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The Mandala in Tibetan Buddhism.
Religion and Theology
Pages 20 (5020 words)
“The Sanskrit term ‘mandala’ literally means circle, both in the sense of a circular diagram and a surrounding retinue. In Buddhist vocabulary, the term encompasses both contexts because it refers to circular diagrams that often incorporate illustrations of deities and their environs…
“The Sanskrit term ‘mandala’ (dkhyl khor in Tibetan language) literally means circle, both in the sense of a circular diagram and a surrounding retinue” (Powers, 2007, p. 262). In Buddhist vocabulary, the term encompasses both contexts because it refers to circular diagrams that often incorporate illustrations of deities and their environs. Mandalas are a type of tantrik symbol, conveying a domain of sacredness, frequently portraying the celestial palace of a Buddha. They represent underlying philosophies with profound significance in Tibetan Buddhism. The symbols and images in a mandala describe features of the awakened psychophysical personality of the Buddha, and Buddhist themes and concepts (Powers, 2007, p.262). Generally, there are four types of mandalas: two outer mandalas made from powdered colors and created on a flat surface or painted on textiles, those formed in meditation, and the inner mandala depicting the body of the guru/ teacher or that of the self (Brauen, 1992).
Mandala is a Sanskrit word in which ‘manda’ means essence and ‘la’ means container; thus the term translates into a container of essence (Fleming, 2006). The Tibetan term for mandala is ‘dkhyl ‘khor’, with ‘khor’ defined as ‘that which encircles’ and ‘dkhyl’ meaning ‘around a center’; they can be two or three dimensional and constructed of various materials. The sand mandala is believed to have been transmitted to Tibet from India in the eleventh century (Fleming, 2006). Some who have studied the historical nature of the mandala have conjectured that the mandala diagram arose in Tibet or China in ‘pre-lamist’ times (Brauen, 1992).
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