The Tibetan mandala is a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion and generally is depicted as a tightly balanced, geometric composition wherein deities reside. The principal deity is housed in the center. The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment. Monks meditate upon the mandala, imagining it as a three-dimensional palace. The deities who reside in the palace embody philosophical views and serve as role models. The mandala’s purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones.
The Sand Mandala
Mandalas constructed from sand are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the specific mandala to be created. Monks then begin construction of the sand mandala by consecrating the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a detailed drawing from memory. Over a number of days, they fill in the design with millions of grains of colored sand. At its completion, the mandala is consecrated. The monks then enact the impermanent nature of existence by sweeping up the colored grains and dispersing them in flowing water.
What is a mandala?
A Tibetan mandala, visually represented, is a geometric composition wherein deities reside. The principal deity is housed in the center. The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment. A mandala has three layers of meaning: the outer (a model of the universe), the inner (to help minds become enlightened), and the secret (a perfect balance of mind and body). more
Who are the deities in a mandala?
Typically, the deities are those that a person chooses for Buddhist meditation. The deities also serve as role models on the path to enlightenment.
What is a sand mandala?
Unique to Tibetan Buddhism, sand mandalas are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the mandala to be created, and monks consecrate the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a drawing and fill it in with colored sand. The finished mandala is consecrated and, having served its purpose, is swept up and dispersed into flowing water.
How does the mandala generate healing?
According to Buddhist scripture, a mandala transmits positive energies to the environment and to those who view it. The monks invoke the mandala’s deities through meditation and chanting and then ask for their healing blessings.
How Mandalas Heal
According to Buddhist scripture, sand mandalas transmit positive energies to the environment and to the people who view them. While constructing a mandala, Buddhist monks chant and meditate to invoke the divine energies of the deities residing within the mandala. The monks then ask for the deities’ healing blessings.
A mandala’s healing power extends to the whole world even before it is swept up and dispersed into flowing water—a further expression of sharing the mandala’s blessings with all.
What was the mandala made from?
This sand mandala was made from millions of grains of powdered, colored marble. Powdered sand, flowers, herbs, grains, colored stones, and semiprecious and precious stones can also be used in the construction of sand mandalas.
What were the mandala’s white lines?
Chalk was used to make the initial design. The mandala was completed using large compasses with white pencils, but the lines were not engraved or incised into the surface.
What tools did the monks use?
The monks used a cone-shaped metal funnel, or chak-pur, to pour the sand. Running a metal rod on the chak-pur’s grated surface created vibrations that caused the sand to flow like liquid.
What would have happened if a monk sneezed?
If the sand became disturbed, the monks would have corrected it by pouring new sand.
How long did it take to make this sand mandala?
This seven-foot-square mandala took twenty monks working in shifts two weeks to complete.
Why was it destroyed after it was completed?
To Tibetan Buddhists sweeping up the sand symbolizes the impermanence of existence. Pouring the sand into water dispersed the healing energies of the mandala throughout the world.
Tibetan Sand Mandalas
The Tibetan art form of sand painting is an ancient and sacred practice intended to uplift and benefit not only every person who sees it, but also to bless the environment. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning circle, and in Tibetan is called kyil-khor, which means essence and circle.
Every aspect of the mandala has meaning and nothing is arbitrary or superfluent. The colors and designs of each mandala have profound meaning originating in the ancient teachings of the Buddha, and have remained identical to these original teachings over the centuries, with each color being an antidote to specific negative emotions.
Mandalas are used to enhance spiritual practice through imagery and meditation to overcome suffering by healing a person’s body, speech, mind, as well as the healing environment.
In essence, mandalas represent enlightened qualities, and are an important form of teaching in Vajrayana Buddhism to support living beings on the path to enlightenment.
Mandalas: Sacred Art and Geometry
Mandalas are works of sacred art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism. The word “mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that generally means “circle,” and mandalas are indeed primarily recognizable by their concentric circles and other geometric figures. Mandalas are far more than geometrical figures, however. For Tantric Buddhists, they are rich with symbolism and sacred meaning. In fact, the etymology of the word “mandala” suggests not just a circle but a “container of essence.”
