What is a monkeybox?

When I was a little girl, we had a pet monkey named Amanda. My Dad worked in the produce business, so each night he brought home that days culls in a big box - spotty cucumbers, pithy apples, limp celery, moldy oranges and the like. We called it a monkeybox. It was really just trash, but my Mom would take each piece of fruit and trim it, pare it and cut it up to make a beautiful fruit platter for Amanda. Even though it was deemed trash by one, it still had life left in it and was good for the purpose we needed it. That's how I live my life - thrifting, yard saling, looking for another's trash to be my treasure.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mandala Project

Living in a University town provides us with many oportunities that we might not have if we lived elsewhere. For instance, today, I spent the afternoon with a group of Tibetian Monks. Didn't you?
The visiting Tibetan Monks are constructing a Mandala as an educational tool for the U of A students and our community as an offering of peace and harmony. Viewing the Mandala will also provide an opportunity for renewal after the recent ice storms that ravaged our area.

This mandala is one being made by students and visitors.

"Mandala" is sanskrit for circle, and so, maost Mandalas are circular in shape. Mandalas are created by hand, made of brightly color sand, laid in place, grain by grain. Mandalas are complex geometric designs intended to symbolize the universe and our interaction with it.

A Tibetan Mandal can take several weeks to construct. This particular Mandala began March 2nd and was to be completed tonight at 7:00. It will be on display until the end of the month.

At the end of the month, there will be a ceremony where they basically sweep the sand up into a pile, thus destroying the Mandala. The closing ceremony commemorates teh dedication of the artists and the community who have supported the creation of the mandala, while reminding everyone of the essential impermanence of our lives and the respect and compassion for all living htings that such impermanence implies.
This is the Mandala being assembled by the Monks.
It is really a beautiful thing. So amazing that it can be done so tediously, and then swept up as if it were nothing.

The sand is in these copper instruments. They scrape a flat stick over the instrument which makes a vibration and releases the sand - one grain at a time.
A Monk said to us in broken English, "Come back" and made sweeping motions then "take home" as he motioned to The Bean. I knew he wanted us to come back for the closing ceremonies when they swept it up. After it is swept up, people in attendance are given small amounts of the sand to take home. Some of the sand is usually taken to a local water source and deposited as a blessing to the citizens.

I feel we were very fortunate to have seen this in the making. We plan on going back to the closing cermonies.

So, what did you do today?


  1. I've never heard of this. What an AMAZING process!!

  2. Very interesting post! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.


  3. Believe it or not, I was watching a documentary on Tibetan Monks last week, which was the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Llama's expulsion from Tibet btw, and my five year old got really emotional when he heard the part about how the monks sweep the mandala up when they are done with it, you know, he being a serious artist and all. Your pictures are really lovely; what a great experience!


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