. There are mufti-layered symbolic images throughout the 'palace,' where iconography, placement, and color all have significance. Additionally, to the learned Tibetan Buddhist monk, the mandala represents his vision of the entire universe.

The mandala is normally used during the initiation of a monk into a high form of meditation. This sacred initiation is referred to as an empowerment ceremony. After the initiation, it requires years or possibly an entire lifetime of intense study and meditation under an experienced Lama to expose the depth and intricacy of the universe.

In the past, sand mandalas were made with the powdered results of the grinding of precious stones- turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, powdered gold and silver, and many other cherished and priceless materials. Today, this is only done on very special and/or auspicious occasions. More commonly, the colors are made of powdered and dyed stone, sand, dust, flowers, and charcoal. The colors are chosen to match the color of one of the Buddhas of the five Buddha families.

The sand is applied very precisely by the gentle tapping of a sand-filled metal cone that has had its tip removed. The Master must be the first to initiate the mandala, and does so by being the first to pour the sand. The outline of the mandala is defined by the holding of a string that is dipped in chalk and then 'snapped' in the appropriate place.

Upon completion of the mandala, the monks will purposely destroy the magnificent work of art. The Buddha's last words were "All things are impermanent, work out your salvation with diligence." In upholding the principle that life is transient, the monks sweep up the mandala and place the sand in a river, lake, or ocean as an offering to purify the surrounding environment. Other times it is given to devoties for their use at home.

Sand Mandala Offered Here In Sacramento

Menla (Medicine Buddha)

Other Sand Mandalas Offered During the Monks Tour

Thirteen-deity Yamantaka

Five-deity Avalokitshevara

Orange Manjushri

Nine-deity Akshobya Cittamani Tara

Nine-deity Amitayus

Fire hearth mandalas for various activities, ie. Peace, Prosperity, and Power

Images ©2005