A UNIQUE ASIAN ART THAT CAN BE USED AS A TOOL FOR UNDERSTANDING THE SELF
As the title suggests mandala is reflection of one’s self in an artistic mode, often the mental map of the creator. One of the ancient spiritual Asian arts ‘Mandala’ has gained immense importance in the field of psychology of self-cultivation. As a psychology and art enthusiast I love to study the interchanging role of the two in development of one’s self.
Mandala is Sanskrit for ‘circle’. By the theorists of ‘self’, quadratura circle is stated as standard model of mandala. Mandala mainly comprises of circles enclosed within a square and set into segments that are all structured in the region of a single, innermost point, the center. Beyond its vivacious look, the symbolic and meditative meaning of mandala is the heart of this art form.
The symbol of the circle represents the most important aspect of life, namely, the ultimate wholeness; whereas the symbol of the square indicates secularity, flesh, and reality.
It has a long history in Buddhist culture and later found its way into Hinduism and other Asian cultures. In Asian cultures, mandala is a ritual tool or spiritual symbol which holds a conviction that while approaching the mandala in direction of its center point, one is directed through the immense development of power to re-build one’s miserable world into blissful creation.
The basic circle and lines: To draw a mandala, one needs to draw a circle, use a compass for accuracy and from the mid-point draw 8 spokes that divides it into 8 equal parts; it is often described as the wheel of eight spokes where the circle represent the universe and the eight spokes symbolize the eight-fold path of Buddhism that one adopts to seek liberation and rebirth. One is required to draw smaller to bigger circles from the only center point. One can add as many circles as he/she wants and draw as many lines to slice circles into more parts, totally depends on the creator’s comfort.
The shapes and patterns: : Once the base structure is drawn, one is expected to fill circles with different shapes and patterns. The shape and pattern is repeated inside one circle and then changed for the surrounding circle. Different shapes symbolize different aspects:
• Bell: openness
• Triangle: upward facing triangle- action and energy, downward facing triangle- creativity and pursuit of knowledge
• Lotus flower: balance
• Sun: universe, life and energy
Apart from these particular shapes and designs, one can also pick his/her own designs or modify geometrical shapes or invent new patterns, one can often color them, coloring mandala adds a complete new meaning to it, there are no fixed rules, and one may just enjoy the process of creation.
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst first theorized the mandala as a representation of the unconscious self: he used it as psychotherapeutic tool to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness of his patients. Later, Kwang-Kuo Hwang constructed ‘The Mandala model of Self’ in which so-called ‘self’ refers to an individual who has been socialized with the ability of reflexivity, whose life world can be represented by a structural model with a circle inside a square.
Now that the psychology of mandala is stated, it is easy to suggest that mandala can be used in following manner:
For self-reflection: As one creates a mandala or reflects to, one naturally dwells into process of self-exploration as he/she fills the circular space in his/her unique way.
For meditation: One attains the state of mindfulness as one actively meditates by completely sinking into art-making, resulting in calming and relaxing the mind, body and soul.
For practicing yoga: Mandalas positioned in yoga studio walls signify sacred space to shut away external influences. Often practitioners are asked to draw one as a meditative technique.
For healing chakras: According to yogic texts, there are seven chakras or energy centers in our body. Due to various reasons these chakras may become disturbed. Mandalas are used to heal these chakras, balance energy and are linked to restoration of mind, body and heart. There are different colors associated with different chakras, when these colors are used in mandala art making, it is believed that particular chakra is energized or healed using the relevant color.
For self-hypnosis: The mandala design virtually engrosses the psyche and inundates our thoughts with a special spiritual essence, taking us to a higher level of awareness.
For other mental and physical benefits: Mandala has been reported to reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration, improve hand-eye coordination, increase patience and balance pulse rate and blood pressure.
Creating mandala is one transformative practice towards self-enhancement.
‘Awareness of the mandala may have the potential of changing how we see ourselves, our planet, and perhaps even our own life purpose’- Bailey Cunningham.