It’s happened to all of us: You stay late working on a project, you give all your creative energy, and when you finally show it to your boss or client, they immediately shoot it down. All that hard work is lost in a second, and you’re left nursing your wounds.
This transience is the nature of creative work; this is the nature of the universe, according to Buddhist philosophy. This is the theory encapsulated in the unique and beautiful art of the mandala.
“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.”
– Dalai Lama
Mandalas have a very significant place in Buddhist culture and religion. It takes days or even weeks to make them. Yet, eventually, the monks destroy the mandalas that they work hard to make in the first place. It sends out a message that things which are visible are insubstantial.
How is it made?
A mandala is a geometric symbol that represents the universe, an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. You’ve seen them before: intricate, swirling patterns that can be simple and beautiful or so complex your brain can barely process them.
What tools are used to make it?
Chalk is used to make the initial design. The mandala is completed using large compasses with white pencils, but the lines are not engraved or incised into the surface.
The monks used a cone-shaped metal funnel, or chak-pur, to pour the sand. Running a metal rod on the chak-pur’s grated surface creates vibrations that cause the sand to flow like liquid.
Why is it destroyed?
They believe that through the long course of our life, we create a lot of mandalas or complexities around us. We don’t destroy the mandala of or life but we fuel it with negative energy. We pile up things or keep delaying them and we end in a pool of delusion.
When the mandala is finally finished, however long it takes for the monks to deal in this divine geometry of the heavens, they pray over it — and then they destroy it. They sweep away the sand to its last grain, give some of the sand to those who participated in its creation as a memory.
Then they throw the rest of the sand into the nearest living stream to be swept into the ocean to bless the whole world. And that is how they send all the cosmic energy to the universe we live in.
We all live in a very materialistic world, surrounded by technology and desires to own what we don’t have. This mandala gives us the silent message that we must learn the art of giving away. We should sweep away the things that we don’t need and can help someone in need.
In Buddhism, nothing is permanent and that includes ourselves. By embracing this constant change, we can refresh our mandala of life as well.
The Dalai Lama sees the whole village as a mandala with the monastery at the center. He feels the satisfaction as the work that he and the monks do form a lasting bond between people by uniting them with this common sense of purpose and thus, making them more compassionate towards each other.
In a famous play that they performed in Texas, there were five dancers symbolizing the ﬁve elements and ﬁve wisdoms, together with three musicians, invoke the sounds and movements of the Celestial Travelers, the mystical beings from another world whose blessings strengthen the forces of life and light. These beings visit our world in times of stress and danger, bringing with them the creative energy that inspires harmony and peace.
Watch the video here to understand how its done.