By Barbara Falconer Newhall
The red-robed monks have spent days creating this intricate Tibetan sand painting. It’s a sacred mandala. At its center sits the Ashokbhya Buddha. Meditating on his image will help you overcome your anger and hatred. In his hand the Ashokbhya Buddha holds the vajra scepter representing unshakable enlightenment. The painting is nearly finished, and it is exquisite.
You lean into the painting for a closer look. You hold your cell phone over it to snap a picture. The phone slips from your fingers and drops with a thud. Sand scatters. White sand mixes with green and one corner of the priceless, sacred mandala is destroyed.
What happens next?
Not a thing. The monks tidy up. And the next day a visitor asks about the jagged bare spot in the mandala (That would be me. Because, no, I’d never hold my cell phone over a sacred Buddhist sand painting, would I?). A monk smiles with equanimity.
“Nothing is perfect,” he says.
A few days later, in an act symbolizing the temporariness of all things, the monks — with equanimity — swirl the sand on the table, mixing it together, destroying their week’s work.
PS: Just so you know, the word Islam means equanimity — surrender to what is.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like “Religion Scholar Huston Smith at 93: ‘Be Happy!'” or “Buddhist Teacher Jack Kornfield on Sex, Drugs and Enlightenment.”
For more about my newly released book, Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith, go to WrestlingWithGodBook.com. In the book, Buddhist teacher Martin Verhoeven tells the story of how he maintained his equanimity when a man pointed a gun at him during his 650-mile bowing pilgrimage up the California coast.
Video of the creation of a Tibetan sand mandala at Sonoma State University in 2011.