Shifting sands |

Shifting sands

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunLobsang Samten creates a traditional sand mandala called the "Wheel of Life," which is a visual aid to help people to understand their cyclical existence.

he work of art being created by Lobsang Samten over the next several days in Tahoe City will mesmerize, entertain, amaze and, hopefully, enlighten those who view it.

Then it will be destroyed.

So is the impermanence of sand, even sand imbued with the colors of the rainbow.

Since last weekend, Samten has been creating a sand mandala at the Cobblestone Center in Tahoe City. It will take him until Saturday to complete the piece, a symbol of wholeness and a cosmic diagram that represents the interconnectedness of life.

The Tibetan art form of sand painting is an ancient and sacred practice. The Sanskrit term “mandala” is the name for the circular representation of spiritual truths.

The Tibetan name is “kyil-khor,” meaning “essence of the circle.”

Samten was born in Tibet in 1953. Six years later, following China’s invasion of his country, he and his family fled to Nepal. Later they moved to Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and residence of the Dalai Lama, where Samten was His Holiness’ personal attendant.

In 1988, encouraged by the Dalai Lama, Samten moved to the United States and became the first Tibetan to demonstrate sand mandalas to the West ” just as he is doing this week.

While it will take Samten more than a dozen meditative hours to create the mandala, he will ultimately sweep it up and, as tradition dictates, disperse the sand in a flowing body of water.

“The purpose is to understand impermanence,” Samten told an audience of his work at Squaw Valley in 2004. “It’s not like destroying. It’s letting go.”

And therein lay the enlightenment.

– Wednesday Aug. 16, noon to 6 p.m. Viewing of the “Wheel of Life” sand mandala. Donations accepted.

– Thursday, Aug. 17, noon to 5 p.m. Lobsang Samten continues work on the mandala. From 7-9 p.m., Lobsang Samten will teach about “The 3 Principles of the Path” upstairs in the Cobblestone Center. Suggested donation: $10-$20. Call 525-1900 or e-mail

– Friday, Aug. 18, noon to 5 p.m., continuing work on the mandala.

– Saturday, Aug. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Lobsang Samten will complete the Sand Mandala in preparation for the closing ceremony. At 2 p.m. the sand mandala closing ceremony will begin. Recommend donation $10.

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