Five Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in south India are creating a beautiful table-sized sand mandala in the lobby of the Arrillaga Alumni Center. This mandala-in-progress, which began construction on Thursday, is being created to honor the current visit of the Dalai Lama. Anyone and everyone is welcome to watch the masterpiece in action today through 5 p.m., Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to noon.
I stopped by this afternoon to check out the meditative artwork, and it’s definitely well worth the visit. “Mandala” is a Sanskrit word meaning cosmogram or “world in harmony.” According to UNI, Buddhist sand mandalas are “sacred designs created by hand using compasses and chalk lines, which are filled in, grain by grain, with colored sand.” Accordingly, mandalas had been a closely guarded secret visible for centuries only in Buddhist monasteries to those who had completed a twelve day initiation ritual. Fortunately for us, in recent years, monasteries and other groups have made mandalas more accessible to the general public. Mandalas are intended as vehicles to generate compassion, to remind us of the impermanence of reality, and to create a social and cosmic healing of the environment.
Monks initially trace the complicated base pattern using only a compass, a ruler, and a white marking pencil. The monks then take turns delicately funneling specially multicolored sand (dyed with watercolor pigments) through fluted metal pipes onto the table to form ornate designs. Initially, only the base patterns are filled in, but as further detail is added, the mandala quickly becomes intricately three-dimensional. You can check out an amazing time-lapse video of the construction of a traditional sand mandala here.
Some traditional features and symbols in Buddhist sand mandala art include the following (source: buddhanet.net):
- Wind or air stands for the gaseous state
- Fire is usually depicted as a red triangle and stands for transformation
- Water stands for liquid and is represented by a half-circle or a circle
- Earth stands for solid matter and is symbolized by a yellow square or cube
The particular mandala being created in Arrillaga evokes the Buddha of Compassion, which is an appropriate commemoration of the Dalai Lama’s Thursday morning lecture on the “Centrality of Compassion in Human Life and Society.” It is the monks’ hope that the mandala will in turn inspire compassionate behavior in all who view the process.
In case you’re curious, the view from above is definitely best! Take the elevator to the second floor to find a really sweet vantage point.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. —Dalai Lama XIV
Don’t miss out on this super-cool cultural experience!