Source: Mountain Phoenix Over Tibet
To a child it looked like the grownups were building sandcastles in the sandbox: Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers used to play this game every morning in their homes: “Om Vajra Bhumi Ah Hung…,” sprinkle rice grains here, “Om Vajra Rekhe Ah Hung…,” sprinkle rice grains there. Then rub the vessel, rub, rub, rub with your right ell, sprinkle rice grains on the vessel, stack a ring, fill it completely up with rice, stack the next, smaller concentric ring, again filling that up with rice grains, all the while solemnly mumbling important-sounding words until the whole tower culminated in a conical construct that was to be destroyed at the end – just like a sandcastle.
It seemed like the Tibetan version of the Sisyphean task – the same thing over and over without a visible result. But while Sisyphus was condemned to roll the rock up the hill only to see it roll down again shortly before reaching the peak, my grandfathers offered and destroyed Mandalas voluntarily and enthusiastically until the end of their days.
Little did I know that the Mandala offering was an integral part of many people’s regular Buddhist practice and that it could contain the entire Buddhist path all the way up to enlightenment in one go. It had a deep meaning.
I was reminded of the Mandral because my aunt asked me to come over a while ago. Whether I could donate my grandfather’s religious belongings to a monastery in Tibet? My Somola had no special affinity for Buddhism but was thoughtful enough to look for a suitable solution for the sacred objects lying around the house collecting dust.
Upon taking a closer look, I discovered my Pola‘s old Mandral. After half my lifetime was spent in Dharma oblivion, I somehow became interested after all and – funny enough – one of the first things I had learned was the Mandral using my hands as Mudra to symbolize the offerings. So when my aunt allowed me to keep my grandfather’s Mandala set saying she was happy it remained in the family, I felt elated: Now I could practice with “the real thing” just like the others, that was my first thought. I didn’t anticipate the new significance that was to grow out of the inherited Mandala set.