Sand Mandala in Salisbury Cathedral’s Chapter House

08th August 2013

Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery will be in Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House from Monday 30 September to Friday 4 October creating a Sand Mandala. The process begins on Monday morning with a dedication ceremony and ends five days later with a destruction ceremony and procession to the River Avon. Visitors are welcome in the Chapter House at any time during these five days to watch the monks as they work.

The Sand Mandala is an artistic tradition of Tibetan Buddhism involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe representing an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation. Each object in the palace has significance as an aspect of wisdom or a guiding principle. Its purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones and to assist with healing.

The mandala is painstakingly laid using millions of grains of different coloured sand applied using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers, until the intricate pattern is achieved. It is usual that a team of monks works together on the project, creating one section at a time and working from the centre outwards. Once completed and the accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished, the sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed – symbolising the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life – and the sand swept up and poured into a river where its healing energies are carried throughout the world. This ceremony will take place during the afternoon of Friday 4 October.

Edward Probert, Canon Chancellor at Salisbury Cathedral, said “I visited the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in February, and was privileged to enjoy the monks’ hospitality and sit in on their worship. It will be a delight to return the compliment, and while Buddhist beliefs are very different from our Christian ones, it is deeply enriching to experience their artistic and devotional traditions. Sand mandalas are beautiful and astonishing, and throw a fresh light on the art and architecture of the cathedral’s Chapter House.”