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Yamantaka Mandala

Mandala Teacher's Guide


Tibetan monks from the Gyuto Tantric University in northern India created this sand mandala at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. After a ceremonial blessing, the monks began the process of making the mandala. First they drew an outline of the design on a wooden platform. Then, using metal funnels and various tools, they poured, sprinkled, and arranged millions of grains of colored sand in a complex design. The work took almost four weeks.

Traditionally, when a mandala sand painting is finished, it is swept up and deposited in the nearest body of flowing water, as a metaphor of life's impermanence. But through a unique collaboration between the monks and scientists from the 3M company, this sand mandala became the first in the world to be preserved for future generations.

Because the crushed limestone typically used for sand mandalas will not hold colors permanently, the 3M scientists had to find a substitute. They searched for particles and pigments that would meet the monks' requirements yet remain colorfast and withstand the application of an adhesive. They discovered that the silicate particles used in asphalt shingles filled the bill. Fine enough for making detailed designs, these particles could be permanently pigmented in colors acceptable to the monks. After the monks finished their work and blessed the mandala, a special 3M adhesive was applied, first as a mechanically controlled mist and then with an eyedropper, for the three-dimensional areas. Now the mandala hangs on the museum's wall, its delicate design still intact and the colors pristine.

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