Foremost Tibetan artist and teacher Yeshi Dorjee and Drepung Loseling monks will visit Neighborhood Congregational Church

An artistic and spiritual experience is set for May 30 through June 2 at the Neighborhood Congregational Church, 340 St. Ann’s Drive. Artists of all skill levels are invited to learn about geometry and mandala creation from the world’s acknowledged authority on the art of painting thangkas, the wall hangings that serve as magnificent art pieces, as well as tools during meditation. Four visiting Drepung Loseling monks will make colorful sand mandalas in the sanctuary and invite the community to help build the mandalas, ask questions, take photos and then help disperse the sand creations at the end of each day as a lesson in understanding the temporary nature of all earthly things.

The event will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions over the first three days.

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Photos courtesy of Yeshi Dorjee

Artist monk Yeshi Dorjee works on a thangka, a decorative wall hanging that serves as a meditation and contemplation tool. He will lead a class for those wishing to learn about and make their own thangkas; guests may audit the classes.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, May 30-June 1, from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Bridge Hall, Tibetan artist and scholar Yeshi Dorjee will teach up to 12 students in the appreciation and creation of thangkas, or wall hangings. More than a mere decoration, a thangka holds great meaning as a tool for meditation. Yeshi will instruct students on the basics of geometry and its role in contemplation. Many of the geometry principles of the human body and of ancient architecture were compiled into the Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

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Yeshi Dorjee made and gifted to the Neighborhood Congregational Church the colorful Tibetan prayer wheel that graces the sanctuary

Artists may sign up for the three-day experience, which includes supplies for $200 at Visitors may sit in on Yeshi’s teachings and observe the thangkas being created for an admission fee of $15 per day.

In the church sanctuary in the afternoons from 1:30-4:30 p.m., guests may help create a colorful sand mandala with four visiting Drepung Loseling monks, who are scholars dedicated to the study of traditional Buddhist arts and sciences. The church doors will be open each afternoon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the public to watch and help create a different colorful sand mandala – and then destroy it. Photography is welcome. Participating in the sand mandala sessions is free, but donations to the monks are encouraged. The suggested donation is $15. Their visit is one of goodwill and cultural sharing that helps them support the 3,000 Tibetan monks at their home monastery in India.

A mandala is a geometric pattern characterized by a central point or motif, often symmetrical and radiating outward in a circular form. The mandala’s intricate geometric design holds profound spiritual significance in Buddhism. Its geometry can be created with intentions for healing, compassion and universal peace. Like a thangka, a mandala’s symbolic representation is not merely a piece of art but also a powerful tool for meditation, spiritual growth and understanding the cosmos.

The event concludes on Sunday, June 2 at the 10 a.m. church service. The monks will decorate NCC’s sanctuary altar and chant a morning blessing. The thangka art created during the weekend classes will be displayed, and some students will speak about their experiences. Yeshi Dorjee will talk about the background of NCC’s prayer wheel, which he made with his own hands. At 12 p.m., a Tibetan lunch will be served, prepared with the help of Tenpa Dorjee, owner of the Laguna Beach retail shop Tibet Handicrafts, 384 Forest Ave. Lunch is $20. Please make a reservation by clicking here.

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The thangka, visible in the center of the altar, is typically the centerpiece for Buddhist meditators

During their four-day visit, the Drepung Loseling monks will offer house blessings by appointment. The traditional monetary request for a home or office blessing is $108, the number of beads on a mala keeps count of one’s mantra repetitions, or Japa, during meditation. Information can be found by clicking here.

Yeshi has a long and warm association with the Neighborhood Congregational Church.

Born in Bhutan to Tibetan parents, Yeshi is a U.S. citizen. He was ordained as a novice monk in 1970 and received full ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1980. He completed his final examinations in 1996 in Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path of Tantra and Buddhist Sacred Art. He received his Ngagrampa degree from Gyudmed Tantric University in South India.

His work has been published and displayed at the Smithsonian Museum and in countless collections around the world, including the Neighborhood Congregational Church.

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His 41-line drawings of the Buddha’s life are displayed and preserved in the office of H.H. the Dalai Lama and used as the model for any monastery seeking to paint the Buddha’s life. Yeshi has completed several terms teaching Tibetan art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also pioneering the rendering of Tibetan art using modern digital techniques.

Yeshi skillfully designed NCC’s prayer wheel using ancient Tibetan geometry. It was made specifically for the Neighborhood Congregational Church in 2000. Tenpa Dorjee, owner of the Laguna Beach retail shop Tibet Handicraft, lovingly introduced Yeshi to NCC and gifted the prayer wheel to the church in appreciation of their support for his remote village in central India.

Yeshi is currently traveling around the world teaching classes in Tibetan art and working on commissioned works of thangkas and traditional Tibetan butter sculptures.

About the Drepung Loseling monks:

The Chinese Communist takeover of Tibet in 1959 destroyed all but a dozen of Tibet’s 6,500 monasteries. Most of the monks were killed or imprisoned in the closure of Drepung. Approximately 250 of Loseling’s monks managed to escape the holocaust. They were accepted as refugees in India, where they built a replica “Drepung Loseling in Exile” monastery on land generously donated by the Indian government in Karnataka State, southeast of Bombay. Here, they worked to preserve their ancient traditions. Over the years, many more young spiritual aspirants have fled Chinese-occupied Tibet and sought refuge in the monastery, helping to preserve traditional Tibetan culture. More than 3,000 monks have found safety and education in the re-established Drepung Loseling Monastery.

Neighborhood Congregational Church is a welcoming, open and affirming community for all who seek an inclusive spiritual path.  Services are held weekly at 10 a.m., including a message of hope and inspiration. Each gathering presents a meaningful moment of celebration and music designed to appeal to people from all walks of life. The church was founded in 1943 in rooms above The Sandpiper Lounge on Coast Highway. Its current campus is at 340 St. Ann’s Drive at Glenneyre in Laguna Beach. Call 949.494.8061 and visit

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