Mandala 16

A mandala is... An integrated structure organized around a unifying center.

The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean "circle," a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself --a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.

Different cultures, similar expressions
Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.
In ancient Tibet, as part of a spiritual practice, monks created intricate mandalas with colored sand made of crushed semiprecious stones. The tradition continues to this day as the monks travel to different cultures around the world to create sand mandalas and educate people about the culture of Tibet.

The creation of a sand mandala requires many hours and days to complete. Each mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the mandala is created. When finished, the monks gather in a colorful ceremony, chanting in deep tones as they sweep their mandala into a jar and empty it into a nearby body of water as a blessing. This action also symbolizes the cycle of life.

A world away, the American Navajo people also create impermanent sand paintings which are used in spiritual rituals–in much the same way as they are used by Tibetans. A Navajo sand painting ritual may last from five to nine days and range in size from three to fifteen feet or more.

Dale O'Dell

Dale lives in Prescott, Arizona and is a professional photographer and digital artist. He studied photography and philosophy at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and was granted a Photography Degree in 1982. Since 1979 he has exhibited in over one-hundred group and solo shows, his works have been published internationally and he’s written for most of the leading photographic magazines and journals. He is a consummate experimenter and innovator and works with diverse subjects in a variety of ...

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