Dust to Dust ~ A Mandala Tale


Today was about doing something new in a place filled with ghosts. I like most things circular, you know this. Kaleidoscopes, astrological wheels, globes, mandalas, hex signs, planets, bangles, hoops, etc. So when one of my coworkers took a group to see a sand mandala demonstration, I was intrigued. It sounded fascinating. I really wanted to join them, but it was not possible. When I learned that the monks destroyed the entire project at the end, my curiosity peaked. What is the purpose? How can you obliterate something you meticulously built with such care?

When I heard that a sand mandala was being created this week at Material Culture, I made a mental note to find some time. Material Culture is a wonderful space filled with exotic treasures from around the world. I used to work at the same complex where it is situated. Interestingly enough,  both a satellite office and the corporate office of two former employers are located rather close together. They share the same side of the parking lot. I moved from one agency to the other and spent some time in both offices. I had wanted to explore Material Culture, but never found the opportunity. My new position kept me quite busy. I promised myself I would go back there some day.

Well that was today.

It was strange retracing my steps as I navigated the parking lot. I have mixed emotions about both of these former employers. There are  some other businesses that occupy this unusual warehouse complex, which is certainly off the beaten track. But the striking view of Center City Philadelphia in the distance never disappoints.  As soon as I entered Material Culture and got a whiff of the incense, my energy shifted. I felt so grounded and relaxed. It was as if I had entered a different dimension. The space is vast and museum-like. There was no signage, but eventually I found the section where the monks were selling wares and working on the sand mandala. It was such a sensual feast ~ a mix of vibrant colors, rich deep scents, and striking sounds that sounded almost musical in nature. I took off my clogs, found a cushion, and drank it all in.

Tomorrow is when they deconstruct the mandala. I could not bear to see that happen. But I was able to contemplate the principle at play. No-thing in form is permanent and all consciousness is in a state of flux. Stay in the moment and be the change.

The header image was taken by me, via my cellphone. Notice that it has more detail than the other image, shot earlier in the day by the Drepung Gomang Buddhist Center. We are forever being recycled, birthed and extinguished, dust to dust.

I highly recommend you attend such a ceremony if you can find one in your area. The skillful intensity of the Tibetan monks is breathtaking and the mandala art, exquisite. I would have stayed longer had I felt more energized. I do feel somewhat better health-wise, but still a bit weak and fatigued. The energy from the physical space and the monks did fuel my spirit and enhance my mood. The charge was positive and the people I encountered seemed peaceful and upbeat.

I found this song after choosing the title for this blog. It is new for me, unlike the complex I visited today. And yet, the message haunts me. It seems to complement the theme of opening up the self to break through any isolation. This resonates for me strongly. I hope it also makes an impact on you.