The Sacred Art of Sand Mandala



Mandala means literally "that which extracts the essence." There are many different types of mandalas used by Tibetan Buddhists. They can be created in either two or three dimensions.

The ones on the monks' tour will be two‑dimensional sand mandalas. These are without doubt the most creative, labor‑intensive, and concentration‑intensive of all mandalas created.




The mandalas offered on the tour will require between 75 and 125 hours of effort, completed by several monks at a time.


Each sand mandala represents the architectural layout of the entire palace of a specific deity. The Menla mandala, for example, represents the dwelling of the Medicine Buddha, who embodies the perfection of the physical and mental health of all beings. There are mufti‑layered symbolic images throughout the 'palace,' where iconography, placement, and color all have significance. Additionally, to the learned Tibetan Buddhist monk, the mandala represents his vision of the entire universe.


The mandala is normally used during the initiation of a monk into a high form of meditation. This sacred initiation is referred to as an empowerment ceremony. After the initiation, it requires years or possibly an entire lifetime of intense study and meditation under an experienced Lama to expose the depth and intricacy of the universe.



In the past, sand mandalas were made with the powdered results of the grinding of precious stones‑ turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, powdered gold and silver, and many other cherished and

priceless materials. Today, this is only done on very special and/or auspicious occasions. More commonly, the colors are made of powdered and dyed stone, sand, dust, flowers, and charcoal. The colors are chosen to match the color of one of the Buddhas of the five Buddha families.


The sand is applied very precisely by the gentle tapping of a sand‑filled metal cone that has had its tip removed. The Master must be the first to initiate the mandala, and

does so by being the first to pour the sand. The outline of the mandala is defined by the holding of a string that is dipped in chalk and then 'snapped' in the appropriate place.Upon completion of the mandala, the monks will purposely destroy the magnificent work of art. The Buddha's last words were "All things are impermanent, work out your salvation with diligence." In upholding the principle that life is transient, the monks sweep up the mandala and place the sand in a river, lake, or ocean as an offering to purify the surrounding environment.

Sand Mandalas Offered:

Buddha of Medicine (Menla)

Buddha of Wisdom (Manjushri)

Buddha of Compassion (Green Tara Female)

Buddha of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara Male)

Buddha of Long Life (White Tara Female)

Buddha of Purification (Vajrasattva)

Solitary Yamantaka (Wrathful)

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Each lecture is given by a Lama and a monk and can last between 1 1 /2 and 2 hours, including a question and answer session. One of the monks (or a tour organizer) will introduce the Lama and his interpreter, give the details of the Monastery, and offer a brief description of the beliefs of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. It is asked that a couple of chairs and some water or tea be provided for the monks. Please see the attached price list or speak to the national organizer regarding the suggested donation for the lecture.

Topics include:

Death, Bardo, and Rebirth A lecture on the Three Stages of Life


Path of the Bodhisattva

Karma (Action) Cause and Results

12 Links of Dependent Arising

The Six Perfections

The Highest Concentrations of Bliss


The Four Noble Truths (The Teaching of Buddha)

Suffering, the Causes of Suffering, the End of Suffering, and the Path to Freedom

Meditations on Patience and Compassion


World Peace and the Unity of all Religions

Lectures can be organized for high school or college classes. Public lectures can also be scheduled in auditoriums, bookstores, churches, health food stores, and alternative and healing businesses.

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Prelude and Welcome

Presentation of the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, widely known for his immense love and compassion, is the spiritual and secular leader of Tibet. The Tibetan tradition is to display the portrait of His Holiness before and during any spiritual and auspicious event. His gracious presence is invited in order that he bless the environment and all those present at the particular event.


Kangso (The ritual of fulfillment)

Kangso is one of the main rituals performed in the daily life of the Tibetan people. By offering the melodious sounds of various musical instruments, this ritual is performed as a means of worshipping and making offerings to gurus, meditational deities, and protector deities. Making such offerings helps one to clear obstacles and become more effective at benefiting other beings. The ritual performed on tour reflects the Kangso practiced on very special occasions.




