Vanishing Mandalas

Sand Mandalas symbolize the ephemerality of life and the world.

The remains of my mandalas.

I am sure you have come across the Tibetan Buddhist tradition called Sand Mandala. Buddhist monks spend several weeks to build mandalas from colored sand. Usually a team of monks work on the same mandala, for the picture entails great detail. And when they are finished, they sweep their work away. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river. This symbolizes the ephemerality of life and the world.

I am also positive that you will share with me the feeling, when right after having vacuum-cleaned and wiped the floor in the whole flat you notice a brand new spot. Does it not make you furious? It does that to me. Upon having cleaned the flat thoroughly on Friday an oily small piece of chopped onion falls right from the stove to the ground. Or I spill some of the pancake dough on the freshly shining kitchen tiles. For it is Fridays that I cook vegetable soup based on fried onions and on the same day I make pancakes. And it is Fridays that I get angry, because I clean the apartment prior to cooking.

And what do the two stories above have in common? They are both teaching us that nothing lasts forever. Buddhist monks destroy their beautiful mandalas on purpose so as to be able to commemorate the ephemerality of their work and of all there is. While on the other hand the oily pieces of onions and the drops of pancake dough are kindly trying to teach me that the essence of my work and of all the things in the universe is not constancy but change, not eternity but temporality.

As far as the good things go, their temporal nature evokes grief and regret. Who would not like a happy constellation of things to last forever? But it does not. And all we can do is cherish and appreciate it, while it lasts. The uncertain nature of things also teaches us to be grateful for everything good in our lives, no matter how long it may last. Gratitude makes us less greedy, for we become aware that we already possess a number of things. Another thing gratefulness does is chase away our sorrow about the things we have lost. We learn to appreciate, what and whom is still left.

The bad things, on the other hand, welcome the notion of ephemerality of life and the world. What better consolation is there for pain and anguish than to know that it shall pass.

Last but not least, let me tell you another story from my life. I have just recalled that last year I unknowingly did something a teeny tiny bit familiar to what the Tibetan monks do. I colored mandalas printed on paper and cut them right away. I cut out individual patterns that formed a bigger pattern – the whole mandala. Alright, I did not sweep them away, but I glued them to blank Christmas cards and sent them away per post. They ended in dustbins eventually. Yes, I know, it is not the same, but at least I did not keep them intact for very long and some parts of them, the less pattern-like ones I threw away right after the cutting.

Take care,

Helena Smole, author of:

– a fantasy novel with romance Vivvy and Izzy the Dwarf: A series about relationships

Balancing the Beast, a book offering a bright view of schizoaffective disorder ˗ bipolar or manic-depressive type

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