Tag Archives: sand

The Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part 2


Drawing from the information and my experiences in Part 1 of watching a Tibetan Sand Mandala being made (YouTube clip here) I will use an ethnographical understanding presented by Ellis et al as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” to make sense of my understanding as well as an understanding of the Tibetan Sand Mandala. Ethnography is quite challenging in itself as it deals with first experiencing an aspect of another culture, making note of those experiences and then reflecting on those experiences and how those experiences affect you by looking at your own culture and why those aspects occurred to you. As research and understanding of my first experience has developed there are observations that I did not notice on the first or next viewings or even include in my Part 1 blog post.


Screenshot from YouTube clip Sand Mandala Time Lapse

Looking at the final creation of the mandala as seen in the picture above I can’t help but feel that there would be a sense of pride by the monks who worked on the beautiful and intricate piece as mentioned in my previous post. With my understanding of pride and seeing people feel proud, there is a sort of satisfaction and happiness to know that an individual put in the time and effort to see a task be fulfilled and completed. An acknowledgement and personal satisfaction to see a task through such as feeling pride when completing a University assignment, finishing a job report or losing weight. In my search to understand why I would thing pride would be experienced I needed to put academic understanding to my opinion to formulate a cultural resolve. Salerno et al researched the significance of pride and the effects that it has on people. There are instances where an individual who feels pride can be a positive and/or negative thing. The positive being gratification and motivation but also a negative effect of pride is the constant sense of self accomplishment can be addictive, resulting in the repeated process of wanting to feel that same self-appraisal previously felt – there would be a constant struggle with in oneself to reach that same satisfaction.

Buddhism teaches that pride is an issue of self-importance and condemnation. As to have pride in oneself is to put one’s own importance or satisfaction above that of others. There is a need to let go of pride. There is a sense of entitlement when one experiences pride – an individual who finishes a task and feels satisfaction or self-appraisal splits the intention and motivation for that action with feeling and production. If someone was to not finish a task on time they would feel bad and this would affect their self-worth. When an emotion is put into an activity that activity has become a reflection of the capability and stature of the individual. There is also the Buddhist teaching that to feel pride is to put oneself above that of others – to have an ego. Oxford Dictionary defines ego as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” and “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity”. Buddhism has the fundamental teaching that to put effort into one’s life for the intention of getting something in return is wrong. There should be no expectation or emotional fulfilment for what you do as is only creates disharmony on the individual and separates that individual from everyone else.

From what I see to feel pride in accomplishment, much like writing this blog, is to feel an aspect of an emotion. Those emotions are part of a larger array of emotions – so as to let oneself feel pride, one will also feel sadness, anger, fear, frustration, confusion and each has different variations. To allow oneself be warped into a sense of self-appraisal and commitment based on the results of one’s experiences condemns the individual to the entire array of emotions. These emotions cause us to lose control and lose our peace of mind. Though it is not to block out oneself to experiencing emotions that would bring a great sense of happiness, but to understand and be mindful of the situations that arise from one’s own life and act accordingly. As it is your own internal being that is the cause of unhappiness no one else’s.

Researching Buddhism and pride has led me to the personal understanding that there is a significant difference between the way I live and Buddhist teachings. As a current 25-year-old in 2016 my life is currently a constant reflection of what I have created and achieved – especially as a University student. My self-worth is dependent on what I do and how well I do it. If I fail something, then there is a part of me that stops everything and questions everything else that I am doing as if to say am I understanding what I am doing and am I doing it the right way. Much like this topic of the Sand Mandala it was my own choosing and my own understanding as to what I wanted to talk about and the areas that I wanted to focus on. With researching that pride is considered to be a negative feeling by Buddhist standards and that there is always an almost addiction to feeling pride it shows that in my personal experience both for what I see with others and for what I feel there is some unhappiness with the expectations with what others and I have to do. This observation would lead my interest and research on the mental health of university students but that is for a different post.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. & Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1

Salerno, A, Laran, J, & Janiszewski, C 2015, ‘Pride and Regulatory Behavior: The Influence of Appraisal Information and Self-Regulatory Goals’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 499-514

The Tibetan Sand Mandala – Part One


I was given the opportunity to choose an aspect of any Asian culture I would like to experience and then write and analyse about that experience from an autoethnographic viewpoint. Autoethnography being described by Ellis et al. “… is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”. Through minimal research of different topics, I came to an immediate interest in looking at the Tibetian Sand Mandala. The sand mandala is a creation from Tibetan Buddhists that signifies a representation of the world in divine form.

