Monks, meditation, thangkas and more coming to Neighborhood Congregational

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An artistic and spiritual experience is set for May 30 – June 2 at Neighborhood Congregational Church, 340 St. Ann’s Drive.

Artists of all skill levels are invited to learn about geometry and mandala creation from the world’s acknowledged authority on the art of painting thangkas, the wall hangings that serve as magnificent art pieces and tools during meditation. Four visiting Drepung Loseling monks will make colorful sand mandalas in the sanctuary and invite the community to help build the mandalas, ask questions, take photos, and then help disperse the sand creations at the end of each day as a lesson in understanding the temporary nature of all earthly things. 

The thangka, visible in the center of the altar, is typically the centerpiece for Buddhist meditators. Photo courtesy of Yeshi Dorjee

The event will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions over the first three days.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, May 30- June 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Bridge Hall, Tibetan artist and scholar Yeshi Dorjee will teach up to 12 students in the appreciation and creation of thangkas, or wall hangings. More than a mere decoration, a thangka holds great meaning as a tool for meditation. Yeshi will instruct students on the basics of geometry and its role in contemplation. Many of the geometry principles of the human body and of ancient architecture were compiled into the Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

Artists may sign up for the three-day experience, which includes supplies, for $200 at tibetanartinlaguna.com. Visitors may sit in on Yeshi’s teachings and observe the thangkas being created for an admission fee of $15 per day.

Artist monk Yeshi Dorjee works on a thangka, a decorative wall hanging that serves as a meditation and contemplation tool. He will lead a class for those wishing to learn about and make their own thangkas; guests may audit the classes. Photo courtesy of Yeshi Dorjee

In the church sanctuary in the afternoons from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., guests may help create a colorful sand mandala with four visiting Drepung Loseling monks, who are scholars dedicated to the study of traditional Buddhist arts and sciences. The church doors will be open each afternoon on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the public to watch and help create a different colorful sand mandala – and then destroy it. Photography is welcome. Participating in the sand mandala sessions is free, but donations to the monks are encouraged. The suggested donation is $15. Their visit is one of goodwill and cultural sharing that helps them support the 3,000 Tibetan monks at their home monastery in India. 

A mandala is a geometric pattern characterized by a central point or motif, often symmetrical and radiating outward in a circular form. The mandala’s intricate geometric design holds profound spiritual significance in Buddhism. Its geometry can be created with intentions for healing, compassion, and universal peace. Like a thangka, a mandala’s symbolic representation is not merely a piece of art but also a powerful tool for meditation, spiritual growth, and understanding the cosmos. 

The event concludes on Sunday, June 2 at the 10 a.m. church service. The monks will decorate NCC’s sanctuary altar and chant a morning blessing. The thangka art created during the weekend classes will be displayed, and some students will speak about their experiences. Yeshi Dorjee will talk about the background of NCC’s prayer wheel, which he made with his own hands. At noon, a Tibetan lunch will be served, prepared with the help of Tenpa Dorjee, owner of the Laguna Beach retail shop Tibet Handicrafts, 384 Forest Avenue. Lunch is $20. Please make a reservation at tibetanartinlaguna.com 

During their four-day visit, the Drepung Loseling monks will offer house blessings by appointment. The traditional monetary request for a home or office blessing is $108, the number of beads on a mala that keeps count of one’s mantra repetitions, or Japa, during meditation. Information can be found at tibetanartinlaguna.com

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