A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Asian cultures. It can be understood in two different ways: externally as a visual representation of the universe or internally as a guide for several practices that take place in many Asian traditions, including meditation. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the belief is that by entering the mandala and proceeding towards its center, you are guided through the cosmic process of transforming the universe from one of suffering into one of joy and happiness.
Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in the region now known as Nepal. Though there is no confirmed date of his birth, historians believe it to be around 560 B.C. It is understood that Gautama left his kingdom after becoming aware of human suffering, where he sought to attain enlightenment through meditation and thoughtful action. He began to preach his philosophy across parts of India, where he gained devout followers and eventually established the first sangha, Buddhist community of monks.
Types of Mandalas
There are various types of mandalas found in different cultures and used for a multitude of purposes, both artistically and spiritually. Below are three main types of mandalas and how they are used.
1. Teaching Mandala Teaching mandalas are symbolic, and each shape, line, and color represents a different aspect of a philosophical or religious system. The student creates his or her own mandala based on principles of design and construction, projecting a visual symbolization of everything they have learned. Teaching mandalas serve as colorful, mental maps for their creators.
2. Healing Mandala Healing mandalas are more intuitive than teaching mandalas, and they are made for the purpose of meditation. Healing mandalas are intended to deliver wisdom, evoke feelings of calm, and channel focus and concentration.
3. Sand Mandala Buddhist monks and Navajo cultures have long used sand mandalas as a traditional, religious element. These intricate designs use a variety of symbols made from colored sand that represent the impermanence of human life.