The Mandala: Why Do Buddhist Monks Destroy It?

July 13, 2017

The Mandala: Why Do Buddhist Monks Destroy It?

"Everything changes, nothing remains without change."

 Gautama Buddha

Picture this! You put all your talent and effort in making something intricate. In fact, you spend many hours, days and months in creating it. But once it is completed, you destroy it within minutes. Sounds frustrating and heartbreaking, doesn’t it? Well, this is exactly what the Tibetan monks practice!

Tibetan monks create a five-by-five-foot square mandala using colored sand, which represents the world in a divine form which is perfectly balanced and precisely designed. Vivid colors and elaborate meaningful symbols are infused into the pattern of the mandala.

The mandalas are created with an intention to heal the earth and its inhabitants. It is created by dropping each sand particle into the intricate design as a form of meditation. It requires a team of monks to work on it for days, weeks or months together depending on the design.

Mandalas were primarily created to reach a meditative sense of being grounded. The mandala represents wholeness. The distance from its center to all points stays the same, no matter from where you measure.

Fantastic design and vibrant colors together make a perfect mandala. Once the mandala is complete the monks ask for the deities' healing blessings during a ceremony. As the monks chant, one monk begins the destruction of the mandala by scraping a knuckle through the sand, creating a cross of grey sand.

Another monk takes a paintbrush and slowly and carefully sweeps the sand from the perimeter to the centre of the mandala. The destruction of the mandala serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life.


The coloured sand is swept up into an urn and dispersed into flowing water - a way of extending the healing powers to the whole world. It is seen as a gift to the mother earth to re-energise the environment and universe.

All About Mandalas

The word "mandala" originates from the classical Indian Language, Sanskrit. It means a circle; however, the mandalas have profound meaning attached to them than their simple shape. They denote the universe in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Mandalas have been used in spiritual practice since many ages and are used as a way to meditate on the nature of life and its creation. Mandalas look different depending on what they portray. There are different types of mandalas that have various symbols for different deities. For example, the Kalachakra (or Wheel of Time) is considered the most elaborate mandala because it portrays 722 gods. Smaller mandalas have fewer gods and are less complex.

 Kalachakra Mandala


Importance of Geometric Mandalas

While there are many mandala patterns and designs, the most commonly followed one is the geometric pattern. The geometric mandala has many layers of meaning attached to it. The circle is considered as the basic shape and the gateway between the divine and earthly realms. Geometric mandalas are a fusion of specific shapes and proportion along with their associated meanings.

Geometric mandalas use the circle as the foundation shape and designs are added to it, and rituals are performed to infuse deeper meanings. The design of the mandala varies on the cultural significance. Many modern patterns help in reaping the meditative benefits of the mandalas. Here are some of them:

•    The center of the mandala is the starting point and the ideal place for the geometric designs to originate.

•    A torus or a combination of two circles is drawn from the central point using drawing tools like a compass

•    Right triangles are drawn to fill a design. The triangles are the creativity of the Egyptians who use them extensively to shape their pyramids.

•    Overlapping of circles in equal size creates the Flower of Life design.

•    A series of polygons are used to build up a geometric pattern

•    Simple lines help in breaking the circular space in an intricate design

After a mandala has been created, a mandala ceremony is held where the monks pray and meditate. After the completion of the ceremony, the monks destroy the mandala because of the underlying message, “nothing is permanent.” According to Buddhism, everything is always moving to balance and enlightenment.

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