The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit, meaning “circle” or “completion”. In many cultures throughout the world, such circular artwork is meant to represent a connection between the mundane and the divine, or, the manifestation of God into the world.
Both Tibetans and Navajo Peoples make elaborate sand mandalas, sweeping away their creations after completion, in order to show the impermanence of creation. Other Native American mandalas include prayer wheels of stone alignments, and petroglyphs of ancient origin. Paintings on drums and the sides of Tee-pees also are often circular in design, and likely representing a story of creation, or man’s relationship with the unseen.
Today many people are creating artwork in circular designs, and computer programs are available to aid in this process. Others, such as myself, continue to work with much slower, more traditional methods, although perhaps adapting to modern paints or, in my case, yarns. The potential of all such artwork is to satisfy the minds craving for symmetry, and to always draw one’s attention back to the center of the design. In looking at a well done mandala, our minds can slow down, enabling us to see more deeply with intuitive perceptions of the heart. Hopefully such an experience can carry over to our everyday lives, and help us to experience the joys of a mind freed from worries and petty calculations, and abide more and more in the freedom of the concerns of the heart: a life of love and beauty that always awaits in the inner lives of all.
Carl Jung said of mandalas, “Their basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances. This center is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may so express it, as the self. Although the center is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self — the paired opposites that make up the total personality. This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind.”
In my own mandalas, I’ve settled in the last few years on a twelve sided pattern which to me best conveys the cosmology of western civilization. In the center we see a three part aspect of the divine, which, in Christian terms you could call the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Within other cultures we might say, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Destroyer, or again, the Christ Avatar, the impersonal yet all-knowing God within, and the eternal all-existant God eternal beyond and behind all creation. Also in my mandala patterns, I have twelve spokes radiating out from the central diamonds, which can represent the twelve months, or the twelve apostles. Finally, my mandalas, being three-dimensional, allow for what I consider the most powerful element of my creations: the empty spaces, which always form triangles that point strongly back to the center. To me this represents God’s silent all-prevading presence of a perfectly still mind, and a peace that connects us with the divine in silent blissful moments of life.
I think we all long to see peace and understanding that there is balance and harmony behind all the confusion and drama of our lives. Hopefully mandalas can be a window to that space where all wrongs are balanced, where life is harmonious, and where the light of truth creates a joy and beauty that can never be destroyed.
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