There is a Buddhist Temple that I can get to, the Nan Tien Temple, though making and designing of the Sand Mandala is not just a common every day activity and also not publicized on social media so my personal experience is limited to watching videos – like the one above to give an account of my perceived observations and understandings of making sand mandalas. I did have the interest in watching the making of the mandala without the need to watch it in a time lapse or sped up to some degree. By being at normal speed and going through the processes as the monks do it would be beneficial to get a real sense of how long making ones of the mandalas actually takes. So before I can acknowledge that my observations are a way of understanding a different culture I have to accept that based on the topic that I have chosen and the tools that I have at my disposal there are aspects of making a sand mandala that I cannot completely experience which puts a limitation on my experience and final outcome. Also while I am describing what I see and writing it down I am going off the video of someone I have never met and do not know, so my perspective is contained and critiqued based on what the producer of the video has put and edited into the video. So my observations to some extent will include the format and tech-work of the video.

Now for watching the video (I would suggest watching it in 1080HD or highest quality as possible that you can do). I have chosen a 9-minute-long video that showcases a mandala that took 1 week to create time lapsed into an 8-minute piece. Reasons for this being I felt the need to find a video in high-definition as there are a lot of intricate details that take place in creating a sand mandala and I needed a consistent top down view. The preparation of the mandala is one quite intriguing, with tools that resemble what a student would use in maths class or arts class – rulers, pencils, compasses and protractors are used so the markings for the mandala take shape. A large square is sketched out then turned into a grid of squares. This grid is the basis for the design of the mandala. Then using tools to draw an intricate design and using coloured sand to bring that design to life.


This compass not the other one. Source.

The design looks to be separated into 4 quadrants, while each quadrant appearing to be symmetrical in design there are slight variations of colour and patterns within certain areas. While visually the mandala is appealing there is a need of reflection on what the mandala means. The whole piece is symbolic of the universe and where each concentric circle is a reflection of the teachings and practices that Buddhism provides. While my understanding of Buddhism and Mandalas is borderline non-existent, my knowledge only comes from minor readings, films and observations. I will need to research the meaning and understanding of each aspect of the mandala more thoroughly, which in turn means looking at the practices and understandings that Buddhism offers.

The four square gates in each quadrant resembling the essence of Buddha, with each ‘gate’ an idea of understanding, such as boundless thought or the geographical directions – North, South, East and West. Each circle from the outside a barrier or challenge that an individual needs to overcome to reach enlightenment. Some examples of these challenges being greed, envy, illumination, rebirth and ignorance. While the mandala is powerful in symbolism a component of the full mandala process is the blessing and destruction of it. A piece of art (from an outside perspective) or a piece of religious expression to put the amount of hard work into creating these mandalas is nothing short of impressive. The video above as I mentioned was filmed over a week, you can see the sun rays significantly change over time – so suggest the monks making the mandala are putting in long hours each day to perfect the creation of the mandala. I would suggest pride would be a feeling felt when oneself or a part of a team accomplish such a delicate and long detailed work. But to feel pride in ones’ work is not something Buddhism deals with – as Buddhism teaches the understanding of impermanence. What we have in this life – like materialistic things we can no take with us when we die. Our actions, behaviour and what we put into this life will be reflected in our rebirth. The mandala is destroyed in a specific way and usually thrown back in the ocean to symbolize the way of life and also as a way to give back to the universe.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. & Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1