The Tibetan monks carry out a rite that in the West might seem far-fetched: they spend hours and hours, which become days and even weeks, bent over a work plane on which they deposit with small patience and care small grains of sand of different colors. Thus they form complex figures that give life to a beautiful mandala.
One of the main purposes of drawing these intricate symbolic patterns is to call the community to meditation and raise awareness that there is something bigger than the small world in which we live. However, when the monks finish the mandala, they destroy right away the precious work that took them so long. They scatter the grains of sand into water so that they return to Earth, from where they come. And they celebrate it! Because behind that ceremony lies a very powerful message.
Why do we need to detach?
The message underlying the mandala ceremony is that nothing is permanent. Absolutely nothing. Everything flows. The mandala is a representation of the world and the transitory nature of material life that reminds the monks that nothing is permanent, except change, as the Greek philosopher Heracles warned 2,500 years ago.
“Eventually, everything disappears from life. That’s all”, said Aditya Ajmera. Due to the ephemeral nature of our surroundings, we need to learn not to hold on to things, even to the most beautiful or touching ones. In fact, our tendency to cling to possessions and/or people is one of the main causes of our suffering and frustration.
To assume that everything is eternal or immutable means that, sooner or later, life will show us – in the worst way – that we are wrong. Because in reality life is a continuous flow marked by new acquisitions and losses.
The act of undoing the mandala itself not only encourages monks to free themselves from attachment to the objects but also – and above all – from the attachment to their achievements. When we become too attached to what we have done or achieved, our spiritual growth begins to atrophy because we identify more and more with the past, with an old “ego” that prevents us from taking advantage of what the future holds.
If we have our hands too full of the past, we cannot embrace the future. That is why we need to learn to enjoy the path, let go what we have done or achieved to embrace new projects that allow us to continue learning and growing, so that our “ego” can continue to evolve.
We need to practice more the radical acceptance, to understand that in life everything comes and goes. What seems perfect today, tomorrow could prove flawed. And vice versa. Not accepting it implies being in a perennial war with reality, as if we chose to live in an illusory world that reflects how we would like things to be, but not how they are.
It’s about not getting stuck in a moment of life just because we thought it was perfect or because we felt safe and comfortable. We need to let go of the past to enjoy the trip again. We should not wait for the perfect wave, but learn to surf with what life has in store for us.