Art of Dissolution: The Lessons of Sand Mandalas

Tibetan Buddhist monks arch over a geometrical design tapping out millions
of grains of multicolored sand to create a sand mandala. It will take them
about one month to create the Buddha of Compassion mandala to prepare for the
arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In an instant they will ritually
destroy their exquisite work of art. Some prayers and mantras will be chanted
and in a stroke the sands will be swept into a gray, formless mass. For
Westerners who observe the painstaking process of creation and the dissolution
which takes only a few minutes, we protest and ask why? What’s the point? 
The monks would answer softly, “Beccause all things are impermanent.” Their art
holds a lesson.

These same lessons arise in nature, particularly at the change of seasons.
In fall, leaves drop off trees; summer’s flowers fade and birds fly south.
Change and impermanence are good teachers for us as we try to hold onto
illusions of physical mortality. Like the sand mandala, nothing in this world
will endure. All things, all relationships and life will eventually fade,
transform, be reborn.

So what’s the aim? By embracing impermanence it’s
possible to keep things in perspective. The Hindu philosophies call all that is
transient maya or the illusory world. But dig a little beneath the
surface and the light and bliss of a deeper Reality shines through. These –
light, awareness, bliss – are our true nature. They are the treasures that
endure. The beauty and joy of experiencing the mandala and its creation
continue to live within us, in our hearts and minds long after the dissolution.

Fall is an ideal time to begin to draw inward and
contemplate what holds meaning for you. It’s a time to slow down and reassess.
It may be time to ask: Am I taking the right direction? Is my heart calling me
to a new, deeper experience? It’s also ideal to make time to simply sit still
and listen. Listen to the breeze, to the geese flying over, to the planes
passing. But most of all, go deep and listen to that still, small voice in your
heart. What is it trying to tell you today? Will you listen and act on it? That
small voice is the one that guides you towards the light within you. It does
not harm and does not guide you to harm others. Pay attention and move into the
rhythms of fall without resistance.

Debra Moffitt

Moffitt’s book, "Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely
Inspired Life” will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in May 2011.  Read
more at  Her essays and
articles appear in publications around the world and focus on drawing attention
to the spiritual in a mostly material-minded world.  She gives workshops
in the U.S. and Europe


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