Out on a day pass today from the Yoni School. Suzy Homemaker and I went to view the sand mandala produced by the Namgyal monks at C2G2.
What a marvellous, intricate piece of work. Textured and nuanced. Flanked by a small Buddha altar, complete with dorje and bell, Shakyamuni Buddha thangka, water bowls, food offerings, candles and incense. In C2G2!
A mandala is a representation of the palace of a deity. Tibetan Buddhism has a whole raft of deities, a catalogue of initiations for those who desire them. Each deity has his or her mandala, all similar, each one different, each one unique. But they all have the same sort of floor plan. Several floors (reproduced two-dimensionally) which is what makes the mandala design. Four great entrances representing the cardinal points.
This mandala had no deity at the centre, on the top floor, only a lotus. The lotus is replete with symbolism too, of course. And it is the flower which represents Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, whose mantra is Om Mani Padme Hum, probably the best known of all mantras, capable of propelling one swiftly along the path of enlightenment if recited one-pointedly and with great faith. So even though Chenrezig is not depicted at the centre of the mandala, I suppose you could still say it is Chenrezig’s mandala.
Of course mandalas are stylized. Each figure carries symbolic meaning. Still, they are intricate artworks. Their creation requires great concentration. How easy it would be to apply too much sand in one spot, or breathe or sneeze at the wrong moment. And what do you do? Start over? Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the monks because they weren’t there.
Not only does the sand mandala represent the deity’s palace. It also represents the universe. Which is why sand is the medium. Meant to instruct us on the fragility of our reality. One puff and it’s all gone. Sand represents the emptiness of all phenomena. Full of colour, fantastic and beautiful forms. Completely impermanent. In fact, the mandala is created for the express purpose of wiping it away in the end. This to remind us of all the time we spend foolishly pursuing worldly, ego-driven, ego-grasping, ego-clinging, ego-fixated goals which, in the end, cannot deliver the satisfaction we really crave and will be scattered by the winds of death and impermanence anyway.
PS. I just realized that saying it would be easy to sneeze might be misleading. The monks wear masks while creating the mandala, for that very reason. No fans nearby either.
Also, there was an interesting installation there too...a giant Buddha head surrounded by racks of plaster hands in various mudras. All placed in pull-out "bins". The public is allowed to write on these hands with markers provided for the purpose...to leave messages on them for the people of Tibet.
I always thought of "OM" as the word mentioned in the Gospel of John - "In the beginning was the word." The sound, the humming, that resonates through existence, sits or strums along at the bottom of it...
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