Mandala Teacher's Guide
Look, Discuss, Explore
- What shapes do you see? Are they geometric or organic How are they arranged? Describe the kinds of lines that you see in this mandala. How do the lines, shapes, and colors make you feel?
- Does anything in this mandala remind you of architecture? Point to the architectural features and describe them.
- How do you think this mandala was made? What tools do you think the artists used? How long do you think it took? What makes you say that? Do you think it was difficult to make? Why or why not?
- Is the design of the mandala symmetrical or asymmetrical? What effect does that have? Imagine that the design is not symmetrically balanced. What difference would that make?
- Mandalas help Buddhist monks to meditate. Look at this mandala carefully. What do you see that would help someone meditate? Think about the color, line, shape, symmetry, and composition The goal of meditation is to reach nirvana, at the center of the mandala. How does the design draw your attention to the center?
- This mandala contains lots of symbols. Many are recognizable objects. Point out the ones you recognize. What symbols would you use in your personal diagram of the universe?
- What are the five senses? Where are they represented on the mandala? Why are they shown in the corners? What symbols would you use for the five senses?
- What is the purpose of making a mandala? What was the goal of the Tibetan monks who made this one? Think about the qualities of wisdom and compassion and what they might have to do with this mandala.
- At the center of the mandala is a vajra, a symbol of compassion. Do you think compassion is important to Buddhists in their quest for enlightenment? Do you think it is important for all people to show compassion? Why? Think about times when you have shown compassion and how that affected other people.
- A stupa is a monument of great significance to Buddhists. Can you think of any large monuments in the United States? Why do you think people build such large structures?
- Sometimes making a thing is more important than keeping it around once it's finished. Can you think of some examples? What about sand castles or ice sculptures? How do you feel when your work is destroyed or gone?
- A mandala is a diagram symbolizing the universe. In the ancient Sanskrit language of India, mandala means circle. How are circles important in our universe? Investigate the use and meaning of the circle in various cultures. One example is the rose windows of medieval European cathedrals.
- After studying the mandala's design and meaning, do you see any similarities with other cultural icons such as Native American sand paintings, Japanese rock gardens, or Northwest Coast totem poles?
- Traditionally, when a sand mandala is finished, it is swept up and ceremonially discarded in a body of flowing water, to show the impermanence of life. Why do you think this mandala was preserved? How do you think it was done? Think of reasons for and against keeping Tibetan religious objects in museums.