The mandala above is from my small collection of Tibetan Art. I bought it some years ago from a Tibetan shop in Puttaparthi. This Mandala took three months to paint. Although it is Tibetan the painting itself comes from Nepal.
This particular mandala hung on the walls of my room in Puttaparthi for years, I have bought it home to keep it from fading. It is a very precious item and holds sentimental value.
In Buddhism, mandalas are rich with symbolism that evokes various aspects of Buddhist teaching and tradition. This is part of what makes the creation of a mandala a sacred act, for as they work, the monks are imparting the Buddha’s teachings.
Outside the square temple are several concentric circles. The outermost circle is usually decorated with stylized scrollwork resembling a ring of fire. This ring of fire symbolizes the process of transformation humans must undergo before being able to enter the sacred territory within. It both bars the unitiated and symbolizes the burning of ignorance.
The next circle inward is a ring of thunderbolt or diamond scepters, which stands for indestructibility and illumination. This is followed by a circle of eight graveyards, representing the eight aspects of human consciousness that bind a person to the cycle of rebirth. Finally, the innermost ring is made of lotus leaves, signifying religious rebirth.
The square structure in the middle of a mandala is a palace for the resident deities and a temple containing the essence of the Buddha. The square temple’s four elaborate gates symbolize a variety of ideas, including:
- The four boundless thoughts: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity
- The four directions: south, north, east and west
Within the square palace or temple are images of deities, which are usually the Five Dyani Buddhas (the Great Buddhas of Wisdom). The iconography of these deities is rich in symbolism in itself. Each of the Dyani Buddhas represents a direction (center, south, north, east and west), cosmic element (like form and consciousness), earthly element (ether, air, water, earth and fire), and a particular type of wisdom. Each Buddha is empowered to overcome a particular evil, such as ignorance, envy or hatred. The Five Dyani Buddhas are generally identical in appearance, but are each represented iconographically with a particular color, mudra (hand gesture), and animal. See the article on the Five Dyani Buddhas for more information.
In the center of the mandala is an image of the chief deity, who is placed over the center dot described above. Because it has no dimensions, the center dot represents the seed or center of the universe.