Catalina Island News

Tibetan Buddhist Monks to Construct a Mandala Sand Painting During Museum Grand Opening

Catalina Island Museum

The Catalina Island Museum is proud to bring the Mystical Arts of Tibet to Avalon for its Grand Opening Celebration of the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building. Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting in the museum’s lobby over the course of a week from Sunday, June 26th through Monday, July 4th.

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. To date the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred cosmogram. These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas and woodcarvings. However, the most spectacular and enduringly popular are those made from colored sand.

In general all 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 effect purification and healing on these three levels.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the monks consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation, and will be held on Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 pm in the museum’s lobby.

The monks begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Typically most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn. To fulfill the function of healing, half of the sand is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing throughout the world for planetary healing. The closing ceremony will be held on Monday, July 4th at 3:00 pm in the museum’s lobby.

The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building is located at 217 Metropole Avenue. Members of the museum are invited to a special preview of the new building on Friday, June 17th, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Become a member today and be the first to experience the New Catalina Island Museum!

Additional details about the Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building, including the full schedule of Grand Opening events, can be found on the museum’s website: