Visiting Drepung Loseling monks begin their mandala sand painting in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Visiting Drepung Loseling monks begin their mandala sand painting in Steamboat Springs

Monk Nyima Tsering Tamang, of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, works to form a mandala image at the Bud Werner Memorial Library on Thursday afternoon. A small group of monks are working on the mandala, which is created with millions of grains of brightly colored grains of sand.

— As Library Hall fell to a hushed silence Wednesday afternoon, six monks dressed in traditional saffron robes closed their eyes and began their blessing ceremony.

Their chanting caused a vibration that was felt by all in attendance.

"You can feel the effects from their chanting and their presence here," said Steamboat local Sarah Winter. "This is my first time seeing it but I think, with them here, it suddenly affects the person, the town, and it suddenly affects the planet."

Throughout the rest of the week and weekend, Bud Werner Memorial Library's guests from the Drepung Loseling Monastery will continue to work on the Green Tara mandala sand painting. Library Hall will be open for visitors to witness the monks’ progression as they patiently and skillfully create the painting from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sunday.

Once the mandala is completed, the colorful sand creating the mandala will be swept up and placed in an urn during a closing ceremony that begins at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Each day, local residents and visitors are invited to participate in a community sand painting, which is an illustration from the bestselling Inky Adventure adult coloring book, "Secret Garden" by artist Johanna Basford. Participants layer the sand onto the design using authentic sand-painting tools.

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"Because we are so secluded up here in the mountains, being involved with a different culture like this is such a great experience, especially for my two boys to see something like this, it's so powerful," said Sheryl Kalley of Steamboat.

According to Khentul Rinpoche, head lama and spokesman for the group, the Green Tara mandala is a symbol of protection, health, happiness, wisdom, abundance and success in one's life.

For five days, the monks work diligently to create the mandala — the process derived from an ancient art form meant to purify and heal the environment and its inhabitants.

"These people live lives that are full of compassion and dedication and that's what they do. They are masters at it," Winter said.

For Ngima Sherpa, who is visiting Steamboat Springs after coming back from Nepal two days ago, there is great importance in being part of the ceremonies and witnessing the monks’ work.

"They have a lot of meanings for why they are doing this but there is great importance in being part of this and seeing the culture of the buddhist community," Sherpa said.

The mandala is a reminder to all to reflect on life and all that it offers.

"It's something that is here now and then it's gone, but it has effects that last," Winter said.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1