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Monks Destroy Mandala

October 1, 2004

THE painstaking work of threeTibetan Buddhist monks hunched over awide table pouring sand through narrowsteel funnels for 11 days before thearrival of the Dalai Lama Sunday wasdestroyed in a ceremony of 10 minutes onTuesday in San José.The delicate, intricate mandala, a flat,geometrically designed floor plan of asacred mansion made of colored sand, is traditionallycreated to inspire peace and contemplationin compassion for all livingbeings. It was poured laboriously ontothe base, called the the-pu, each dayafter the three monks chanted beforean altar placed in their nook of theChildren’s Museum (TT, Sept. 24).The artists began at the centerand worked outward. TheKalachakra, the deity for thismandala, resides in its center, traditionsays, and its palace is made ofthe mandalas, which roughlymeans “centers,” of humanexperience, one withinanother: the mandalaof the body, that ofspeech, that of mind,and the one in thecenter – wisdom andgreat bliss.TENZIN Thutop,who lives in aTibetan monasteryin New York and isfrom Dharamsala,India, the home ofthe Dalai Lama in exile from Tibet (seeseparate article), is one of those whoworked on the mandala.It “focuses on peace, harmony,” hesaid. “It transforms negative mind to positive.For us, it is almost like a daily (meditation)practice.”Then, because the mandala was createdin the spirit of the impermanence ofthe human condition and the non-attachmentto things, like all sand mandalas, itwas destroyed in a ritual of sandremoval.The monks walked around the raisedtable, one dipping his hand quickly intothe sand, removing symbolic drawings,placing them in a dish another held,and blurring lines until the mandalawas smeared with crisscrossedlines and finally swept into a blueglass vase.ONLOOKERS rushed in totake souvenirs of the sand, pouredfrom the monks’ hands into plasticbags. Then, accompanied by aprocession of onlookerscarrying little torchesmade of candlesand paper cups, themonks carried the restof their former creationto the Torres River,which runs in front ofthe museum. On a rainsoakedbridge standingunder umbrellas theyblessed the sand, thenpoured it into the wateras an offering for worldpeace.

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