Mandala Sacred Geometry Designs

October 20, 2008 by  
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By Andy Kahn

The word mandala is of Hindu origin also used in Buddhist practice. In Tibetan Buddhism it has developed into sand mandala pattern. Mandala generally speaking is a term for any geometric symbol that represents the cosmic energy metaphysically or symbolically. Mandala is Sanskrit for circle, polygon, community, connection. Various forms of Mandala design is also used as an aid to meditation and trance induction. Read more

What Is A Medicine Wheel?

September 15, 2008 by  
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By Beth Ali

A medicine wheel is a Native American sacred circle that represents the Universe and the balance of all creation. Like a mandala, it is a physical symbol of the Circle of Life and all our relationships.

Despite their physical existence, there is a lot of mystery that surrounds the Medicine Wheel as no written record to their purpose has been found. Of the many theories to their use, one is the performance of specific rituals and ceremonies that have been long forgotten, or else handed down within Native American communities and not commonly discussed with non-Native peoples.

Medicine wheels may be symbolized in a home through art, but actual wheels are created on the ground in ritual or ceremony. They are usually constructed out of stones in the shape of a circle with spokes coming out from the center. Each stone and direction in the wheel has its own significance and can be used to help in solving particular problems. Medicine wheels have also been known to be represented on sacred shields, or can be made of hide leather that is woven with sinew and decorated with beads.

The location of a medicine wheel, in both the physical and spiritual realm, is considered sacred because they are built on earth’s energy meridians which connect everything, everywhere concurrently.  This place is believed to possess spiritual power that can be accessed when visiting the site.  However it is not considered to be a tool to be used for the increasing of one’s personal power. It is rather an ancient portal to ancient knowledge.

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Medicine wheels are places where people pray and meditate to help strengthen a feeling of connection to the universe.  Ancient people believed that the medicine wheel had great power and aided in creating change and healing.  Traditional medicine wheels are still used today by tribal peoples for healing and finding balance in their lives and harmony with the earth. Medicine wheels are also considered symbols of cosmic connections and all creation, our relationship to the sun, representations of Harmony and Oneness, or about ‘walking the Earth with reverence,’ with healthy minds and inner peace.

Medicine wheels are speculated to be usable maps of the major terrestrial forces influencing us from the moment of conception, much as an astrological map positions and describes the celestial forces at play. As you can see, the believed purpose of a medicine wheel is varied, but the core theme seems to be about making sacred space more accessible, visible and therefore real to us.

Tibetan Sand Mandala Painting in Action

September 12, 2008 by  
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This is a great video that shows Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Mystical Arts of Tibet constructing a sand mandala at Saint John’s University.

Here is a news report about monks building a sand mandala at Central College in Iowa.

The Building of a Sand Mandala

September 12, 2008 by  
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In 2004, 2005 and 2007 I was able to witness and photograph the building of three different sand mandalas in the sanctuary of my home church by Tibetan Buddhist lamas (monks).  In this article I compile photos and observations made during those three different events.  The three constructed were “Buddha Akshobhya”or the Global Peace Mandala,  the “Avalokiteshvara” or Buddha of Compassion Mandala, and “Manjushri”, the Spiritual Wisdom Mandala.  For extensive views of photography (by myself and others) from these events, go to these galleries on my SmugMug site:  Spiritual Wisdom and UNA Archives.

Opening Ceremony

The first event in the building of a sand mandala always involves consecration  and purification of the space where the mandala will be built.  There is ritual chanting and music, and then upon a large square table the design is carefully drawn from memory.

Though it is a two dimensional design, a sand mandala is actually the representation of a three-dimensional palace that is the home of the deities that will be visually represented.  The deities to be illustrated in the mandala embody the philosophical views of the particular mandala being constructed, and serve as role models for those constructing and viewing the mandala.


After the design is laid out, the monks begin to lay down what will eventually be millions of grains of brightly colored sand into the pattern.  To carefully distribute the sand across the design, they begin from the center working out. They use a traditional instrument called a chakpur, which they vibrate by rubbing a rod across a bumpy ridge on the top of a long narrow metal funnel.

In ancient Tibet, sand ground from brightly colored stone was often used for making the Mandalas. Today, white stones are ground and dyed with opaque watercolors to produce the bright tones found in the sand paintings.

The finished mandalas were around 5 feet in diameter, and took 2 weeks for 4-5 monks to complete, working 7-8 hours per day.

Learning with Ritual, Music and Dance

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An important part of these experiences was not just witnessing the construction of the mandalas, but interacting with the monks, seeing their colorful dance rituals, and feeling the deep unique resonance of their chanting.  Music, colorful costumes and lively traditional debates were an important way of understanding the life and times of Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

The Mystical Arts of Tibet tours the monks throughout the world to share their sacred spiritual traditions in the hopes of building world peace through communication and understanding.  Tibetan Buddhists believe that in each person’s mind there is a seed of enlightenment that can be discovered by contemplating a mandala. Tibetans believe that even viewing a mandala, with its visual representation of an inner, perfected vision of reality, has profound influences on those who are fortunate enough to view it. Seldom, they rightly reason, do we see such spiritual energy in a fixed and human form.

Dismantling the Mandala

Buddhist philosophy states that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux – that all things are characterized by impermanence, and that the only permanent feature is impermanence itself.  As Buddha said, “No matter whether perfect beings arise or not, it remains a fact, and a hard necessity of existence, that all creations are transitory.”

A sand mandala is an example of this, being that once it has been built and its accompanying ceremonies are finished, it is systematically destroyed. The sands were swept up and placed in an urn.  To fulfill the function of healing, half was distributed to the audience in little packets at the closing ceremony, while the remainder was carried to a nearby lake, where it was deposited. The idea is that the waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.