The word mandala comes from a Sanskrit word that means ‘circle’ or ‘center’. The ‘circle’ here means that everything is cyclic whether it’s a life cycle or natural cycle and life is never-ending.
It is an arrangement of symbols that represents the universe with both inner and outer world.It holds spiritual and ritual importance. It establishes a sacred space and is used as a guiding tool for various Asian practices including meditation and yoga. Its purpose is to transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones and help in healing.
It also represents the spiritual journey from outside to the inner core.
A mandala is depicted in various shapes as per different cultures and religions. It can be a painting or a scroll or created in colourful sands. In religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism it is used as a map representing deities , paradises or shrines.
In Tibetan mandala is known as Khyil-khor which means the center of all creation where a truly awakened being lives.
In Buddhism mandalas represent the ideal form of the universe where different parts of the universe show different aspects of buddhist teachings. The act of creating a mandala depicts the transformation of the universe from a reality of craving,ignorance and suffering to one of wisdom, inner peace and enlightenment.
The most basic form of mandala is a circle contained in a square which is arranged in various sections along with four T shaped gates along a single, center point which denotes the beginning stage .
The three most common types of mandalas are:
1) Teaching Mandala: A person creates his or her mandala depicting a visual symbolization of everything they have learned and each shape, line, colour represents a different philosophical and religious aspect.
2) Healing Mandala: They induce a feeling of relaxation spiritually by removing unpleasant thoughts from disturbed minds and helps in achieving mental peace when combined yoga and meditation.
3) Sand Mandala: Buddhist monks and Navajo culture use the sand mandala as a religious element. They have an intricate design and depict an enlightened state of Buddha. After it’s creation a sand mandala is demolished within a short time to convey a belief that nothing is permanent in life.
Mandala includes following key symbols of buddhism :
- Wheel with eight spokes: The eight spokes represent the Eightfold Path of Buddhism which consist of eight practices : right view, right resolve. right speech, right conduct,right livelihood. right effort, right mindfulness and right samadhi.
- Lotus Flower: The symmetry of this symbolizes balance. As lotus grows out in muddy water and blooms into beautiful flowers similarly a human being can rise and transform life to achieve spiritual awakening.
- Sun: Sun is a vital part of the universe which tends to symbolize life and energy.
- Bell: Bell represents openness and emptying of the mind so that one can live in the moment and receive wisdom and clarity of Buddha
Five universal shapes of Mandala:
- Circle: A circle indicates a never ending energy and symbolizes infinity, unification,harmony and wholeness. It shows that we live in a never ending circular pattern where night comes after day and months turn to years.
- Square: A square is a symbol of earth and represents groundness, stability and security. and stillness. It gives a sense of being grounded and balanced in life,
- Triangle: It symbolizes goals, dreams and purpose. The upward facing triangles represent action and energy towards spirituality whereas the downward facing depicts creativity and pursuit of spiritual knowledge.
- Equidistant cross: It symbolizes relationships, integration and connection. It shows that we are all part of this universe and somehow are connected to each other.
- Spiral: It symbolizes growth and evolution. It shows that journey through life is a cyclic process where we go to familiar places with different perspectives and always see things in a new light.
Mandalas are powerful tools that can be used to provide solace. In recent times the usage of mandalas for therapeutic and healing purposes is being practised with wonderful results.
Mandala art therapy is one such therapeutic way where a trained therapist guides his clients who are suffering from mental illnesses to use mandalas in various artistic ways in order to regain their mental stability and peace. Here mental illnesses include depression, anxiety disorder, stress disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, grief, anger management issues, addiction.
Various ways used in this therapy:
- Mandala Meditation: In this a person chooses a mandala which attracts him or her the most.After selecting the mandala the said person will start by focusing on the center through which one will enter the mandala. As a person gets absorbed in intricate design he or she will start feeling light and at peace.
- Creating Mandala: In this a person is asked to create it’s own mandala that represents his or her emotional state. A mandala provides a clear picture of a person’s state of mind. This brings tranquility.
- Colouring Mandala: In this a person is asked to colour mandala whether it’s created by him or not. This gives a sense of calmness and is a soothing experience.
Mandala art therapy helps in achieving cerebral balance by helping in balancing the parameters of psychological well being and can work wonders for both adults and children.