In Sanskrit Mandala means « circle ». It is a religious and spiritual symbol coming from Hinduism (the largest religion practiced in India). Wiki definition. The word Mandala appears in the Rig-Veda (Vedic hymns, Indian religious texts.). Veda means knowledge and also is a term used by Buddhists who relate it to meditative practices. In various spiritual traditions a Mandala (a circle, which by definition has a center) is used as a tool to enhance attention of practitioners and adepts and as a spiritual tool to establish a link to the sacred.
Therefore the idea of making a Mandala is to reflect, to go towards the center or to begin from the center. Thus the center will be a unifier which will lead to harmony and unity. Longchempa ( a Tibetan Buddhist master 1308-1364) said “A Mandala is an integrated structure organized around a unifying center”. Therefore meditation and Mandalas are linked. One must understand meditation as a more or less intense reflection, witnessing thoughts. In this context, creating a Mandala may be considered as a discipline or a sacred ritual.
Moreover, in Western traditions a Mandala can also be used as a therapeutic tool: Carl Yung refers to Mandalas as a “psychological expression of the totality of the self”.
Nowadays, in common use Mandala has become a generic term to define a diagram, a circular pattern that represents symbolically or metaphysically the universe or the Cosmos. (Understand Cosmos as opposite to chaos).
Why a circle?
In philosophical or religious terms, one can understand easily that life refers to cycles: for instance, seasonal cycles. Circles are cycles as “cycle” is rooted in a latin word “Cyclus” which means “circle”.
In her book Mandala, Journey to the Center, Bailey Cunningham makes an exhaustive list of different domains in which we can find natural circle-shaped forms: waveforms, geology, meteorology, biology and more. She also suggests different other areas (brightened up with wonderful pictures) such as cultural, religious and artistic.
Circles, circles, everywhere there are!
Just think of it, of course they are everywhere in our lives: a plate, a bowl, a pen tip, the beads of a Bhuddist or Christian rosary or prayer bead, a carousel, a whole note, a round dance of children in a school playground, the moon, the sun, a commercial diagram, rose windows in churches (sometimes stained-glass), the Taijitu (yin and yang) symbol, the core center of a daisy, traffic lights, circles in the water, shells, a ladybug, human cells, the iris (structure of the eye) and so on….make your own list.
Let’s go to the center, let’s center, let’s focus, let’s create harmony, let‘s unify with our environment and our feelings while however not forgetting that we are not the center of the world.
And, what about Art?
In my view, we all are artists. Art is not only about sculpture, painting, music, ceramics, knitting, cooking, teaching, literature, gardening, ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement), cleaning or napping……The list of activities can be very long if we consider that everything that we do should be done with attention. Therefore the list is hugely dizzying. Lots of work! Art is a creative process which requires skills and emotions in action combined with attention and accuracy. I want to finish with the idea that the sole pleasure to create is a natural thing that everyone should/could practice anytime and anywhere.