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Why Do Buddhists Create Sand Mandalas?

A sand mandala is a pattern made from colorful sand that is destroyed as part of a Tibetan Buddhist ritual. But what could be the history and purpose behind the ritual?

Tibetan Buddhists create sand mandalas only to destroy them after a particular ritual. This represents the concept that nothing lasts forever and is meant to symbolize their belief in the transitory nature of materialism.

What is a Mandala?

The Tibetan mandala is a guide for gaining wisdom and compassion, and it is typically depicted as a tightly balanced, geometric composition containing deities. The main deity is located in the center. 

A mandala is also utilized as a tool for guiding people on the path to enlightenment. Monks often visualize the mandala as a three-dimensional palace while meditating on it. The deities who live in the palace represent philosophical ideas and serve as role models. The mandala’s purpose is to assist in the transformation of ordinary minds into enlightened ones.

Mandalas are thought to have purifying and healing properties. Typically, a great teacher selects the mandala to be created. Monks begin building the sand mandala by consecrating the location with sacred chants and music. They then draw a detailed pattern from memory. They fill in the design with millions of grains of colored sand over the course of several days.

The monks then demonstrate the impermanence of existence by sweeping up the colored grains and dispersing them in flowing water. (Source: Tibetan Healing Mandala)

How Do Mandalas Heal?

According to Buddhist scripture, sand mandalas transfer beneficial energy to the surroundings and those who view them. Buddhist monks chant and meditate while constructing a mandala to call the divine powers of the deities that reside within it. 

The monks then seek the healing blessings of the gods. Even before it is swept up and distributed into flowing water, a mandala’s healing power stretches to the entire world. This is another symbol of its blessings being shared with all. (Source: Tibetan Healing Mandala)

How Did Tibetan Buddhism Start?

Buddha, who founded Buddhism in India in the fifth century B.C.E., spoke about the impermanence of life. Individual enlightenment, the emancipation of all beings, and the cultivation of compassion and insight into reality’s essence are pillars of Tibetan Buddhism, which emerged in the seventh century. 

Tibetan Buddhism is an evolved version of Buddhism. It is a branch of Vajrayana. This particular religion was brought to Tibet during the reign of King Srong-brtsan-sgam-po. His two queens were patrons of the said religion. (Source: Tibetan Healing Mandala)

Where did the Monks Come From?

The Tibetan monks came from the  Drepung Loseling Monastery. In 1959, the monastery’s primary headquarters and school were relocated to the southern Indian state of Karnataka. 

The Loseling Institute, a monastic monastery with 2,500 monks, is located near Atlanta, Georgia. (Source: Tibetan Healing Mandala)

Drepung Loseling Monastery Mission

Drepung Loseling is dedicated to the study and preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion. It is the center for the cultivation of both heart and intellect, it provides a sanctuary for the nurturance of inner peace and kindness, community understanding, and global healing. 

In implementing this vision, Drepung Loseling has two main objectives:

  • To contribute to North American culture by providing theoretical knowledge and practical training in Tibetan Buddhist scholarly traditions for Western students, scholars, and the general public; and
  • To help preserve the endangered Tibetan culture, which today leads to a fragile existence in the exiled refugee communities in India and Nepal. 

(Source: Drepung)

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