Sacred Sand Art: Lighthouse ArtCenter Hosts the Tibetan Monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery

From January 25-31, the Lighthouse ArtCenter will once again welcome the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery as part of the “Sacred Art Tour,” a Dalai Lama-sanctioned initiative designed to share and preserve Tibetan culture. The tour hopes to bring “a future that is without violence; a future of worldwide compassion; a future full of the wisdom of open hearts; and a future that places the highest appreciation on the value of a healthy universe and our ever-connectedness.”

   Tibetan Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery creating a sand mandala

Drepung Gomang Monastery monks creating a sand mandala.

   This year, the mandala created at Lighthouse will represent Kalachakra, which invokes the dialogue and the work of nonviolent peacemaking and compassion, promoting individual and world peace, as well as physical balance. As the Dalai Lama explains, “it is a way of planting a seed, and the seed will have karmic effect. One doesn’t need to be present at the Kalachakra ceremony in order to receive its benefits.”

   The public is encouraged to join the art center as the monks painstakingly create this fleeting work of art, grain of sand by grain of sand, as well as join in the events and activities planned through their visit dedicated to sharing this vibrant culture. As part of their visit, the eight lamas from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, known as the second Nalanda University in Tibet, and followers of the Gelug (“Yellow Hat”) school of Tibetan Buddhism, will begin (9:30 a.m.) and end (3:30 p.m.) each day with puja (meditation and prayer). In between, the monks will create an intricate mandala in the museum’s main gallery using naturally dyed sand. Upon completion of the mandala on January 31, the lamas will give the sand over to the ailing Indian River Lagoon at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse during the dissolution ceremony, offering a blessing to the environment and the community.

An example of a Kalachakra sand mandala

An example of a Kalachakra sand mandala. | Courtey of

   While the mandala itself is a beautiful work of art, the sacred act of creating the art, and the intricate pattern they form, is more than just art, but the embodiment of compassion. Each mandala is rife with meaning and symbology. An aid to meditation by tantric Buddhists, the mandala is a support, something repetitively done to the point of utter saturation, where the full mandala can be visualized and contemplated internally—each grain of sand meticulously placed, time and time again, aids in a deeper understanding of the mind, and of the impurity found in the outer world of samsara (the repeating cycle of birth, life, and death). Translating to “center and its surroundings,” mandalas are a physical representation of our interdependence with the world around us. Every detail is deliberate, with the “blueprints” considered sacred, permeated with layers of deep meaning.

   Though found in many forms and patterns, every mandala contains a circle, a central point, and some form of symmetry, while different levels represent different meanings. The outer level represents the world in its divine form, a place of Nirvana and peace. The inner level is a map of sorts, showing the transition of the human mind in its transformation to enlightenment.

   Once the intricate pattern of sand is complete, it is then brushed together into a pile and spilled into a body of running water as a final display of impermanence. When taken as a whole, the mandala offering is a symbolic offering of the entire universe.


Celebrating the monks’ arrival, Lighthouse ArtCenter will host a series of events and activities for the public to join. Throughout their stay, the lamas will have merchandise available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting the 2,000 monks at the Drepung Gomang Monastery.

Detail of a Sand Mandala - Lighthouse ArtCenter - Chenrezig - mandala of compassion of all Buddhas combined

   An opening ceremony is planned for Monday, January 25 from 7-9 p.m., where the monks will offer demonstrations of their way of life through art, ritual, dance and prayer. Following a blessing of the museum, the monks will begin marking the board for the creation of the sand mandala. Admission is $5.

   During the monks’ stay, the public is welcome to come watch as the monks meticulously create this “sandpainting,” one grain of sand at a time, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Tuesday, January 26. Each day will begin and end with puja (meditation and prayer). General admission is $5.

   On Sunday, January 31, the Dissolution Ceremony will begin at the art center at 2 p.m., with the mandala being swept up in a ceremony of gratitude and blessing ($5 for nonmembers). The monks will then proceed to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse at 4 p.m. to perform the Buddhist blessing for our waterways, offering the sand to the flowing waters (free and open to the public).

There will also be a series of events will lead up to, and happen during the mandala-making process:

On January 26 from 4:30-6 p.m., the monks will teach guests how to write in Tibetan their most recognized chant—“Om mani padme hum”—in a Rock Painting workshop. Admission is $25 ($20 for members).

   From 6-7 p.m., Kim Desasquale will lead a Yoga Workshop alongside the monks n the museum’s main gallery. Particpants must bring their own yoga mats; $15 per person ($10 for members).

On January 27 and 28, from 5:30-8 p.m., join the monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery for a special Tibetan culinary lesson, as they make traditional momo (duplings) and naan (flatbread), followed by dinner. Admission is $50 ($40 for members).

On January 29 from 5:30-7 p.m., the museum will host a Snow Lion Cultural Pageant, a traditional Tibetan cultural ritual suitable for all ages. Admission costs $15, $10 for members.

On January 30 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., bring the kids for a chance to create their own mandalas. Children (along with an adult) will work alongside the monks as they create their own mandalas using chokpurs, the tools used to implement the sand design. $25 per person, children under 12 are free.

   From 3-6 p.m., in collaboration with OneJupiter, join the art center in a Peace Pole Painting to represent unity, peace, and compassion in our community. Admission costs $25, $20 for members.

  • For more info and to register for a workshop, click here.

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