Drepung Gomang monks of India return to Laguna as part of Sacred Tibetan Arts Tour on Jan 28 - Feb 5

After a three-year hiatus, the Drepung Gomang monks of India will return to Laguna Beach for the seventh time as part of their Sacred Tibetan Arts Tour. Eight monks will visit Laguna Beach on the cultural arts tour from Jan 28 - Feb 5, based at Healy House on the grounds of the Sawdust Art Festival. 

A volunteer committee of organizers led by musician Pam Wicks has arranged for hosting the monks in a private home, as well as their meals and transportation. Wicks commented, “We feel very fortunate to be on the itinerary of the Drepung Gomang Sacred Arts Tour, whose members, these eight cheerful monks, have been traveling from community to community across the United States since early 2018. Having them as our guests to share their art, culture and blessings is a marvelous opportunity for everyone in our community to learn about this struggling nation’s history, culture and Tibetan Buddhism.”

Dreprung Gomang monk working

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Drepung Gomang monk works on sand mandala

The holy men, who are artists and scholars from Tibet’s oldest monastery, will construct a mandala, an intricate design made from fine, multi-colored sand, sing their unique trichord chanting at the beginning and end of each day, perform blessings to conjure positive energy at homes and businesses, and present pujas, stylized rituals that combine chanting, music, prayer, and visualizations using Tibetan instruments and multi-tonal singing. 

These geshes (monk scholars) are supported by donations from the host community. Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tashi Gomang Dharma Center in Louisville, Kentucky hosts the nationwide Drepung Gomang Sacred Arts Tours annually in the US as the monks visit dozens of communities to share compassion and joy. 

History of Drepung Gomang monks

Drepung Monastery was founded in 1416 near Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. In 1959, before the invasion of Communist China, Drepung monastery had more than 10,000 monks. Only about 100 monks managed to escape with His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet in 1959. The surviving Gomang monks were given 42 acres of land in Mundgod, south India. There they started to rebuild Drepung Gomang Monastic Dratsang in its present location. Today approximately 2,000 monks live on these few acres. 

Drepung Gomang onlookers

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Onlookers from previous tour 

Mission of Drepung Gomang Monastery

Gomang Monastery interacts with the larger Tibetan community, teaching the three R’s in the school, assisting in the hospital, elder care facility, and providing training in Tibetan arts and crafts for the young people of the settlement while offering employment for the local Tibetan and Indian people. Also, the monks perform religious ceremonies for the Tibetans. All of these services are provided at no charge to the Tibetan community. 

Drepung Gomanz sand mandala

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Sand Mandala

The four-fold mission of the visitors from the Drepung Gomang Monastery is to: 

--Contribute to world healing and peace by sharing Tibetan Buddhist teachings, sacred religious performances, chanting, and Tibet’s unique identity and treasures of culture and authentic traditions. 

--Generate awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization and human rights abuses by the Communist Chinese since 1959, and to draw attention to an increasingly desperate situation due to massive displacement of Tibetans by Chinese citizens sent there by the Communist government. 

--Raise support for the refugee monk community in south India – food, healthcare, and hygiene needs, plus improvements to their educational facilities. 

--Offer prayers to heal human and environmental tragedies and promote stewardship of the earth. 

Schedule of tour

Visitors are invited to observe morning and evening chanting rituals and to watch the mandala creation from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on January 29, 30, 31, February 1 and 2. Final touches on the mandala will be completed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 3. 

When the mandala is finished, the monks will conduct the dissolution ceremony, sweeping their creation into a pile of sand to illustrate the ephemeral nature of all endeavors. Guests will be offered a small bag of the sand to take home as a reminder of the fleeting quality of this life and the importance of good works and positive efforts while here. The dissolution ceremony includes a procession from the Sawdust grounds to Main Beach, where the monks will chant, play instruments, and cast away the handfuls of sand that had been a beautiful mandala that took days to complete. 

The Sawdust Festival has generously offered the use of its grounds for this event. All events are open to the public; donations are gratefully accepted and will be used to support the monks’ educational and spiritual efforts toward world peace. 

Monday, Jan 28: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Opening ceremonies for the creation of the White Tara Mandala, 10 - 11 a.m.. Mandala creation, 4 - 5 p.m. Discussion of the meaning of the White Tara Mandala.

Tuesday, Jan 29: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mandala creation, 7 - 8 p.m. Chanting for World Peace and “Meet the Monks” followed by Q&A. Suggested donation is $10.

Wednesday, Jan 30: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mandala creation, 7 - 8 p.m. Tara and Guru Puja for good health, relief of suffering, and purifying obstacles. Suggested donation is $10.

Thursday, Jan 31: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mandala creation. 

Friday, Feb 1: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mandala creation, 7 - 9 p.m. Chod Puja, a combination of chanting, music, prayer, and visualizations accompanied by Tibetan instruments. Suggested donation is $10.

Saturday, Feb 2: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mandala creation, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Children’s workshops, artist’s booths and displays, meditation garden, labyrinth on the Sawdust grounds, 7 - 9 p.m. Cultural pageant featuring Mandala Prayer, the Good Luck dance, the Black Hat dance, the Snow Lion Dance, and more. Main Stage on the Sawdust grounds. Suggested donation is $10 single, $20 families, under 10 years free. 

Sunday, Feb 3: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Mandala creation, 2 p.m. White Tara mandala dissolution ceremony and procession on foot to Main Beach,

Mandala Room Etiquette 

Visitors often ask the question: “How should I conduct myself properly in such a place?” The Mandala Room at Healy House is a sacred area that is to be entered and experienced with respect. The following are guidelines to help attendees feel at ease and enjoy their visit: Before entering, silence mobile phones. Photography is permitted without the use of a flash. 

House blessings by the monks at homes, offices, galleries, and churches are available from Jan 28 - Feb 5. Call organizer Pam Wicks at (949) 573-7104 for information and scheduling. 

The Sawdust is located at 935 Laguna Canyon Rd. Metered parking is available. 

For a complete schedule of the tour on Facebook, go to https://bit.ly/2PKHz0g.