Sweeping up the sands of impermanence
August 20, 2006
In an upstairs room of the Cobblestone Center in Tahoe City, decorated with images, photographs and information about Tibet, Buddhism and the Wheel of Life, nearly a hundred people gathered Saturday to patiently await the closing ceremony of a sacred sand mandala.
“Now is time for the dismantle,” said Tibetan Lama Lobsang Samten.
Samten has been in Tahoe over the last several days working on this Wheel of Life, a multidimensional sand painting reflecting information about the human mind and its tendency towards permanence. The art form is intended to bless not only every witness, but also the environment.
“It is like a cake for Mother Earth,” said Samten. “The main purpose is for peace.”
Following the completion of the mandala, Samten must sweep up the colored sands to signify existence as temporary.
“It’s a reminder of how impermanent everything is. In life, one second is one way and the next second it’s a next [way],” said Susan Kopy, visiting from Reno for the dismantling ceremony. “For me, it’s a physical reminder of that.”
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Samten briefly explained to the audience the meaning of each section of the mandala. Most significantly, the blue center hosting images of a snake, a rooster and a boar, representing anger, greed and ignorance respectively. They symbolized the three poisons of the nature of the human mind.
“First, I will collect the snake and we all visualize the anger gone,” Samten said between meditative chants. “Next greed and attachment. Not temporarily, but permanently.”
To a soundtrack of Tibetan Buddhist mantras, a few guitar chords and the ringing of a brass bell, Samten pinched sand from each section of the mandala and guided the audience in meditations on getting rid of anger, greed and ignorance. Everyone gradually rose from their seat to gather around the mandala to take turns sweeping the sand towards the center of the table.
“He sweeps it away because, in making this, you also have to let go of all this,” said 12 year-old Makaiah Mohler. “He’s done his part in making it, and now it needs to be spread.”
As the mandala was being swept, Kopy said, “It’s very hard to put how I feel into words. It really is. It really does underscore how precious the moment is.”
Each person took the opportunity to gather a little bit of the colorful sand to put in an envelope for themselves or to bless back to the earth.
“Each grain of sand is a prayer for peace,” said Samten.
The remaining sand was gathered into a vase, which Samten poured into Lake Tahoe at Commons Beach. The sand served as an offering. It came from the water and returned to the lake, Samten explained, like a circle.
“I truly wish to bring more peace and understanding to the earth. To help peace for humanity,” said Samten.