The Sand Mandala

In 1997, I fell in love with the Nikon FM2.   It had been a friend of mine for a while, but I didn’t really love it until I got to know it better.   I took it with me on a month long art project where I watched a Buddhist monk build a sand mandala.

My beautiful picture

This is Losang Samten and he spent every day for a month finely choosing grains of sand to place in perfect order fora Wheel of Life mandala at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada.   It was a special delight to simply sit and watch this master at work.   So, I came back every day or two to get a new photo and watch.    It was a metaphor for learning how to use a fully manual film camera.   The FM2 is a master of Nikon’s building and is both complicated and simple at the same time.   Using film is much more deliberate than the digital cameras we use now.   You have to focus more clearly, understanding the light and shutter speed.   Of course, you could burn through enough film to get that “one” shot.   But, it is much more rewarding to patiently wait for the right moment and get that image.

I was just learning so these photos are not perfect.   I do enjoy them just the same and hope you do, too.

After the mandala was completed, there was a ceremony where the monk swept all of the sand together into an urn and then the sand was returned to the earth.    For this mandala, a large gathering was held, with much pomp and circumstance.  The sands were swept and then a procession led to the Truckee River, a few blocks away, and simply poured into the water.    Sands of time … washed away in an instant.

 

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