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Wisconsin Folks

The Venerable Ngawang Chojor

Tibetan Buddhist Arts
Madison, WI

Do you know any thirteen-year-olds? How do they spend their time? Have any of them started their careers yet?

Click on image for a larger map.Venerable Ngawang Chojor started his career when he was thirteen. Ven. Ngawang was born in Tibet and lived in the capital city of Lhasa. (Click on the map to find Lhasa.) When he was thirteen, Ven. Ngawang started studying to become a Buddhist monk. He entered the Namgyal Monastery in Lhasa, the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama, the political and religious leader of Tibet. 

Ven. Ngawang had to do lots of memorization. He finished it all by the age of 17. Then he studied some more so he could specialize in religious services and ritual arts. Ten years after he started his studies, Ven. Ngawang constructed a complete set of colored sand mandalas for the monastery. This showed that he had learned what he needed to know.

MandalaThe word “mandala” means “circle” in Sanskrit. Mandalas are circular patterns that Tibetan Buddhists use for meditation and spiritual development. Mandalas can be made from sand, stones, flowers, jewels, or dyed rice. They can be painted on scrolls or simply visualized by the person meditating. In Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas may be part of religious rituals.

Ven. Ngawang became a master and then a teacher of many Tibetan Buddhist ritual arts. He mastered ritual dance and chant, and became expert in making sand mandalas, butter sculptures, and costumes for lama dances. He also became expert at making many non-ritual items in the textile arts, like traditional Tibetan clothing, dolls, and appliqué banners. Look at examples of some of his work in this slide show.

Slide Show

Slide Show

Today, Ven. Ngawang is best known for making colored sand mandalas. He has constructed sand mandalas in places all around the world. In 1994, he worked with other monks to make a mandala in the World Trade Center in New York City. He has traveled to Switzerland, Mexico, Japan, China, and many places in the United States to show and tell people about mandalas. He likes to teach kids how to make mandalas,too.

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Dane County, Wisconsin

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