The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table. The construction process takes several days, and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion. This is done as a teaching tool and metaphor for the “impermanence” (Pali: anicca) of all contingent and compounded phenomena (Sanskrit: Pratītya-samutpāda).
The mandala sand-painting process begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas, or Tibetan priests, consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. They chant, declare intention, mudra, asana, pranayama, do visualisations, play music, recite mantras, etc.
On the first day, the lamas begin by drawing an outline of the mandala to be painted on a wooden platform. The following days see the laying of the colored sands, which is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its serrated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.
Formed of traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols (e.g.: Ashtamangala and divine attributes of yidam), seed syllables, mantra, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool or instrument for innumerable purposes. A primary purpose is to reconsecrate the earth and its inhabitants.