Folk Art PA

Losang Samten

Tibetan Sand Mandala  
(Social Change and Awareness)

Born in 1953, Losang Samten escaped war-torn Tibet in 1959 and settled in India.  Samten continues to bring peace through the creation of mandalas in Philadelphia and around the world, and was recognized for his efforts with the 2002 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. 

“For me, making sand mandalas for the public is one way to develop greater awareness of Tibetan culture and the troubled political situation of my people.  For centuries, Tibetan Buddhist culture was largely hidden from the outside world. But, in 1988, His Holiness the Dalai Lama selected me to create the first sand mandala ever made as a cultural offering in the West.”

While studying in the monastery, Samten was chosen to enter an intensive training program in mandala painting.  Of the 28 monks who began the training, only 4 completed the course. The selected monks memorize 500 pages of sacred text, which the mandalas represent through color, design, and ritual creation processes.  The finished product is swept up and given to a body of water, in keeping with Buddhist ideas of impermanence. 

“By creating the artwork in a specific place, the artist hopes to bring peace to that location.  So, in 1995, with permission from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I gave back my monastic vows and became a lay practitioner.  Since then, I have been traveling the world, promoting peace and awareness through the creation of sand mandalas.”