TO JAN. 27

The spiritual gifts of the mandala are not easy to come by. A set of concentric circles and squares with deities in the center, the mandala has many meanings. On one level, it is a cosmological map of the universe; on another, it is a way of reaching enlightenment. And on a third level, it represents the perfect balance between body and mind. To absorb every layer of meaning, Buddhists spend hours, even years, meditating and chanting before a mandala. Few non-Buddhists ever get to see a mandala “in action,” so to speak, but in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Dalai Lama has called on Tibetan Buddhist monks to offer healing through meditation, prayer, ceremonies, and the healing arts. Following His Holiness’ cue, 20 Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will create a healing mandala of sand—something unique to Tibetan Buddhism—inside the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. To make it, the monks will first consecrate the site with chants and music. Next they will draw the mandala from memory in white chalk, with the help of large compasses. They will then fill in the outline by pouring millions of grains of colored powdered marble (pictured) through a cone-shaped, fine-tipped metal funnel. The 7-foot-mandala—at completion, one of the world’s largest—will take two weeks to finish. The monks will erase their work later this month, sweeping it up and dispersing it with water to emphasize the impermanence of life. The blowing begins at noon Friday, Jan. 11, and at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, to Sunday, Jan. 27, to Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 357-4880. (Annys Shin)