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Monks create art, then float it away

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Have you ever seen cool and colorful sand art done as part of a religious tradition? It's called a mandala --- and can take a long, long time to make.

Learn more about it as monks who came all the way from Tibet work hard to make a mandala at Unity North Atlanta Church in Marietta. They'll be laying millions of grains of sand on a flat platform to come up with a fancy design. Since ancient times, this type of sand art has been called a symbol of the universe.

You can stop by to see their progress any time between noon and 7 p.m. today through Dec. 10. But maybe the best time will be 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, which is being called Tibetan Monks Youth Sunday. You can hear the unusual sounds made as the monks chant. They'll also play ancient instruments. They'll tell you about a typical day in the life of a monk. And you can hear them debate, which is a way they like to learn.

But let's not forget about the mandala. The word means center or circle and comes from the old Sanskrit language. Designs vary, but all mandalas have a center and some type of symmetry, which means balance. There are many examples of mandalas in nature. Every cell in your body is a mandala. Wheels are mandalas, too. Can you think of some other examples?

The theme for this year's sand art is "compassion." You'd probably want to keep your mandala forever if you made one. But here's something unusual: When the monks finally finish theirs, they will let it float away in flowing water. Why? To show that nothing lasts forever, but that's OK. Life goes on. And the monks will move on, too. They're on a world tour.

If you'd like to have fun making a mandala online, go to

Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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