San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The Making of Kalachakra Mandala

MANDALAS are intricate replicas of holy mansions, laboriouslyconstructed and destroyed soon after their completion. Theycan be made of jewels, flowers, dyed rice, colored stones or coloredsand.Sand, traditionally made from crushed precious stones, is thefavored material for its value and for the precision required to createthe details. Tradition says each grain of sand is charged with theblessings of the ritual process so that the entire sand mandala is astore of spiritual energy.The artists are Tibetan Buddhist monks who, tradition has it,learned the construction techniques from qualified teachers wholearned from those before them in an unbroken line from the originalBuddha who lived in the 6th century B.C. in India.They first construct the base, called the the-pu, then they measureout and draw the lines of the “architecture” of this flat, stylizedfloor plan of a five-story building using a straight-edge ruler, compassand white ink pen.THE mandala, as a mansion expressed in geometric design,includes a foundation, four entrances, walls and other architecturalelements. The colored sand is applied through the end of a metalfunnel, which is rasped against another funnel that sprinkles a finestream of sand.The artists begin at the center and work outward. TheKalachakra deity resides in the center of the mandala, tradition says,and his palace is made of the mandalas, which roughly means “centers,”of human experience, one within another: the mandala of thebody, that of speech, that of mind, and the one in the center – wisdomand great bliss.The mansion is divided into four quadrants, each with walls,gates, and a center. The colors represent the elements – black, in theeast, is associated with the winds; red, in the south, symbolizes fire;yellow, in the west, symbolizes earth, and white, in the north, representswater.The square palace of the 722 deities is seated upon the first concentriccircle, which represents the earth. The other circles – water,fire, wind, space, and consciousness – extend beyond the wall of thepalace. The outer circles, which represent the cosmos, are an exampleof Tibetan astrology. The ten wrathful deities who reside in eachof the outer circles of the mandala serve as its protectors.The mandala is made in the spirit of the impermanence of thehuman condition and the non-attachment to things, so it is destroyedin a ritual of sand removal and swept finally into a container. Thenthe monks bless the sand, carry it to a body of water and pour it in.FOR more info, see the Web site of the Tibetan Government inexile at

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