Mandalas

All Buddhist teachings trace back to the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India more than two and half thousand years ago. All the teachings are based on the Four Noble Truths, which the Lord Buddha had taught in the first sermon following his Enlightenment. These Truths are: the recognition of Sufferings, the understanding of the causes of these sufferings, the recognition that if the causes are removed there will be an end to the sufferings. The Buddhist Tantric teachings include methods for the purification of the psycho-physical within a pure environment or Mandala. The deities who inhabit a Mandala are not external gods; rather, they symbolize the enlightened state, which everyone has the potential to realize.

The most common translation of the Sanskrit term Mandala is “Circle”, connoting not only the literal shape but a broader feeling of wholeness, entirely, symmetry and harmony. In ordinary language, we often speak of “a circle of friends”. The circularity of a mandala retains something of that meaning, for it refers to a group of deities related to a central deity or theme. The Tibetan word for mandala is kyil-khor, meaning centre [kyil] and surrounding [khor], reminding us that the term encompasses the entire host of mandala deities, including the principal deity in the centre and his/her surrounding retinue. For example, Kalachakra mandala refers to the circle of Kalachakra deities, as well as the celestial palace and surroundings in which Kalachakra and the deities reside.

In Buddhist terms, there are thousands of Mandala traditions, many of which are now lost. A mandala is normally created as a meditational aid, showing the layout of a celestial palace, its surrounding environment and the placement of deities within. The most common form is a square palace with four entrances and peripheral circles, which represent the lotus on which the mandala sits, and the rays of light emanating from the mandala. The intricacy of a mandala can vary greatly from one to another. It can be as simple as a circle or triangle with a single deity, or remarkably complex, encompassing multiple mandalas nested within a bigger one, and containing thousands of deities. Likewise, they may be as small as the palm of one’s hand or of enormous proportions.

Mandalas are an intrinsic and universal feature of Tantra deity meditation practices, known as sadhanas. Such meditations are considered extraordinarily powerful methods of overcoming our ordinary, mistaken perception and distorted world view, the source of our misunderstanding and suffering. By meditating upon oneself as the deities of the mandala, reflecting deeply upon its rich symbolism, and engaging in particular internal practices, we can transform our daily perception, lodged in its chaotic, egocentric world-environment, into exalted wisdom and the perfected world of enlightened beings that is, into the blissful world of Buddha.

The mandala meditator grounds his/her practice on the understanding that our perception creates our egocentric world. Reflecting on the relative existence of all phenomena, the practitioner meditates upon emptiness, the ultimate truth of all phenomena, thereby deconstructing his distorted perception and ordinary physical appearance, and dissolved them into emptiness. From this visualization grounded in realization of emptiness, a perfectly harmonious world with resident enlightened beings that is, a mandala is created. In fact, every aspect of the mandala — its colours, architectural pattern, deities, and so forth, represents various qualities of the exalted body, speech, and mind of a fully enlightened being, a Buddha. Accordingly, one should not consider the true mandala to be a concrete construction of a certain dimension and structure existing in a particular place.

There are five types of mandala

  1. Coloured sand mandala
  2. Painted mandala (generally painted on cloth)
  3. Three-dimensional mandala (made of wood, metals, precious stones, etc.)
  4. Visualized or Concentration Mandala (a mandala generated through the concentration of the vajra master, the initiating master)
  5. Body mandala (generated by visualizing organic parts of body subtle channels, winds (vital energies), drops (blood and semen), etc. as the basis of mandala.

These five types, although not true mandalas, are so called because they serve as its representation. Each of these mandalas is constructed to serve as a basis for mandala deities to confer initiations upon the disciple. Generally, the concentration and body mandalas are so used by advanced disciples. The coloured-particle mandala is most-highly recommended to serve as the basis of initiation. In fact, the Kalachakra tradition specifically mandates the construction of a coloured sand mandala for its initiation. Mandalas painted as murals serve as a visual aid for meditation, but may not serve as a basis for initiation, since they cannot be laid on a platform.

The six mandalas made by Namgyal Tantric College

They are tied to monthly pujas.

There are 6 mandalas (some activities don’t have mandalas).

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