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'Understand the impermanence': Monks from India creating colourful sand mandala at Regina temple

The mandala being formed at the Buddhist Centre of Regina is meant to spread a message of compassion to onlookers. It's a tradition that goes beyond 2,500 years.

Mandala will be destroyed after completion

Regina Reverend Uttam Barma and Abbot Khenpo Jampa Sopa look on as two monks create a sand Mandala to honour the Buddha of Compassion. Sopa says it is modelled after her palace and will bring those who witness it peace. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

A group of Tibetan monks from the Dzongkar Choede Monastery in India are at the Buddhist Centre of Regina this week creating a sand mandala meant to encourage compassion among those who visit it.

The Dzongkar Choede Monastery was started in 1270 and is now home to 300 monks. Four of them are touring Canada this year to preserve and spread the holy tradition of mandalas, an art form that originated in India more than 2,500 years ago.

The sand mandalas take about four days to create. Then they are destroyed to display the impermanence of life. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Abbot Khenpo Jampa Sopa, who leads the monastery, spoke with CBC through translator Thupten Lodoe about the significance of the mandala. 

Monks from the Dzongkar Choede Monastery in India are creating a sand Mandala at the Buddhist Centre of Regina this week, hoping to spread a message of compassion. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

The mandala being made in Regina is meant to represent the palace of the Buddha of Compassion. 

Mandala: a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.

The monks who are making the sand mandala have been studying the art since they were as young as seven years old. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Sopa said it's meant to counteract the bad karma and anger in the world.

"Anger is something which gives rise to all the unpleasurable experiences to all sentient beings and humans," said Sopa. "To pacify that or to eliminate the anger we need to adopt an antidote which is compassion." 

Monk and translator Thupten Lodoe, who lives in India, poses before wares he has for sale at the Buddhist Centre of Regina. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Sopa said the sight of the mandala is known to bring a feeling of peace. 

"By seeing the mandala here one needs to transform one's mind from some kind of negative minded people to try and become a positive minded person." he said.

"We need to extract the essence from the sand mandala because the essence is to become a more compassionate, more loving and caring person to other people."

The two monks creating the mandala in Regina expect to work on it for nearly 12 hours a day during their stay in Regina from Aug. 27 until Sept. 1.

They have been studying to make sand mandalas since they were seven or eight years old, about 20 years ago.

They use metal funnels to create the precise designs. 

Each colour used in the design represents a Buddha, Sopa says. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Sopa said there are five main colours used in the mandalas: white, red, yellow, blue and green, which represent the five Buddha families.

The monks use small taps to funnel the sand through a metal instrument that allows them to create the precise designs in sand Mandala. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Once the monks finish making the mandala, they will have a ceremonial gathering to give an offering to all of the Buddhas, specifically the Buddha of Compassion. Part of the offering is a traditional cake made by Sopa.

The Buddha of Compassion, shown on this cloth, is the inspiration behind the sand Mandala in Regina. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

Sopa said he will pray for the Buddha of Compassion to bless the area and the people, and he'll explain the mandala.  

Saṃsāra: (In Buddhism) The cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.

Abbot Khenpo Jampa Sopa smiles while making a cake to offer to the Buddha of Compassion once the sand mandala is complete. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

After the ceremony, the mandala will be destroyed and the sand will be given to people in the congregation.  

"Whatever beautiful things there are in the world are subject to change sooner or later," said Sopa. "So therefore we disseminate this to let them understand the impermanence of their Saṃsāra existence."

One of the cakes made for offering by Abbot Khenpo Jampa Sopa. (CBC News/Alex Soloducha)

"If they understand the impermanence of Saṃsāra existence, then when they encounter with some kind of tragedies or losses then they remain calm," said Sopa. "When they understand the impermanent then they are ready to face the change in their life."

About the Author

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

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