Monks and the Mandala

Impermanence was a theme that took over Aspen this week, when a group from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Ga., created a living exhibit. Tibetan monks built a sand mandala at the Aspen Art Museum. The monks took five days to create the sand mandala on the museum's third floor -- painstakingly shaving tiny grains of colored glass into a spherical masterpiece, all in front of the public eye -- and then dispersed it into the river to send it into the world to heal. 

The monks use the mandala-making to achieve tantric meditation, as they experience spiritual oneness. At the closing ceremony, the sand is collected, and half is given to the audience as a way to commemorate and bring healing. The other half is taken to a nearby water source (Roaring Fork River), where it is cast into the water, so that the sand may reach the ocean, thereby healing the world. Traveling with these exhibits, the Drepung Loseling Monastery hopes to spread this belief and to share Tibetan culture and practices, which they view as endangered. 

Tibetan monks put the finishing touch on a sand mandala at the Aspen Art Museum. 

Tibetan monks put the finishing touch on a sand mandala at the Aspen Art Museum. 

Tibetan monks have strong ties with the Aspen community, and many different groups of monks spend time in our community throughout the year. The high mountains of Colorado may remind them of their Nepalese ones back home, and we're welcome to share in their oneness. But the creation of the sand mandala is unique, and the thoroughness and detail that goes into creating something so beautiful just for it to be destroyed reminds us all that each moment is precious.