Mandala is a Sanskrit word which means “sacred circle.” In Buddhism, Hinduism and other ancient wisdom traditions of the East, the mandala has been used as a tool to facilitate contemplation and meditation. Through the process of studying and/or creating a mandala one can reach one’s center, one’s connection to Source. The circle, the first closed shape of Sacred Geometry, thus becomes a doorway to Oneness.
Traditional Hindu mandalas follow a strict form. Every mandala is created following the precise design of that form. One sees a further development of other Sacred Geometries within these traditional forms. First there is the squaring of the circle also known as “The Marriage of Heaven and Earth”, with the circle representing Heaven and the square representing Earth.
In the Hindu tradition, each design within this “Marriage of Heaven and Earth” is called a yantra mandala and functions as a symbol which reveals cosmic truths. Thus yantra mandalas become sacred geometric symbols of a particular Hindu deity.
One of the most famous yantra mandalas is the Shri Yantra, a symbol of Tripurasundari, a supreme Hindu Tantric Goddess. It depicts a series of precisely interlocking triangles, half pointing downward and half pointing upward. It forms a state of perfect balance and harmony and represents the union of the female and male principles. Also known as the Yantra of Creation or the Cosmic Yantra it is the most honored of all the Hindu yantras. The Shri Yantra becomes a door which can lead to the experience of Oneness.
Another goddess whose divine truths are revealed through the mandala is Lakshmi, Hindu Goddess of fortune, light, luck, and beauty. Meditating on the Lakshmi Yantra encourages spiritual progress and helps to overcome internal blocks.
Christianity has also used the mandala to represent Divine Oneness and to teach the wisdom of its tradition. The magnificent rose windows of the Gothic cathedrals are luminous examples of western mandalas. Complex sacred geometries were used in the architectural designs of the buildings themselves and of the rose windows.
The rose windows are a western representation of our human aspiration towards wholeness and balance. The rose windows operate on various levels; spiritual, emotional and intellectual. The instructional aspect of the rose windows is clearly seen by the subject matter – biblical stories, lives of the saints, astrological calendars, and morality stories to name a few.
In much the same way that the Hindu yantras symbolize the aspects of a particular deity, the rose windows typically show Christ or the Virgin or some other combination in the central rosette of the window. The gates at the cardinal points of the yantras depict the many paths available to reach the divine. In a similar fashion, the saints shown in the petals of a rose window can be seen as paths to Christ.
More than likely, mandalas were reintroduced into western thought through the Carl Jung’s pioneering work on the unconscious. Jung wrote: “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”
Continuing in this tradition, artists and spiritual practitioners today have been exploring a more free-form style of the mandala. Within the basic foundation of the “squaring of the circle”, the artist then creates a personal, spontaneous design based on the concepts of balance, wholeness and oneness.
A quick google search reveals a multitude of mandala workshops being offered all around the world. Exploration of the mandala through these workshops offers a connection to your true self, an experience of sacred love, an opportunity to improve your life with intention, a deepening of your connection to nature, healing of emotional, mental, or physical pain, and a chance to be truly in the moment.
The mandala is a form that I have used in my own art since before I discovered the existence of Sacred Geometry. Even when not directly exploring the mandala, I find that often I want to draw a circle around the main image in my painting – seeking that experience of wholeness in the process of painting.
In future posts I will explore other elements of Sacred Geometry, all of which grow out of the mandala, the sacred circle.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website.