About Mandalas

Kalachakra thangka painted in Sera Monastery, Tibet, (private collection)

Kalachakra thangka painted in Sera Monastery, Tibet, (private collection)

 

As mentioned on the Home page, mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and they have been used in a variety of forms in many cultures for centuries. They are often used as spiritual teaching tools or focuses of meditation. Today they are also often tools for self-healing and personal development. To me they are also objects of beauty and grace. They are representations of the universe as well as representations of ourselves. To Carl Jung, “….the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation.”  (fromMandala Symbolism. C. G. Jung. (a collection of three works) translated by R. F. C. Hull, (Princeton University Press, NJ, 1973), p. v)

There have been many books written about mandalas and the symbolism inherent in their different forms. This is not meant to be an in-depth study of them, however, but a simple introduction.

"Chenrezig Sand Mandala" created at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on the occasion of the Dalai Lama's visit in May 2008

“Chenrezig Sand Mandala” created at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s visit in May 2008

Often a mandala has a central focal point and is circular. Other geometric forms can be part of them. Often they’re surrounded by or contain a square, the four points representing the four directions for example or the four elements or other tetrads. Each element, their number, their color, their shape, etc. can have significance.

Tibetan sandpaintings, intricate designs created with colored sand, are mandalas.  After extremely detailed and painstaking work they are simply brushed away showing the ephemeralness of life. There is also a Mexican tradition of sandpainting. The Native American tradition of medicine wheels is a form of mandala. Buddhist Thangkas (Tibetan religious paintings) are often mandalas. These are just a few examples of cultural mandalas.

The Medicine Wheel in Moose Mountain Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Canada

The Medicine Wheel in Moose Mountain Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Canada

Examples of mandalas can be seen all around us: in a flower, in a doily, in a wheel, in the layers of an onion, in a spider web, in the zodiac, in a labyrinth, in a nautilus shell, in ancient stone circles; the list goes on and on. On a broader scale, the web of streets emanating from a plaza, or a network of rivers radiating from a body of water can be seen as mandalas.  Once you start looking, you’ll see mandalas everywhere!

Kudos!
My intention was to re-stock my supply of your mandala cards to send out to friends. But, I haven’t been able to part with any of them.  I keep the cards on my bookshelf beside my bed and frequently gaze at them before closing my eyes for the day.
Sheila Ryan
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