Bodhnath, a very large Stupa or Chorten

        Mandalas are a map (or a physical site plan) of a Stupa or Chorten. The view is from directly over the center of the dome, looking straight down.

Bodhnath, from directly overhead. GOOGLE EARTH

        These paintings are both a story telling device and a tool to aid in meditation. The outermost part of the mandala is a circle. This circle is divided into at least three concentric sections. The first two, starting from the outside working in towards the center, are interchangeable as to which comes first. There will be a circle of graveyards, or death. Here one can see dead bodies, the flames of cremation fires, and birds and beasts feeding on the dead. The other circle will be an abstract floral pattern. This pattern symbolizes the abundance of life. The innermost circle will be made of the petals of the lotus blossoms. Anytime a lotus blossom is shown it represents an aspect of the deities.

        Inside these circles is a square with rectangular projections from the center of each side. This is the celestial castle, called the Miraculous Divine Abode. The projections are gates through which one moves towards the center. The square represents the base of a chorten, a Buddhist reliquary, and is oriented with a side and gate towards each of the four cardinal directions. Each gate houses one of the five Buddhas of Meditation or Dhyana Buddhas (the fifth cardinal direction is the center). Often the gates are guarded by beasts.

        Inside the square is another circle. This circle represents the central dome of the chorten. It is usually divided into eight sections, representing the eight spokes or laws of the Wheel of Dharma. The spokes may be an abstract design or eight gods. At the center of the wheel, thus the center of the entire mandala resides the deity to which the mandala is dedicated. In this case the Medicine Buddha

        The chorten also symbolizes the mind of Buddha so these mandalas are often referred to as The Mind of Buddha. The mandala is central to the realization of the Diamond Path, reputed to be the quickest surest path to enlightenment.

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Historical Buddha

The Big Three
The Big

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