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Tibetan Buddhist Sand Painting: Kalachakra Mandala for World Peace

April 25–May 27, 1995

The Kalachakra ("circle of time") sand mandala is a sacred ritual design belonging to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition called Vajrayana. It is a brilliantly colored, symmetrical design of geometric patterns measuring about five feet in diameter. Mandalas are used to intensify the imagination and to stimulate the creativity needed by the Buddhist practitioner for visualized mediations. Mandalas "painted" with sand are most frequently used for the initiation of new mediators into the artistic traditions of Vajrayana Buddhism. Precise geometrical instructions for the ground plan are memorized and then drawn out on a flat surface by monk-artists. The design is then completed with sand mixed with mineral pigments tapped onto the drawing with cone-shaped, fine-tipped funnels that produce intricate lines and delicate patterns. The creation of sand mandalas began in India as part of initiation rituals when teachers used diagrams made by hand with colored chalk on the ground. This practice developed into the complex designs still used today where the mediators visualize entering the mandala's space as if it were a three-dimensional, architectural structure. The mandala serves as a vivid blueprint of a sacred palace-temple. Flowers and dots of color refer to deities that occupy the central concentric squares of the Kalachakra mandala. These squares are the innermost enclosures of the mandala's sacred palace. Gateways into the enclosed sections are shown as decorated towers laid out at the cardinal points. Auspicious symbols cover each level of the gate towers and symbolic colors for each direction mark the quadrants of the mandala. As a whole the Kalachakra mandala is a symbol-laden map that guides the meditator's progress.

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Nancy B. Baxter
Gail Maxwell

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