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Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space

Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space

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Published by Michael Erlewine
Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space

By Michael Erlewine

5 pages


The concept of mandalas, their offering, and the creating of sacred space in everyday life.
Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space

By Michael Erlewine

5 pages


The concept of mandalas, their offering, and the creating of sacred space in everyday life.

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Published by: Michael Erlewine on Jan 12, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/03/2012

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Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space
 
Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space
The Life Mandala
By Michael ErlewineI marvel at the intricate sand mandalasthat Tibetan monks create. Theseelaborate designs can take a week ormore to assemble. When they arefinished and the offering made, they arethen swept into a pile of colored sandand scattered into a nearby river orstream, certainly a gesture ofimpermanence.
 
Mandalas are offerings, which is why
they are often called “mandalaofferings.” We too make offerings all the
time in everything we do. Ours may notall be made well or last long, but theyare our offerings all the same. They areall the things we try to do and careabout.
 
Carefully constructing a mandala (doingsomething with love and care) is a wayor an attempt to make our life sacred, tosomehow consecrate our efforts andourselves. Consecrate to whom andwhy?
 
Mandala offerings are not made to agod or someone up or out there.Offering is a mudra or ritual action thatitself (the act) creates or focuses spaceand this act of offering is what makes itsacred and not what is being offered.The making sacred by our skillful actionis the goal and that act of offering iswhat is sacred. The merit (whatever isgood and of benefit to life) arising fromany offering is usually dedicated bymonks for the benefit of all beings. Wecan do the same in secular life, thusmaking it sacred.
 
Our every effort and action has aneffect, signifies who we are and what weare doing, something like our personalsignature written in space and time
 –
 skillful means. Written to whom? Aspointed out earlier, written not to anyoneat all, but it is the writing itself, themudra or gesture (if done properly) thatis the offering and the offered. Themanner of offering makes the momentand that space sacred or clearer and isthe reason mandalas are made.The offering of a mandala itself is whatfocuses the mind and that focused mindand the ensuing awareness clarifies andmakes our space and time sacred. Inother words, we can bless ourselves byour skillful actions as we make them, byhow we do things. You and I do thisevery day, more or less skillfully. We aredoing it already in every action wemake; we might as well do itconsciously.
 
A group of monks gather andcollectively create a sacred sandmandala, blessing that space and timeand when the offering is made andcomplete, the sand mandala is usuallyswept up and cast into a stream to carrythe blessed sand everywhere else. Theblessed sand or even the finished sandmandala is not the offering. That is theresult of the offering. The offering is thecare and mindfulness used in creatingthe mandala. That offering activity is themandala.
 
 
Life as Mandala: Creating Sacred Space
When we create a mandala in our ownday-to-day life we focus our attentionand build that part of our life morecarefully and with greater detail thanelsewhere. We do it with love, concern,and care. Like a perfectly made guitar orlute, whatever is made with love andcare somehow reflects the specialattention that went into making it.Perhaps the guitar plays better, lasts
longer, “exists” more or „shines‟ in some
difficult-to-describe manner.There are things in life that we pour allour self into and it shows. They shine. Achild is a mandala. We each makemandalas all the time whenever we take
the time to do anything with care. I can‟t
prove it, but I know that the things I do inlife with my full attention and with greatlove and care are more meaningful andworthwhile to me than what I domindlessly and with no care. I makeparts of my life sacred by how I go aboutdoing them. And they last or existsomehow more strongly. Again, they
“shine.”
 
The Zen Buddhists are way into the ideaof doing everything with mindfulnessand great care. And it can happen allthe time and anytime. That is whatmeditation, chanting, mantras, and allritualized gestures are all about
 –
 clarifying space, making it sacred andspecial, making it shine.
 
As I look back over my life, it is clearthat I created some pretty elaboratespaces or mandalas myself. My wholebachelorhood in Ann Arbor, mysingleness, years as a musician, yearsas an intellectual, and so on were likean elaborate mandala or ceremonyenacted to draw forth from the universemy life partner Margaret, like a greatsong or chant. I did not know I wasdoing this at the time. It was instinctual.
 
I find it amazing that within about amonth of being married I left the housewhere I had lived for some seven years,I stopped playing music professionally(after over six years of performing), Isold my enormous collection of booksand music albums, AND I moved out ofmy much-loved town of Ann Arborcompletely. Gone. My entire Ann Arbormandala was swept away in a few shortweeks. How was that possible?
 
My view is that it was possible becausethe moment Margaret appeared in mylife, the reason I was performing theritual of searching for her, waiting forher, and calling her forth from thecosmos was fulfilled. I may not haveeven been consciously aware of what Ihad been doing. My single life as aneligible bachelor and man about townwas a question in itself, a question beingasked of the universe that wasanswered by Margaret. At that point, theentire mandala was finished and quitenaturally dissolved.
 
In the last thirty years I have createdanother very large mandala with ourcenter here in Big Rapids. It is extremelydetailed, worked out, and it shines. Theday will come when that mandala toowill deconstruct and vanish from theworld, just as it once appeared.Mandalas really are like flowers thatbloom and then fade. They are their ownreason to be. These are grand gesturesmade to inject a little eternity into time,like great calls echoing across time thatbring forth a response commensuratewith how carefully they were made.Mandalas offerings are their own reasonand reward
 –
the simple clarity of beingpresent.

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