Several Tibetan Buddhist monks are creating a sand mandala this week at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (photos here). The mandala is beautiful, and it is also instructive to watch the monks work. A daycare and a school rent our space, and children gather around the monks to watch. When a kid touches the table, the translator patiently tells him or her to stand a couple of feet back (we also have chairs for them to stand on for a better view), but the monks show no anxiety that anyone will brush their arms or bump the table, even though either one would mean recreating many hours’ work. It’s happened, too, the translator told me.
I like to build marble runs, a childhood pleasure I have been reliving since Joy bought me lots of Quadrilla for my birthday a couple of years ago. Munchkin is now old enough to place the blocks carefully, but she still sometimes brushes against it and brings it down by mistake, or semi-mistake. After even ten minutes’ work on a marble run, I find it difficult to stay calm about the prospect of its being knocked down. I mean, what if I can’t remember how I built it? Attachment, anger, yep, the Buddha had my number. I was not clear on how the creation of a mandala was supposed to increase compassion, but I’m starting to get it.