Monday, 22 August 2011

Making Mandalas

Last week was the 17th celebration of Himalayan Buddhism in Burgundy. The Temple of a 1000 Buddhas - Dashang Kagyu Ling, just outside the village of La Boulaye, was hosting a visit of some monks from the monastery at Gyuto Tantric University in the Dharamsala home to His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. These monks had come to take part in the annual mandala making.

Every year we say we will go and see the making of the sand mandala and every year we miss the festival for one reason or another, but this year we were determined and so off we went on the last day of the festival to see the afternoon session. Apart from during the “services”, this is one of the few occasions that you can actually enter the temple itself, the gallery is always open to the public in the afternoons, but the temple remains firmly closed - another reason for getting our skates on and making the visit.

When the gong sounded to open the temple doors, we went in barefooted. Turning to the right we saw the part-made mandala on a slightly raised platform and there we waited for the monks to arrive. Two monks then sat on the platform and prepared to work. They filled long metal cone-like devices with coloured sand and then placed the tip on the mandala where they need that particular colour. Using a metal stick they then rubbed the side of the cone (which seemed to be ridged) to create just enough vibration to deliver grains of sand one by one to the right place. There is little room for error in this task and the concentration was obvious. A third monk chanted gently in the background, most probably blessing the work as it progressed.

The mandala was started on Tuesday morning and was scheduled to be finished in time for
the closing ceremony at 17.00 on Thursday. When the mandala was finished, it would be carried to the banks of the river Arroux and all the sand would be washed into the river. This ceremony is believed to promote happiness and peace in the world, however, I couldn’t help think of how heartbreaking it would be to see three days worth of concentrated work destroyed in minutes.

The temple is always interesting to visit, its incongruity with the Burgundian landscape is fascinating, but the rare opportunity to look around the temple itself and closely inspect the huge Buddhas and other statues, whilst watching the painstakingly detailed work of the monks, made this a very special visit.

La Tuilerie Website

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