Building a Sand Mandala

Building a mandala requires the monks’ total dedication and perseverance. Both motivational prayers and dedication prayers are said daily throughout the entire process. Just by observing the monks’  actions we understand how the mandala expresses the Buddha’s teachings. Without a single word, they display the six perfections: concentration, patience, loyalty, joyful effort, wisdom, and generosity.

Created by monks, these mandalas are made by grinding up marble into a fine powder. The powder making process can easily take over 27 hours, as the powder is made with many utensils such as the hammer, mortar and pestle, and many others. Watercolors are then mixed (by hand) into the powder which is then left out on a tarp to dry overnight.

After the powder is finished, two monks draw a blueprint of the mandala on a large piece of wood (5x’5’). This process can take up to a minimum of 7  hours depending on the intricacy of the design. They work tirelessly on the mandala, and it will take about 40 hours to complete it (8 hours a day for 5 days).

Imagine the amount of compassion we have for the monks as they continuously strain their eyes and work hunched over the mandala for long periods of time. They do this simply in order to teach us the lessons of impermanence and non-attachment.

We should be extremely grateful to receive such a generous gift of compassion.

Here is a short video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Princeton University. It shows Sera Mey Khen Rinpoche Ngawang Jorden and several monks creating a sand mandala.

(written by Geshe Losang Dhargye, Do Ngak Khunphen Ling Center, Redding, CT)


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