Want to Let Go of Past? Use Buddhist Mandala Lesson

There was a Buddhist mandala that was hanging on the wall at the first Buddhist monastery I lived at. I was captivated by the details and craftsmanship. Really, the whole monastery had this level of detail and beauty. It was quite exquisite.

Mandalas are symbolic representations of the universe, designed to transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones. They can be an object of meditation for Buddhists to focus on, either helping them become connected with a deity or to develop wisdom.

During my time there, I thought a great deal about this artwork, and more significantly, the mandalas that are made out of sand that take days to finish and then are swept away often without even a photo taken of them.

There I was, a young guy quite new to spirituality, constantly obsessing about money and relationships, family drama and even the slightest discomforts in life. And yet these monks meticulously focus with such concentration for such long periods of time on these breathtaking artworks that could probably hang in most any museum, and then without any bother, as soon as it’s completed, they sweep the sand back into a jar and pour it into a body of water as an offering for the benefit of all beings on this planet.

This beautiful practice to understand the impermanence of all things is so profound and so beneficial. During my time here, I would meditate on this mandala and it greatly helped me let go of my obsessions and inability to let go of the past or expectations of the future.

But the real magic would happen a few months later when I left this monastery and flew to Thailand. My camera was stolen on my first day there in the hostel. I wasn’t so upset about the camera, but it was all the photos on the SD card that I really cared about. Until I remembered this mandala (which thankfully I had taken a photo of on my phone as well ).

If you ever find yourself obsessing over the same old thing, remember this mandala.


Q & A With Todd

Q: Dear Todd, What happens when your present is constantly trying to make you focus on your past? What do you do when people know all about your past and wield it as a weapon against you?

TODD ANSWERS: We can’t change other people. So what is in our control is how we respond both internally and externally. Internally we try to reach a stage of calm clarity and understanding that other people are treating us based on a false image that they have in their heads. Externally that can mean distancing or making peace with it.

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