Tibetan Monks return to Steamboat for sand mandala project | SteamboatToday.com

Tibetan Monks return to Steamboat for sand mandala project

Monk Tsering Phuntsok works on the mandala at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in 2015. This was the third day the monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery had been in Steamboat Springs. Monks from the monastery will return to town Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Eleven Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will take up a cultural residency at the Bud Werner Memorial Library Tuesday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 14, returning to Steamboat for the first time in seven years.

They will spend days making an intricate Akshobya Mandala Sand Painting, and then destroy it at the conclusion of their stay. The monks will additionally lead guided meditation for the community, do a Sang-Sol Puja ceremony at Perry Mansfield and perform chants and sacred music at the Strings Music Pavilion.

“It’s exciting,” said Jennie Lay, adult programs coordinator for the library. “This is a really big cultural residency for Steamboat, and while they’ve been here in different groupings before, this is our biggest production we’ve ever done with the monks.”

The residency will kick off on Tuesday with an opening ceremony and line drawing for the sand mandala at 1 p.m. at Library Hall. Later at 7 p.m., there will be a talk on “The Symbolism of the Sand Mandala” at the library.

“Everything at the library is free, and I encourage people to stop by, visit and hang out in the presence of the monks as they work on their sand mandala,” Lay explained. 

They will work on the mandala sand painting using a chakpur, a metallic funnel used to move the sand. The Akyshobya Mandala represents the “unshakeable victor of conflict resolution and peace,” according to the library website. It is a mandala that was made after 9/11, and the monks will create one here in Steamboat.

Once the painting is complete though, they will destroy the mandala and send it down the Yampa river.

If you go:

What: Tibetan Monk residency

When: Aug. 9 – 14

More information: SteamboatLibrary.org/Events/Mandala-On-The-Yampa

“It’s pretty inspiring, their intricate work all week long, and how much artistry and expertise goes into what they do,” Lay said. “And then it’s ephemeral, it goes away.”

Although only the monks will be allowed to work on this sacred mandala, there will also be a community mandala designed by local artist Jill Bergman. Members of the community will be able to add to this work of art, which will also be featured at the library.

“It’s just a Steamboat mandala, and has all kinds of incredible details and all the beautiful things that make this valley, from the Wildlife and landscapes to things that we like to do for recreation,” Lay explained.

There will be live printings of the community mandala on T-shirts from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, and Friday, Aug. 12, at Ohana. The shirts will be available for purchase, and $10 from each sale will go to Mandala on the Yampa.

For the first time since 2015, the Drepung Loseling monks will be back in Steamboat to create their mesmerizing mandala sand painting over the course of five days. This ancient art form also called dul-tson-kyil-khor, meaning “Mandala of colored powders” is used as a tool for purifying and healing the environment and those who inhabit it. Each mandala the monks create in various communities they travel to is unique.
Courtesy Photo

The monks will perform music at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Strings Pavilion. Tickets start at $30 for adults and $10 for kids.

“They’ll have their traditional instruments,” Lay said. “They’re world-renowned throat singers.” 

Strings will also host a free talk on the state of Tibet and the diaspora today at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 12. 

There will also be a puja ceremony, which includes the use of smoke and incense to bless and purify an environment, and will take place at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. 

Sunday morning, the monks will lead a community meditation at 8:30 a.m. at the Yampa River Botanic Park.

“You don’t have to have experience in meditation,” Lay said. “Bring something to sit on, comfortable clothes or layers for whatever the weather is doing at that moment.”

The residence will conclude with a closing ceremony at the library, which culminates in the sand mandala being placed into the Yampa.

Lay emphasized that this residency is a unique opportunity for Steamboat residents to commune with a culture drastically different from what they may be accustomed to.

“They’re practicing monks taking time out of their life of sacred contemplation to share a really beautiful piece of Tibetan culture and spirituality with our community,” she said. It’s “the chance to not leave the Yampa Valley and have a wonderful journey to another place, a Himalayan kingdom that operates in exile.”

More information about the monks’ residency can be found at SteamboatLibrary.org/Events/Mandala-On-The-Yampa.

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