Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Universe as a Mandala

During our first week's stay at Thiksey Monastery, the monks were engaged in a lengthy 7-day Mandala Puja Ceremony. They would start at 6:30am and chant all day long until about 6pm in the evening, with little breaks in between. The mandala is an intricate traditional Tibetan model, hand-crafted with painstaking detail using colored sand. In the center of the mandala lies Mt. Meru, the axis mundi, surrounded by the 4 Cardinal Directions. The model represents the entire universe within Buddhist cosmology. Once the puja ceremony is completed, which includes LONG recitations of Tibetan prayers, the sand mandala is then ritually destroyed and made as an offering. This is performed traditionally to demonstrate the Buddhist Law of Impermanence.

At the end of the week, there was a big fire ceremony in the courtyard, in which the monks made offerings to the mandala deity. Afterwards we entered back into the main gompa and ritually destroyed the sand mandala. Finally, we carried the sand remains in an urn, marching down the long monastery steps, to an outlet of the Indus river, where we offered the universe as a mandala. The monks at Thiksey perform three big pujas like this a year.

"Of all practices, the offering of the mandala is the most profound and skillful way to accumulate the essential provisions of merit and wisdom, without which we cannot travel swiftly along the path."
- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Excellent Path to Enlightenment

"We practice the mandala offering so that we are able to give without clinging."
- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Excellent Path to Enlightenment

1 comment:

Andres said...