Buddhist monks from Drepung Gomang monastery visited the Neighborhood Congregational Church in Laguna Beach, CA for a week in November 2013.
The monks were visiting as part of a Sacred Tibetan Arts Tour.
A highlight of the week was the creation of a sand mandala -- an intricate piece of sacred art comprised of millions of grains of colored sand.
Each day's work began with trichord chanting.
Starting work on the sand mandala: the monks drew an exact scale replica of the sacred artwork on a large blue surface.
They took a piece of paper with the mandala design ... folded the paper into small squares ... and then drew the design to scale on the blue surface, which they marked and divided into an equal number of squares.
Their tools: brightly colored sand and narrow tapered tubes for dispensing the sand onto the mandala.
The monks worked meticulously on the mandala from Tuesday through Saturday.
While in the United States, the monks found a gong to replace one that broke four years ago in their temple in India.
The huge gong (which was made in Indonesia, as I recall), had to be transported back to India with the monks. People donated money to help pay the cost.
On Wednesday, the sand mandala was taking shape.
Grain by grain, work on the mandala continues.
The head monk chats with people who came to watch the work in progress.
A slow process: tap, tap, tapping the tube to release a few grains of sand at a time. The monks wore masks so their breathing wouldn't disrupt the sand.
It's considered sacred geometry: every line and every figure in the mandala has significance.