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Sand Mandala Artist at Colby April 4–13

April 1, 2010

Losang Samten creating a sand mandala,

Tibetan sand artist Losang Samten will create a sand mandala in the Colby College Museum of Art April 4-13. As in his previous visits to Colby, he will give a public lecture, lead a meditation, and conduct a dismantling ceremony. All events are free and open to the public.

Samten will construct the Kalachakra Mandala. Kalachakra means “wheel of time” and symbolizes the entire universe. Viewing the Kalachakra, the most sacred of all mandalas, is the culmination of a Tibetan Buddhist initiation ceremony, and it was kept a closely guarded secret until recently, when the Dalai Lama began presentations of the Kalachakra Sand Mandala to the general public as a cultural offering.

On Wednesday, April 7, at 6 p.m., Samten will deliver a lecture in Given Auditorium of the Bixler Art and Music Center. On Saturday, April 10, at noon, he will lead a public meditation in the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz. On Tuesday, April 13, at 3:30 p.m., he will conduct the dismantling ceremony in the Lower Jetté Gallery. 

The Venerable Losang Samten is a renowned artist who has created mandalas at a host of major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He is also a cultural representative who travels widely, sharing his knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, he is one of an estimated thirty people in the world who are qualified to teach and demonstrate the creation of traditional Buddhist sand mandalas.

Visitors to the Museum this spring will be able to observe him as he works, listen as he explains aspects of the art, philosophy, and religion of his native Tibet, and participate in the spiritual exercise of meditation under his guidance. Samten’s teachings are deeply intertwined with his beliefs about social justice and the importance of practicing patience, understanding, and loving kindness. 

Current publicity materials for Losang Samten are available on his website at

The Colby College Museum of Art is open Sunday noon to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month during the academic year. It is closed on Mondays.


During Samten’s visit to Colby in 2007, Waterville fourth grader Simone Livshits, 10, wrote the following article based on her conversation with the artist.

Losang Samten was born in Tibet. As a child, Samten knew what his goal for life was: to be a success in life and make something good out of himself. Samten started working toward his goal by becoming a monk.
"I liked being a monk because it's simple. It's very, very wonderful to be around people who are very devoted to being spiritual rather than just having more and more things," says Samten.
Then, Samten took a big step. He moved to America and started making sand mandalas. Sand mandalas are like paintings, except they're made out of sand. The word "mandala" means a geometric shape representing the universe in Buddhist symbolism.
"I'm the only one in the world who makes the wheel of life sand mandala," says Samten. When he dies, there will be no more sand mandalas like his. His start with great care and end with sheer beauty. Samten also does his work differently. He lets people watch him. This way people can see the artist at work. Then, when Samten is all finished, he dismantles his artwork.
"Most people want to make money rather than doing what I do. Everybody these days are running after money. They call me a 'starving artist.' I don't like how artists aren't appreciated until they die, then the people begin to respect and like the artists' work," says Samten.
"I'm not sure if I've met my goal. My goal can be achieved in my life, but I'm not in a rush to achieve it. I just pursue the practice," he says.
Samten may not think he'll reach his goal in life, but I think he already has. He left me with this thought: "I'd like everyone to remember patience," says Samten. "It is a key in life."

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