CEDAR LANE VOICES ON MULTICULTURAL, PLURALISTIC SPIRITUALITY
Seven monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Southern India constructed an intricate sand mandala during their stay from August 23-27, introducing messages of peace, compassion, and enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism.
The Mandala – Tibetan sand painting – is a quintessential expression of Buddhist art constructed from dyed sand particles, and a centuries-old visual art form. It represents rich and rational Buddhist philosophy centered on compassion, importance of reality and universal responsibility.
Venerable Gonsa Rinpoche explained their reasons for visiting the DC-area.
He stated, “The first is to support finding peaceful resolution for conflict. Secondly, to spread awareness of Tibetan culture, and the third is to seek support for our monastery.”
The monks worked on the Akshobya mandala, a mandala for conflict resolution and peace. Geshe Nyma La, the Rinpoche’s translator, said, “Akshobya Buddha literally translates as ‘unshakeable victor,’ embodying the peace and conflict resolution of the Buddha.”
When I asked the Rinpoche what people can conceptualize following such an experience, he replied, “They can learn compassion, tolerance, and teamwork from this mandala.”
The monks presented the mandala upon completion on Saturday evening. The closing ceremony on Sunday, August 27, started with a ritual chanting, followed by an empowering prayer for the congregation.
Rinpoche consecrated the mandala as its surface was dismantled with gentle, sweeping brush strokes. The gathered community watched in reverence and awe while the intricate mandala was completely dissolved. Half of the mandala was shared with people and the remaining was taken by procession to be dissolved in Rock Creek as a blessing, back to the Earth.
While it came as a shock to see something so beautiful destroyed by the hands of its creators, I realized the destruction symbolizes the impermanence of everything, and there are so many beautiful things to experience despite a fleeting existence.
I was reminded of an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poignant poem, In Blackwater Woods:
“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
Tibetan Buddhists believe that anyone who watches the building and dissolution of a mandala accumulates merit and can begin to evoke the Buddha nature that is within all of us, being the most compassionate we can be.
There were many meaningful things to gain from this event. The monks’ gift of the exquisite mandala, for example, was a wonderful blessing. It was a testimony to the profound artistry of the human spirit.
But the values learned from its dissolution remain salient, specifically the ability to recognize and understand the impermanence of life.
Our stay on earth is short-lived; thus, one should live fully in the present moment, cherish and serve others, and recognize change as the only constant.
May all be well.
May all be calm.
May all be happy.
May no one suffer.
May all be filled with loving kindness.
May all be peaceful.