What is a Mandala? For those of our readers who are not closely associated with the subcontinent a short explanation would be in order. You may ask is it some kind of magic circle, or maybe a ritual geometric symbol or is it a mystical symbol only for the lucky initiate? In some areas we find them described as ;symbols of the cosmic elements, used as aids for meditation,' as models for certain visualizations', or alternatively as 'aids to self discovery or to meditation on the transcendental.' In essence a Mandala is a powerfully symmetrical diagram, concentrated about a centre and generally divided into four quadrants of equal size; it is built up of concentric circles and squares possessing the same centre. It is also true that a great many Mandalas are considered as aids to meditation, visualization and initiation. Carl Gustav Jung in his analysis of the Mandala the 'protective circle' found it to be "the traditional antidote for chaotic states of mind."
In India life is still lived close to nature, and it appears unorganized and therefore chaotic; but in its chaos there seems to be an undercurrent of order. It is the religious culture the spiritual heritage that makes up the keystone of the whole super structure of the Indian civilization. It has a highly philosophical culture. It is here over the ages that the concept of the Mandala has developed no doubt to bring some order into the seemingly apparent chaotic situation. The ancient tribal creed has never relinquished its hold on its past, which reflects its continuous existence through the ages, from evolution to the present.
The concept of the Mandala was developed and conceived in the remotest ages and most ancient recesses of Indian history before the advent of Hinduism or Buddhism. The Concept as a whole encompassed all facets of the Indian life, a life style and religious heritage, which has made India a mysterious land, incomprehensible and unintelligible. It was found to have been equally important in socio-political realms as well as the religio-spiritual. The influence of the Mandala concept spread all over South-East Asia, Nepal and Tibet wherever Indian culture spread. It is even suspected that its influence spread to West Asia and China also. This influence was apparent in all walks of life especially in the field of administration and religion.
In the tribal primitive agrarian community the Goddess of Fertility evolved. They worshipped her in the form of a triangle, which is regarded as an element of Neolithic art. As in any form of worship it is the mind that links up with the Absolute but on a Mandala, for the worshipper's consciousness to tread the spiritual path to the ultimate, requires knowledge and precision. It is an aspect of Tantrism and fundamentally connotes maithuna (coitus), which terminates in bliss yoga. The Mandala's main component, the triangle, is a basic figure in geometry, and hence, seems so modern, yet in quintessence it is really very old.
There are in existence many varieties of symbols in India's religious tradition. The dominant symbols occupy an important position, even in the sacio-religious system, for their meaning has remained largely unchanged from age to age and may be said to represent the crystallization of the flowing pattern of rituals over which it presides. Man lives in a symbolic universe of which language, myth, art and religion are parts. They are the varied threads, which weave the symbolic net, the tangled web of human experience. All human progress in thought and experience refines upon and strengthens this net. Among the representations of this symbolic universe, the Mandala is a highly manifested form is space and transpersonal ecology (sacred ecology) and is better understood in practical terms of bounded space, for example, pilgrimage and its related sacred time and sacred performances.
A prime example of this relationship of the Mandala concept to the cultural and social activities of the Hindu populace is Varanasi, which is the holiest city of Hinduism. Here, according to Rana P B Singh a renowned cartographer of Benaras Hindu University, 'The complexity distinction and hierarchical ordering of the pilgrim age mandala are developed in its full form and still existent and used in practice by the pilgrims. In fact, it can be seen that Varanasi is one of the ideal cities of celestial archetype where material expression to that of parallelism among macro-cos-mos, meso-cosmos and micro-cosmos are still visible.' This is in fact an almost geopolitical as well as socio-religious relationship, which is formed in the concept of the Mandala when it is related to a city or country and its cultural activities.
It is a known fact that before the advent of the Aryan era there was in existence a vibrant and flourishing agrarian society in the subcontinent. However primitive it may have been in our eyes still it had managed to achieve levels of spiritual understanding well in advance of other societies, which surrounded it. This era was responsible for the advent of Tantrism, which found its place secured in the even later Aryan Vedic religion, mention of it to be found in both the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. Many of its concepts and traditions found their way into the daily practices of the Hindus.
In Tantrism, which as we have seen existed much before the Vedic concept of religion, Yantra (represents the spirit), Mantra (the soul) and Tantra (the psychic centres). Tantrism even extended its field of influence to the much later Buddhism. According to the Dalai Lama: 'Mandalas are an aspect of Tantric Buddhism that due to their colourful complexity, have attracted a great deal of interest. Taking a variety of forms, from simple diagrams and more elaborate paintings on cloth to complicated patterns of coloured sand and large three-dimensional carved structures, mandalas have a profoundly symbolic value. Tibetans regard them as sacred. To impart the most profound religious truths, Tantric Buddhism employs pictorial representations with an intensity found in no other form of Buddhism and scarcely in any other religion.
The use of the Mandala as a tool to aid in the elimination of chaos has proven itself over centuries of use. It has provided humankind with a device easily used if not comprehended to achieve a relationship with and thus with oneself. This particular presentation of the concept of the Mandala as an instrument of concentration and inspiration for meditation provides the reader with an insight into the mystical worlds of the ancients. It allows us once more to try and achieve the unity our forefathers once enjoyed with their environs. Each Mandala described takes us on a progressive journey towards our ultimate goal, the discovery of the power within. This book can serve only as a guide and not the goal itself. It is for us to use and develop in our own ways so that each of us may achieve that which our ancestors also strived for, complete and unalienable harmony with the true being that lies within.
For many this life is but one of many along the road to discovery and enlightenment, but this does not suggest that we should not even bother to try and expect the results to come in their own time. Any attempt we make to gain experience of the unknown can only but enhance the life we lead. It helps us to become aware of the cosmos within which we exist and will ultimately aid us in achieving a unity within the self, making us better human beings in the process.
Back of the Book:
"The Mandala is fundamentally something secret. If you are Interested in it in order to acquire reputation, and feel pride in showing what you have worked out to others, you do not have the right attitude. If however your work springs from efforts to offer help to other people, that is the right attitude of mind, which will contribute to the liberation of yourself and others".
-The Monk Khempo Thubten
In Meditation with Mandalas, Mechthilde Hohmann has introduced the neophyte to the mystical and transcendental world of the Mandala a world of symmetry placed in the chaos that is not only the human race but the modem mind as well. She urges us to use the ancient Mandala from as a salve to heal the trauma of twenty-first century life, to bring us once again into complete unity with the environment around us.
Combat a stressful life
Bring yourself once again into harmony with your inner-self
Make yourself once more a complete being
Identified by Jung as "the traditional antidote for chaotic states of mind", the Mandala has served humankind for thousands of years as a balance between the transpersonal and the personal.
About the Author :
Born in post-war Germany in 1952 Mechthilde Hohmann led a frugal childhood. After a stunted education she started working at the age of 14. But even at that tender age she had decided that life had more to offer her. So she started traveling in Europe in her quest for truth. This led to an extended stay in France where she learnt French, and later at the age of 22 she went back to school to complete her studies. At this time she also took up classes in drawing.
After spending 20 years working as a data processor, at the age of 40 she suddenly became aware and began meditating. This allowed her to develop her artistic talents along spiritualistic lines.
Her interest in the mystic led her to study first of all the Kabbala. This was follow by a thirteen months sojourn in Nepal and India where she finaly began to understand the truth about origin.
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