ALERTPlease note: the museum will be closed on Sunday, Feb 2 for a private event. The next Target First Free Sunday will take place on Feb 9.

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The Purpose of Mandalas

Mental maps and transformations
Lightning Vehicle mandalas are geometric meditation maps. Visually, they are made of a series of nested squares and circles. Above is an example from an object in our collection. A mandala's form brings order to space, which would otherwise be infinite and invisible. Mandalas thus make it possible to 'know where you are in the cosmos. 

Beyond this, mandalas also organize inner space, so that you know 'where you are' psychologically. In Lightning Vehicle thought, each person is dominated by one of five pollutants: hatred, lust, pride, jealousy and delusion. A specific ritual procedure determines which pollutant a person is dominated by, after which  the person teaching  about the mandala   makes a meditative prescription. Then, the mandala becomes a map in another sense: the meditator first visualizes the entire mandala, and then enters the visualization. 

Once inside, it is all about a series of transformations ideally leading directly towards the center of the mandala. There, the meditator can fundamentally transform the nature of experience. In one sense, this happens when psychological poisons are transmuted into their equal and opposite "wisdom" (prajna). In a more fundamental sense, transformation occurs when the meditator identifies with the figure at the center, who is always a symbol of enlightened awareness . This procedure is described as "taking the result as the path," in which one sees oneself directly as already enlightened.