Article: What is Mandala Principle? How can it help us connect to and understand the world we live in?

“Many of the problems of the modern world arise because we lack a living experience of connection, belonging and wholeness. Everything can appear meaningless, fragmented and too complex for us to handle. What is needed is the real experience of mandala, centred on the Indestructible Heart Essence (our Buddha Nature).

Mandala Principle is about the pattern and structure of everything that happens. The basic pattern is a centre or a central point from which everything else emanates. In Tibetan, the Sanskrit term ‘mandala’ is translated as kyilkor, which literally means a centre and a periphery.

Every experience has this structure. The body of the mandala (the periphery) ends in a boundary where it peters out or where there is an interface with the next best thing or the world outside it. All our experiences, physical, psychological, social and spiritual are mandalas. Each moment of experience in our daily life and meditation is a mandala.

A mandala is a pattern and a flow of energy or movement from a central point that dissolves into the body of the mandala and is absorbed back to emanate from the centre again. Being aware and clear about the constant energy exchange between the centre and periphery and between the boundaries and gates between mandalas helps us make wise decisions in life. The first step is to understand the principles of the mandala and to notice them in everyday life.

Put in this way the idea of mandalas may sound simplistic, but it is tremendously significant. Mandala Principle connects together aspects of our experience that otherwise appear disparate and disconnected. Many problems facing us as individuals and facing society as a whole seem to emanate from a need for an underlying unifying principle of some kind. This applies as much to problems associated with the material world such as environment, the economy, politics and government, as to fundamental concerns of philosophy, psychology, mathematics, science and the spiritual life.

We begin with the mandala of our being: our Indestructible Heart Essence in the centre of our being, which is expressed through body, speech and mind. Our heart, mind and body can discover, recognise and respond to what feels right. They all form a single mandala.

You could call it intuition or an aesthetic sense of some kind that tells us that it is good to be centred, grounded, balanced and integrated. Whatever it is, as time goes by, and we become more deeply involved in the awareness practice, this sense of being centred and having a centre, almost like a physical centre to our being, becomes increasingly obvious and subtle.

In Buddhist teachings, there is an emphasis right from the very beginning on awareness or mindfulness of body, mind and environment and the relationship between them. Your future is shaped by your intentions, attitudes, words and actions. This can all be expressed in terms of the mandala principle.

When the process of seeing your life and experience as a mandala begins to work, you will be able to appreciate how all the disparate parts of your life and experience can become aligned with the heart wish and how they all operate to nourish and support it. In this way everything in your life and experience becomes meaningful, alive and we hope, joyous.”

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is an extract from the ‘Course Companion’ book from Discovering the Heart of Buddhism part of Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training. The book is given to those who join the training course. Mandala Principle is the final course book in the DHB Course. The training is a structured, comprehensive, supported distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight, bringing the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning.


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