Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

May 3, 2006
Reposted December 1, 2020

This essay, Mandala, is the companion piece to
  1. What's So
  2. The Way Of Transformation
in that order.

Photography by John Tsantes
Monks Making A Mandala
Six Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Dalai Lama's Gyudmed monastery near the village of Hunsur in South India toured the United States. They came to visit the Napa Valley in California where I live. I had the good fortune to be with them on various occasions, listening their message of compassion for all sentient beings. On three of those occasions I observed them as they created an intricate, ornate mandala  from colored sand in a wind-free room. It was a hushed, privileged experience. I could have been observing Michelangelo hewing La Pieta  out of the marble slab, or Da Vinci painting Mona Lisa.

The first time I observed them, I saw their patience, their slow, meticulous concentration. There was no margin for error, and they made none. It was a fine, detailed, creative work of art. I had never seen anything quite like it before. It took them three days or more of painstaking work to create the mandala, one grain of sand at a time. And when they were done, they destroyed it with a whisk broom in a matter of seconds!

I was confronted by what they did - on many levels: by their impeccability, by their attention to detail, by their commitment to their work, by their joy, by their obvious detachment from the finished product. I kept on seeing how a monk regards life and work in the world, as distinct from how I regard life and work in the world. As I observed them, I found myself inquiring into my own life, provoked by what I saw them doing. In the realm of who they were being, the standards they adhered to were so ridiculously unattainable, the bar they set was so ridiculously high - at least that was my awed opinion of it. It was disconcerting (to say the least).

The second time I observed them, I was already somewhat familiar with the experience, having observed it once before. I was therefore prepared for what to expect. Yet the second time was still inescapably new and different. This time I saw the symbolism of the colors they used, of the images they created, even of the textures of the different grains in their depictions. Life is red - chagrin. Life is blue - melancholy. Life is green - growth. Life is a bird - it flies. Life is a dragon - it's fierce. Life is hard. Life is soft ... on and on, so much meaning, so much significance, so many interpretations  that it was clearly impossible to take it all  in. Every square foot told a story, told many stories in fact. I saw the dharma. I saw the Buddha and his followers. I saw the endless streams of life merging, separating, then flowing together again. I saw the temporariness  of it all. I saw the joy in a moment. I saw the world in a grain of sand (as William Blake may have said - and heaven in a wild flower).

The third time I observed them, I had just returned from a visit with Werner during which a new context had presenced itself to me so gently, so quietly, so intimately that I was unaware (at first) of anything having shifted. And this time I saw with sudden stark clarity what I had not  seen before ie what I had missed on both previous occasions. And when I saw what I had missed on both previous occasions, a smile flickered over my lips and face. I was totally elated.

The third time I observed them, I saw monks making a mandala.

Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2006 through 2020 Permission