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Making Sand Mandala: last rites

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The word "mandala" comes from ancient Indian Sanskrit, and it means the "reflection of cosmology" in Tibetan Buddhism. The mandala symbolizes the central source of the world's structure and it also represents different yidams and Buddhist thearchy. The mandala, which was derived from Indian Tantric Buddhism and later introduced to China, is used for oblation when learning to live by a religious doctrine. Generally speaking, it is the destination of Buddha.

According to Buddhist texts, in order to prevent the intrusion of "demons" when practicing Buddha dharma, Buddhist practitioners will draw a line or build an altar of earth, and set figures of Buddha on it, showing that the Buddhas have gathered and formed a Mandala.

Afterward, the line and altar are known as the mandala or tancheng, forming a basic framework for future mandalas and inspiring a variety of mandalas of different forms and categories.

Depending on production materials and painting styles, mandalas take on different patterns and sizes. Among them, the sand mandala is one of the most unique and delicate types of religious art in Tibetan Buddhism.

Each time large-scale religious rites are held in the Hor Monastery (located in the Hor Village of Yunling Township, Dechen County of Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province), the lamas of the monastery will create a mandala with multicolored sand to present Buddhist believers with a gorgeous representation of the world. However, after they complete the mandala, it will be dropped into the river, leaving nothing but a lasting impact on Tibetan Buddhists and believers.

A Chinese photographer, who goes by the pseudonym "Xiaoyao Huanglaoxie", was invited to visit the Hor Monastery and permitted to record the steps of creating a sand mandala with a camera.

Drakpa Rinpoche, host of the Hor Monastery touches the heads of believers and blesses them. [Photo provided by Xiaoyao Huanglaoxie/tianya.cn]