View from the top of Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist monument and itself a giant mandala.
Mandala are sacred circular diagrams from the Tibetan tradition. Tibetan Buddhism is related to Zen Buddhism, but is a separate school. Mandalas are used in initiations, but more relevant to this web site, they are used as meditation objects. They represent body, speech or mind of a Buddha. The Japanese imported this tradition about 1,000 years ago and have produced exquisite designs. Carl Jung, the seminal psychologist affirmed the use of meditating on geometric designs and was interested in Mandalas, although he felt that it might be a little too alien for non-Asians to benefit from.
They are often painted on paper or, famously, made of sand. After a few days the sand is swept away. This demonstrates the artist's understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of all things. Non-Buddhists can't understand putting a lot of effort into a precisely designed work that will only last a few days. Making a more structurally sound work of art it would ultimately be destroyed one way or another. Even if it were made of platinum, it could not last forever. Making it strong only allows the artist the illusion of thinking it will last, but Buddhism seeks to remove such illusions.
The temple at Borobudur, Java, is certainly the world's largest mandala.
If you want to try making a mandala yourself you are going to need a lot of training or you could try this jigsaw puzzle. Its the Mandala of Yamantaka. You can make it up then break it up again just like the sand mandalas but best of all, part of the sales goes to Tibetan Monks. I plan to sell it from this web site one day, but for the moment you can get it at this unrelated web site, here.
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