by Paul Whitehead
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 relationship with the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.
The “circle with a center” pattern is the basic structure of all creation and is reflected from the micro to the macro in the world as we know it. It is a pattern found in nature and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy. On our planet, all living things are made of cells and each cell has a nucleus – all of which display circles with centers. The crystals that form ice and rocks are made of atoms and each atom is a Mandala as is each snowflake. Flowers, the rings found in tree trunks and the spiraling outward and inward of a snail’s shell and the galaxies all reflect the primal Mandala pattern. Wherever a center is found radiating outward and inward, there is wholeness – a Mandala. The human spirit craves order and symmetry, it gives the inner you a sense of well being and harmony, all classic Mandala designs have a symmetrical design at their core and viewing them can facilitate healing.
The Mandala that I am making for the Bali Spirit Festival is made of colored sand, most of it collected from the beaches of Bali such as Padang Bai, Pantai Putih and Lebih. The sand is either used in its pure form or has been tinted by me to create unique colors. At the center of the Mandala are two seven pointed stars or heptagrams – this symbol is used in Christianity to symbolize the seven days of creation they are also a traditional symbol for warding off evil, the reason that most sheriff’s badges are heptagonal shaped. The heptagram is also the symbol of perfection (or God) in many Christian religions. The outer circle of this Mandala contains twenty eight components. Twenty-eight is the second perfect number, a harmonic divisor number, a happy number & a triangular number. Twenty-eight is also the sum of the first five prime numbers and is a very auspicious and healing number.
Sand Mandalas are common to a host of different cultures, the masters of the art form being the Tibetan Buddhists and the Navajo Indians of N. America. The temporary nature of a sand Mandala is its true artistic brilliance. The creation of a sand Mandala requires immense focus and patience – as I work I project thoughts of peace & loving kindness towards my creator, into the work itself and to anyone who views the work in progress or the finished piece. After the Mandala is completed it is viewed for sometime and then it is destroyed – a reminder of the impermanence of life – it is also a reminder that we should not become attached to our creations and, as beautiful as the finished piece is to the viewer’s eye, its true essence is in the actual creative process.
There are many ways that this destruction can take place, I have had sand and chalk Mandalas “destroyed” by the weather (wind & rain) by unruly children, by insensitive house guests, by a dancer performing on it as Shiva, by geckos, mice, and my cat, who is a very a good “assistant” when it comes to this. The traditional way, though, is for a priest or Holy man to take a large brush and destroy it with one bold brush stroke. The sand from the Mandala is collected into a bucket and is then tossed into the nearest body of water, a river, a lake or the nearest ocean. In this way the good vibrations and the feeling of peace & loving kindness that became an integral part of the creation and viewing of the Mandala are dispersed freely throughout the waters of the earth. At special occasions in India (usually weddings) Mandalas are made from colored rice flour. The Mandala is gradually “destroyed” by ants who take it away as food.
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