Friday, January 29, 2016

The Sand Painting

The Dalai Lama is at the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for treatment of a prostate condition.

He is expected to make a full recovery but will take about a month off after his treatment in the United States.

Why is everyone so excited?

The Dalai Lama is not the name of a person.  Rather, it is a title given to the spiritual leader of Tibet. But, since 1959, he has had to live in exile.  He has become world renowned for his philosophy, and for his efforts to promote peace and understanding while in exile.

This man (his given name is Tenzin Gyatso) is the 14th Dalai Lama, and is revered in many parts of the world.

In 2007, he visited Ithaca, New York, about an hour from where I live.  I wasn't able to see him in person, but crowds of upward of 5,000 people attended talks he gave.  In one talk, he said, according to the Syracuse, New York newspaper:

"Living, sentient beings -- animals, birds, insects, human beings -- all have the right to survive and carry on their life," the Dalai Lama told a sold-out audience at Cornell University's Barton hall. "All have a right to peace."

Which brings me to my memory of the sacred sand painting.

I, among many others, were honored to be able to see a beautiful work of art constructed in his honor at the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art on the Cornell campus.  Two mandelas, temporary, sacred sand paintings used as an aid to meditation and for healing purposes, were constructed by local monks.  

My spouse, then-teenaged son, and I arrived hours before the work was to be completed, and were able to see the monks work on them.  I don't have pictures, possibly because photography may not have been allowed.

There is something about sand paintings that is so fascinating, because they are meant to be temporary.  They are a sacred art form.  Their building starts with an opening ceremony. They are worked on with great patience and prayer. 

The Dalai Lama, during his visit to see the mandelas, blessed them.

They were destroyed days after the visit, as nothing in this world is permanent. A parade was held in a type of closing ceremony to carry the sand to a local river. There, the sand was deposited. The healing properties were meant to disperse into the river and bring healing to the world.

Peace. Healing. Such a simple concept.  But so difficult to obtain.

Will our world ever attain it?

Have you ever seen a sand painting built?


  1. A good post, Alana, with interesting information about the Dali Lama. I can see how his presence would draw a large following as his practices of peace, healing and right to life are universally sought after. And as you said, so simple yet difficult obtain. I have seen sand painting done by Native Americans and have made a few with my art a bottle/glass jar.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

    1. Sand painting is a beautiful art. I have one made by a Native American (or so I was told), glued to a type of canvas, hanging on my living room wall. A tourist piece, I am sure, but the person who gave it to me chose something I love.

  2. I've not seen a sand painting but what you describe does indeed seem sacred. Oh that the world could experience that peace today.

  3. I love the concept of sand paintings and their impermanence. I have never been lucky enough to see one being done.

    1. It was a beautiful thing to see. I hope you have the opportunity one day.

  4. I love sand paintings, they give a a peaceful feeling. One of the homes we decorated for a client was filled with photos and mementos of Dali Lama

  5. That sounds like a lovely day. I've never seen sand paintings, but I think I would be bothered by the fact that they're made to be impermanent.

  6. Beautifully written. I am a follower of the Dalai Lama and so want to visit him some day in India. I was able to see a sand painting being created once in Tulsa OK. It was the most beautiful and serene moment I'd ever experienced. I am glad you were able to view one :)


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