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Tibetan Monks to Present One of World’s Most Ancient Traditions
Saturday, July 27, 2019


Several Tibetan monks will take their places in the Bailey Studio at the Argyros Performing Arts Center on Tuesday. And they’ll meticulously begin creating a colorful Mandala Sand Painting using millions of grains of colored sand.

Over the next five days the public will be invited to watch as they create their painting on a wooden platform. And the public will even get a chance to create their own Community Sand Painting.

Then, on Saturday, Aug. 3, Sun Valley residents and visitors will be invited to watch as the monks robed in rich red brocaded costumes provide a performance showcasing their haunting, otherworldly multi-phonic chanting, music and temple dances that have been performed for thousands of years.

The two-hour program, titled “Sacred Music, Sacred Dance,” starts at 7:30 p.m.

“We’ll show our culture through a combination of chanting and ritual dance,” said J.C. Lacey, a spokesperson for the Mystical Arts of Tibet.

These are real monks, not performers.

Their monastery, built in 1416 in Lhasa, Tibet, was relocated to southern India following the invasion of Tibet by China in 1959. About 250 of the 10,000 monks who lived at the monastery escaped to India where they have continued to observe their spiritual practices while training new monks at the new Drepung Loseling Monastery. The monastery currently houses about 3,000 monks.

A center of Tibetan Buddhism, it has housed some of the earlier Dalai Lamas. And it established another seat in Atlanta, Ga., when the Mystical Arts of Tibet tours proved so popular.

“We’re taking care of our unique culture and tradition,” said Lacey. “Right now, we don’t have the freedom to do what we want in Tibet. So, the tours allow us to share our culture and practices.”

The mandala is an ancient art form believed to purify and restore the environment and promote world peace.

Lacey said the Mandala Sand Painting will kick off at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, with a brief ceremony that will involve chanting and blessings and the playing of musical instruments. The monks will then begin outlining a design, after which they will pour tiny grains of sand onto the design using small funnels.

Tibetan monks have been creating mandalas for centuries, their work considered a meditation giving empowerment, Lacey said.

Four of the 10 monks who come to Sun Valley will start off creating the mandala. They may be joined by others as the painting progresses.

On Saturday the monks will finish the mandala at 11 a.m. They will then give the public a one-hour window to view it before holding a closing ceremony during which they dismantle the mandala in an act signifying the temporal nature of things—a core Buddhist belief.

The public will then be invited to join them as they transport the sand to the river, releasing it into nature to disperse its healing energies throughout the world.

That night they will conclude their visit to Sun Valley with the “Sacred Music, Sacred Dance” performance.

Endorsed by the Dalai Lama, it’s designed to gives the audience a glimpse into the monks’ lifestyle and monastic chanting, said Lacey. It will include a combination of chanting, ritual temple dances that have been performed for thousands of years and the use of traditional Tibetan instruments, such as the 10-foot bass dungchen turmpets, which resemble alpenhorns.

The chanting shows how they harness human vocal cords to create more than one sound at more than one pitch—all at the same time.

A single monk can harmonize by himself, simultaneously intoning three notes at once while producing a complete chord by making subtle adjustments of his lips, tongue, jaw and palate. It’s a hypnotic art that has not been duplicated in exactly the same way by any other culture on earth. The monks believe their harmonies produce energies conductive to world healing.

Back home the monks wake up at 4:30 a.m. to memorize scripture, Lacey said. The younger ones then spend time learning from the older monks before taking a lunch break at 11:30 a.m. Then it’s back to more scripture study until about 5 p.m. when they break for dinner.

They sit under their elders’ tutelage following dinner and then memorize more scripture before turning out the lights at 11:30 p.m.

The monks began taking the Mystical Arts of Tibet around the world in 1988. They came to Sun Valley in 2006, building a sand mandala at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and performing at the Sun Valley Inn.

The monks involved in next week’s performance are taking time off from their contemplation and studies to share their culture with the world, Lacey said. They will return to the monastery at the end of the tour.


The creation of the sand mandala will kick off with a ceremony at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 30. Monks will continue to work on the mandala in the Bailey Studio at the Argyros Performing Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday. They will finish the mandala at 11 a.m. on Saturday. They will then hold a closing ceremony at noon and transport the sand to the river.

There is no cost to watch.

The “Sacred Music, Sacred Dance” concert on Saturday, Aug. 3, starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for those 30 years and under. Adult tickets start at $35, available by calling 208-726-7872 or at


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