The Tibetan Sand Mandala is a beautiful, sacred art form. With patience, monks carefully create this work of art, but what they do next will surprise you…
Tibetan Buddhist Monks spend days, sometimes weeks, carefully applying sand to create a Sand Mandala.
The art form was recently depicted in season 3, episode 7 of House of Cards. Once you understand what a Tibetan Sand Mandala symbolizes in Buddhism, it’s easy to make the connection between what’s happening in the show.
Here are 5 surprising facts about Tibetan Buddhism and Sand Mandalas.
1. Sand Mandalas are unique to Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism has existed in Tibet since the 7th century A.D. Throughout the history of the ancient religion in the country, Tibetan Buddhists have developed their own rites and traditions unique to their culture. One of the most famous practices of Tibetan monks is the creation of intricate Sand Mandalas, which are believed to emanate healing and purification.
2. Tibetan Buddhism is also practiced throughout the world
Although Tibetan Buddhism is native to the country, it has spread and has many followers throughout other regions as well. Asian countries where Tibetan Buddhism is widely practiced include Mongolia, Nepal, and Bhutan. In Bhutan, Tibetan Buddhism is the state religion, and Tibetan is the sacred language in which the scriptures are written. Tibetan Buddhism has also grown outside of Asia as well, owing to the efforts and popularity of the Dalai Llama.
3. The sand is carefully dripped through special funnels to create the Sand Mandala
The practice of making Mandalas exists throughout Buddhist traditions worldwide, but Sand Mandalas are unique. Instead of being woven or painted, Sand Mandalas are made of millions of fine grains of colored sand. First, the site is blessed with music and chants. A high-ranking priest will choose the location and the design, and over the course of several days or weeks, monks will painstakingly create the Mandala, even wearing masks so that their breath does not disturb the sand as they work.
4. The Mandala is believed to hold powers of healing and purification
The monks will use fine tubes and other small tools to funnel and deposit the fine sand as if it were paint. During the creation of the Sand Mandala, other monks chant and pray, calling upon the deities thought to reside within the design. Buddhists believe that this releases the positive healing energies of the Mandala to those who view it as well as to the surrounding environment.
5. The intricate Mandala is destroyed afterwards
The ceremony is concluded with the destruction of the Mandala, which signifies the Buddhist belief in the impermanence of life. Afterwards, the sand from which the Mandala was made will be brought to a river or stream and cast into the flowing water in order to disperse the healing and purifying power of the Mandala to the world. Often, half of the sand used in the design will be distributed to the laity by the monks, further highlighting the Buddhist belief in sharing its blessings with all.