By Uma Raja
Mandalas are notable for the beauty of their intricate and colorful designs. However, they are more than a pretty piece of artwork. A mandala is a religious and spiritual symbol with roots in both Hinduism and Buddhism.
The word mandala originates from Sanskrit, the oldest language in the world. It translates to “circle.” The mandala itself symbolizes the universe as a whole. As one proceeds towards the mandala’s center, they leave the cosmic process of suffering and rebirth in order to reach joy and enlightenment–otherwise known as oneness with the entire universe. Mandalas also play a role in meditation rituals and other religious practices.
A mandala can be made of any material. This includes paper, cloth, stone, bronze, thread, and sand. As a mandala represents the universe and finding joy within a cycle of suffering, it is a powerful symbol that brings people together. A special sand mandala was gifted to New York City by the Tibetan Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery to represent healing and goodwill after September 11th, 2001. This sand mandala was created on a consecrated site and was made of millions of grains of colored sand. After, the mandala was erased to symbolize the impermanence of existence, and to disperse the blessing of the sand.
Some ancient Tibetan Buddhist monks had the job of painting mandalas for patrons. This was a five-step process of preparing a smooth cloth surface, transferring the sketch with charcoal and ink, laying down two coats of paint, shading with organic dyes, and scraping and dusting the painting. The last pigment to be applied was always the color gold.
Since the first century B.C.E, people have been fascinated by mandalas. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was also inspired by mandalas, and he brought a lot of attention to them within the Western world. Jung’s patients would draw spontaneous mandalas, and Jung believed the art represented a blend of the conscious and the unconscious mind.
Today, creating and coloring mandalas is a relaxing and healing activity for people around the world. When you create a mandala, you are partaking in an ancient and spiritual art-form. Mandalas are a beautiful reminder of the interconnectedness of humanity and the nature of the universe in which we live.
Check out the 352Creates #CreateInPlace activity, Coffee Cup Mandalas, for inspiration on creating your own mandala from your home, work desk, or anywhere you may be.