Mirror of Peace
Its origins can be found in Jainism, Tantrism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Lamaism. The word "Mandala" comes from Sanscrit, the sacred language of the Indian Brahmans. "Mandala" means "Circle" or more precisely, "Sacred Circle" or "Magic". In Tibetan it is Kyl-Khor - Kyl means "Centre" and Khor means "Circle".
The Mandala represents the ideal world. It is a geometric form with a centre -the concentration ; and a periphery -the organisation. Each traditional Mandala, of oriental origin has a Mantra - sacred Hindu or Buddhist formula as its content. The Mantra is the soul of the Mandala. A Mandala is defined according to three principles of organisation : the central point, a radiation from this point and the circular outer border.
The central point symbolises the mysterious energy centre, the birth place of all existence in space and time. It also symbolises unity, totality and perfection. It is without dimension or place : the circle and the sphere are born of it. These are manifested forms from a central point. The central point appears as the beginning and end of all possible paths. The law of the centre is one of silence and the law of the world, that of the periphery, is one of movement.
The radiation from the central point grows in a centrifugal fashion until it reaches the outer border where it is reflected back towards its centre in a perpertual mixture of centrifugal and centripetal movements. The central point is the point of departure as well as the point of arrival for all movement signifying unity in diversity or diversity in unity.
The circle, the real border with the exterior, is the protector of the sacred contents, especially the centre. It is also the symbol of infinity and the absolute. It is for this reason that the Mandala has been considered throughout time and various civilizations to be a divine symbol. The Mandala presents a model of the macro and microcosm : the centre and the rotation, unity and diversity (clusters within the galaxies, solar system, body cells, molecules and atoms). It is a visualisation of the universe.
The centre of a Mandala represents the centre of the universe. It is the heart of the universe made up of wisdom, of energy emerging from emptiness, of silence. In this silence, lives unity, the divine, the invisible, the metaphysical.
The periphery represents the creation of the world. It also represents the diversity of organisation of the universe, born of its centre.
If we think of the macrocosm, we discover solar systems. In the centre we find the star, the sun and, orbiting around it, the planets, their satellites and their moons organised around them. If we take the galaxies : they have their centres there, where the stars are the most dense and where the light is brightest. Their peripheries are the immense arms of the galaxies or spirals which, in their turn, have their own rotation around their own centres. If we look even more deeply into the universe, we discover the clusters of the galaxies, which, in their turn, move around a centre. The big bang itself reminds us of the schema of the Mandala.
If we consider the microcosm, we discover the world of crystals, of cells and atoms which demonstrate the same schema as a Mandala. The nuclei are the centres and the structured peripheries are their circles. Each atom represents a mandala and even the nucleus of an atom is made up of quaarks which have their own organisation around a centre, reminding one of a Mandala. "In the macrocosm as in the microcosm", "above as below" says a very old spiritual law from the hermetic philosophy of the ancient Egyptians.
Thus the Mandala is a "Cosmogramme" which represents the essential schema of the entire universe. The design of a Mandala acts on the psyche : its centre unifies and its periphery stabilises. For a human being it is a "Psychocosmogramme". It attracts the eye to this centre -towards unity, towards the divine ; it pulls us towards our own centre. The human brain is able to memorise symmetrical forms very rapidly and to transmit them equally rapidly to the psyche.
The psyche is made up of emotions and mental processes. The Mandala acts on the psyche in so far as it reunites and unifies through its principle of immobility, the centre ; and it harmonises through its symmetrical parts, in the periphery.
According to Dr Carl Gustav JUNG, the Mandala is an "archetype". JUNG, psychiatrist and student of FREUD associated the Mandala with the mirror of the Self. He used the Mandala as a tool to better understand the psyche of his patients by having them colour and design Mandalas. The psyche is symbolised in the drawing. There is obviously a connection between the symmetrical design of the Mandala and the human psyche. The symmetrical design is a reproduction of our psyche in miniature, on paper. This can vary according to the day and the mood of the person. The Mandala contains and structures the archetypal energies of the unconscious in a way that the conscious mind can assimilate.
In drawing a Mandala, we create our own sacred space, a safe place, a centre where we can concentrate our energies. According to JUNG, when the Self manages to express itself through the drawing, the unconscious responds by imposing a reverential attitude towards life. When we look at a Mandala, it centres us, it harmonises us and gives us an internal peace and silence. It stabilises us and stimulates new ideas within us which are capable of leading us to constructive goals. For all these reasons the Mandala has been used since the beginning of time as a visual tool for Meditation.
When one meditates in front of a Mandala, one has in front of him the representation of the world and his own being ; the idea is to bring together one's own centre and that of the universe. Meditation on a Mandala gives silence, peace and harmony and brings inner stability. It allows us to look into our own world ; it guides us to the source of light within us. Meditation is the path to self knowledge - it guides us to our true identity - our divine self - that self which shines in the depths of our souls.
One meditates on a Mandala by visualising its three dimensions - like a temple. This is why the sacred circle is often placed within a square. The square symbolises the walls of a temple with four openings or doors which indicate, at the same time, the four cardinal points and the four heavenly directions. In India, in Tibet and throughout Asia, the major temples as well as the pagodas have been built according to the architectural principles of the Mandala. Sacred texts lay down that each temple must be a representation of the universe. Even in the Occident, our architects have used the Mandala as a model of the creation of the world ; transcendence in the centre and diverse creation in the circle. Among many possible examples, let us just consider the wonder of the rose windows and labyrinth gardens of the cathedrals.
Just as the Mandala is found in the architecture of India, Tibet and throughout Aisa, so too its trace can be found in various art forms such as mosaics, engravings, sculptures, pottery, weavings, astrology, calendars, paintings on fabric, canvas, paper and also in sand paintings.
Mandalas are universal and omnipresent. Imagine just for a moment a Tibetan Mandala, think of the wealth of colour and remarkable beauty, the complexity of symbolic forms. According to the Tibetan monks, the art of the Mandala is a very powerful art, different from ordinary paintings. Making a Mandala requires many qualities : a memorisation of the sacred texts, the ability to trace very precise measurements and finally the ability to draw and paint. When a Mandala is being made it is accompanied by prayers for peace ; when it is dismantled, according to Tibetan monk tradition, it is also accompanied by prayers for peace during a special ceremony. Buddhist Mandalas often depict numerous characters of divine nature, the main divinity being located at the centre of the Mandala.
In the plant world, we often find links to the Mandala, whether it be in the form of the blossom or in the wonder of a flower, a section of a branch of a tree, of a root, of a trunk or even of a piece of fruit - all these demonstrate the structure of a Mandala. In the animal world, these links also exist : in a bird's nest or in a spider's web. In fact, it is possible to link many forms of expression to the Mandala : the ripples on the surface of water, tornados, whirlpools, the iris of the eye, the chakras, crystals, horoscopes, kaleidoscopes, all sorts of wheels, discs, the preparation of food, in the sciences, associated diagrams...