Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery were here the last two weeks of January. They were here on a tour when the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon happened. The Dalai Lama asked them to make a prayer mandala for us, for the "healing and protection of America. So down in the bottom floor of Sackler Gallery of Asian Art they set up an 8'x8' foot platform where 20 monks worked for two weeks making a seven foot square manadala, with music and the prayers that go along with the construction.
I took my gang of five down into the Sackler Gallery to take a look at the nearly completed work on Saturday. The next day, Sunday, the mandala would be completed then swept up away in the concluding ceremony. The sand was sprinkled in the Tidal Basin and the Potomac out near the Jefferson Memorial. The idea is to have the prayers that inhere in the sand go out into the world through the river. Life changes and flows on; impermanence.
The monks were using powdered, colored marble, although powdered sand, flowers, herbs, grains, colored stones, and semiprecious and precious stones are also used. They filled a cone-shaped metal funnel, or chak-pur, with the sand and used the chak-pur to pour the sand onto the traced out manadala. Running a metal rod on the chak-pur's grated surface created vibrations that makes the sand flow like liquid. The monks bent very close to the mandala, arms close to their sides. The sound the chakpur made was rhythmic and intense and the monks are themselves concentrating so intensely, even the very large crowd in the packed room was utterly quiet.
I took a few notes. Nora, our 4-year old, up on my shoulders. So I didn't take a lot of notes. One of the monks gave a lecture about the mandala, how and why they came to construct it here, and some points of Tibetan Buddhism. When the monks asked what mandala should they make, the Dalai Lama told them the mandala of the Akshobhya Buddha. This is the "unshakable" Buddha. The monk speaking said that this Buddha could be called the Buddha of Conflict Resolution. Five colors used in the mandala represented the five emotions, and the mandala itself represents "emotions being turned into wisdom."
Akshobhya is one of the five transcendent (tathagata) buddhas, the primary lords of the five buddha-clans and is lord of the vajra clan. As a monk, Akshobhya took a vow before the buddha never to feel disgust or anger towards any being. His color is white or blue.
The name Akshobhya means "Immovable" or "Unshakable." Akshobhya represents the transmutation of delusion or hate into mirror-like wisdom (or reality wisdom), and the purity of the form or consciousness system. In Akhsobhya, emotion is transformed into wisdom. This Mirrorlike Wisdom reflects all things calmly and uncritically and--reveals their true nature. One text says,"Just as one sees one's own reflection in a mirror, so the Dharmakaya is seen in the Mirror of Wisdom." Mirrorlike Wisdom is an antidote to the poison of hatred and anger.
Akshobhya's symbol is the vajra, also called the thunderbolt or diamond scepter. The vajra denotes enlightenment, the indestructible, adamantine nature of pure consciousness- the essence of Reality. In some traditions the vajra signifies the union of man and the Buddha; one end of the vajra symbolizes the macrocosmic realm of the Buddha and the other end the microcosmic realm of man.
In portraits (thangka) of Akshobhya, the right hand is extended across the knee in the mudra of earth witness (the bhumisparsha or earth-touching mudra) with the fingers pressing against the ground. It denotes unshakability. This is the mudra Gautama Buddha used to summon the earth to witness to his right to attain enlightenment when he was challenged by the Evil One, Mara. The left hand placed palm upward in the lap performs the mudra of meditation.
At the center of the mandala, dark blue in colour, is buddha Akshobhya. He is represented by the vajra - the sign of the family. The Goddesses of the 8 Auspicious Emblems occupy the surrounding circle, represented by a parasol, vase, conch shell, fish, endless knot, wheel, lotus and victory banner. The floor of the palace mandala is white below (east), red at the top (west), yellow at the left (south), and green to the right (north). The square shape of the enclosure marks the extent of the palace walls and the 'T' shaped structures are the four doors topped with four lintels, red, blue, green and yellow, each crowned with a Dharma wheel. Surrounding those can be seen the tips of the large double vajra on which the entire palace stands. Outside of that is a ring of variously coloured lotus petals, a ring of gold vajras on a black background and the ring of the five-coloured flames of pristine awareness.
Akshobhya practice purifies any negative action tainted by such emotions as hatred, ignorance, or greed, and is especially beneficial for women who have undergone an abortion or for anyone who has either performed or encouraged someone to undergo an abortion. It is also effective for the removal of obstacles that arise in one's daily life or spiritual practice.
In addition, Akshobhya practice can be sponsored on behalf of the deceased - particularly aborted fetuses, those who have committed suicide, or those who have undergone an abrupt or violent death.