Choed (The ritual of stoppage or cutting ignorance)

The practice of Choed ( lit. "to cut off") was first discovered in the eleventh century by a young female tantric practitioner named Machig Labdon. Buddhists believe that the fundamental causes of one's suffering lie in the subconscious mental realm of the mind of each and every individual. These causes, in turn, have their origin in the mistaken understanding and grasping of the “I,” or ego. Buddhists believe that the self does exist, but not in the manner held by the unquestioning mind. The purposes of Choed are to cut through mental obstructions (by cutting through one's ignorance, anger, and attachment), to bring mental clarity, and to inspire the practitioner to behave selflessly through lessening one's obsession with one's ego.  Choed is equally practiced in all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism, often with short and inspiring poetic songs chanted in melodious vocal tunes, accompanied by the simple music of a bell, hand drum, and femur flute. The ritual is most often performed in environments such as burial grounds, crematoriums, high mountains, and rocky hills, as well as in areas where tragedy is frequent, such as a crossroads.


Khando (Dakini Dance)

The dance of the dakini is very famous in Tibetan culture and is deeply entrenched in the religious history of Tibet. It is especially important to perform the Dakini dance when offering a long life prayer to one's Root Guru. In this case, it is envisioned that one's Guru, who helps eliminate the suffering of and brings peace to all sentient beings, is secretly invited by dakinis from the four directions to join them in their pure land. The practitioner prays to a multitude of deities and protectors, asking them to ensure the long life of their Guru. They plead with the master not to go to the pure land and to continue to live in this imperfect world, full of sorrow and suffering, which needs him more than the world of the dakinis. They remind him that they need him to show them the right path to achieving happiness and eliminating suffering. Toward the end of the dance, the guru relents and gives up any thought of going to the Pure Land and vowing to remain to help all suffering beings. The spiritual disciple also requests, through offerings and ritual prayers, to have the opportunity to reach the beautiful land of the dakinis.


Deer Dance

Deer are considered in Tibet to be animals that uniquely symbolize non‑violence and peace. Quiet and beautiful, deer harmlessly roam the woodlands of Tibet in perfect harmony with their environment. The Deer Dance is performed to inspire practitioners to generate love and compassion.


Dialectical Debate

Liberation, in the highest sense, is attained through the fusion of the intellect and intuition. The path to freedom requires wisdom, which can only be achieved through the deep questioning of one's beliefs by both oneself and others. Tibetan Monastic Colleges employ the system of dialectical debate as part of the routine of study for the monks. It is used to dispel doubt and to acquire deep understanding of the subjects being studied. The student is encouraged to question everything related to the topic being discussed (as was also done by Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece). This is invaluable for sharpening one's wit and testing one's wisdom.


Yak Dance

The Yak are considered sacred and are an integral part of Tibetan Culture. They plow the fields, provide milk and butter, are pack animals and a source of wool, fuel and food. The Yak Dance celebrates the relationship the Yak has to Tibetan culture.


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Four‑Armed Chenrezig (Buddha of Compassion)

The Buddha of Compassion is known as Chenrezig (Tibetan) or Avalokitshevara (Sanskrit), meaning 'liberator from the unfortunate lower rebirths.' Chenrezig pledged in front of all the Buddhas not to attain Buddhahood until all sentient beings were free from the sufferings of samsara. Receiving the empowerment of this Buddha, therefore, provides one with protection from an unfortunate lower rebirth. Chenrezig has many aspects and embodies the Universal Compassion of all the Buddhas of the three times and ten directions.


The purpose of the empowerment is to establish a close relationship with Chenrezig and to benefit from his almighty power of compassion. In this era of violence and mental instability, the blessing of Chenrezig is highly sought after, as it helps one to become more peaceful and compassionate, even with the state of current events.


The empowerment will also initiate one into the mantra of Avalokitshevara:

OM MANI PADME HUM, which contains the essence of all 84,000 volumes of Buddha's teaching.


Buddha Maitreya (Buddha of Boundless Love)

Buddha Maitreya is the 5th Buddha out of 1000 who will appear in 2500 years from now. This empowerment plants the ripening seed of boundless love in one's heart.


Menla (Medicine Buddha) Menla is the embodiment of the power of healing of all the Buddhas. While most of us are used to taking some form of medication on a daily basis, whether that be in the form of prescription drugs, vitamins, or herbal concoctions, rarely do we find that we feel any better. As has been confirmed by both Western and Eastern scientific research, strength of the mind and will has a major role in the process of healing. For millennia our ancestors have been aware of the effect of spiritual practice upon healing, and have used it as a necessary supplement to medication. The Medicine Buddha empowerment is meant to establish a special connection between the participant and the deity. Once this relationship has been developed and strengthened through the empowerment, the participant will become more open to receiving the benefits of the healing powers of all the Buddhas.


