Seeing God’s Word: selected text

The Mandala Form

The term mandala derives from the ancient Sanskrit word meaning disk. Most often circular in form, mandalas are symbolic pictures used as tools for prayer and meditation on eternal verities such as divinity, life cycles, harmony, balance, enlightenment, and self-journey. Generally associated with Eastern, particularly Hindu and Buddhist religions, mandala art forms also appear in African, Celtic, Native American, and other widely-varied cultures.

A wide range of excellent books and internet resources are readily available to the reader who wishes to study the subject of mandalas in more depth, and gain a greater understanding of this rich and fascinating form of expression. For purposes of this collection however, I would like to stress what I feel are the most important characteristics of the mandala art form, which make it ideally suited to the artistic representation of Christian scripture.

1 Being circular in nature, mandalas provide a sense of the eternal, having no beginning or end, but rather endless continuity. This is particularly significant given the eternal nature of the truths contained in the Gospel messages.

2 The mandala creates a sacred space in which meditation can take place isolated from the distractions of the outside world and its influences.

3 By its physical design, the mandala creates a centering mechanism whereby the viewer is drawn to the middle of the piece as a starting point for the journey through the mandala.

4 Since the mandala design progresses outward from the center, it invites the viewer to participate in an evolutionary journey through different levels of understanding.

5 The mandala offers new dimension to things we may feel we already know, or are so familiar to us that we are no longer excited by them. It allows us to see what is familiar in ways that are not.

To this list, I would add two further characteristics of the specific mandalas in this book:

As drawn, they are repetitive, showing a story in a pattern that is repeated throughout the mandala. In this way, the scriptural message is strengthened through repetition.
The layout of each mandala is omnidirectional, and can be viewed from any angle with the same effect. This is meant to give the viewer the freedom to move about within the piece without losing the thread of the basic message or the path of the individual journey.

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