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Monks begin painstaking work on intricate sand designs

Delegation from India will spend five days creating the circular mandala at the USC Pacific Asia Museum

monk at Pacific Asia Museum
A lone monk works on the Buddha image at the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. (USC Photo/Carol Chaplin)

A beautiful Buddhist symbol of the universe is taking shape in Pasadena — and you’re invited to watch.

The colorful sand mandala is being painstakingly created by Buddhist monks from Karnataka, India, at USC Pacific Asia Museum over the next five days, culminating in a dissolution ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 9.

The sand mandala is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist art form that involves careful placement of colored sand in an intricate design that references the world in its divine form as a path for the mind to reach enlightenment and balance.

A delegation of six monks will be creating the circular mandala in the museum’s auditorium. The project is labor-intensive, with as many as four monks at a time working on the mandala, which will be four feet in diameter. The tool they use is a bronze, funnel-like instrument called a chakpur. Using a bronze wand, the monks release a fine stream of sand across the grooves of the chakpur to create the designs.

 At the dissolution ceremony, the monks will sweep away the mandala and distribute the sand to those in attendance.

The mandala is best appreciated as a meditative work in progress, so come by this week to watch it take shape.

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Monks begin painstaking work on intricate sand designs

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