Simply stated, a mandala is a sacred geometric figure that represents the universe. When completed, a mandala becomes a sacred area that serves as a holding place for deities and a collection point of universal forces. By mentally entering a mandala and proceeding to its center, a person is symbolically guided through the cosmos to the essence of reality. By constructing a mandala, a monk ritually participates in the Buddha’s teachings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, contemplation of sacred images is central to religious ritual, and a mandala is one of the most important of these sacred images. A Tibetan mandala is usually made with careful placement of colored sand, and accordingly is known in Tibetan as dul-tson-kyil-khor, or “mandala of colored powders.” In China, Japan and Tibet, mandalas can also be made in bronze or stone three-dimensional figures. In recent years, a variety of mandalas have been created using computer graphics, although these are usually created by non-Buddhists and are not considered sacred.
The process of constructing a mandala is a sacred ritual. It is a meditative, painstaking process that can take days or even weeks to complete.
Before a monk may participate in the construction of a mandala, he must undergo a lengthy period of artistic and philosophical study. In the Namgyal monastery, the personal monastery of Dalai Lama, this period lasts three years.
Traditionally, four monks work together on a single mandala. The mandala is divided into quadrants with one monk assigned to each. Midway through the process, each monk receives an assistant who helps fill in the colors while the primary monk continues to work on detailed outlines.
Mandalas are constructed from the center outward, beginning with a dot in the center. With the placement of the center dot, the mandala is consecrated to a particular deity. This deity will usually be depicted in an image over the center dot, although some mandalas are purely geometric.
Lines are then drawn through the center dot to the four corners, creating triangular geometric patterns. These lines are then used to construct a square “palace” with four gates. The monks usually keep to their own quadrant at this point.
From the inner square, the monks move outward to a series of concentric circles. Here the monks work in tandem, moving all around the mandala. They wait until each section is entirely completed before moving outward together. This ensures that balance is always maintained.
Although some mandalas are painted and serve as an enduring object of contemplation, the traditional Tibetan sand mandala, when completed, is deliberately destroyed. The sand is poured into a nearby stream or river to distribute the positive energies it contains. This ritual reminds those who painstakingly constructed the mandala of the central Buddhist teaching of the impermanence of all things.
In Buddhism, mandalas are rich with symbolism that evokes various aspects of Buddhist teaching and tradition. This is part of what makes the creation of a mandala a sacred act, for as they work, the monks are imparting the Buddha’s teachings.
Outside the square temple are several concentric circles. The outermost circle is usually decorated with stylized scrollwork resembling a ring of fire. This ring of fire symbolizes the process of transformation humans must undergo before being able to enter the sacred territory within. It both bars the uninitiated and symbolizes the burning of ignorance.
The next circle inward is a ring of thunderbolt or diamond scepters, which stands for indestructability and illumination. This is followed by a circle of eight graveyards, representing the eight aspects of human consciousness that bind a person to the cycle of rebirth. Finally, the innermost ring is made of lotus leaves, signifying religious rebirth.
The square structure in the middle of a mandala is a palace for the resident deities and a temple containing the essence of the Buddha. The square temple’s four elaborate gates symbolize a variety of ideas, including:
The four boundless thoughts: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity; The four directions: south, north, east and west
Within the square palace or temple are images of deities, which are usually the Five Dyani Buddhas (the Great Buddhas of Wisdom). The iconography of these deities is rich in symbolism in itself. Each of the Dyani Buddhas represents a direction (center, south, north, east and west), cosmic element (like form and consciousness), earthly element (ether, air, water, earth and fire), and a particular type of wisdom. Each Buddha is empowered to overcome a particular evil, such as ignorance, envy or hatred. The Five Dyani Buddhas are generally identical in appearance, but are each represented iconographically with a particular color, mudra (hand gesture), and animal.
In the center of the mandala is an image of the chief deity, who is placed over the center dot described above. Because it has no dimensions, the center dot represents the seed or center of the universe.