Visiting Tibetan monks create vibrant sand art before spreading it in Contoocook River

  • Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery begin the mandala Tuesday in the community center at the Hopkinton library.

  • Geshe Jampa Tenzin works on the beginning of the mandala with the symbol in the middle on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at the Hopkinton Library. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Tibetan Buddhist monks work on the beginning of the mandala with the symbol in the middle on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at the Hopkinton Library. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Tibetan Buddhist monks work on the beginning of the mandala with the symbol in the middle on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at the Hopkinton Library. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Tibetan Buddhist monks work on the beginning of the mandala with the symbol in the middle on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at the Hopkinton Library. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho brings a flower around the constructed mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap of the Drepung Gomang Monastery pours the remnants of the mandala sand creation that the group made during the past week into the Contoocook River on Sunday.

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho takes a photos of the constructed mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap greets the crowd at the Hopkinton Community room at the library for the deconstruction ceremony of the mandala on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Thea Wells, 5, takes a photo of the constructed mandala, a temporary and colorful form of sand art, in Hopkinton on Sunday. Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery chanted and offered prayers at service, then deconstructed the mandala.

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho sweeps up the mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho brings a flower around the constructed mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Thupten Dhondup chants during the deconstruction ceremony of the mandala at the Hopkinton Library on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho sweeps up the mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho placed a flower on top of the swept up mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Thupten Dhondup brings the remnants of the last part of the mandala to the Contoocook River for the last ceremony on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap (right), leader of the Drepung Gomang Monastery group, walks along with Thupten Dhondup to the Contoocook River for the last ceremony of the deconstructing of the mandala on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Jampa Tenzin (left) and Geshe Ngawang Damcho lead the procession to the Contoocook River on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Jampa Tenzin laughs as the monks lead the Hopkinton residents to the Contoocook River on Sunday for the final mandala ceremony. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap (left) leads the group of Tibetan Buddhist monks to the Contoocook River for the last ceremony of the deconstruction of the mandala on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A ‘Free Tibet’ hat was one of many worn at the ending ceremony on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap (center), greets Hopkinton residents at the end of the ceremony on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho gives out a spoonful of the mandala sand creation to Jack Snyder at the end of the ceremony on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jack Snyder, 6, looks over the finished mandala at the Hopkinton Community room at the library before the ceremony on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The finished mandala at the Hopkinton library before the deconstruction on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Geshe Ngawang Damcho sweeps up the mandala as the ceremony for a deconstructed piece of spiritual art begins on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ven. Tenzin Khyenrap of the Drepung Gomang Monastery pours the remnants of the mandala sand creation that the group made during the past week into the Contoocook River on Sunday.

  • The Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery head out to place the remnants of the mandala into the Contoocook River on Sunday, November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery scoop up the mandala sand to hand out to Hopkinton residents after the ceremony on November 10, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 11/11/2019 5:17:23 PM

With the wisp of a brush, the intricate layers of the colorful sand design called a mandala, which took days to carefully create, was swept into a pile.

Ritualistically, the Tibetan Buddhist monks had spent hours each day of last week at the Hopkinton Town Library adding layer after layer of sand to the mandala. Once the design was complete, the community was invited to its ceremonial dismantling on Sunday, which was faster than the construction but equally as important.

The creation and ceremonial destruction of the mandala are meant to symbolize the delicate and temporary aspects of life itself. But for those unfamiliar with this philosophy, watching a colorful, detailed work of art change into a pile of sand can be a little disconcerting.

“A lot of people don’t like that,” said Lisa Garside, who’s hosting the seven monks at her home in Contoocook. “It just looks so different, so artists get a little upset. It’s about impermanence, so they have to show they put in 100 percent work doing it, and they are not attached to the results or what happens to it after. They don’t even keep any of the sand; they give it all away.”

The monks, from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, are here as part of a Sacred Art Tour, intended to introduce Tibetan culture, traditions and religion in the United States. The tour is also a way of raising funds for the monastery for the thousands of monks living in exile in India.

During Sunday’s ceremony, with rhythmic chanting from the monks, Geshe Ngawang Damcho used a brush in a fanning motion to sweep the sand to the center of the design, where community members were allowed to take spoonfuls home in plastic bags.

After the Hopkinton mandala was dismantled, it was ritualistically spread into the nearby Contoocook River. Now, the monks will spend this week creating a new mandala at St. Paul’s School.

On Thursday, the monks will host a free public demonstration at 6:30 p.m. at the Raffini Commons at St. Paul’s, in which they will work on the mandala, give a chanting demonstration and discuss the role of Dharma within Buddhism.

As their host, Garside has gotten an inside look at these unique customs and colors. Once, she had a career in mutual funds, but 15 years ago, after her 1-year-old son nearly died from an auto-immune blood disorder, she rearranged her priorities and gained a new perspective on life.

Garside left the corporate world and opened a yoga studio, and in 2012 brought her children to Canterbury to hear the monks chant and see their artwork.

“We just loved them, so I decided I wanted to go to their monastery in India,” Garside said. “I taught them English twice a day. It was life-changing.”

She hosted them five years ago and she’s doing it again this month. This has given Garside a birdseye view of how monks work together in her kitchen, which, full of activity, gets pretty crowded come dinner time.

“They search your cabinets for any pan possible, and they just go to town,” Garside said. “Every pan I own, even in the attic, was out, and they clean up really, really quickly.

“It’s been five years, and they’re back now, so that’s very exciting.”




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