There are many tools and techniques in yoga that aid in quieting the mind. A student may use these in order to practice yoga, which according to Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras: Yoga is now. Still the fluctuations of the mind, then the seer recognizes the True self. A mandala is one way that a practitioner can settle the vrittis of the mind.
“Mandala” in Sanskrit means “circle”. A circle in many spiritual paths represents wholeness, unity, and harmony. This symbol is part of many rituals in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. The mandala is drawn around a unifying center that symbolizes cosmic and psychic order. Carl Jung believed that mandalas represented the unconscious self. Monks will often create mandalas for rituals and festivals from sand and the dust of colored, precious gems, and then destroy them after the festival to express the insubstantiality of visual forms.
Geometrical shapes that create the diagram are called “Yantra”. A Tibetan mandala is often started in the middle with a square that represents a “wall”. Four circles are drawn, overlapping in the middle of the square, to symbolize “doors” or “openings”. The circle defines the limits of physical space. From there, more geometric shapes can be drawn around the circles, within the circles, inside the overlapping parts, etc. Color is added because there is color in nature (of which human beings are part of), and since the design is intended to represent the universe, and thus all that is in it, it makes sense that the mandalas be colorful.
It’s important that the design is pleasing to the eye so that the mind becomes absorbed and the chattering slows. A practitioner using a mandala can either use one that is already created, or make one. There are some shapes, or some mandalas, created by others, that serve particular purposes. It may be that meditating on, or using, one created for a specific purpose helps the student solve a particular problem or heal in a certain area.
Begin by relaxing in a seated position with the mandala in front of you (perhaps hanging on the wall or place on the floor by your feet). It’s helpful to set an intention, perhaps a particular answer you are seeking or clarity on an issue that you need. Focus on the colors, the design, the repetitive shapes. Allow the mind to drift. The thoughts will begin to slow. If the mind wanders into the realm of to-do lists, something to remember, a person to contact, bring the awareness back to the mandala. Fall into it.
You can set a timer to begin. After some practice, it might become easier to focus on the mandala and thus settling the monkey mind quicker, and perhaps spending a longer time without the vrittis demanding attention. Often, the practitioner will come away with an answer or more clarity, depending on the intention.
Mandalas are something I haven’t used much, but intend to incorporate more into my practice. To see what I have used, visit my website, www.myjoyenterprises.com, and read excerpts from Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation, Volume I.
Have you used a mandala? What were the results? Did you create one or use one made by someone else?