In 2001, at the UCLA Hammer Museum, I had the honor of being selected to collaborate with Tibetan monks as a part of a youth group. We built a Mandala in conversation with Tibetan monks exhibiting at the Hammer.
The Mandala Project
The following photographs are “courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.” There were no digital cameras in 2001. As a high school student, I didn’t capture many images, except a polaroid photograph that was taken of my boyfriend Jesse and I. We were being silly at the time and didn’t think the adults were watching. Instead of being admonished for being playful during the serious work of Mandala manifesting, we were rewarded. I cary this experience in my heart, soul and credit it for my choice of dedicating my life to the creative multiverse.
Since I didn’t have much documentation from that point in my life, 2001, I’m sharing with you images and text from the Hammer Museums Mandala Project in 2010. I’m so grateful that this Mandala Project which transformed my life in 2001 is ongoing:
“OCTOBER 26 – NOVEMBER 7, 2010
The Hammer Museum, in partnership with Ari Bhöd — the American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation — is pleased to present The Mandala Project. This two-week program will feature the construction of a Tibetan sand mandala by a team of traditionally trained Lamas visiting Los Angeles from the Thubten Choeling Monastery in Pharping, Nepal. The mandala they create will be a sacred painting, following precise and ancient instructions passed down over thousands of years. Millions of grains of colored sand will be sprinkled carefully on a flat surface over an elaborate 10-day ceremony.
The mandala painting represents boundless compassion, purity and clarity. It is believed that mandalas have the power to transform negativity and awaken altruism and compassion in the viewer. Accompanying the sand mandala will be a series of architectural drawings of a proposed four story mandala for Ari Bhöd by Los Angeles based architect Michael Rotondi, as well as a smaller three-dimensional mandala, created by Pema Namdol Thaye, a master of Tibetan art. The project also includes a Hammer Conversation with Rotondi and Thaye, and culminates in a ceremonial sweeping of the sand and a concluding procession to the Pacific Ocean for the dispersal of the sand on November 7, 2010.
The mandala is a profound, universal symbol that translates literally to “center and its surroundings” and is a physical representation of our interdependence, or the notion that everything and everyone is interlinked. Mandalas are found in many forms, but always include a circle, a central point, and some form of symmetry. They can be created in sand, on paper or cloth, or built as 3-dimensional models or buildings. The vivid painted mandalas of Tibet are the most widely known. There are only a few three-dimensional mandalas in the world, due in part to the large commitment of time and expertise needed to create them.
Traditionally created as a tool for visualization and meditation, every single detail of a mandala—the design, the colors, and placement of symbols—is deliberate. The blueprints are considered sacred, with many layers of deep meaning and positive representation. Before beginning, traditional mandala artists generate the intention to benefit others and the motivation of compassion, which is believed to infuse the art or structure with unique spiritual and sacred qualities.
Again the photographs above, excluding the image of my partner of 16 years Jesse and I are “courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.”