Tibetan Monks Constructing A Mandala

May 16, 2013

By the time it is finished on Friday morning, the mandala will fill up the entire table. Shortly thereafter, it will be swept away and ceremonially deposited into the Mississippi River.
Credit Thomas Walsh / WWNO

One part of the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans is the creation of a sand sculpture by Tibetan monks. The meticulous process is open to public view outside Hall G at the Convention Center.

The scratching sound of sand fills the air as four monks bend over a table, releasing sand from metal funnels to create a mandala. They must place the colorful sand in just the right spot.

It takes three to five days to finish the design.

And then it’s swept away.

The ceremony symbolizes the impermanence of life. Monk Lobsag Dhondup explains:

“It tells a lot about the natures of our life. Natures of everything. It’s like, come together and be separated. Everything’s like that. You and I, talking, and after we’re done we go, separately, like that. So change is the main key things that the mandala is telling us.”   

Some of the sand will be given to guests as a blessing of health and healing. The rest will be, by tradition, poured into a flowing body of water — in this case, the Mississippi River.

The release represents the spreading of healing energies into the environment.

The public is invited to watch all stages of the mandala ceremony. Assembly continues today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The closing ceremony is set to begin Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Hall G.