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Mandalas in Different Cultures

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Katia Dinan

on 16 May 2014

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Transcript of Mandalas in Different Cultures

Mandalas in Different Cultures
Katia Dinan
mandala: Sanskrit word meaning circle
Mandalas are meant to represent wholeness, and the organizational structure of life itself.
Mandalas are characterized by their geometric shape, pattern of concentric circles, and attention to symmetry.
The mandala appears in many cultures throughout the world, and while it may take different forms in different cultures, it is always a sacred image and has a deep connection to the spirituality of the culture.
Mandalas are works of sacred art in Tibetan Buddhism. Each component of the mandala has a specific symbolic meaning that is reflective of some aspect of Buddhist tradition. The mandala is considered to be a sacred image that serves as a receptacle for deities and universal forces. Through the act of creating a mandala, a Buddhist monk is ritually taking part in the teachings of Buddha. Traditional Tibetan mandalas are often created through the careful placement of colored sand, starting from the center and moving outwards, being careful to maintain balance and symmetry in the mandala. Representation of the four cardinal directions is especially prevalent in Buddhist mandalas. Color symbolism is also very prevalent, although depending on the type of mandala, the meaning of certain colors can vary.
Tibetan Buddhism
This is a Buddhist Cosmic Mandala. The spiral in the middle represents the rotating movement of the basic elements: water, earth, wind, and fire. Wind represents the gaseous state. Fire represents transformation and is depicted with the color red. Water stands for liquid and is depicted with blue. Earth represents the solid state and is depicted as a yellow square. The blue inside the mandala represents the source of all elements. The outer circle is a ring of flames.
This picture depicts Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a traditional Buddhist mandala with colored sand. This sacred ritual is a painstaking process that can days, or even weeks, to complete. Before a monk may even participate in the construction of a mandala, he must undergo a period of artistic and philosophical study for around three years. Four monks will work together on a mandala, each being assigned a quadrant. During the process, each receives an assistant to help them with their quadrant. The mandala is constructed from the center outward, beginning with the placement of a dot in the center. After completion, the sand mandala is deliberately destroyed to remind those who labored painstakingly over its construction of the impermanence of all things.
This mandala is a representation of Cakrasamvara, the deity of the Highest Yoga Tantric.
Native American
The mandala shows up in the cultures of several of the tribes indigenous to the Americas. The Native American mandala dates back even farther than the well-known Tibetan Buddhist mandala, often referred to as a sacred hoop in many native North American tribes. This is seen in the medicine wheel of various Native American cultures, as well as the dream catcher of the Ojibwa tribe and the dance shields of the Plains tribe.
The medicine wheel is prevalent in many different Native American cultures, such as the Lakota tribe. In the Lakota tribe, it is believed that the cardinal directions are linked to great powers, whose sources of energy can be harnessed through the medicine wheel. The colors are representative of the four cardinal directions, as well as the basic elements. The color white represents the north and the air. The yellow represents the east and fire. The red represents the south and the element of water. The black represents the west and the earth. In the center, a large stone is placed to represent Wakan-Tanka, the Great Everything. The medicine wheel can be of any size, and are traditionally made of stones, similar to the one depicted above.
The Aztec calendar is another great example of a mandala. The calendar is in the same circular form as a mandala, and is also comprised of concentric circles.
This is a dance shield from the Lakota tribe of North America. Shields were created to be a form of both physical and spiritual protection for Native American warriors, and were considered to be sacred. Dance shields such as this one were and are used for ceremonial purposes. This shield depicts a bear, and was meant to transfer the strength and ability of a bear when the owner needed it.
Although often attributed to Christianity, the Celtic cross actually predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, suggesting a root in the ancient Druid religion. The most recently built Celtic crosses date back to the 12 century CE, seemingly for the purpose of marking boundaries.
The Celtic cross is composed of four major parts: the cross base, intersection, ring, and capstone. The base is often constructed out of an old millstone and the cross is seated within by a tenon joint. On ancient crosses, the ring encompasses the cross and pierces through on later Christian ones. The vertical axis represents the heavens and the horizontal axis represents the earthly world. Their crossing point represents the eternal unity of these two realms.
This is a very common design for Celtic crosses. The incorporation of the Celtic knot suggests a link to the more ancient crosses constructed before the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
This Celtic cross has a very clear Christian influence, as shown by the depiction of angels and other Christian figures. This is likely influenced by the more recent post-Christian arrival Celtic crosses found in Ireland.
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