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Faith & Spirituality

Sacred Tibetan sand mandala a reminder of universe's impermanence

With each careful tap of a specialized metal cone, sand master Geshe Legden Gompo expertly places the sand onto the design of the mandala.

Mandala means that which extracts the essence. It’s a representation of the palace of a deity in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The one Geshe Gompo is drawing represents the palace of the Buddha Maitreya.

“We are taking the blessing of someone who is a luminous form and by really engaging on that, by initiating on that deity and having the benefit as blessings back to us,” said Geshe Tenzin Lekshe, the spokesperson for the Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour.


The monks are from the Gaden Shartse monastery in Southern India. They are at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas this week to spread their message of peace, compassion and love.

Geshe Lekshey said that by going through the hard work and training to create the mandalas, the monks learned patience and the peace and happiness that came out of it.

"We are accumulating the merit, the virtues, the wholesome merit by really having a deep concentrations from your mind,” he said.

It was a special treat for several Village Gate Children’s Academy students who were there to see the mandala being made. For seventh grader Leonardo Leigh, seeing it gave him a sense of calm.

“I just felt kind of, like, peaceful. Like, the silence," he said. "It felt good.”


His classmate Jazmine Fleming was impressed by the training the monks underwent to create the mandala and its meanings.

“It was very interesting of not just thinking of it from one standpoint and how there was much more meaning than just what meets the eye,” Fleming said.

Each color, each grain of sand on the mandala, has a special meaning. And when it’s completed, it will be dissolved, signifying the impermanence of everything.

It was not the first time Carlsbad resident Gary Elliot was exposed to the mandala, but this time the concept of impermanence struck a chord with him.

"In just a few days, they'll finish constructing this beautiful illustration, like our own biosphere, it's going to be swept away and dissolved in the ocean," he said. "And I'm thinking, what a real-time teaching. It has a lot of levels to it.”

Especially with the impact climate change has on the environment, Elliot said.

The monks will continue to create the mandala at the Seaside Center until Sunday before heading to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, to create another mandala there.

The Tibet Tour is a fundraiser for Gaden Shartse Monastic University in India, which was founded by exiled Tibetan scholars after the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Corrected: December 6, 2023 at 10:46 AM PST
A previous version of this story misidentified California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
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