Monk SandingTibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will construct a Mandala Sand Painting Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 at the Pico Union Project, 1153 Valencia Street, in Downtown Los Angeles, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public is invited to come, at no charge, and view the mandala sand painting in progress and attend special ceremonies.

“Tibetan Buddhist Monks will spend seven days creating an exquisite sand mandala at the Pico Union in the middle of our 10 holiest Jewish days,” said Craig Taubman, founder of Pico Union Project. “On the 7th day of creation, they will dissolve their art, distribute the sand and instruct those who have gathered to disperse the sand into a fresh body of water.”

From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. To date the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe.

Concurrently, the High Holy Days will be held in the same space—a perfect embodiment of Pico Union Project’s ethos of multiculturalism. “We are a home to five different faith communities, and now it’s time to build a Jewish home,” said Taubman, the dynamic founder of the Pico Union Project. “We’re calling it The Sanctuary@Pico Union.”

The Sanctuary@Pico Union is launching in time for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 14), Kol Nidre (Sept. 22) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 23). Services will be led by Taubman together with musical and spiritual artists and educators including Shy Blakeney, Josh Goldberg, Martin Storrow, Deanna Neil, Rabbi Scott Westle, Ayana Morse, Stuart K. Robinson, Ron Wolfson and Shany Zamir.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation, and will be held on Monday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

The lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they lay the colored sands. Each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing. The closing ceremony will be held on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m.

“It is hard to grasp that something so beautiful can be so quickly destroyed,” said Taubman. “The mandala is a celebration of life’s impermanence and is essentially the story of our lives. We look forward to welcoming visitors to this remarkable event.”

Doors for the exhibit at Pico Union Project will be open Sept. 21-22 and Sept. 24-27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies, the Tibetan Buddhist monks are offering a free lecture on Thursday, September 24, at 10:30 a.m. on meditation, conscious living and universal kindness.

About Pico Union Project 
The Pico Union Project is dedicated to the Jewish principle to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It elevates this teaching into practice in a historic building by bringing diverse cultures together through song, story, art, food and prayer. Pico Union Project is a multi-faith cultural arts center and house of worship founded in 2013 by visionary recording artist, composer and musician Craig Taubman. Pico Union Project aims to help invigorate the community of Los Angeles and reflect the Jewish value of being a light to all nations.