Mandala Construction and Destruction

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to witness a mandala being created by eight Buddhist monks from India. They were on a fundraising tour of our area. Over two weeks they demonstrated many aspects of Tibetan culture.

The highlight for me was the creation of a mandala. A mandala is a “sand painting” that represents a spiritual view the universe. The mandala that I witnessed was constructed over four days and was designed by the Dalai Lama. It shows the religions of the earth coexisting in peace.

The completed mandala. Made of thousands of grains of sand.

The monks mediate and pray while they make the mandala to bring themselves to a state of peace. It is created with colorful crushed stone sand, often placed one grain at a time, to create a beautiful image.

Once the mandala is finished, a “deconstruction” ceremony takes place. Incense is lit to purify the area, the monks chant a series of three prayers, and then the mandala is destroyed by brushing the sand into a single pile.

The sand is scooped up and taken to a body of flowing water where it is released in another ceremony. The sand, in spirit, makes its way to the ocean where the prayers it carries cross the earth.

Below is a video I made of the deconstruction ceremony.


  1. nickhk

    Dear Mr. Miller,
    The construction and deconstruction of the Mandala seems very interesting and intriguing! It definitely gives you a view on how separated our cultures can be! The painting seems just so detailed and beautiful! It almost makes you second guess if it’s sand or not, but you know it is when the Buddhist monks brush it up. It really is settling to think of a world signifying peace.


    • John Miller

      Hi Nick!

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments! My class and I appreciate that you visited and took the time to post your thoughts.

      Yes, I agree that the world would be a better place if we all just took some time to reflect on positives and move beyond the negatives. Watching the mandala being constructed puts my mind in a very nice place to think and reflect.

      Mr. Miller

  2. Aashi and Nicholas (Mrs. Yollis' students)

    Dear Mr. Miller and class,

    Hello! We are two students from Mrs. Yollis’ class.

    Thank you for the mandala sand you sent us! It looks very pretty and colorful.

    Aashi’s family is from India, and in India there is something very close to a mandala called a “rangoli”. Rangolis look a lot like mandalas because they are also made out of colorful sand and you make designs out of it.

    Aashi and I think that the mandala is showing most of the countries in the world, and you can see symbols of different countries. The mandala also looks like there is a world in the middle. Around the edge, there are some very pretty designs that look like waves. Do they stand for something?

    We are sad that the lovely mandala is swept into a body of water, but know that it is a tradition of the Buddhist monks and maybe some other countries.

    Nicholas and Aashi

  3. Evan L.

    Hi Mr. Miller

    I’m a grade 6 student in Ms. Smiths class. Right now are class is making mandalas to, but not as fancy as theirs. I’m using seeds for my mandala and we are putting it on paper plates. It sure looks like a detailed ceremony with many steps. I was wondering how long does it take to make a mandala like that one.

    ~Evan L.

  4. Shayne

    Hi Mr. Miller,

    I’m in grade 6 in Ms. Smith’s class. My class just did Mandala making today for art but with different kinds of beans. I think it is cool how mandalas are made.

    I wonder how mandalas are made and look like when people use just with pencil?
    ~ Shayne

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