Tibetan Sand Mandalas
Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from coloured sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically dismantled once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
Historically, the mandala was not created with natural, dyed sand, but granules of crushed coloured stone. In modern times, plain white stones are ground down and dyed with opaque inks to achieve the same effect. The monks use a special, extremely dense sand in order to limit interference by things like wind or sneezes. Before laying down the sand, the monks assigned to the project will draw the geometric measurements associated with the mandala. The sand granules are then applied using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers, called chak-pur , until the desired pattern over-top is achieved. Sand mandalas traditionally take several weeks to build due to the large amount of work involved in laying down the sand in such intricate detail. It is common that a team of monks will work together on the project, creating one section of the diagram at a time, working from the centre outwards.
Sand Mandalas represent the universe and act as an architectural blueprint of the enlightened mind. They can also function as a contemplative aid in visualisation meditation.
The colours for the painting are usually made with naturally coloured sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other colouring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark.
The destruction of a sand mandala is also highly ceremonial.The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released with prayers back into nature. This symbolizes the ephemerality and impermanence of life and the world. Sometimes, a small amount of the sand is also given to the audience.