A Lesson Of Letting Go From The Tibetan Monk Lama Losang Samten

A Lesson Of Letting Go From The Tibetan Monk Lama Losang Samten

By Elyse Grossman

Compassion— A World In Harmony

Recently, the middle school I teach at was blessed with a five day visit from Tibetan Monk Lama Losang Samten. Spreading his teachings of loving-kindness for over 30 years, he— with the assistance of the entire extended middle school community — created a Sand Compassion Mandala.

The word mandala in sanskrit translates to “world in harmony” and is a geometric circle. Circles in themselves are sacred symbols in many religions, and even without religion, one can’t help but notice the shape of a circle is prominent in many important natural objects in this world. The shape of the earth, the moon when full, the sun, sunflowers and even a belly in growth, and even more poignantly–our innercircles of friends or family.

Fortunately for me, the sand mandala happened to take its form just outside of my classroom, so I was able to bare witness to its construction and the numerous hands and hours that went into making this work of art. I viewed various generations of people— young kids, teenagers, parents, grandparents and other elders—- make their way to the table. It drew opposite people together.  It drew people together. While the actual compassion circle of sand was what was being created, I was lost in its ability to create such diverse circles and smiles around it.

Throughout the day, people came and went, possibly to go back to class or back to work, andI wondered if they realized that the circle was a pathway to the center of what really matters most—community, compassion, and love. That was my initial lesson.

Exposing healing, truth and creativity, the mandala has much transformative power.….and can serve an even deeper lesson- one of letting go.

The mandala began its form Monday, and come sunrise Friday morning, our community gathered to release the same sand back to the ocean, where it originated from. I grabbed and gathered thesand in my hand,its grains a moral code, and along with many others: my students/ friends/teachers,  — we threw it back . I contentedly smile as I write this, knowing that many teachings come just at the right time, and the right teachings have a way of changing lives forever. Letting go: even and most importantly when we are attaching ourselves or gripping– unable to let it go. Even when we want to grip to its beauty. Even when it touches the soul.

Lama Losang informed us that there are 5 opposites of compassion and these images were represented in the compassion sand mandala. They are:


The same day we returned the sand, this quote crossed my path: “When we focus our best efforts without attachment to outcomes, we can understand the way of the peaceful warrior.”   

The witnessing and reflection of the week have really crossed into my yoga practice. As a yoga teacher- how can teaching loving kindness be my ultimate goal? How can I take what I silently learned into my own asana practice and classes?

Feeling inspired and excited by the slow and steady creation, I decided to teach mandala flows in my yoga classes that week. Noticing the way layers are built in a sand mandala, I wanted to see if the sacred symbol could also work to peel away at our many layers, until we are what is left.

If we really want to put an end to our own suffering,and if we have a chance at living a compassionate life, we must let go of our attachments. We must return the sand back to where it came- even if, and most importantly because, it means something to us.

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