Sand Mandala -Lessons of impermanence, compassion and being in the moment

Like sand through the hourglass, our lives tick away as painstakingly as the Tibetan Buddhist monks creating the intricate patterns that make up a sand mandala. If only my life could be filled with the compassion of the Kalachakra mandala, a sacred work of art which blesses the sand – and the world – through chants and prayers. The Buddhist teaching of impermanence inspired the Kalachakra mandala.

A few years ago, I shared the sand mandala experience with my eight and five-year-old grandchildren. We marveled at the patience it took to create the design. I loved it when my five-year-old granddaughter noticed how the monk indented three small dots of green sand with a tool making what she called a “bowl” to receive three small dots of white sand.

I told them what would happen to the mandala when it was completed. “The monks will scoop up the mandala, take the sand to the pond, and release it,” I said. My eight-year-old grandson replied,

And then the pond will have a sand mandala too.

Impermanence – it is such an elusive concept to grasp. We seem to hold onto it one moment with fingers cupped in understanding only to lose it the next as if our mental fingers open up to let the “impermanence sand” drift through to join other thoughts that escape us.

I can at least follow another Buddhist premise of “being in the moment.” I can enjoy the making of the sand mandala, the joy my grandchildren and I had in watching it grow from dots to bowls, to flower designs. Finally, I can play with the idea that the sand magically reconnects in the bottom of the pond to form another sand mandala. I feel blessed with compassion to share the experience with my grandchildren and, now, with you.

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