Culture & Arts

Tibetan Monks Create Wildly Intricate Sand Painting, Before Washing It All Away Completely

The mandala is a spiritual symbol that represents the universe. Literally translating to "center and its surroundings," mandalas always contain a center point and a circle, surrounded by some sort of symmetrical design. They're created from sand, on paper or cloth, or built as three-dimensional models, always meticulously visualized and assembled to yield a deeper meaning.


For two weeks, four highly respected Tibetan monks, Venerable Gelong Kalsang Rinpoche, Venerable Lama Nawang Thogmed, Lama Nawang Samten Lhundrup, and Lama Dorji Sherpa, will collaborate on a sacred sand painting meant to incite boundless compassion for all living things in the viewer. Over the course of 14 days, the monks will carefully apply millions of grains of colored sand onto a flat surface, following the same instructions that governed Tibetan monks thousands of years ago.

This particular mandala represents Chenrezig, the embodiment of the compassion of all Buddhas combined. To echo the spirit of compassion, the participating monks will gather in prayer and meditation sessions, also known as puja, at the start and close of each day. Viewers are invited to partake in this ritual as well. After the creation of the mandala is complete, the entire work is dismantled, every grain of sand tossed into the ocean. In the dissolution ceremony at the close of the mandala's creation, a blessing is recited as the sand grains are offered up to the sea.

Viewers are invited to watch the four Tibetan monks partake in this ancient ritual at The Hammer Museum until the work's completion on October 12, 2014. "Mandalas of Compassion" is presented in collaboration with Ari Bhöd, the American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation. To see mandala-centric artwork with a sci-fi twist, check out Saya Woolfalk's recent work.

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