Day Retreat with Geshe Losang Samten

Day Retreat with Geshe Losang Samten



Meditating on the SAND MANDALA of the Wheel of Life

When: Saturday, May 7th, from 9:30am to 4pm

WherePlymouth Meeting Friends, 2150 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA

There will be a very special retreat with Venerable Geshe Losang Samten who will lead us as we meditate on and discuss the meaning of the Wheel of Life. He will have depicted it in one of his amazing sand mandalas, created just for this retreat. The Buddha taught many different ways to train the mind and we will be introduced to some of these methods. We will learn how to meditate on an image and how to use meditations to analyze situations and to better understand the nature of our human life. The retreat will end with the traditional dismantling of the sand mandala at 3:30 pm, when the doors will open to the public. The dismantling symbolizes the impermanence of all things.

Public Access to the Mandala: Everyone, registered for retreat or not, is welcome to watch the mandala creation and dismantling. The doors to the Plymouth Meeting Friends’ Annie Room, where the retreat will take place, will be open for watching Geshe-la and asking him questions Wed – Fri, May 4 – 6.

Note: Pre-registration is necessary: please registister at

What to Wear: comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for meditation

What to Bring: PBA will supply coffee, tea, water, and snacks, but please bring a brown bag lunch. We will be sitting on chairs (you may want to bring a pillow for added comfort.) We suggest a completely voluntary donation, or “dana” (act of generosity) for the teacher. Between $25 and $50 is suggested; any amont is appreciated.


About the Teacher: The Venerable Geshe Losang Samten, a renowned Tibetan scholar and a former Buddhist monk, was born in Chung Ribuce, of central Tibet. In 1959, he and his family fled to Nepal and later moved to Dharamsala, India. His education includes studies at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and the Namgyal Monastery which is the monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama. In 1985, he earned a Geshe Degree in Buddhist Philosophy, Sutra, and Tantra, from the Namgyal Monastery, which is equivalent to a Ph.D. He was ask3ed by the Dalai Lama to bring the art and spirit of the sand mandala to the West and was the first to create one here. In 1994, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Art from the Maine College of Art in 1995. He taught Tibetan Language at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia from 1994 – 1997 and was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002. In 2004, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

The Wheel of Life is 2,500 years old and was a gift from the Buddha. When Losang Samten brought this mandala to the United States he was the first person to ever create it in sand. No two mandalas look the same, yet each is the same in concept. The same symbols, characters and designs are used, yet not in a rigid duplication. The mandala reflects back to us much information about the nature of the human mind, which has a strong tendency toward the illusion of permanence

Buddhism views life as a cycle of birth, death and rebirth called samsara. Our samsara is our daily creation formed by the choices we make. The Wheel of Life is a visual aid helping us to understand this cyclical existence, while offering clear teachings as to why certain choices will simply continue to perpetuate suffering.

This mandala is called The Wheel of Life or The Wheel of Deluded Existence. We are constantly evolving. We have been on Earth before and will return again; not as punishment but as a way to learn how to improve ourselves as well as to help other people improve the quality of their lives. The central teaching of this Wheel is that our suffering is due to the effects of the three poisons— anger, greed and ignorance to which we are dearly attached.

Explanation of the Mandala


The center of the Wheel of Life holds the three poisons — the snake representing anger, the rooster, greed and the boar, ignorance – on a background of blue, which symbolizes the nature of the human mind. From this stems the yin and yang, dark and light areas surrounding the center. On the light side are representations of those seeking to lessen the effects of the poisons and on the dark side are those figures suffering due to the presence and intensity of the three.

The next circle encases this. This circle is comprised of six realms that illustrate life situations and their main conditions which result from the effects of these three poisons in our life. In the realm of human existence we are subject to attachment during the birth, growth, death cycle. Within the animal kingdom, due to their predatory nature, we see the predominance of fear. If not hunting or being hunted they are subject to serving humankind. In the realm of karmic hell one faces the consequences of the presence of the three poisons in their life. In the area of the hungry ghosts the prevailing attitude is greed and stinginess. Never satisfied, they are constantly in pursuit of more. Jealousy permeates the realm of the demi-gods. They are always coveting what their neighbor has and are even willing to go to war to get it. Deluded pride abounds in the heavenly realm. There is a fixation on external beauty and an absence of appreciation for the inner beauty. Each of these sections also has the image of a radiant Buddha offering hope to every person on the journey. No matter how difficult the circumstances of one’s life are at any given moment, the possibility of true liberation is always present. Contemplation and reflection on these images as well as ideas can help people in their personal growth because they are a powerful mirror of the human condition.

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