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What is a mandala?
A Tibetan mandala, visually represented, is a geometric composition wherein deities reside. The principal deity is housed in the center. The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment. A mandala has three layers of meaning: the outer (a model of the universe), the inner (to help minds become enlightened), and the secret (a perfect balance of mind and body). more

Who are the deities in a mandala?
Typically, the deities are those that a person chooses for Buddhist meditation. The deities also serve as role models on the path to enlightenment.

What is a sand mandala?
Unique to Tibetan Buddhism, sand mandalas are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the mandala to be created, and monks consecrate the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a drawing and fill it in with colored sand. The finished mandala is consecrated and, having served its purpose, is swept up and dispersed into flowing water.

Why did the Dalai Lama call for the making of the sand mandala?
In response to the September 11 tragedies in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has called on Tibetan Buddhists throughout the world to offer healing through meditation, prayer ceremonies, and the sacred healing arts.

How does the mandala generate healing?
According to Buddhist scripture, a mandala transmits positive energies to the environment and to those who view it. The monks invoke the mandala's deities through meditation and chanting and then ask for their healing blessings.

What was the mandala made from?
This sand mandala was made from millions of grains of powdered, colored marble. Powdered sand, flowers, herbs, grains, colored stones, and semiprecious and precious stones can also be used in the construction of sand mandalas.

What were the mandala's white lines?
Chalk was used to make the initial design. The mandala was completed using large compasses with white pencils, but the lines were not engraved or incised into the surface.

What tools did the monks use?
The monks used a cone-shaped metal funnel, or chak-pur, to pour the sand. Running a metal rod on the chak-pur's grated surface created vibrations that caused the sand to flow like liquid.

What would have happened if a monk sneezed?
If the sand became disturbed, the monks would have corrected it by pouring new sand.

How long did it take to make this sand mandala?
This seven-foot-square mandala took twenty monks working in shifts two weeks to complete.

Why was it destroyed after it was completed?
To Tibetan Buddhists sweeping up the sand symbolizes the impermanence of existence. Pouring the sand into water dispersed the healing energies of the mandala throughout the world.

Where did the monks come from?
The Tibetan monks came from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. After 1959, the monastery shifted its main headquarters and school to the state of Karnataka in southern India. The Loseling Institute, a monastic seat with 2,500 monks, is located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Where can I see images of the mandala's construction?
Images of the mandala's construction have been placed on this web site.

Where can I see more Tibetan art?
Tibetan sculpture and painting are on exhibit in both the Freer and Sackler galleries.

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
exhibitions | online exhibitions
Smithsonian Institution