The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean "circle," a mandala represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself, reminding us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.
Painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite of the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism. In Tibet this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which means “mandala of colored powders.” Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place using metal funnels called metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand and rubs a metal rod along its grated surface. The resulting vibration makes the sands flow like liquid. Formed from traditional icons that include geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.
The creation of a sand mandala usually requires many days to complete. Each mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the mandala is created. Shortly after its completion, the monks traditionally gather in a colorful ceremony, chanting as they sweep their mandala into a jar, its destruction a metaphor for the impermanence of life. They then empty the jar into a nearby body of water as a blessing, the waters carrying the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.
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Healing the Earth: A Sacred Art by the Tibetan Lamas of Drepung Loseling Monastery