One of my favorite items in Buddhist art is the mandala. You’ve almost certainly seen them before. They’re multicolored designs that are generally circular in shape on the outside and squared in the interior, having many other geometrical patterns within (see pictures at www.dailybuddhism.com ). According to Buddhists, a mandala represents the universe, and is a sort of symbolic map. As a person starts at the outside and works his way to the center of the mandala/universe, he symbolically finds the ‚Äúessence of reality.‚Äù
Although there are many types and forms of mandalas, probably the most distinctive are the ones made from sand. Monks build these images one grain of sand at a time. Usually four monks work together on a mandala after a long period of meditation and contemplation. Although sometimes a mandala is saved as a work of art, it is customary to mix up the sand, destroying the mandala after its completion; this symbolizes the impermanence of everything, including the universe itself.