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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Māṇḍala

A Sanskrit word literally meaning “circle” although the Tibetan translations usually render it as “center” or sometimes “that which surrounds.” It is used in Hindu and Buddhist sacred rites and as an aid to meditation. Although there are many variations of the pattern, the basic design comprises a circular border and one or more concentric circles enclosing a square divided into four triangles; in the center of each triangle and in the center of the maŠala are additional circles containing images of deities or symbols of them.

This scheme is the basis for countless variations, some looking like gardens or palaces and some in the form of labyrinths. A simple form of maŠala is the yantra. This is a Sanskrit term literally meaning a means of holding, support, instrument, or engine, but when encountered in theosophical writing or Hindu philosophy refers to a mystic diagram. Such diagrams are intended to channel psychic forces through concentrated visualization. It is further held that through intense concentration in meditation the diagram may be reproduced.

The yantra may be drawn or engraved on metal, stone, skin, paper or on the ground. Its structure might be considered a simple version of the MANDALA. It is composed of a series of triangles, nine in the riyantra, with four having the apex up and five apex down, surrounded by a number of concentric circles which are framed in a square with four openings or “doors.” The triangle pointing down symbolizes the yoni or akti (power, energy, potency); the triangle pointing up symbolizes the male principle, ®iva; the central point (bindu) signifies undifferentiated Brahman. Thus it might be said that the yantra symbolizes cosmic manifestation out of primordial unity which is very much a theosophical concept.

P.S.H.

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