Along with building the sand mandala in the Penticton Art Gallery, the monks gave a glimpse of Tibetan culture, performing their Sacred Music, Sacred Dance show at the Cleland Theatre. Steve Kidd/Western News

Monks spread message of peace

After five days of work, the sand mandala at the Penticton Art Gallery is dismantled

With the sweep of a brush, five days of careful work was swept into a pile of multicoloured sand.

The mandala created by visiting Tibetan Buddhist monks was finished at about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday and lasted for about two hours before it was dismantled in the closing ceremony.

That was the end that was planned from the moment the monks laid out the first lines of the design last Wednesday, explained Geshe Thupten Loden to the hundreds of onlookers crowded into the main room of the Penticton Art Gallery to observe the proceedings.

Traditionally, he said, a sand mandala is created for the purpose of involving a specific deity through a visualization process, as part of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

“When this is completed, they invoke the deity for this purpose and the mandala is dismantled,” said Loden. “The mandala you see before you was not constructed in that context, however, we have followed all the guidelines and instructions for creating the mandala in the scriptures.

Related: One grain of sand at a time

“As soon as it was completed, it was consecrated in the presence of Akshobya Buddha, who represents conflict resolution. As part of the ceremony, the mandala will be dismantled, which represents the impermanence of all phenomena.”

Half the sand from the mandala was distributed among the onlookers, with the other half being ceremoniously distributed into Okanagan Lake to spread the blessing into the environment.

The Sunday ceremony concluded the Penticton visit of the monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery, as they spread their message of world peace.

Along with their public work building the mandala and other events, the monks also spent an evening at En’owkin Centre, meeting with members of the Penticton Indian Band and sharing blessings, songs and their stories.

It was a meeting PAG curator Paul Crawford was happy to be able to arrange. Part of his reason for asking the monks to visit was to wrap up the current shows in the gallery, which deal with residential schools and other aspects of the Indigenous experience in Canada.

“It’s magical in its way. Unlike last time, we really engaged our Indigenous community,” said Crawford. “With this show and the spirit behind it, I think it achieved everything we wanted and more. For that, I am truly grateful.

“It has really been cathartic and healing and has achieved everything I wanted it to.”


The ceremonies over, the monks sweep up the sand from the mandala, distributing it to guests at the gallery. Steve Kidd/Western News

Joseph Sanchez, a member of the Indian Group of Seven and whose work currently hangs in the Penticton Art Gallery as part of the Anamnesis show, says he filled a notebook with sketches during the visit of the Drepung Loseling monks. Steve Kidd/Western News