Monks visiting Steamboat complete mandala, then destroy it |

Monks visiting Steamboat complete mandala, then destroy it

Teresa Ristow

A visiting monk from the Drepung Loseling Monastery begins to brush away the mandala they spent the previous five days making out of sound at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

— Millions of grains of colored sand used by a group of six monks to create an intricate mandala over the last five days were washed down the Yampa River Sunday night.

Dumping the sand into the river was the final step of closing ceremonies for the mandala sand painting project that began at the Bud Werner Memorial Library last Wednesday.

"Impermanence is an essential of the practice," said Khentrul Rinpoche, head lama and spokesperson for the group of Tibetan Buddhist monks visiting from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India.

The mandala was completed Sunday evening around 6 p.m., and open to public viewing until 7 p.m., before the monks announced that the mandala would soon be swept up.

"This is the closing ceremony of the mandala. In other words it will be destroyed," Rinpoche said to a packed audience in Library Hall.

Rinpoche told the audience that watching the progress on a mandala is similar to watching a child become older.

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"The mandala is like a small child. It grows right in front of your eyes," he said.

After much chanting and drumming to begin the ceremony, a brush was used to sweep the design of the mandala away. The sand was then swept into a small pile to be placed in an urn and carried down to the river.

The monks also had volunteers put spoonfuls of the sand into small bags for anyone in attendance who wanted to have some to take home.

Thousands of people stopped in to watch the monks create the sand painting over the last several days, according to Jennie Lay, adult programs coordinator for the library.

"It's been a beautiful week. We've had thousands and thousands of people here," she said. "It's been a great sense of community."

In addition to the mandala created by the monks, community members were also able to mimic the artistic techniques of placing the sand on the mandala on one of four community mandalas created during the week.

Lay said several community members came daily to see the progress of the monks.

"It's been amazing," said Chris O'Conner, a Clark resident who watched the sand painting progress each day. "We're so blessed. So fortunate."

Steamboat resident Tim Winter said he appreciated the cultural aspect of the monks' visit.

"It's very exciting to have this here," Winter said. "It's nice to have other cultures visit Steamboat, and it's pretty incredible that they're here."

The Drepung Loseling monks first visited Steamboat Springs in 2010.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow