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Creation and Destruction of Sand Mandalas


"QUANTUM SHOT" #240(rev)
Link - article by Avi Abrams




Art Reflecting the Sanctity & Transience of Our Lives

Creation (and the subsequent destruction) of Sand Mandalas is the sacred ancient tradition of highly detailed art, practiced by Buddhist monks in Tibet. With a rare dedication and utmost care they spend days constructing an intricate masterpiece out of many-colored grains of sand - then they sanctify it and (quite profoundly) demolish it in a similarly prayerful and dedicated fashion.


(images via)


Here is the Medicine Buddha Mandala, built by the Namgyal Monastery monks in Moscow in May 2002:



(image credit: centre.smr.ru)


It all starts with the lifeless void... the empty canvas:




Then the "master plan" is etched on the blue surface:


(images credit: Sergey Maximishin)


Traditionally, only finely-ground colored stones were used, not dyed sand:




Extreme care is needed here, and plenty of time is required - sometimes weeks (even if a whole team of monks works on it!). Mandala construction is often seen as a two-dimensional representation of our three-dimensional environment - somehow altering the "world-lines" of our real world, enhancing the harmony and definitions within.



(image credit: Oleg Bartunov)


Some mandalas (such as the Mandala Kalachakra, the "Wheel of Time") display as many as 700 various deities inside their intricate pattern.





Cups of various mandala offerings:




Almost done! -




(images courtesy: Ackland Art Museum and Sergey Maximishin, via)


We also recommend this site which shows the 30-day creation of a five-and-a-half foot Medicine Buddha sand mandala in Ackland's Yager Gallery of Asian Art (by the Ven. Tenzin Thutop and the Ven. Tenzin Deshek - two Buddhist monks from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New York). The Mandala was created from February 26, 2001 through March 21, 2001 as part of the exhibition Buddhist Art and Ritual from Nepal and Tibet. (The exhibition and its related programs have now ended, and these pages can only be accessed through Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine" now - see here)

Another mandala creation (day-by-day process) can be observed here.

Here is the Kalachakra Sand Mandala:


(image via)


And here's a Mandala dedicated to the world peace and cooperation between countries (Mandala Kalachakra):


(image credit: Oleg Bartunov)


(Almost) Natural Ritual of Destruction

After sanctification of Mandala, the monks proceed to demolish it. The de-construction at times seem highly structured (every deity is demolished in certain order) and sometimes chaotic (if mandala is placed in high-traffic areas, people who pass by and bystanders are encouraged to step on random parts, introducing an element of chance). Plus exposure to the elements adds to its entirely natural decay.


(image credit: Sergey Maximishin)



Finally all the sand is deposited in a body of water. "This process symbolizes the transience of life and the ideal of non-attachment to the material world".



Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.


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1 Comments:

Blogger Stannous Flouride said...

SPECTATORS WATCHING Tibetan monks create an intricate sand mandala at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park were shocked on August 9 1991 when a woman "protesting Buddhist death cults" jumped a velvet rope and destroyed four weeks of meticulous work. The circular six-foot mandala, depicting the Kalachakra, or Wheel of Time, was part of an exhibition of Tibetan sacred art.
The museum staff freaked out, grabbing the woman and holding her until security and the police.
This seemed to surprise the monks who assured the museum that they would be happy to make another but that this one was scheduled to be taken apart in a dissolution ceremony, which symbolizes the Buddhist teaching of impermanence, in a week or so.
Instead, the monks performed the ceremony, in which they scattered the sand at sea from the Golden Gate Bridge, two days after the incident.
The woman, who claimed to have ties with the CIA, was taken to Mount Zion Hospital for observation.
In a few sentences the SF Chronicle managed to spell out one of the fundamental differences between Eastern and Western thought. To the monks the mandala was a process, and event, whose value existed in its very impermanence.
To the museum staff it was a 'thing,' a valuable work art.
Lobsang Samten, the leader of the sand painters, told reporters, "We don't feel any negativity. We don't know how to judge her motivations. We pray for her with love and compassion."

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