Sand Mandalas & Enlightenment

Monks walking

Sand Mandalas & Enlightenment


Mandala and Montj

Working on Mandala

Many different techniques are used to make, design, and represent a mandala, but one of the most special and sacred is the powder or sand mandala.

Made from crushed and colored natural Himalayan salt, rock, or sand the “dul-tson-kyil-khor”, as it is called in Tibetan art,  was formerly made from crushed precious stones. These types of mandalas are extremely complex and usually require 4 monks (one to work on each quadrant). Meanwhile, other monks concentrate positive or healing energy towards it, the surrounding area, and people around it with mantra-chanting and praying to a certain deity or Buddha whom the mandala is designed after. Mandalas are crucial in Buddhism and are cosmic maps that chart Buddha’s initiation succession from 2,600 years ago until now.  Meaning ‘circle’, a mandala is a two-dimensional representation of three realms: desire, formless, and of form. It is meant to lead it’s practitioners to enlightenment. 

The Spiritual Process 

Prepping the Site: In what is referred to as the opening ceremony, the design site is consecrated by monks with peaceful and healing Tibetan music, burning incense, chants and prayers.

Sacred Blueprint: Taking at least one full day to make (if multiple people work on it), the design usually involves many lines and circles. These are meticulously drawn right after the opening ceremony.

Sand Coloring

Coloring Within the Lines: In a beautiful display of art and meditation, the colored sand is patiently applied by the monks by tapping small, copper funnels/tubes with scrapers or “chak-pur”. The vibration helps apply the powder in a controlled fashion. The monks usually wear masks to preserve the design from their breath.  The pigment or color that is applied comes from various sources: charcoal, red sandstone, pollen, yellow ochre, powdered root bark, and cornmeal.

Reaching The Finish Line: After a few weeks of painstaking work from the inside out, the mandala is completed; but not before a second consecration ceremony. 

Ritualistic Destruction: As it is dismantled in a certain order, the mandala’s now gray sand is slowly swept up and placed into a pot wrapped in silk. Ceremonies and prayers accompany this process. This part represents the core of Buddhism: impermanence;  life’s natural transition.

Releasing Back To Nature: With the sacred sand in hand, the monks and guests make their way in a procession towards a flowing body of water. Upon reaching it, the sand is poured into it so that it’s healing properties help bring positivity to the areas it reaches. 



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