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Gaden Shartse Monks' Tour – Sand mandala pre-construction ritual and creation
The Sacred Art of 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. On the tour the monks will create a two-dimensional sand mandala. These are the most creative and labor-intensive, requiring incredible amounts of concentration.
Each sand mandala is a cosmic diagram that represents the dwelling place or celestial mansion of a 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 multi 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.
Depending upon the mandala, it can take between 3 days to 2 weeks to complete. Most of the ones created on the tour are completed in 3 to 5 days. Upon completion of the mandala there is a very special ritual to bless the mandala and it is then ritually dissolved. As a lesson in impermanence the blessed sand is swept up into a pile then small portions are offered to those present. The rest of the sand is taken to a body of water where, after a short ceremony, it is poured into the water to bless and purify the surrounding environment and all sentient beings living there.