In this section we will be talking about Mandalas, Tankas, Yantras and Labyrinths.
They all basically share the same idea,
… by this I mean that they are all one kind of a graphic or another –
… which may be either an actual picture, or a geometric pattern, or a design in sand or some other material
Actually the word Mandala really covers the other two – Tankas and Yantras as well – the only difference being about where they are usually found.
They all originated with the Hindu religion, but have spread also to Buddhism.
Mandalas usually refers to specific pictures – either paintings or designs done in sand, (especially in the Tibetan tradition).
They often show depictions of gods or ‘saints’ in the center, with other ‘saints’ or minor gods around the outside.
Tankas usually refers to cloth wall hangings, almost unique to Tibet, that usually have similar subjects as with the Mandalas.
Yantras usually are complicated geometric patterns, either in color or black-and-white, and are found over all Hindu and Buddhist influenced places.
One common thing to all of them is that they are all so designed that they tend to ‘draw your eyes’ in towards the centre in each case,
… and this is part of the plan, and their power,
… that makes them so useful for meditation.
They all can be said to represent a form of the “Universe in Miniature” – from the human point of view.
By this I mean, that looking at a Mandala draws your eyes towards the center,
… then you somehow get mentally carried further THROUGH the center,
… until eventually the Mandala becomes like a ‘black hole’ and ‘swallows you up !’ (Just like in the Universe !)
Carl Jung called them “a representation of the unconscious self.”
Even the picture type Mandalas are based on very strict and traditional geometric shapes –
… the spaces between the individual figures,
… between different parts,
… and even between the different parts of the faces on the Mandala must all follow very exact geometric and traditional rules.
So that in effect – they are ALL geometric patterns.
(This may not make a lot of sense at the moment, but I think will become clear when you start to meditate with one – for me personally, the Yantras are the most powerful in this respect)
So let’s just look at a few examples first, and then afterwards I will tell you how to meditate with them.
——–We will start off with some Mandalas——–
This is a very typical Buddhist Mandala example – a central Buddha, surrounded by disciples or Boddhisattwas.
Typically many colors, and a symmetry that makes the center the natural ‘focus.’
This one is a Phoenix Mandala from Bangkok, it is more unusual in that it is round,
… (most of the time they are rectangular),
… and also does not have quite the same power to ‘pull you into the center’, however interesting all the same.
A beautiful example of a sand Mandala made by Tibetan monks.
It often may take them several days to make one using different colors of sand –
… then they will meditate using it for about two to ten days – usually for some special festival –
… and then it is all swept up together, and traditionally sprinkled into a river to “return all that meditation energy to the Earth.”
Now we come to a Tanka – this one from Tibet, (and used as a wall hanging),
… is of the 8th Karmapa – the Karmapa is the spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, this particular Karmapa lived in the 16th Century, and is still very much venerated.
As you can see, there are many similarities to the Mandalas above.
Here is something very different – a Yantra.
… As you can see, it is a complicated geometrical pattern, that tends to ‘draw you in’ towards the center of the pattern,
This particular one is called “Sri Yantra” – in a black and white form.
Again a form of Sri Yantra, but in color this time, which I think, makes it even more powerful.
What do you think ?
I included this one to illustrate something interesting – how do you like it ?
Actually it is not a Yantra at all – although you can certainly use it in the same way !
It is a photo of a woodland fungus !! Not man made at all !
As Shakespeare once said – “There are stranger things in heaven and earth…than man hath ever dreamed” – I think this illustrates this very well.
So let’s move on with what we do with these;-
How to Use Mandalas, Yantras and Yantras
They are all used in the same way,
… it only depends on which one you find to be the most effective for you personally.
As for me personally – I prefer the Yantras, but you may have a different preference.
O.K. – What do you do ?
Firstly, you can either make a color print of the Mandala, Tanka or Yantra – and use that – or else use them ‘on screen’ on your monitor.
One advantage of using them on screen is that they appear brighter, and therefore more powerful,
… also they will probably be at eye level, which is what we want.
