Tibetan Buddhist Monk makes a healing sand mandala and gives so much more

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, June 14 2016

Until June 19, a Blue Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala will be on display at the Netloft. The mandala is the creation of Tibetan monk Losang Samten, who calls Philidephia home when he’s not travelling the world. Half a dozen people are gathered around a table interested in how the mandala is created. 

A chakpu is a tool used to distribute the colored sand onto the table. People take turns holding these horn-like tools, rubbing them against each other to create a sound that is almost like singing bowls. It is at once a meditative process, while also being quietly creative.

Tibetan monk Losang Samten working on the sand mandala he is creating through this week at the Net Loft on Gabriola. A mandala dispersal ceremony is planned for 1:30pm on Sunday June 19. Jane Reddington photo.

The chakpus are metal, with ridges, one full of sand, the other used to coax the sand out of the tool very slowly so the designs can be made. Samten explains each design in the mandala means something, there are colors for the elements, yellow for the earth, white for water, red for fire, blue for sky. These are cleansing elements. 

And then there are three to four layers of the lotus, and four gates. The design has been drawn onto the table and on this day it is about half complete. This healing mandala also represents love, compassion, joy and equality. The design is 2600 years old, and Samten says half a million people have touched the chakpus. To feel the weight of them in your hands, and to rub them together making a sound that is meditative and soothing is an experience offered to everyone gathered.

“As human beings,” Samten says, “we are going through aging, and disease, Buddha taught the mandala practice to stop disease, and the mandala itself is medicine and an important part of Buddha practise.”

The three dimensional aspect of the mandala is best viewed in the evening, when a light can be shined on it, says Samten who was born in Tibet in 1953 and lived as a refugee in Nepal and at age 11 became a monk. He had lost his parents and his country at a very young age. This is Samten’s first trip to Gabriola, and he has been brought here by friends Dennis and Rainie Evans and is presented by the Gabriola Ecumenical Society.

“Doing this work is meditation for me, I hope the mandala brings peace, hope and healing.” This particular mandala was requested by the Evans couple and it brings all the gods and goddesses energy of healing. “Lotus comes from the muddy water and when it opens it is pure and beauty, we all have a chance to open and have a point of view that we need to understand and open ourselves to discover the kind nature that we all have,” says Samten.

Samten says we all need healing, because people are so afraid and so greedy and sometimes our priorities are more for greed than kindness or compassion. We should be thinking of what we can do to help others and by doing this we help ourselves. The best medicine is kindness, he says. 

Sitting with him, talking quietly, he is a peaceful person, quick to smile, but always giving of himself in a way that might help others. You feel like you’re in the presence of someone truly holy.  

Samten became a monk because he felt, from a very young age, that it was his strong desire at five years old. “When I was three or four I went to the monastery with my mum and I didn’t want to leave. She said we have to go and I was crying. At 11, I signed my name, at the time I had long hair, and my classmates teased me about being bald, but I don’t have any regrets it was part of the robe.”

In 1959, during the Cultural Revolution, Samten remembers the monsteries were destroyed. One million people were killed by the Chinese government. Now 130,000 people live in exile in Tibet and 60,000 are monks or nuns in the Northern part of India Darmsala.

Anne Landry has come to see the mandala, “I had to see the beauty of it, and the impermanence. All the effort and in the end it will be destroyed. It’s an important lesson. We need to concentrate. It’s a useful way to become more present,” she says of the process of creating the mandala. “It’s just incredible who comes to the island.”

Dennis Evans joins the group, and says how Samten came to Regina for 15 years when they lived there. When the mandala is completed it is poured into moving water, and one year in Regina, they had to chip the ice on a lake to find the moving water below. The Evans met Samten in Santa Fe at a Tibetan retreat and have been friends ever since.

Every day except Tuesday June 14, Samten will be at the Netloft from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. He will work all day on the mandala and answer questions. “You can ask him any question,” says Rainie Evans, “and it’s really so interesting to hear his profound answers.” 

Offerings are gratefully accepted. A retreat for healing and purification with Losang Samten is being offered at the Netloft from June 17-19. For more information see the website www.gabriolaecumenical.com