The Mandala Project

November 4, 2010

Photo courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.


The public is invited to watch the monks create the mandala during the following hours:

Tue-Sat - 11am-1:30pm & 3:30-6pm

Sun - 11am-1:30pm & 3:30-5pm


11:00 - 11:45 - Practice (prayer)

11:45 - 1:00 - Sand Mandala

1:00 - Lunch

2:00 or 2:30 - Resume Sand Mandala

6:00 or 6:15 - Evening Closing Practice*

*Varies depending on museum's closing time.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday - 6:00 or 6:15

Thursday - 8:00

Sunday - 4:00



The Hammer Museum, in partnership with Ari Bhöd — the American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation — is pleased to present The Mandala Project. This two-week program will feature the construction of a Tibetan sand mandala by a team of traditionally trained Lamas visiting Los Angeles from the Thubten Choeling Monastery in Pharping, Nepal. The mandala they create will be a sacred painting, following precise and ancient instructions passed down over thousands of years. Millions of grains of colored sand will be sprinkled carefully on a flat surface over an elaborate 10-day ceremony.

The mandala painting represents boundless compassion, purity and clarity. It is believed that mandalas have the power to transform negativity and awaken altruism and compassion in the viewer. Accompanying the sand mandala will be a series of architectural drawings of a proposed four story mandala for Ari Bhöd by Los Angeles based architect Michael Rotondi, as well as a smaller three-dimensional mandala, created by Pema Namdol Thaye, a master of Tibetan art. The project also includes a Hammer Conversation with Rotondi and Thaye, and culminates in a ceremonial sweeping of the sand and a concluding procession to the Pacific Ocean for the dispersal of the sand on November 7, 2010.

Photo courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.

The mandala is a profound, universal symbol that translates literally to “center and its surroundings” and is a physical representation of our interdependence, or the notion that everything and everyone is interlinked. Mandalas are found in many forms, but always include a circle, a central point, and some form of symmetry. They can be created in sand, on paper or cloth, or built as 3-dimensional models or buildings. The vivid painted mandalas of Tibet are the most widely known. There are only a few three-dimensional mandalas in the world, due in part to the large commitment of time and expertise needed to create them.

Photo courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.

Traditionally created as a tool for visualization and meditation, every single detail of a mandala—the design, the colors, and placement of symbols—is deliberate. The blueprints are considered sacred, with many layers of deep meaning and positive representation. Before beginning, traditional mandala artists generate the intention to benefit others and the motivation of compassion, which is believed to infuse the art or structure with unique spiritual and sacred qualities.

Photo courtesy of American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.


Venerable Gelong Kalsang Rinpoche – Former Vajra Master of Rigdzin Drub-Pai Ghatsal, the retreat center of His Holiness Chatral Rinpoche in Nepal, Gelong Rinpoche will be leading the traditional ceremonies and creation of the sand mandala.

Venerable Lama Ngawang Thogmed – A master of ritual arts and a master mandala artist, Ven. Lama Thogme is often sought out to train many of the monks of the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages at monasteries throughout India and Nepal in the complex art of sand mandala making.

Lama Nawang Sampten Lhundrup – Master temple craftsman and ritual artist.

Lama Rinji Sherpa Tsewang – Assistant mandala artist.


Sun., Nov. 7, 1pm

Hammer Conversations: Michael Rotondi & Pema Namdol Thaye

Architect and educator Michael Rotondi is the principal of RoTo Architecture, an award-winning firm that creates unconventional structures that aim to dissolve the boundaries between design, science, technology, and the fine arts. Rotondi co-founded Morphosis in 1972 and was director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). A master of Tibetan art, Pema Namdol Thaye is renowned for his expertise in traditional Tibetan thangka painting, sculpture and the creation of rare three dimensional mandalas. For more the 25 years, Pema has provided a vital contribution to the world’s understanding of traditional Tibetan Art. All Hammer public programs are free.

Sun., Nov. 7, 3pm

Dissolution Ceremony & Procession to Pacific Ocean

The monks will perform a dissolution ceremony at 3pm, and at 3:30pm they will lead a procession to the ocean. All are welcome to join the dissolution ceremony and procession, but you will need your own transportation. Driving directions will be provided at the ceremony.


Ari Bhöd was founded by Venerable Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa to preserve the ancient Nyingma wisdom tradition of Tibet. The Nyingma tradition, known as the Ancient Onis the original tradition developed in Tibet by the great spiritual adept Padmasambhava in the ninth century. These teachings were preserved in Tibet in an unbroken transmission for more than one thousand years. Its benefits have stood the test of time, the methods proven effective in bringing forth positive qualities, especially altruism and compassion. It is our aim to preserve, in a living environment, all essential aspects of this endangered world heritage so that it remains a source of benefit for future generations of Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike.

Ari Bhöd’s mission is to preserve and transmit the priceless legacy of the ancient Tibetan Nyingma lineage tradition, a sacred culture of peace that has been kept vital and effective through more than fifty generations of lifelong practitioners and lineage masters. Ari Bhöd’s retreat center, Pema Drawa, is located on 475 acres in the peaceful mountains of Tehachapi, California. Pema Drawa is the site for the construction of Zangdok Palri U.S.A, a four-story monument to inspire compassion, transformation and peace. With offices in southern California, Ari Bhöd’s principle programs and activities include:

• Traditional Tibetan Art and Architecture

• Meditation Practice and Ceremonies

• Text Translation and Publishing

• Tools for Peace™, an education program based on the principle of mandala