Exploring the Mandala
In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is
an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation.
Each object in the palace has
representing some aspect of wisdom
or reminding the meditator of some guiding principle.
Tradition dictates the shapes, sizes and colors of these objects.
There are many different mandalas,
each with different lessons to teach.
Most mandalas contain a host of deities as well as inanimate objects.
An excellent overview and glossary of mandala components is
available on the web.
Mandalas are usually displayed in two dimension,
and are commonly made from paper, textiles, and colored sand.
In a sand painting the sand is dyed
and then carefully placed on a large, flat table.
The construction process takes several days,
and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion.
The three dimensional mandala is projected in a unique way
that displays the interior as well as the walls of the palace.
The deities are represented as Sanskrit characters.
These two images show sand paintings of the Vajrabhairava mandala.
It is a fairly simple mandala, containing a mere thirteen deities
(many mandalas contain hundreds).
Pema Losang Chogyen
is shown constructing a sand painting
at Cornell University's Johnson Museum of Art in March of 1991.
Images from a
sand mandala construction
in Bonn in 1996 show the process in detail.
The sand mandala ritual ends with a
A Computer Model
During 1989 and 1990
Pema Losang Chogyen
worked with staff members and students at
Program of Computer Graphics
to create a three dimensional model of the Vajrabhairava mandala.
The model contains tens of thousands of objects,
and was used to create these still images:
A six minute animation of this computer model,
"Exploring the Mandala," is available from
Snow Lion Press.
The Dalai Lama's Visit
In March of 1991 His Holiness the Dalai Lama
came to Ithaca, NY and Cornell University.
While visiting the Program of Computer Graphics,
he viewed the mandala animation, and was presented with a copy.
The image below shows His Holiness (lower right)
with four of the people who worked on the animation (from left to right):
Dr. Donald P. Greenberg,
Pema Losang Chogyen,
and Paul Wanuga (partially obscured)).
Not pictured are
and Tim O'Connor.
Tibetan Buddhism Sites
Ben Trumbore - Home Page