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Mandala Sand Painting - Ritual

Mandalas are created by monks who train for several years with master or elder monks to develop the particular symbols, icons and patterns that make up mandlas. They are created with in the communal aesthetic of the monks who work in complete collaboration with each other. That process of collaboration is thought to be an essential and intrinsic part of this art form with the artistic value placed on the process of working together rather than on innovation, self-expression or originality.

As a result, millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days forming an intricate diagram of the enlightened mind and ideal world. This formal geometric pattern represents the floor plan of a sacred mansion in the particular esoteric, textual traditions of Buddhism.

Opening Ceremony

The creation of a sand mandala begins with an 30-minute, opening ceremony in which the monks consecrate the site. They call forth the forces of goodness with their multi-phonic singing and ceremonial dances accompanied by traditional instruments: horns, flutes, drums and cymbals.

The multi-phonic chanting, known as zokkay (low tone) and barda (high tone), is particularly renowned. The main chantmasters simultaneously intoned three notes, thus each individually creating a complete chord. This tradition is also known as "overtone singing" because it is accomplished by learning to control the muscles of the vocal cavity and reshaping the cavity while singing to make it accord with the natural overtones of the voice.