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.
The 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?
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.