Mandala Unity: Dissolving the Barriers
(This piece was written for a wonderful unity art group called
Artistic Maneuvers on deviantArt.com. Please visit them at
Artistic Maneuvers to see all their captivating work.)
Several times I’ve been advised by friends to check out artists in the deviantArt community, and honestly have always been very impressed with dA’s amazing roster of talent. There is so much great work there, and in such an astonishing variety of styles, that it always makes for a breathtaking experience to visit the site. I think dA is doing an amazing job of giving these artists the exposure they deserve, with a venue that is comprehensive as well as visually arresting.
Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve been drawing images that were clearly precursors to the mandalas I draw today. Little childish doodles on scraps of paper, but always possessing that radial quality, that growing out from a central point that still describes my mandalas. There were always many different elements to them, bits of matter coalescing around a focal point. And they were always just black and white, as they are today. People often ask me why I don’t use color, and the easy answer to that is that I’m not inspired to do so. I see the mandalas that I draw as all being variations of the well-known yin/yang diagram—they all exhibit the apparent duality of the universe we live in, convey the intimate interrelations that define our existence, and confirm that there is an innate unity that permeates all the infinities that surround us. In Carl Jung’s famous work with mandalas and their relation to human psychology, he found that it is actually very common for persons who know nothing about mandalas, or have never even heard of them, to draw them in moments of passive mental activity. Many people absently draw mandala-like images while talking on the telephone or listening to a speech. This seems to imply that the basic structure of the mandala is inborn to the human psyche, that somehow this shape connects us to something that is deep within us but is not readily apparent. Jung also discovered that his patients, especially ones with some form of psychological imbalance, were notably more relaxed and focused after drawing mandalas themselves. The physical motions involved in creating a mandala have a visible, measurable effect on the brain that results in a calmer state of mind. This says to me that there is something about the mandala… its form, its patterns, its movement—or maybe something more subconscious and mysterious than these—that connects us to a pure and original mindstate, a point of uncorrupted calm and stability, from which the disturbing influences of society and ego continuously lead us astray.
The anchor of the mandala, that point which affixes it to our psyche in such a compelling and intimate manner, is the central bindu. In a very powerful subconscious gesture, the bindu represents the viewer that is in the act of observing the mandala. We carry in our minds a passive image of the world as it exists around us, and due to this aspect of aroundness that the world enjoys, we become by definition the center. Within each of us is the feeling that we are at the center of all reality, and that everything that happens revolves around us. This is a natural result of our sensory impressions of our surroundings. This impression of being the focal point of our reality is one important reason that the mandala resonates so strongly within us. When we see the form of the mandala our subconscious recognizes it as an accurate representation of its own subjective image of the universe. We see the ideal pattern of reality as we know it—a complex whole with a clearly defined center. This pattern not only reflects what we perceive around us, but it also describes to us a perfect structure that conveys stability and peace amid the often chaotic realities of life.
Here we can see the crucial parallels that exist between the spiritual principle of the mandala and the state of society as a whole. The mandala is an expression of unified reality. Within its form lies a frozen choreography of egalitarian being, an eternal moment wherein all the elements that comprise it co-exist, co-mingle, and co-evolve. Within its form there is no segregation or condescension, rather an essential equality that lies at the heart of the ideals that we as a society should strive for. The infinity of points within that mandala mirror the breathtaking variety of the world around us, and in its pattern we can see that all the differences that we perceive between people are superficial and unreliable. The countless faces of the mandala must be seen as one face, and in that one face we will see that everything is possible. In the same way, the countless faces that surround us, friends and neighbors, even strangers and enemies, must be seen as extensions of ourselves, and therefore ultimately connected to us in a tapestry of spiritual unity that stretches across the universe. The qualities that seem to make other people different, maybe even threatening at times, must be seen objectively as conflicting characteristics in the egoistic drives of each group. But these differences, all equally sincerely believed and passionately felt, are really similarities at a deeper level. We all struggle for what we believe; it’s just that we believe different things. We want to mold the world into a better place, but we have different opinions of what constitutes "better". At our core we all want to do the right thing, so if we oppose each other’s actions without truly understanding our underlying motives, then we will never come to a point of mutual comprehension. At this core point we can find the state of unity that strings together all of our individualities into a coherent whole. While the outward manifestations of our beliefs and desires seem vastly different and often even opposed, our underlying goals are amazingly similar, if not exactly the same.
In order to achieve a greater state of unity in our society, we must dissolve the barriers our egos have erected around us. Sometimes these barriers isolate us as individuals, sometimes as families, sometimes as nations. There is no limit to the damage fostered by these artificial distinctions that we have created and nurtured to the point of obsession. As the central point of our world-image, the ego craves more relevance than it really has by weaving an endless fantasy of exaggerated self-importance and imagined superiority. The mandala, however, shows us that as the central point of our personal existence we hold a place of importance, but also one of unified being. Our centrality imparts not so much greatness as it does interconnectedness, interrelation and interdependence. This is the wisdom that the mandala holds, and the message that it conveys to all who will listen.
Many thanks to Tammie and Max at Artistic Maneuvers
for permission to repost this editorial.
September 1, 2009
by Peter Patrick Barreda,
material copyright 2010, all rights reserved