Manjushri (Buddha of Wisdom). Manjushri is the embodiment of the wisdom of all the Buddhas. Wisdom is crucial for enlightenment, in that it is both the antidote of ignorance, and at the same time is itself the true meaning of selflessness/ emptiness. Performing the practice of the deity Manjushri accelerates the attainment of the knowledge that eliminates suffering. By “sipping the nectar” of the profound teachings delivered by Lord Manjushrl, one has access to the heart of liberating wisdom. This empowerment will include the transmission of the mantra OM AH RA PA TSA NADHI.


White and Green Tara (Buddha of Long Life) White Tara is the goddess of Long Life. She is one of the main deities used by both Tibetan Yogis/ Yoginis and lay practitioners in the practice of requesting a long and healthy life. Known particularly for her swiftness in fulfilling the long‑life wishes of the practitioner, White Tara is looked to for happiness and inspiration through the mantra OM TARE TUTARE TORE SOHA. The White Tara empowerment is meant to establish a close relationship between the recipient and the deity.


Vajrasattva (Buddha of Purification) Vajrasattva is the Buddhist deity of Purification. The practice of the Vajrasattva deity purifies all negative actions committed by our body, through our speech, and in our minds. All that has been contaminated through our own negativities will be cleansed, and we will be able to begin afresh. The Vajrasattva practice is also capable of uprooting and purifying the negative imprints that we have carried over from our previous lives. This empowerment will include the transmission of the 100 Syllable Mantra.


Palden Lhama



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Long Life and Healing Empowerments

Vajravidharan Healing Ritual

The Tantric ritual of Vajravidharan will be the primary focus of private and group healings. Vajravidharan is a ritual of purification and has three stages: purification and removing of negativities; removing subtle negative imprints; and, offering protection. The vajra master will take the form of this Buddha of Purification and use his power to cleanse participants. Vajravidharan purifies sickness, mental disturbances, infectious diseases, disputes, enmities, defllements, misfortunes, bad omens, victimization by others, premature death, negative influences of the stars, harm from rulers and thieves, influence of demons, the agents of death,

obstacles, misguidance, and factors against congenial life.


Ritual Procedure:

Purification: The Lama instructs participants through visualizations and ritual and then pours radiant nectar and rays of light into their mind and body.

Removing subtle negative imprints: The Lama instructs participants through visualization and ritual and then takes the negative subtle imprints and transforms them into Inexhaustible Bliss. He will then summon the negative forces and will use the Bliss to appease them. Finally, he disperses the negative forces and instructs them not to return.


Protection: The Lama creates a diamond‑like impenetrable layer of light around and within the participant.

White Tara Long Life


Chay Drol Literally translated as " to make free of obstacles,"

Chay Drol is a ritual that helps to remove the obstacles that prevent one from achieving enlightenment. The procedure begins with the Lama generating himself in the form of a deity. He then places colored strings and pieces of cloth on various parts of the participant's body. Through ritual, the strings and pieces of cloth will be transformed to physically represent the obstacles of the participant. Finally, the Lama will use 'Wisdom Weapons' to cut the 'obstacles' from the participant, thereby freeing him/her and opening the door to liberation.

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Special Rituals


For Success in Life, Business, Long Life Clearing of Obstructions for Protection Removing Obstacles


Heart Sutra

Dissolves inner and outer negativities and protects from the ripening of negative actions and/or consequences. Extending One's Life Span Attracting Wealth


Fire Puja

Removing and Minimizing the Impact of Negative Imprints for Next Life

Sadness and Healing

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Chant and Discussion with the Monks

• One deep chant with musical instruments .

• Question and Answer Session

Length: One hour


Butter Sculpture Demonstration and Workshop



The monks will work with children and adults to create traditional sculptures made from butter as has been done in Tibet for over 800 years. Due to both its plentitude and highly elastic qualities, Tibetans found (and still do) butter to be very conducive to sculpture.


The butter was shaped into Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, flowers, animals, and auspicious symbols, which were then used to decorate ritual offering cakes made from barley flour. In Tibet, especially during Monlam (the Great Prayer Festival), butter sculpture contests were held among the major monasteries, and were often over 12 feet high!


This workshop will begin with a demonstration by the monks and will be followed by the opportunity for each participant to make his/her own butter sculpture.

Length: One hour

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Astrological consultations by appointment. Please contact the tour.

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