Photo Credit Lew Kopp
The symbolism behind sand mandalas
September 1, 2016

Humanities students at Culver Academies learned about the symbolism behind the sand mandala being constructed by the Tibetan Lamas from the Drepung Loseling Monastery this week in the Eppley Auditorium lobby.

Geshe (Master) Thupten Loden told the students Thursday morning that the mandala will be deconstructed during the closing ceremony Friday afternoon. Following a special blessing asking for world peace and harmony, Loden said the mandala will be dismantled during the closing ceremony at 2:30 p.m. to show the impermanence of everything. The closing ceremony is open to the public.

But, he added, Buddhists believe each grain of sand does contain healing powers “for all the inhabitants in the environment,” which is why the sand will be returned to the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee. That way those healing powers can be recycled through the rain.

Tara, the mother of all the Buddhas is at the center of the Culver sand mandala.

Tara, the mother of all the Buddhas is at the center of the Culver sand mandala.

The sand used to make the mandala is actually crushed marble mixed with watercolors, Loden said. The ancient mandalas were said to be made of crushed precious stones like jade and rubies, gold, and jewels. An Indian mandala found in Nepal dates back to the 17th or 18th century and includes gold, copper, rock crystals, precious stones, and pearls.

Mandala is actually an ancient Indian word. Loden said the Tibetan word is Kyril-Khar, which translates to the center and the surroundings. Buddha is placed at the center most often, but the depiction is not fixed. The Buddha of Compassion, the Buddha of Wisdom, and the Buddha of Proficiency are featured the most. For the Culver mandala, though, Tara, the mother of all the Buddhas, is being used.

The mandala consists of several layers. It is considered a “road map to enlightenment,” he explained, adding that meditation using the mandala is called “extracting the essence.” When meditating, the monks are to see the mandala in its three-dimensional form.

The three outer rings of the mandala are considered the common paths, which any person can understand or practice. The outer layers include the Lotus Ring, which is designed to assist people in letting go of upsetting emotions or thoughts “that can stain our minds.”

The Wisdom of the Flames is to protect the heart and mind from the realities of the outside world during meditation. By transferring unhealthy, negative thoughts or emotions into positive thoughts, it protects “our own good hearts,” he said. The Varju Tent serves as a dome to keep the harsh realities of life from penetrating our thoughts during meditation.

The Tantric Paths, which are intended for Buddhists, include the 20 spokes of transformation, which are the 20 mistaken views of self, Loden said, explaining that what most people have trouble understanding that “the mind is something different from the body.” The four entrances nearing the center involve the four noble truths of purification of the mind. To attain true happiness, he explained, people must eliminate the cause of their suffering from their minds.

Contentment is the “true measure of happiness,” Loden said. However, separating the mind from the body to reach that level of contentment is difficult. There are many paths people can follow to reach that level of contentment, but those who strive to become rich and famous often discover that is not “the reality” they desire.

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Posted in Academic Culver Academies Spiritual Life
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