Saturday, March 23, 2019

Sand Mandala at the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh

Yesterday I had to unique opportunity to watch as Tibetan monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery  created a sand mandala at the Paine Art Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  Here are some photos followed by links for more information on sand mandalas.

Two monks meticulously work on the sand mandala. Watching their patience and meditation created a sense of peace and has inspired me as I approach my artwork.  The mandala was started almost a week ago and the monks work on it all day.  10 monks are involved in creating the mandala. What blows my mind is that the sand mandala will be dismantled after completion as a lesson that nothing is permanent and that everything is in flux.  The millions of grains of sand are traditionally poured into a nearby body of water. 

to give you a sense on how long the creation process takes, here is a photo I took when I went back about 4 hours later.

the colored sand is made from dyed stone

the tools to make the sand mandala are called chak-pur.  The monks scoop sand into the chak-pur and then glide a rod along the ridges in order for the sands to slowly disperse from the vibrations created.
a Tibetan monk refills his chak-pur with sand

A shrine with a photo of the Dali Lama and elements used in the opening ceremony and the dismantling of the mandala.
Ceremonial Drum

close up of the colorful cloth draping the shrine

offering bowl
This brush made of peacock feathers will be used to carefully dismantle the mandala.  

An offering of flowers
Here are some links I found about sand mandalas.

This article describes how I also felt as I watched the monks create.

Epiphany at the Altar of a Sand Mandala

Here's a video that takes you from opening to closing ceremony:

Time Lapse Making of a Sand Mandala

A great article on why the monks dismantle the sand mandala:

The Mandala: Why Do Monks Destroy It?

Where the monks are from

Drepung Loseling Monastery

About the Tour

The Mystical Arts of Tibet

This was in the program from the Paine Art Center:

"About the Mandala Sand Painting
Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram, a geometric figure depicting beliefs about the universe. Cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, wood carvings, and so forth. Perhaps the most spectacular and intriguing mandalas are those made from colored sand. As with he sand painting tradition as a whole, Tibetan sand mandalas have their roots in the Tantric legacy of Buddhist India, extending back some 2,500 years.

The sand mandalas are used as tools for reconsecrating the earth and healing its inhabitants. They are formed of a traditionally prescribed iconography that includes geometric pattern showing the floor plan of a sacred mansion. In generally the mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into an enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.

To construct the mandala, millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. When finished, the mandala is destroyed to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists. The colored sands are swept up and poured into a nearby river or stream, where the waters carry the healing energies throughout the world.

About the Tibetan Monks and Monastery

The artists are practicing monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery. They are not full-time professionals; rather they are genuine monks who are taking time off from their lifelong devotion to contemplation and study to participate in the tour. These monk artists consider it an honor to be selected to represent their monastery and share their cultural traditions on the tour, hoping that they will be able to make some small contribution toward world peace and toward greater awareness of the Tibetan situation. At the end of each tour the monks return to Drepung Loseling Monastery to continue their vocation.

Drepung Monastery was established near Lhasa, Tibet in 1416 in order to preserve and transmit the ancient Buddhist arts and sciences. It had four departments, of which Loseling, or 'the Hermitage of the Radiant Mind,' was the largest, housing more than there-quarters of Drepung's 10,000 to 15,000 monks. One of Tibet's most prestigious spiritual institutions, Loseling was renowned for its tradition of multiphonic singing, in which each monk simultaneously intones three notes of a chord.

Shortly after the Chinese communist overthrow of Tibet in 1959, Drepung Loseling was closed. Most of its monks were either killed or put in concentration camps. Approximately 250 of the monks escaped the holocaust, walking over the Himalayas to India, where in 1969 they re-established a replica of their institution in the refugee camps of Karnataka State, India. There, they work to preserve Drepung Loseling's ancient heritage by continuing the traditional training program. The number of monks presently in residence at the re-=established Drepung Loseling has increased to more than 3,000.

Adapted from resources provided by The Mystical Arts of Tibet, A Richard Gere/Drepung Loseling Production "

copied from the Mystical Arts of Tibet:


Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig as he is known in Tibetan, is the Buddhist deity who personifies the ideal of compassion. He can be portrayed in several different forms, two of the most popular being as a white deity with either four arms or 1000 arms; the extra arms symbolize his ability to help many beings simultaneously.

The Mandala can be described as being the residence of the respective deities and their retinues. The sand Mandala of Avalokiteshvara was originated from the tantric teachings of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. Although depicted on a flat surface, the Mandala is actually three-dimensional, being a “divine mansion” at the center of which resides Avalokiteshvara, surrounded by the deities of his entourage.

Every aspect of the Mandala has meaning: nothing is arbitrary or superfluous. The four outer walls of the mansion are in five transparent layers, colored as white, yellow, red, green, and blue, representing faith, effort, memory, meditation, and wisdom (these five colors also represent the five dankinis). The four doorways, one in the center of each of the four walls, represent the Four Immeasurable Thoughts: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity and there are decorated with precious jewels. The lotus flower in the center of the Mandala represent the lotus family, one of the Buddha families that correspond to the five psychophysical components of a human being, and which purify specific impure states of mind; the Lotus family purifies passion into discriminating awareness. The white thousand arms, thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara is standing in the center of the lotus flower, on a white moon disk. In the four directions are seated his retinue seated on white full moon disks. The deities arise from the unity of; the wisdom of emptiness and great bless of the principle deity Avalokiteshvara. Seated on the eastern red petal is the purified aspect of Hatred in the form of a blue deity Akshobhya, on the southern yellow petal is the purified aspect of Misery in the form of a yellow deity Rathasambhava and likewise, the purified part of Ignorance & Jealousy are represented by the white deity Vaivochana at the western and the green deity Amogasiddhi at the northern petal respectively. The central deity Avaloketishvara represents the freedom from attachment. The four colors in the four directions are the emanated light rays of the four deity retinues. The lotus itself symbolizes the mind of renunciation. To protect the residence from negative conditions, it is surrounded by a Vajra fence, which also symbolizes the continuous teaching of the Vajrayana (Tantric Teaching) by lord Avalokiteshvara. In the outmost part, it is circled with burning flames radiate with intense light are not only for protection but also to burn away or to get red of delusion and the dark nesses of the ignorance.

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