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Yamantaka Mandala

Tibetan Yamantaka Sand Mandala
Teacher's Guide

A mandala (MAHN-duh-lah) is a else-another object or an idea. symbol of the universe. It is a diagram whose colors, lines, and forms all have meaning. In the Buddhist religion, mandalas are used in sacred ceremonies and meditation, to help people on their journey toward spiritual enlightenment. Mandalas have been made since ancient times. They can be painted on cloth or carved or, like this one, created from sand.

This mandala is dedicated to the deity Yamantaka, Conqueror of Death, and represents his celestial palace. A meditating Buddhist proceeds from the outer rim inward, moving from the earthly world to various levels of spiritual growth and knowledge. The ultimate goal is to attain total enlightenment, or nirvana, at the center. There Yamantaka is represented by the blue vajra (VAHJ-rah), or thunderbolt, symbolizing compassion. In the mandala's outer corners, symbols of the five senses are reminders that true knowledge comes through spiritual enlightenment, not from our fleeting perceptions. Smell is represented by a perfumed elixir bubbling up from a conch shell (upper left). A lute (lower left) stands for hearing, and a blue disc mirror (lower right) for vision. Peaches (upper right) symbolize taste. A flowing silk scarf, for touch, appears in all four corners. The circular rim's outermost ring, representing the earthly world, shows eight burial grounds with images of suffering and decay: skeletons, floating limbs, scavenging animals, trees, mountains, and burial mounds called stupas, symbolic of the Buddha's life and teaching. Next comes a circle of flames in a rainbow pattern of bright colors, then a ring of vajras, and finally a band of lotus petals, signifying spiritual purity and representing various deities. Now we encounter the square walls of Yamantaka's palace, with gates at the four compass points. The palace is filled with symbols, including masked guardians, umbrellas, jewel trees, wheels, and deer. Within the innermost square, which is divided into triangular quadrants, is a circle containing symbols of nine Buddhist deities, with Yamantaka at the center. This is the realm of perfect enlightenment. All mandalas represent an invitation to enter the Buddha's awakened mind. Tibetan Buddhists believe that in each person's mind there is a seed of enlightenment that can be discovered by contemplating a mandala. The mandala's design denotes the order and harmony of an enlightened mind. Order is shown through symmetrical organization, tight structure, and the use of geometric forms such as the square and the circle. The complex symbols and calculated combination of primary colors express the principles of wisdom and compassion that underlie Tantric Buddhist philosophy.

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