Losang Samten hunches over a table scratching two metal funnels together, called a chakpo, shaping grains of sand into intricate pictorial designs. This week, the Tibetan artist is creating a mandala through the ancient art form of sand painting at the Philadelphia Folklore Project.
At the center of the table are images of three animals: a pig, rooster, and snake that symbolize the causes of suffering — ignorance, greed and anger, says Losang. The theme of the mandala, called “Wheel of Life,” addresses issues of domestic violence through colors and scenes of a family heading toward a better future and also scenes of an abusive husband beating his wife.
“The sand mandala is a tool to bring some sort of education message to the community”, says Losang. “Every time we listen to the news, we hear about so much violence, so much killing. It’s good to promote how we should live together and bring more peace, rather than hate.”
Losang has been creating sand mandalas across the U.S. and in Mexico and Europe for more than 20 years. He studied under the Dalai Lama at the Namgyal Monastery and now serves as spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist center of Philadelphia.
The former monk puts a modern spin on the ancient teachings and uses the art of the mandala as a way to communicate his message. He will continue to create the sand mandala at the Philadelphia Folklore Project through Friday.
The week-long residency culminates with a dismantling ceremony where Losang and participants will sweep up the mandala and take the sand to the banks of the Schuylkill River, where they will bless the environment and release the sand into the water.