A mandala is a sacred space. In Sanskrit, "mandala" means both circle and center, implying that it represents both the visible world outside of us (the circle) and the invisible one deep inside our minds and bodies (the center). We all seek happiness and fulfillment, and mandalas are tools that can guide us straight to the heart of this search. In following the path through a mandala we are seeking to find the wholeness that lies at the core of us, the stillness that always remains no matter what storms may surround us.
Here the mandala is a series of concentric circles. In the outermost circle one finds depicted the eight cremation grounds arranged in a wide band. These represent the eight aggregates of human consciousness which tie man to the phenomenal world and to the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Next is a ring of fire, depicted here as a stylized scrollwork. This symbolizes the process of transformation which ordinary human beings have to undergo before entering the sacred territory within.
Next comes a circle divided into grooves, each of which is inscribed with sacred syllables of the Tibetan language.
The next circle is made up of lotus petals, a symbol of purity and auspiciousness.
Finally there is a square structure housed concentrically inside these circles. Its perfect square shape indicates that the absolute space of wisdom is without aberration. This square structure has four elaborate gates. These four doors symbolize the bringing together of the four boundless thoughts namely - loving kindness, compassion, sympathy, and equanimity. Each of these gateways is adorned with bells, garlands and other decorative items. This square form defines the architecture of the mandala described as a four-sided palace or temple. A palace because it is the residence of the presiding deity of the mandala, a temple because it contains the essence of the Buddha.
Finally, at the center of the mandala lies the deity, with whom the mandala is identified. It is the power of this deity that the mandala is said to be invested with. Here he is the Buddha of healing, more commonly known as Medicine Buddha or Bhaishajyaguru. Indeed the Buddha - our enlightened essence - is known as the great healer. According to the Tibetan tradition, the Buddha emanated as Bhaishajyaguru, the "master of remedies," thousands of years ago. He established the Tibetan medical tradition in the form of texts known as The Four Tantras of Secret Instructions on the Eight Branches of the Essence of Immortality, which are more commonly referred to as Gyushi, "The Four Medical Tantras."
The master of remedies holds in his right hand a sprig of arura, or chebulic myrobalan, from which much of Tibetan medicine is compounded. His hand faces outward, symbolizing his bestowal of boons. In his left hand he holds a bowl containing three forms of ambrosia: the nectar that cures disease and resurrects the dead; the nectar that counteracts aging; and the supreme nectar that illuminates the mind and increases knowledge.
The Medicine Buddha sits on The Six-Ornament Throne of Enlightenment. Floating above the mandala are various peaceful celestial beings. Below it are fearful protectors of the path to wholeness. In the healing practices of Tibetan medicine, the unconscious energies that often sabotage our lives are restored to conscious awareness. When we recognize our inseparability from all life, healing often occurs spontaneously - the expression of natural abundance.
Shrestha, Romio. Celestial Gallery: New York, 2000.
Watts, Laura, J. Mandalas (Spiritual Circles for Harmony and Fulfillment): London, 2000.
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Tibetan Thangka Painting: Vishwavajra Mandala
Sterling Silver Pendant: Mandala Box Pendant with Filigree