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what is a mandala?

At the end of October, I am taking a group on retreat to Dartmoor.  Hopefully the weather will be kind.  If it isn’t, there will be space to create our own mandalas.  I was first introduced to mandalas during my reiki apprenticeship however they are found across cultures and traditions.   A mandala is said to represent wholeness and the womb of creation, revealing the inner workings of nature and the universe.  Today, a mandala has become ‘a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala).

 

Taken from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/mandala-diagram:

Hildegard von Bingen, a Christian nun in the 12th century, created many beautiful mandalas to express her visions and beliefs.  In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas. The circular Aztec calendar was both a timekeeping device and a religious expression of ancient Aztecs. In Asia, the Taoist “yin-yang” symbol represents opposition as well as interdependence. Tibetan mandalas are often highly intricate illustrations of religious significance that are used for meditation

Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.  In ancient Tibet, as part of a spiritual practice, monks created intricate mandalas with coloured sand made of crushed semiprecious stones. The tradition continues to this day.  The creation of a sand mandala requires many hours and days to complete. Each mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the mandala is created. When finished, the monks gather in a colourful ceremony, chanting in deep tones as they sweep their mandala into a jar and empty it into a nearby body of water as a blessing. This action also symbolizes the cycle of life.

The American Navajo people create impermanent sand paintings which are used in spiritual rituals–in much the same way as they are used by Tibetans. A Navajo sand painting ritual may last from five to nine days and range in size from three to fifteen feet or more.

Representing the universe itself, a mandala is both the microcosm and the macrocosm, and we are all part of its intricate design. The mandala is more than an image seen with our eyes; it is an actual moment in time. It can be can be used as a vehicle to explore art, science, religion and life itself. The mandala contains an encyclopaedia of the finite and a road map to infinity.

Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” It is “a synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence.” Jung used the mandala for his own personal growth and wrote about his experiences.

It is said by Tibetan Buddhists that a mandala consists of five “excellencies”: The teacher • The message • The audience • The site • The time

An audience or “viewer” is necessary to create a mandala. Where there is no you, there is no mandala. (from: You Are the Eyes of the World, by Longchenpa, translated by Lipman and Peterson).

In meditation, we can repeat mantras and represent these repetitive sounds with a particular form of mandala, a ‘yantra’.  Mantras were offered to a deity, in the hope that the mantra would gain energy and power through repetition; and now, mantras are also used to focus the mind for personal affirmation or to create mental clarity or stability.  The word mantra translates as the liberation of the spirit through thought (man = to think, tra = liberation).

This yoga term we have brought our awareness into the lower abdomen, also the place of svadhisthana, the sacral cakra.  I have put the Swami Saradananda’s yantra representation of svadhisthana on the wall each week:

svadhisthana

Svadhisthana from Swami Sarandananda’s book ‘Chakra Meditation’

In reiki we use mandalas to focus our healing intention for a person or issue.  When sending healing, we use the representation for 21 days and then burn it, to release the energy created through our meditation.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I have been reconnecting to my reiki practice and teaching.  I have a healing book which you are welcome to write messages in for distance healing to be sent or you can ask me to do this for you.  If you would like me to create a mandala for you, please ask.

Blessings Yvonne

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