Mandalas and Computers

I was drawn to the Rubin Museum because of the special Red Book exhibition (more details of Jung’s work here), but what I enjoyed the most was the museum’s Mandala: The Perfect Circle exhibition. Mandalas from the 8th C. onward are displayed in a variety of styles and mediums and for different purposes. They often show a circle bound in a square. Within the circle, like in the Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) mandala above, the circle contains a four sided structure that radiates out from a central point.

Mandalas are created as aids to spiritual visualization, especially in diety yoga in which Tibetan buddhists imagine themselves as ideal beings in the form of a buddha. The one above is devoted to Yamantaka, symbolized by the blue thunderbolt at the center. The archectonic form within the circle is his palace. It soars upward at each level, and he is housed at the very center and the very top. The circle around is actually circles, representing different places that must be crossed before entering the palace of the god and ascending. The outermost circle is a ring of fire, followed by a ring of charnal grounds, followed by a ring of lotus blossoms. A monk would use a mandala to cross these circles and enter the palace, then to walk down the hallway, up the stairs, around the next level, etcetera all in his minds eye. The mandala is a 2 dimensional representation, like a map, to aid in the visualization of a 3 dimensional reality. It is difficult–especially for someone like me– to look at a mandala and truly understand the visualization involved.

Enter, computers! The Rubin Museum has computers displaying virtual mandalas, in which computer graphic designers turn the 2D image into a 3D environment. The point of view of one is of a person dwarfed by the gorgeous and elaborate palace he/she is ascending. I gained such a better understanding of how mandalas were used and what a monk might see. The virtual mandalas are brilliant. Seriously, the coolest thing I have seen in eons. I didn’t have time for the rest of the collection, so I hope to go back soon. Not to mention, the museum is gorgeous, not at all overcrowded, and has a lovely cafeteria with samosas and white wine.

2 thoughts on “Mandalas and Computers

  1. I do too. For their creators, the symmetry is symbolic of the 4 chakras, etc and the colors are related to that. Absolutely fascinating to learn about.

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