Monks Return to Laguna Beach for Tibetan Cultural Arts Tour  

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Seven holy men will offer house blessings and share Tibetan culture, sand mandala making, music, history 

After a five-year hiatus, the Drepung Gomang monks of India will return to Laguna Beach for a week for their Sacred Tibetan Arts Tour. 

The monks in ceremonial garb at the door inside their monastery. Photos courtesy of Drepung Gomang Monastery

Seven monks and their driver will offer a glimpse into their culture from April 14 to 21. The holy men, who are artists and scholars from Tibet’s oldest monastery, will construct a mandala, an intricate design made from fine, multi-colored sand, sing their unique trichord chanting at the beginning and end of each day, perform blessings to conjure positive energy at homes and businesses, and present pujas. These stylized rituals combine chanting, music, prayer, and visualizations using Tibetan instruments and multi-tonal singing. Guests may visit to watch them construct the sand mandala at Healy House on the grounds of the Sawdust Art Festival. All events are free and open to the public, but donations are gratefully accepted and will be used to support the monks’ educational and spiritual efforts toward world peace.  

The Drepung Gomang monks, direct disciples of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at the door of the monastery in Mundgod in southern India. Photos courtesy of Drepung Gomang Monastery

The dramatic mandala dissolution ceremony at the end of their visit, Sunday, April 21, at 2 p.m., will be memorable. After laboring over their detailed design all week, the monks sweep it into a pile of sand and give guests small packets to remind them of life’s impermanence and the importance of good works, however ephemeral. They invite the public to join their procession, accompanied by drums and cymbals, to the beach to cast the remaining sand into the ocean.  

For the eighth time, a volunteer committee of organizers led by musician Pam Wicks has arranged their accommodations in a private home, as well as their meals and transportation. 

Monks making a world peace sand mandala. Photo courtesy of Drepung Gomang Monastery

“We feel fortunate to welcome the monks to Laguna again,” Wicks said. “They have been traveling across the United States to various communities like ours since last August. Having them as our guests to share their art, culture, and blessings is a marvelous opportunity for everyone in our community to learn about this struggling nation’s history, culture, and Tibetan Buddhism. 

“We wish to acknowledge and thank the Sawdust Festival community for once again opening their hearts and donating their beautiful property as the site of this event,” Wicks added. “Likewise, we are grateful to the Neighborhood Congregational Church for their collaboration this year and their generosity in providing their campus for three evening events on April 15, 17 and 20.” 

Visitors are invited to observe morning and evening chanting rituals and watch the mandala creation from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily April 14 to 21. 

NOTE: On April 18 and 20, the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The mandala’s final touches will be completed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 21. The mandala will then be dissolved – gently brushed into a pile of sand and offered in small packets to visitors. The monks will then lead a procession to Main Beach to chant and cast the remaining sand into the ocean as a reminder of life’s ephemeral nature.  

From April 13 to 21, the monks will offer house blessings at homes, offices, galleries, and churches by prior appointment. For information and scheduling or to volunteer, contact Pam Wicks at [email protected]

The Sawdust Festival grounds are at 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Metered parking is available. Neighborhood Congregational Church is at 340 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach (parking off Glenneyre). 

Additionally, Tibetan prayer flag sponsorships are available for $15 for a five-foot length. The bright cloth flags will fly at the Sawdust Festival grounds and be blessed by the monks, then given to each sponsor after their visit. In Tibetan Buddhism, colorful prayer flags are printed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras promoting peace, wisdom, and compassion. It is said that the wind spreads auspiciousness and goodwill to all beings. For information about prayer flags, email [email protected]

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