Stories and pictures from my travels in (North) America--California,
the Southwest, Utah and other states, plus a little bit of Canada and Mexico
(more about my travels in America)

A Tibetan Mandala, Los Angeles, CA

In early January of 2004, as I was preparing to move to China, I attended a very L.A. event.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had sponsored an exhibition of Buddhist art called "The Circle of Bliss." In association with that exhibition, they sponsored a group of Tibetan monks to create an 8-foot-across sand mandala.

The "Circle of Bliss" Mandala

The outer edge of the mandala represents the world where we live. As one enters more deeply into the circle, one moves through various levels of symbolism, until at last one reaches the center, which represents the union of compassion and wisdom--in other words, Nirvana or "Bliss."

The mandala was created in October, over a period of several weeks. As a rule, such mandalas are created and then immediately destroyed, symbolizing impermanence. The creation of the mandala itself is a meditation, and the benefits to be had are in the making; the image itself is but a by-product.

LACMA kept its mandala on display for over two months. The event that I attended that Sunday was the destruction and dispersal of the mandala.

The Beginning of the End of the Mandala

After a ceremony of chanting by six monks, the sand of the mandala was swept up. Small boxes of the sand were given to all of the attendees, and the remainder was taken to the Pacific to be spread upon the waters, distributing the "bliss" represented by the mandala throughout the world. (I brought my sand home and placed it on my garden shrine.)

Gone, Gone, Absolutely Gone...

One of the things that strikes me about this whole process is the integrated thinking it represents.

On one level, a bunch of guys in robes play in the sand, then destroy their creation, like boys at the beach building a sand castle and then bombarding it.

But the participants--and the remarkably large crowd attending--see in this process a prayer, a blessing, a fulfillment of human potential. Even scoffers lined up to get their little box of sand.

What this tells me is that metaphors are powerful, and the ability to see beyond the literal to the transcendent is a liberating power that frees us from the mundanity of our lives and opens us out to cosmic vistas.

At Wilshire and Fairfax, next to the Tar Pits.

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