Monday, October 18, 2010
Although the mandala form (and the term ‘mandala’) is most often associated with Tibetan Buddhist art, there are innumerable instances of it in every culture. The rose windows and labyrinths of medieval Christianity, the domed mosques and Sufi whirling dervishes of Islam, the temples of the Hindus, the sand paintings of the North American Indians, as well as the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and Central and South America, are all based on the same form, with its multiple symmetries radiating from a central point.
This is far from surprising, given the prevalence of the circle – and of radial symmetry – at every level of the natural world, from galaxies and solar systems, down through trees, flowers and fruits, jellyfish, spider’s webs and shells, rock crystals and snowflakes to micro-organisms, cells and subatomic particles. The recurring cycles of day and night, the seasons and the months of the year, as well as organic life cycles, reflect a similar pattern.
In essence, then, the mandala form is a visual expression of this universal ordering principle of nature, one of the ways in which humanity has sought to relate to and sum up the awesome universe of which we are a part. Mandalas are – sometimes literally – cosmic diagrams, attempts to represent the essential elements of the macrocosm in an ordered, coherent manner. (Derived from the Sanskrit words for ‘essence’ and ‘container’, the word mandala clearly reflects this vocation.
Traditional belief systems have viewed the macrocosm beyond us as a reflection of the microcosm within us, so, by the same logic, the mandala has also been understood as a means of presenting the apparent chaos within our minds in an orderly way. On one level, Tibetan Buddhist mandalas are intended as symbolic depictions of the various emotions and energies inside the human being.
This microcosmic interpretation of the mandala was first introduced into western thought by CG Jung. He adapted it to fit the more individualistic trends in western psychology, using the many mandalas created by his psychiatric patients as an aid to understanding their mental states. Today, the creation of mandalas is widely used in psychotherapy and personal development work. Such mandalas are viewed as a concise and innately ordering form in which to express personal beliefs and feelings, and thus to reach a deeper understanding and harmony of the self.
The fact that all the components of a mandala must be organised around a central point means that it provides a clear diagrammatic representation of the self, and inevitably brings some sense of unity to its various components, however disparate. This harmonising, centring quality is the key to the function of the mandala in Tibetan Buddhism. The process of creating mandalas and the subsequent contemplation of them are first and foremost two equally valid forms of meditation – and both work through centring.
On the one hand, the concentric design, which is always created by working outwards from the centre, reminds the intellect that the universe, in all its diversity, is ultimately one, joined at the source. It also symbolises the fact that the spiritual quest is a journey back from the circumference that is the outside world, to the centre that is the space within ourselves. On the other hand, allowing the eyes to become lost in such a compelling and satisfying visual form, in which they are drawn back again and again towards the centre, the still point where all movement ceases, helps the meditator to calm the mind and fall into a silent and peaceful space.
Herein lies the powerful appeal of the mandala form – the pleasure the eye (and the mind) derives from gazing at such a perfectly resolved and centred structure. It intimates a sense of underlying order and harmony in an often chaotic world, and the eye, enthralled by its intricacy, can dance endlessly around and across the rhythmical patterns of the surface, knowing that it will be held safely within the magic circle of the design.
Let us not get too comfortable, however. It is a humbling thought that some of the most beautiful and elaborate of all mandalas are those created out of coloured sand by Tibetan Buddhist monks – only to be destroyed afterwards, as a symbolic reminder of the impermanence of all specific life forms.
Posted by Dune at 11:30 AM
What is mandala? Mandala is `circle´ in the Sanskrit language, and mandala art refers to symbols that are drawn, sketched or painted in a circular frame. Mandala art has been used throughout the world as a process of self-expression, in the service of personal growth and spiritual transformation. Tibetan Buddhism has employed mandala art for thousands of years to capture the images of gods which it believes. Navajo sand painters use them in their healing rites. Many native people use the Medicine Wheel, a mandala form, to connect to earth energies and the wisdom of nature.
Mandalas are designs that take the form of a circle symbolizing the notion that life is never ending. Many mandalas have spiritual significance to an individual or group of individuals and some times they are used in rituals. The Hindus were one of the first people to use a mandala as a spiritual tool and this was long ago but the mandalas most are familiar with are the ones made by Buddhists.
Many times mandalas are used for meditation purposes so that the individual meditating can become one with the universe. There are not many that can achieve this state of mind just from studying a mandala. The symbolism behind the creation of a mandala can have significant meaning for all people whether they are Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Pagan, or any other religion.
They can be created by an individual to symbolize their journey through life. Mandalas can also tell the story of where the person has been and many times will relate to that person where they should go in life through their own personal revelation. A group can create a mandala that will reveal what they should be doing in order to grow and develop as a group.
Posted by Dune at 10:13 AM
The Sacred Circle
When entering the realm of inner vision,
We must create a threefold sacred circle,
Composed of purity, of strength and knowledge
Surrounding us like a protective wall.
The purity of heart creates the lotus-circle;
The admantine scepters form the second ring:
The power-circle of determined will and higher aims;
The third one is the ring of wisdom-flames.
The threefold magic circle thus unfolded,
Grows with the depth of heart´s vibration,
Grows with the strength of inner penetration,
Grows with the wisdom that knows life and death.
But only when this world becomes a magic circle,
In which each point can be a living center:
Then we surmount the cause of all illusion,
The riddles of rebirth, of death and dissolution.
Then nothing remains rigid, self-contained;
No point coagulates into a finite "I",
Each being in the others is enshrined,
And in the smallest lives infinity.
Then we shall see released to higher norm
This world as essence of the highest mind,
Which, formless though, creates and moves all form,
Inspires and transmutes it, ever unconfined.
Lama Anagarika Govinda
Posted by Dune at 9:45 AM