Therefore, if you are using a printed copy, arrange that it is at eye level,… in a good light,… and at about the same distance from your eyes as you usually use with your monitor.
There are two variations that we will talk about in turn, so lets begin;-
Sit comfortably, with some support for your back, and preferably a cushion or foam wedge to keep the natural curve of your lumbar area…hands in your lap, palms up….
…..slowly relax…..take slow deep breaths into your Dantien …..(Remember ? – Center of gravity – three finger breadths below your navel and two finger breadths inside your belly from there)…..
Gently start to concentrate on the central point of the picture…continuing with deep but slow breaths..
Stay calm and relaxed and peaceful……breathing easily…
..when your attention wanders from the central point of the picture – then gently bring it back again….do this each time your attention and concentration wanders from the centre…..
…. (which it will, again and again !)
Keep a part of your mind watching your breathing….try to make it deeper and slower…deeper and slower…
Keep focusing on the center of the picture….keep going…keep going..
And all the time letting your breathing become deeper and slower….and right down into your Dantien point.
Then, after you have done this for somewhere about 10 minutes to begin with, (and you can increase the time later if you want)….then….
….slowly close your eyes, and watch the “after-image” that forms on your retina ( the inside of your eye)
…you will notice that it has the colors reversed from the original picture… (neat – eh ?!)
….let your breathing come back to normal…and when the “after-image ” begins to fade…gently open your eyes.
I think that you will have found that interesting, and once again, very different from the other types of meditation that we have tried so far.
I mentioned that there were two variations that we could use, that was the first –
… and the second is to combine the Mandala/Tanka/Yantra Concentration Meditation with the Mantra meditation that you learned about in the previous section-
… but this time repeating the Mantra with your eyes open instead of closed—while your eyes focus on the picture as above.
This combination makes the whole thing much more powerful – especially after you have been doing Mantra meditation for a couple of weeks, and your system has become used to it.
Here is one more interesting geometric pattern to look at, it is actually a Labyrinth.
More commonly they are more simple than the examples that I am showing – but these are more like Yantras
They are usually patterns on the ground, that may be made with stones, small shrubs, or something similar.
However it can be used quite effectively as a Yantra, try it in the same way as you did the Yantras above.
Labyrinths are somewhat similar to Mazes, but with one important difference.
A Maze is intended to confuse you, you do not know the way through –
… it is a kind of puzzle for you to solve,
… whereas a labyrinth has a known and fixed pathway through it, that is often used as a kind of meditation walk.
In the Middle Ages Labyrinths were very popular – they were used as a sort of symbolic pilgrimage.
Usually the people could not afford to make an actual pilgrimage to some holy place or country –
… so they would go along the paths of a labyrinth and pray at the same time instead.
The idea was that concentrating on the turns and twists of the paths of the labyrinth caused the person to lose track of direction and therefore also of the outside world –
… leading to a meditation-like state.
Here is another one to try !
Labyrinths were originally used in prehistoric times, as a means of trapping evil spirits !
So we have come a long way in their use since then !
My brother and his wife have built a labyrinth in their garden, and find that it is a very relaxing and meditative place to be.
(Maybe something to keep in mind for when you redesign your own garden !)
So this is the last of the Passive Meditation sections –
… and now you will be coming to the In Between Meditation section –
… where the meditations are not quite Active and not quite Passive…you will see what I mean!
Click to go to Yoga and meditation – Active meditation 1
Click to go to Martial Arts and meditation – Active meditation 2
Click to go to Dance and meditation – Active meditation 3
Click to go to Pain and meditation – Active meditation 4
Click to go to Buddhism and meditation – Passive meditation 1
Click to go to Tibetan Buddhism and Tantra – Passive meditation 2
Click to go to Zen meditation – Passive meditation 3
Click to go to Jainism and meditation – Passive meditation 4
Click to go to Other Religions and meditation – Passive meditation 5
Click to go to Mantras and meditation – Passive meditation 6
Click to go to Tai Chi and Chi Gung – In Between meditation 1
Click to go to Taoism – In Between meditation 2
Click to go to Sounds and meditation – Sounds 1