Frederick News-Post: It took monks from the Tibetan Meditation Center in Frederick, Maryland, about a week to build a sacred sand mandala.
It took a single ceremony Thursday afternoon to destroy it.
Dozens gathered at the Claggett Center to watch the dismantling of the mandala, created by monks to coincide with a visit by Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche.
Devotees chanted “om mani padme hum” as they stood in line to receive small bags of sand — sand that monks had strategically placed on a wooden board to honor the deity Nairatmya, the “mother of selflessness.”
Following the destruction of the mandala, a caravan of cars and trucks paraded about 10 miles down the road to gather along the banks of the Potomac River near Point of Rocks. Kyabgon sat on a small log near the water and chanted and blessed the sand as lamas in saffron and magenta robes poured it into the water. Sand mandalas are dismantled and the leftover materials returned to nature to symbolize transitory nature of material life.
The ceremony was part of a week-long retreat, the crux of which was the transmission of the Nairatmya Great Empowerment.
On a U.S. tour, Kyabgon, one of two heads of the Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism, chose Frederick as the only place in the United States to transmit the Nairatmya Great Empowerment, in part because he helped establish TMC more than 25 years ago.
Some people returned to see His Holiness after seeing him in Frederick eight years ago, when he last visited from his home in Northern India.
Hun Lye, president of TMC and organizer of Kyabgon’s tour, said he has received transmissions from Kyabgon on several occasions, as have others at TMC.
Lye said Kyabgon is committed to promoting the Nairatmya program, which belongs to a larger collection of teachings known as the Hevajra.
“His Holiness has said that he sees it as his main spiritual contribution to revive the Hevajra practice within our lineage. This cycle of practices used to be very important in our lineage but in the last few hundred years have suffered some decline.”
Other guests simply awaited an appointment with Kyabgon, so they could ask him a question — quite often the product of several meditations.
But you can ask him anything, insisted Pamela Konchog Gyurme Drolma, in Frederick from North Carolina. She and others agreed that all high lamas are psychic, so to speak, and that people’s questions will be answered, regardless of whether or not they’re asked aloud.
They also agreed that people are changed by the experience, that personalities undergo transformations.
“There may be problems they had, but when they leave … there’s a kindness, a softness,” said Michael Pittmin, who participated in the retreat with his son. “It’s visible. … They come in sort of a cloud of confusion, and things seem so far over your head maybe sometimes, and then the sun comes out … and you get an inexplicable sense of clearness. When you’re in the presence of someone who embodies the (qualities) you’re practicing, it sort of carries you forward,” he said. “It’s like getting a jump start.”
Those at the ceremony were told to keep their pouches of colored sand on their altars or shrines at home, as a reminder.
“We can celebrate impermanence,” Pittmin said as he walked away from the river, “and not fixate on what we just did.”
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