Saturday, February 26, 2011

Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala

There was an ad in the local newspaper about a mandala being exhibited at a museum in Albuquerque called a Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala for World Healing by Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery.  The ad gave the closing date of the exhibit at which time the mandala would be dismantled.  I couldn’t imagine what they really meant but saw it as an opportunity to see this kind of mandala up close. 

These mandalas had the purpose of being created to heal the environment.  A dozen sites were chosen for their world tour which took place over a period of two years, 1995 - 1996.  Using local materials, the Monks worked continuously in shifts, first setting up the geometric design, then little by little, using colored sand and a small funnel, they filled in the design. 

This particular mandala was about 4 feet by 4 feet set on a platform.  Using tiny grains of sand, the detail in the designs was extraordinary.  I was drawn into it and lost touch with what was going on in the room.  The next thing I knew, they were preparing to disassemble it.  I was confused, why would they make this beautiful piece of intricate beauty then take it apart.  It should be eternal.  I was having my own little freakout moment (on the inside) but it was no use, they began the process.  It was more like a ceremony than destruction.  They first blessed the work and honored it, saying a prayer for it's purpose to be realized.  They removed the designs, color by color.  As difficult as it was to watch them undo it, it was just as fascinating to see the colors leave the picture.  It was a slow, painstaking process but it was so intriguing to watch you didn't notice until it was over how long it took to complete.  Left behind on the platform was a faded image of what was once there. 

We then went down to the river and again, through ceremony, the sand which was taken from that area to create the mandala was returned to where it came from to heal it. 

This explanation has been grossly simplified.  So much more happened on so many levels that it would be of more value to the reader to go out and experience for themselves.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Preface to The World of Mandalas

Unhappy with my current life choices, I knew I needed to make a change.  It's hard to do that when you are working long hours which is partly what got me to this point.  I made the decision to take a month off of work and stay at an artist's retreat far from the city.  There I would leave my work routine and give myself a chance to do the things I like but no longer had time for -- read, observe, write, commune with nature, find some clarity and see what shakes out.

One afternoon, I walked into the library to see if anything there would catch my eye.  Reading the titles, nothing seemed to jump out and say "pick me, pick me."  I sat down wondering what to do next when another guest wandered in and sat down near me, plopping a pile of books on the table.  I didn't pay much attention as I was too busy feeling frustrated that I wasn't making the most of this precious time away from my usual responsibilities.  I hate wasting time and am driven to be productive.  Doing nothing is not easy for me and I wanted answers, direction for the future.  I thought showing up here it would just pour out and I'd have some major spiritual revelation where I was shown what to do next with instructions and diagrams.  Life isn't like that of course, but try telling me that.  I expect more from myself.  But here I was feeling lost with no idea what to do about it. 

I glanced over at the stack of books, on top was this gorgeous picture on the cover, all the colors I love and in a design that stirred something inside of me.  I asked the woman if I could look at it.  Inside were illustrations in bold, beautiful colors and designs.  This was the book I was looking for on the shelf, the "pick me" book.  I didn't have much time to look at it and reluctantly I let it go.  Later I would ask if I could write down the book title and author so I could find it on my own.  Oddly, she appeared possesive of the book and irritated that she had to share its name.  Even more puzzling was when I discovered that it was not her book but from the retreat  library.  She never brought out the book for the rest of the time I was there.   I had to be patient until I had my own copy. 

That cover stayed in my memory so strongly that the day after I returned home, I went to the bookstore and ordered it.  My very own copy in hand, I began to read about these beautiful pictures that were called Mandalas.  I then understood why she was so possessive of that book.  She must of felt the magic it held as I did.  I found myself just as protective of my own copy.  And the journey began . . .