You or perhaps your children may have seen or heard of a mandala without quite knowing what the rich and vivid design is - and what it means for some of the world's people. In the visually oriented West, the circular sand-painting is appearing more frequently in a variety of contexts, not least among children, for whom coloring books full of blank mandalas await their crayons and magic markers.
The mandala originates among Tibetan Buddhists and means circle in ancient Sanskrit. It is a two-dimensional painting, composed of millions of multi-colored grains of sand spread carefully on a flat wooden platform. Buddhist monks and nuns spend days constructing the mandala, using traditional metal funnels filled with sand. Each designer holds a funnel in one hand and then runs a metal rod against its grated surface -the colored sands stream like liquid onto the platform. Inside the circle, creators fashion elegant, detailed, and abstract geometric designs - flowing curves or straight edges.
The mandala symbolizes the universe in its flawlessness, and for Buddhists provides a visual icon for creating feelings of peace, well-being, and wholeness. But that's probably not the reason children go for these many-hued forms.
Much like the original creators, children sit over their blank mandalas and attentively color their art. However, there's a difference in their results. What makes the original, traditional mandala so striking is its fate; after the community has enjoyed the painting, its producers pour the sands into running water - a stream or river - which symbolizes the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and non-attachment to all forms. But children today can hold onto their attachment to the mandala form: they can hang their finished designs on the refrigerator or other home exhibition spaces for the family to enjoy.
Teachers and parents are increasingly using the mandala coloring books as a way to help children - including those with attention problems - to concentrate and relax from the pressures of the modern world. The coloring books are like miniature vacations, taking the user to a more spiritual realm, if just for a little while. And, as numerous internet testimonies confirm, adults as well as children are benefiting from the coloring books. Businesspeople, the elderly, writers and many others are coloring for creativity . . . and serenity.
Copyright 2004 © James Royal
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Monday, 24-May-2004 12:37:34 EDT