With the arrival of the digital age and a culture dedicated to speed and efficiency, much of contemporary design has lost an old motivation: to create artefacts or experiences of permanence.
One hallmark of this fast-paced environment is the concept of immutable impermanence: a strict recognition of the fact that not everything will last and that not everything should last. Impermanence is far from a new idea.
Buddhism entered Tibet in the 7th century A.D. Throughout the history of the ancient religion, Tibetan Buddhists monks have developed rites and traditions unique to their culture. One of the most famous practices is the creation of intricate Sand Mandalas, which are believed to emanate healing and purification.
The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a centre point to exhibit radial balance.
The term first appears in the Rigveda and is an ancient Indian Hindu collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. The hymns are dedicated to Rigvedic deities and consist of a collection of 1,028 hymns, organized into ten books (Mandalas).
In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing the attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.
The practice of making Mandalas exists throughout Buddhist traditions worldwide, but Sand Mandalas are unique to Tibet. Instead of being woven in cloth or painted, Sand Mandalas are made of millions of fine grains of coloured sand. The sand is carefully dripped through special funnels to create the Mandala.
A high-ranking priest will choose the location and the design of the Mandala, the site is then blessed with music and chants and over the course of several days or weeks, monks will painstakingly create the Mandala.
It is believed the Mandala hold powers of healing and purification. During the creation of the Sand Mandala, other monks chant and pray, calling upon the deities thought to reside within the design. Buddhists believe that this releases the positive healing energies of the Mandala to those who view it as well as to the surrounding environment.
The ceremony is concluded with the destruction of the Mandala, which signifies the Buddhist belief in the impermanence of life. Afterwards, the sand from which the Mandala was made will be brought to a river or stream and cast into the flowing water in order to disperse the healing and purifying power of the Mandala to the world. Following its destruction half of the sand used in the design will be distributed to the laity by the monks, further highlighting the Buddhist belief in sharing its blessings with all.
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