Visual Arts Programs

 Following is an overview of the elements that will comprise the artistic aspect of the Drepung Gomang Tour. For details about each program, be sure to click here

    Butter Sculpture-
    Craft workshops:  Butter Sculpture, Painting Mani Stones, and Sand Painting,
    Sacred Sand Mandala:  Creation of the Mandalas of Compassion (chenresig), Healing (Medicine Buddha-Men Lha), and Long Life amitayus mandala)
    Slide Show/documentary film:  History of Gomang Monastery
    Thangkas:  Portraits of deities, bodhisattvas, and holy lamas framed in brocade

In addition, the tour monks will present a Cultural Presentation.  They are also available to perform pujas.  The monks are very interested in visiting retirement homes and visiting the sick.  Geshe or tour leader will be willing to give retreats, teachings and bestow the White Tara Blessing.

Butter Sculptures

Butter sculpture is another Tibetan Buddhist artistic visual impact. The sacred offering is made from mainly butter and other mineral pigments. The size of butter sculpture varies from several centimeters torma to several meters tableaux, covering a variety of subject including deities, butter mandalas, flowers, animals and Buddhist motifs. Traditionally, butter sculptures are displayed on monastery altars and family shrines as offerings.

Butter sculptures are modeled by hands. Since butter melts easily, monk artists making butter sculptures need to work in cold conditions, they have to dip their hands into cold water to make their fingers cold enough then can they start to model. Monks take great pride to do the religious work. A few tools, such as hollow bones for making long threads and moulds for making leaves and alike, are applied.

For information about the butter sculpture workshop offered by the tour group, go to Butter Sculptures.


Craft Workshops

The Visiting Monks of Drepung Gomang Institute will present workshops on a variety of topics related to traditional Tibetan art.  All workshops will include a short talk/explanation of the tradition of the various crafts as well as a short demonstration.  The monks will facilitate full "hands on" participation by the public.  They will supply photo step-by-step displays of how to do each craft and, in addition, clear sample drawings laminated for each workshop.

Additionally, items made in the monastery will be for sale and distribution.

We foresee groups of 5 to 15--larger than that would be difficult to manage.

The following are the workshops currently planned.  Click here to know about the workshop.

  •     Butter Sculpture
  •     Coloring Tibetan Designs
  •     Sand Painting
  •     Mani Stones

The Sacred Art of Sand Mandalas

The Mandala, a Tibetan sand painting, is an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism. The mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning cosmogram or “world in harmony.” Mandalas are drawings in three-dimensional forms of sand.  In Tibetan, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor which means “mandala of colored powders.”

In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation. Each object in the palace has significance, representing some aspect of wisdom or reminding the meditator of some guiding principle. Various scriptural texts dictate the shapes, forms, and colors of the mandala. There are many different mandalas, each with different lessons to teach and blessings to confer. Most mandalas contain a host of deities, symbolic archetypes of the landscape of the mind.

In general, all mandalas have outer, inner, and secret meaning.  On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind; and on the secret level, they predict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.  The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.

Every tantric system has its own mandala, and thus each one symbolizes an existential and spiritual approach.  For example, that of Lord Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) symbolizes compassion as a central focus of the spiritual experience; that of Lord Manjushri takes wisdom as the central focus; and that of Vajrapani emphasizes the need for courage and strength in the quest for sacred knowledge. Medicine Buddha mandalas are created to generate powers of healing, and the Amitayus mandala is the mandala of the "Buddha of Boundless Life."  Amitayus is the main practice for prolonging or extending one's lifespan for the purpose of using this precious lifetime to gain enlightenment for oneself and all other sentient beings.

The creation of a sand mandala begins with an opening ceremony.  Monks consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness through chanting mantras accompanied by flutes, drums and cymbals. The construction of the mandala begins with the drawing of the design on the base, or tek-pu. The artists measure out and draw the architectural lines using a straight-edged ruler, compass and ink pen. The mandala is a formal geometric pattern showing the floor plan of a sacred mansion. Once the diagram is drawn, in the following days you see millions of grains of colored sand painstakingly laid into place. The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, is poured onto the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a "chakpur" which is scraped by another metal rod to cause sufficient vibration for the grains of sand to trickle out of its end.  The two "chakpurs" are said to symbolize the union of wisdom and compassion.  The mandalas are created whenever a need for healing of the environment and living beings is felt.  The monks consider our present age to be one of great need in this respect, and therefore are creating these mandalas where requested throughout their world tours. When finished, to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists, the colored sands are swept up and poured into a nearby river or stream where the waters carry healing energies throughout the world.

For information about the sand painting workshop offered by the tour group, go to workshops


The Slide Show OR A DOCUMENTARY:  A Visual History

A slide show/documentary of the history of Gomang, from the old black and white photos from Lhasa, to the first arrival of the monks to Bhagsa in 1959, to the settlement here in the early days, and then photos from now. The show will be accompanied by a running commentary, including personal histories of some of the oldest living monks from Tibet.


The following thangkas could be displayed by the Sacred Art Tour monks upon availability.

    Shakyamuni Buddha (2)
    Gyalwa Jampa:  Maitreya, the Buddha to Come
    Chenrezig:  Bodhisattva of Compassion
    Jamphel Yang:  Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom
    Guru Rinpoche:  Indian Pandit who brought Buddhism to Tibet
    Red Tara:  Dolma (Tib) is the Mother of All Buddhas. Red Tara is Tara's fierce aspect associated with magnetizing all good things
    Tsepak Mey:  Amiteyus Buddha, the Buddha of Long Life

To view a slideshow of these thangkas, click here.