Each work begins as a drawing, the outline of the mandala. Then, colored sand is poured from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid. It is almost as if they are truly painting.
A sand-painted mandala serves as a spiritual symbol. Shortly after it is made, it's deconstructed. The destruction serves as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. As it states on the Drepung Loseling Monastery's website, “The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.”
The Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are currently in Dallas, Texas at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. During their week-long residency, they will complete one of these sacred sand mandalas.