Monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in southern India create a sand mandala in the atrium of the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday. The mandala was created and then swept up Thursday, demonstrating the impermanence of life and the universe in general. (Photo by Randy Roberts)


Four monks hunched over a small square table for nine hours Thursday, meticulously tapping grains of sand into an intricate mandala.

A table behind them held 43 cups of sand, each vibrantly dyed in varying shades of the rainbow. There were nine shades of green alone; no less than 10 variants of blue.

If even one speck of sand landed out of place, it was just as carefully removed from the pattern and deposited in its correct placement.

The monks’ concentration, precision and patience is something to be admired and emulated. But their nonchalance at the end of the day, when all traces of their laborious project were swiftly swept up, conveys the underlying message of the mandala ceremony: that nothing is permanent, no matter how beautiful.

“Everything’s impermanent. Even this world will pass away,” explained Lobsang Wangchuk, tour director of the Gaden Shartse Monastery Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet Tour, in Findlay and the surrounding area through Aug. 11.

This particular mandala is titled the “Medicine Buddha Mandala,” each ancient symbol representing a certain luminous being gathered around the Buddha. Since the Medicine Buddha embodies the perfection of the physical and mental health of all beings, “this mandala is about healing,” Wangchuk said.

Before beginning each sand mandala, the monks pray over the outline and meditate themselves in the center as Buddha.

While the chalk outline of a standard mandala can take about two full days to complete, the monks used a pre-patterned model for their demonstration inside the atrium of the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. A typical mandala takes four to six days to complete, so Wangchuk said an abbreviated version was being offered in Findlay.

(Photo by Randy Roberts)

The sand, created by pulverizing a white, quartz-like marble material and then running it through a sieve, is dyed using traditional Indian dyes used to make clothing and other vibrantly colored materials.

It is precisely applied to the mandala through the gentle tapping of a sand-filled tool called a chakpor, essentially a funnel with a serrated edge. This particular mandala — and each created on the monks’ two-year tour of America — contained sacred sands from two very special mandalas made in India. One was made in a tent by over 1,000 monks, who performed a ritual over the completed version. The other was made in Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha was enlightened, by a group of 60,000 monks.

Before a mandala is swept up it is again blessed, a portion of the sand set aside for future projects. A handful — the various colors now all swirled together — is placed in the nearest river, lake, or ocean as an offering to purify the surrounding environment.

“They noticed in Tibet when they disposed of these sands into the water course it raised the water levels, it contributed to the health of the water and the fish, sometimes it even brought abundant rains,” Wangchuk said, adding the monks will be releasing the sand into the Blanchard River.

Other bits of sand are bagged and given to those at the dismantling ceremony, to be used to bless the four corners of their home. Recipients are encouraged to keep a few specks of sand to be put on the crown of their head at the time of death as a guarantee that they will take human form in their next life.

Monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery in southern India have been visiting the city for 30 years. Wangchuk was a monk for 23 years and was the driver for the Dalai Lama when he visited Findlay in 1991. His mother lived in Findlay for nearly 30 years.

The monks will be staying at the Hancock Hotel and then Camp Berry for nearly two weeks, having arrived in Findlay on Wednesday. Highlights of their itinerary include:

  • Butter sculpting workshops Saturday at Awakening Minds Art (register at;
  • Personal healing sessions at Unitarian Universalist Church on Monday and at Findlay Hot Yoga on Aug. 11 (email to register);
  • Community healing session at 6 p.m. Monday at Coffee Amici (no RSVP required).
Twitter: @BrennaGriteman