At Corona del Mar State Beach on Wednesday, a Tibetan monk releases into the ocean sand from a mandala created at UCI in honor of the Dalai Lama's recent visit. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Sand mandala dissolved but not forgotten

Artwork blessed by the XIV Dalai Lama during the Global Compassion Summit is swept away

It took two Buddhist monks nine days and 115 hours to create the intricate and colorful sand mandala that graced the center of Phineas Banning Alumni House for a month surrounding the XIV Dalai Lama’s appearance at UCI.

In just two short hours on Wednesday, July 29, Namsa Chenmo Venerable Tenzin Choedhar and Venerable Sherab Choephel swept up their painstaking work, and with chants and ringing of bells, they released the sand into the waves off Corona del Mar State Beach. The ceremony is meant to symbolize the transience of life and releasing attachment to the material world.

As part of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday event July 5-7, the two monks from Dharamsala, India traveled to UCI to create the Mandala of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. Each grain of sand was precisely placed with purpose and intention. On July 7, the Dalai Lama consecrated and blessed the site. The auspicious and rare occasion became an integral part of the three-day Global Compassion Summit presented by Friends of the Dalai Lama in partnership with UCI and the Center for Living Peace.

Dissolving and dismantling the mandala involves sweeping up the sand painting in a final honoring of impermanence. Following sacred prayers and ritual chanting, some of the sand is delivered to the ocean, considered by Tibetans to be the container of the purest wisdom.

In opening remarks before about 40 observers of the ceremony, Thomas Parham, UCI’s vice chancellor of student affairs, articulated how the values manifested in the mandala resonate with the campus: “Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. The things that matter to us are peace, love and compassion, and they’re in short supply. With this collaboration we reclaim and embrace those values.”

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