Journey to the Center of the Semester
This month was so full of new experiences and totally new learning opportunities! One thing that I enjoyed the absolute most was being able to participate in the Buddhist Sand Mandala ceremony and learn more about Buddhism. Prior to this experience, I had little knowledge of what Buddhism was. I had taken a Zen practice class over the winter term of my sophomore year. In there, I learned more about the mediation part of Buddhism and how to practice Zen, but my knowledge did not really go too much deeper than that. During this experience, not only did I learn about Buddhism, but I also learned about the ritual of the sand mandala.
During the sand mandala ceremony, a monk comes in and makes a mandala made out of sand. This sand is very fine and comes in many colors to make a beautiful work of art. This process is very tedious and the monk is very careful and delicate with his entire body in order to make a perfect mandala. After days of hard work on the mandala and it is finally finished, a ceremony is then held over the mandala. The monk then says a prayer over the sand and then destroys the mandala. The group of people that came to Elon’s Truitt Center included Geshe Sangpo, Elise, and Patty. They came all the way from Raleigh to do this ceremony for us. At Elon, Geshe Sangpo was the monk that executed this ritual. Once he destroyed his work, we then bagged up the sand and gave it out to our guests.
When the monks build a sand mandala, they are creating a pure land of a Buddha. Although, in this specific ceremony, we gave out the sand, in a typical sand mandala ritual, the sand is actually dispersed in a river of some sort. This is because the sand will disperse all in that river and then as Earth does its thing with runoff and precipitation, that same blessed sand that is in the water, then is sprinkled all over the Earth and on the people in it. This is a way to share good and beautiful energy. All of the energy Geshe Sangpo put into his work has now been spread over the Earth. Another cool thing that I learned is that the sand isn't actual sand that we can find on the beach because even that sand is too big. The sand is hand-made by the monk. It starts off as a big piece of marble or some kind of strong rock/stone that is then broken down into the tiniest of sand pieces. That is supposed to represent that even the biggest and strongest of any thing is made up of small particles and it can be broken down.
Overall, this was a super amazing experience and I am so happy to have met Geshe Sangpo, Patty, and especially, Elise! Talking with Elise about what Buddhism is, what it means to her, and the power of meditation is something that I will never forget and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I always try to spread kindness and be helpful, but I never thought about it as sharing my energy with the world and the people in it, or even the things on it, like nature. Now, I will always make an effort to make sure the energy I put out into the world is intentional, whether that be to the people or to the environment.