Meaning of Mandalas

Are you searching for some meaning in the art of mandalas? Do they draw you in and keep you mesmerized with their beauty? Have you been wondering if their designs, colors, and symbols have some meaning for your life? Are you wondering how you can create your own, or have a personal mandala made for you?

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Mandalas are a timeless masterpiece, rich with traditions and symbolism. Each mandala is unique and conveys different meanings depending on who made it and what philosophies are believed by that individual. Mandalas are generally considered sacred objects with important teachings and a deity given to each one. Found in many different cultures and religions, from Buddhism, Hindu, Celtic, Native Americans, and many more the mandala has become a major symbol throughout history and even today. Yet many people don’t realize the significance or cultural meaning of this mighty symbol.

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While the origin of the word mandala is still debated, most people believe it comes from a Sanskrit word meaning circle, and suggesting the etymology of the word itself actually means a container of essence. While the origin if the word is debatable, what is agreed upon is that a mandala is generally a circle with dividing lines separating it into several quadrants. Each quadrant represents a different theme and starts at the center of the circle working outward, generally a deity is depicted at the center of the mandala but it is not unusual for a mandala to be completely geometric.

Through history mandalas can be seen in many different cultures. The Celtic cross is a good example of a mandala because it by definition has a symmetrical design rich with symmetries. Mesoamericans used mandalas as the design for their intricate calenders. In Christianity we find mandalas called frescos with animal images representing the apostles, even the modern zodiac we find the mandala.

The Native Americans mandalas symbolized the shield of good luck and with it the gods would protect them. It was believed that by having one it the home, prosperity, good health, and happiness would be sure to come. The shield was considered a prized possession of the plains Indians. Traditionally mandalas were made from buffalo hides, Eagle feathers, and wild animal fur. While all natural materials are still used today in the making of mandalas, the supplies now come from the by-products of domesticated animals.

In Buddhism, a mandala is considered a sacred art and before even participating in the making of one a monk must undergo about three years studying arts and philosophies. Contemplation of sacred images is a key ideal of Buddhist mandalas being one of the most important aspects. The actual making of a mandala is a slow process that can take from days up to a few weeks to complete. Traditionally four monks work on a mandala each one completing a different quadrant and working from the center outward, waiting for each monk to complete each ring to maintain the balance. When finished it becomes a pool for universal forces to flow to, at this point a person may by mentally entering and working towards the center be guided through the cosmos to the very essence of reality. Generally made from colored sand after completing the mandala is usually destroyed by pouring the sand into a water source distributing the positive energy contained back to the universe and world around but also reinforcing the teaching of the impermanence of things.

A big influence on how mandalas are perceived today is through Carl Jung. Carl Jung’s visionary ideas came from many influences, but without his theories, awareness of the importance of mandalas would be greatly hampered. Jung believed that mandalas were snapshots of the subconscious that could help identify emotional disorders and then work on creating wholeness in character. This was a discovery made over time when one day Carl Jung realized that all his work and the steps he was making all led back to mandalas. He also came to realize that mandalas were the center and all things led back to mandalas. Carl Jung had several main ideas those being collective unconscious, dream interpretation, archetypes, mandala, alchemy, I Ching, and synchronicity.

Even in nature itself the mandala can be found, from the simple snail, trees, flowers, and even the Earth itself! Mandalas in nature can be some of the most simple yet profound forms to witness, inspiring a belief in a “divine designer”. From atoms to the solar system each one being a mandala and being a part of an even bigger mandala. The connections that live between us and everything are apparent all around us when we take the time to really look around us, and these connections bring us together and yet we are still unique just like every mandala is unique.


 
 

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