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Sand mandala: Tibetan Buddhist ritual

Mandalas are of profound symbolic value in Tantric Buddhism and are regarded by some as sacred. They can take a variety of forms: from simple diagrams and elaborate paintings on cloth, to complicated patterns of coloured sand and large three dimensional carved structures.

Sand Mandalas represent the universe and act as an architectural blueprint of the enlightened mind. They can also function as a contemplative aid in visualisation meditation.

Mandalas often refer to secret Tantric doctrine and highlight the ideals of the Buddhist path which includes putting an end to suffering, attaining enlightenment and understanding reality through the Wisdom of Emptiness.

At the heart of this medicine mandala is a lotus throne and on it is a sacred medical text. Seated within the petals of a lotus flower are the Eight Medicine Buddhas, who came into the world to save sentient beings from the five degenerations: shortened life-span, delusions, degenerate persons, time and wrong views. In the outer sections the disciples of the Medicine Buddhas are represented by symbols.

A rare opportunity to observe the creation and offering of a "Mela" or Medicine Mandala, made from tiny grains of vibrantly coloured sand, with Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in India. Sand Mandalas are unique to Tibetan Buddhism, representing an architectural blueprint of the enlightened mind, functioning - among other things - as a contemplative aid in visualisation meditation.

Part of Tibet's Secret Temple: Body, Mind and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism: http://wellcomecollection.org/secrettemple

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