“Perhaps this is how mandalas are useful as meditational tools: their complexity and repetition of detail are overwhelming. One’s attention is repeatedly sidetracked, suspended, and sucked toward seemingly endless labyrinths and crossroads. Artists thus simulate a supernatural state, suspending time and reality. So many buddhas and bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) populate each mandala’s illustrated field, accompanied by halos, cosmic stripes, and temple architecture. Each figure offers its own bundle of tiny details, some quite loose, sexual, or savage. In some instances I was utterly transfixed as the undersides of the smallest arches revealed terrific smeared abstraction. What’s the message? Is it that these higher beings exist at all times, all around us? Or is it a promise that we, too, can join their ranks and tap into the subtler realms? Perhaps the message is that like our own mundane physical existence, these two-dimensional planes unfold into absolute visual bottomlessness upon concentration. And how were the mandala artists able to paint with such tiny precision? They, too, must have employed a magnifying glass, or spectacles, or something. Laboring to produce the minuscule features of these artworks over long periods of time would be likely to induce meditative states. And so, the works are charged with the intense focus of the artists’ hands and minds. It is interesting to consider that such artworks were mass-produced. Many were created in sets ranging from twenty to a hundred.”
- From Burnaway’s Review of “Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism”
I went to this today and I can attest to the fact that staring at these pieces does put one into a meditative state. I’m not going to claim to know anything about Tantric Buddhism, but there was something very spiritual about the intricacies of these paintings. Especially after better understanding the extremely complex symbology behind them.