Life on this planet is temporary. In this brief time, man evolves physically, mentally, as well as spiritually. Of course, evolution does not happen overnight. It is an elaborate, gradual process. It is facilitated by both external and internal environments of the individual, as well as the microcosmic and macrocosmic influences in the universe.
Everything in the cosmos–from the minutest atom to the biggest of galaxies–operates on micro and macro levels. Let us take man, for example. He is the microcosm and the world outside of him is the macrocosm. The two are said to be mirror images of each other. Say, an individual is seething with anger from within. Then his reactions to the outer world would reflect this anger, and vice versa.
Perhaps, viewing life through this lens might just provide the centredness many of us strive for. Anchoring oneself is no easy feat, but it is achievable. We could aid ourselves with any kind of tool we are comfortable with–chanting, praying, meditating and the like. Some use profound symbols in this pursuit. One such symbol, which originated from Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, is the mandala.
Mandala is a pictorial, symbolic representation of the universe. American Tibetan Buddhist monk Pema Chodron is known to have said: “Each person’s life is like a mandala–a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the centre of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life … everything that shows up in your mandala is a vehicle for your awakening.”
A compound Sanskrit word, mandala can be translated as a container of essence. Manda means essence, and la the container. Loosely translated, the word means circle. Mandalas are mostly depicted by concentric geometric patterns. Founder of the Mandala Project Lori Bailey Cunningham, in her book The Mandala Book: Patterns of the Universe, writes: “In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the mandala (kyil khor in Tibetan) is used to assist in meditation and is considered to be the diagram of the cosmos…”
What a mandala really helps with is tapping into one’s inner potential, perhaps even leading to enlightenment.
This symbol, which represents the universe, effectively aids in meditation. And a mandala can be much more. It can help a person become a better version of himself. It is like a roadmap for an individual to reach his ideal self. Senior monk Tenzin Legtsok teaches Buddhist philosophy at the Bangalore-based study centre Choe Khor Sum Ling. He says, “A mandala is like an architectural plan used to remodel an old building–to make it much better. It is like a blueprint to create an ideal world according to our highest aspirations.”
Clearly, using a mandala as a meditative tool can help an individual not only visualise their goal, but also perceive the means to achieve it. It is as Cunningham writes in her book: “Meditating on a mandala is not a dreamy occupation; it is a focused activity in which the practitioner imagines the entire world of being through the lens of the mandala–not to escape reality, but to see it for what it truly is.”
There are many other philosophies that apply this essence of mandalas to their practice. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism that originated in Japan is one such philosophy. According to the official website of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Buddhist organisation that practises the teachings of the Japanese monk Nichiren Daishonin: “SGI members direct their prayer to the Gohonzon, or object of veneration. This is a mandala, a symbolic representation of the ideal state of Buddhahood, or enlightenment, in which all the tendencies and impulses of life–from the most debased to the most noble–function in harmony toward happiness and creativity…”
Indeed, what a mandala really helps with is tapping into one’s inner potential, perhaps even leading to enlightenment. Of course, a mandala does represent the universe. Moreover, this vast universe is also what exists within each of us. If we ever manage to tap into its depth right within, maybe we can be enlightened. Ultimately, a mandala symbolises the core of life with its infinite potential.