The circle naturally resonates with mankind’s sense of sacredness and wholeness. This is because it is a perfectly balanced shape. It is whole, complete and perfect in every sense.
But the circle becomes more potent when taken to deeper pictorial levels. In this issue, we investigate the visual brilliance of circles as depicted in the magical Mandalas of the Hindus and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
It activates the creativity within us and so causes us to “see” everything with wider, brighter eyes. This allows all things that surround us to take on more positive and colorful hues. Mandalas are thus said to be excellent aids to powerful meditative techniques. It is no wonder then that they feature so prominently in many of the sacred rituals and beliefs of the Hindus and Buddhists.
This needs to be mentioned because the inspiration that motivates this investigation of Mandalas is its promise as a meditative tool. It is said that working with and viewing Mandala images enables one to become centered, facilitating the raising of one’s inner consciousness. This is said to greatly expand one’s sense awareness.
The potency of Mandala meditation can really only be learnt directly, and through verbal transmissions given by qualified yogic masters. Yogic masters are usually regarded as holy men who reside in humble circumstances in mountain caves and remote places. Some say that one needs to have the karma to be able to meet such special beings.
In recent years, however, with increasing attention being placed on the esoteric philosophies and practices of the East, especially by adventurous Westerners, a great deal of hitherto secret knowledge about Mandalas has now become available.
Today, Mandalas have become universal symbols and can be found all over the world. Many of the world’s influential museums have special rooms devoted to Mandala images.
As an art form and as aid to meditative practices, they are particularly prevalent in Indian and Tibetan cultures. If you travel around the Indian sub-continent, you will find Mandalas everywhere represented in the sacred art of the temples and their architecture, and also in art, design, crafts and all kinds of creative expression.
Mandalas are very prevalent in India. If you visit remote regions you can see villagers drawing chalk mandalas in front of their gates in the early hours of the morning, while Mandalas of a more permanent nature can be found in temple and palace architecture. Mandalas signify unity and thus play a big part in Indian spiritual tradition.
But the Indian Mandalas look different from the Mandalas of the Tibetan spiritual traditions. Tibetan Mandalas are closely associated with the Buddha Dharma, the Buddhist spiritual tradition of this land of snows. With the huge popularity of the Dalai Lama in the West, interest in Buddhism has been growing by leaps and bounds, and it is interesting that this should have happened exactly as predicted by an old Tibetan prophecy, which has been attributed to the 8th century Lotus Buddha known and loved by the Tibetan Buddhists as Guru Padmasambhava. The prophecy says:
“ When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheel, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world and the Dharma will come to the land of the Red Man.”
This development exists in the wider context of a sudden increase in interest in mystical and related subjects starting in the ‘60’s and 70’s, and gaining increasing momentum in the 80’s and 90’s and into the new millennium. The world seems to be opening up to new knowledge that engages the inner senses and the more subtle dimensions of existence.
Coincidentally, matters pertaining to Mind, Body and Spirit, once only of peripheral interest to people, have now become mainstream and enjoys increasing popularity and interest. Feng shui, for example, has also become mainstream and popular.
Flower Mandalas In Nature
Mandalas can be found in nature all round us and especially in perfectly-formed flowers and in the crowns of plants and trees.
Look at rose blooms, petunias and other circular blooms. If you meditate on some of these perfectly-formed flowers, you might be able to transcend the flower itself and see the invisible sacred circles within the flower. It is the same with some of the images of sacred Mandalas - when you gaze intently into these visuals, the circles that whirl round and round in different colors in the image seem to take us on a journey into the inner essence of the soul. Try taking a step-by-step approach, focusing successively on each petal, or each ring, before finally reaching the center.
The Indian spiritual traditions also have geometrical drawn circles known as Vedic Yantras and these are images that look very similar to Mandalas, except they also include geometric straight lines, squares, crosses or triangles. The finished images are believed to be graphic representations of Mantras and they closely resemble Mandala images. Vedic Yantras are usually worn on the body (or carried in handbags) and thus are drawn, engraved or painted on a variety of substances. Those made of gold or silver are believed to be powerful protective amulets.
Vedic Yantras are designed to remove afflictions that cause bad luck and illness, and are usually recommended by Vaastu and Vedic experts after reading one’s life chart. According to them, these Yantras represent powerful cosmic energies that have the ability to ward off unlucky vibrations.
Special Vedic Yantras can also be designed to obtain a specific desired result. e.g. for a couple to get a child, for those having cash flow problems to have a positive balance in the bank, and so forth.
Vedic Yantras are usually inscribed with mystical inscriptions of beneficial planets to suit individual wearers. Circles, triangles and squares are widely incorporated into these protective Yantras.