A Remembrance on 9/10/11– Gaden Jangtse Buddhist are Emissaries of Peace

A Remembrance on 9/10/11-- Gaden Jangtse Buddhist are Emissaries of Peace“Don’t get too attached, even to the most beautiful things.” ~ Rinpoche

My mind keeps drifting to the events of 10 years ago.   On 9/10/01, we had no idea what was to come in just a few hours; that the world as we know it would be literally turned upside down.  Those structures, they were the very epitome of substance.  They were built to be solid and were here to stay.  We were shook to our foundations when they came down to theirs. 

Those were some of the thoughts on my mind as I opened the paper and read about the Gaden Jangtse Buddhist monks who are visiting from Tibet to create a sand mandala at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.   For five days they will take vibrant grains of sand and form them into an intricate image only to sweep it away.

The idea of such purposeful impermanence is alien.  Of course we all know that change is inevitable and that nothing stays the same.  But that doesn’t mean that deep down we don’t try to hold on to what we cherish.

What would motivate people to create something so beautiful with the intention of destroying it?  I felt compelled to learn more about this tradition; as I did so, I found that the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings I was having about 9/11 began to settle some.

First, the sand is ground to fine particles and then it is dyed into majestic colors.  These ruby, saffron, and lapis grains will then be delicately pushed into place with a long probe into their grand design.    This ancient art is unique to the Tibetan Buddhist monks who believe that it will serve as a map for transforming the ordinary human mind into an enlightened mind.

Gaden Jangtse Buddhist monksThe techniques that have been passed down for centuries are accompanied by a profoundly mindful devotion.   Crouched over the  emerging sand design,  the monks tediously and patiently  create the sacred patterns of the mandala.   This video of the monks creating their sand mandala shows them intently at work.   People that witness this say that they feel a sense of peace and happiness.

As the monks create the sand mandala they also chant Buddhist prayers and perform ceremonies to generate world peace and compassion.   It is believed that when we look at the mandala that our minds are imprinted with a karmic power that is transformative.

In my western mind, I am not sure about that, but I want to believe it.  We have learned enough now through brain imaging that we know we can change our brain patterns through meditation, so for today, it is important for me to suspend my analytical thoughts and consciously choose to connect with the intention of these monks.

And when all their painstaking work is done, when the magnificent picture is complete, the monks will hold a Dissolution Ceremony.  A final blessing, and just as the grains of sand were carefully arranged, they will be carefully dismantled, finally being swept into one pile.  No matter that the beautiful image has been erased, because we hold it in our minds.

The destruction of the design is at the core of the symbolic ritual.  It is a way to relieve suffering: accepting that everything changes and ends; choosing to let go of attachments.   “The meaning of the mandala is to remind people that nothing in life is permanent,” explains Rinpoche. “Don’t get too attached, even to the most beautiful things.”

A token of the mandala, a few grains of sand, is given to those present to be kept as a blessing for their homes.  The rest is taken to the ocean.  When it is poured into the moving water it will carry blessings throughout the world.

It is a comfort to think about those jewels of sand, emissaries of peace and compassion circling the world and conncecting us all.  Blessings to you.

What thoughts do you have as you reflect on the sand mandala pictured below?

A Remembrance on 9/10/11-- Gaden Jangtse Buddhist are Emissaries of Peace










p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts on the blog…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach

Your MOJO Maven

Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US.   Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry.  She coaches individual on achieving their reflected best selves.  An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.


  1. Mike Tracy on September 11, 2011 at 4:29 am

    Dr. Jones,
    As a therapist at the Utah State Prison my work centers on helping inmates cope with life by reshaping their memories in a constructive way. To me, emphasizing the transience of life opens the door to the posibilities of a better future, even in prison.
    Thank you, Mike Tracy

    • Executive Coach on September 12, 2011 at 3:32 am

      I really appreciate the idea of “reshaping their memories in a constructive way.” We tend not to think about recreating our pasts, but we do all have that capacity. That is fabulous that you are empowering your inmates to do so, and certainly that does create important possibilities for their futures. Thanks for contributing to my blog and for doing the important work that you do!
      Dr. Jones

  2. Calla Gold on September 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Dr. Jones,
    I love Mike Tracy’s comment.
    If we can become more comfortable with change rather than be undone by it, I believe we can live better.
    This devotional is fascinating to read about.
    Thank you for showing me what the monks do. I had no idea and it is thought provoking and inspiring too.
    Thank you,
    Calla Gold

    • Executive Coach on September 12, 2011 at 3:34 am

      I agree, what the monks do is provocative and inspiring. It certainly was outside of my own experience and I enjoyed learning about it as well.

  3. Neha on September 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I think of letting go the past and move on to the present when I think about this art. I remember taking a play therapy class at USC and how it helps children cope with traumatic experiences. I always believed it can help adults too. This sounds like sand therapy to me where you create something with your thoughts and feelings so you can get rid of them and move on. Very interesting and I would love to try it someday for myself!!!


    • Executive Coach on September 12, 2011 at 3:36 am

      Interesting observation! It didn’t occur to me when I was learning about it, but you are right this is like an ancient form of what we call sand therapy today. Cool.
      Dr. Lynn

  4. Josie Tores on September 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    This is very interesting. Each culture is blessed with survival skills. Our life is just momentary and no material will go with us when it’s time to leave. But until then do not get overly attached to anything that you can touch and feel but always strieve to make a better today and tomoorow. Our creator of many names will keep his secrets .

    • Executive Coach on September 12, 2011 at 3:37 am

      You are so right when you say that each culture has its traditions that serve as survival skills. It is neat that we have the opportunity to learn the wisdom that these other cultures have to offer us. Thanks for pointing that out!

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