Plays by S. A. Shipley 

A Mandala for Erik

~ Erik’s Mandala ~

This mandala is dedicated to Erik Daniels Hanifan in the concept of aa bodhisattva, a person who has reached enlightenment, but has chosen to stay close by, helping others: an angel.

The Buddha taught, in his final sermon, that each person must rely on his own conscience. In the original Theravada Buddhism, there are no gods, no statues. Tantric Buddhism focuses on religious mysteries and concentrates on chants and diagrams.


Tantric Buddhists emphasize ~ The Five Wisdoms  which are: reflection, equality, discernment, accomplishment,universality.


The mandala’s design crystallizes the truth of our deepest intuitions. Mandalas are sacred places which, by their very presence in the world, remind a viewer of the inherent sanctity in the universe and oneself in it. In the context of the Buddhist path, the purpose of a mandala is to help put an end to human suffering by the realization and attainment of the enlightenment that resides in one's own self. A mandala symbolizes the universe and the perfection and harmony in nature. A Tibetan mandala represents the residence of Enlightened Beings by standing for the vast and profound enlightened state. The word mandala comes from the root manda, which means essence, and the suffix la, which means container. It contains the principles represented in symbols (wheel, a tree, jewel etc.) and offers instructions for attaining enlightenment. It is a guide to the pathways of meditation and serenity. The mandala’s purpose is to clarify and overcome the illusions of life. The preparation of a mandala is both an artistic endeavor and an act of worship.


The mandala presents a map of both physical and spiritual spaces, with four gates and a center. Outside energies, drawn to the gathering center, increase one’s understanding. The origin of the mandala is the center: a dot. A line materializes out of the dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometrical patterns. The circle drawn around the patterns stands for the observer’s growing understanding. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, represented by the four gates. The central area is the residence of the spirit. Visualize the center as the essence and the circumference as understanding.

Color Symbolism of the Mandala

Erik’s essence is honored by moving his color (aquamarine) to the center. In Buddhist mythology, the continents float on the ocean. Or, more accurately, they rest on the back of a giant fish, which is the first incarnation of Vishnu, and the fish swims in the primordial ocean. This mandala is built on a blue foundation. The quadrants of the mandala-palace are divided into isosceles triangles of color, : white, yellow, red, green and blue. Each of these colors is associated with the five wisdoms of human nature. Specifically: White - Vairocana: The wisdom of reality tempers the delusion of ignorance. Yellow - Ratnasambhava: The wisdom of sameness overcomes the delusion of pride. Red - Amitabha: The wisdom of discernment releases the delusion of attachment. Green - Amoghasiddhi: The wisdom of fulfillment dispels the delusion of jealousy. Blue - Akshobhya: The mirror overcomes the delusion of anger.


The lotus represents purity; it grows in the mud and reaches up to bloom. There are several views of the lotus in this mandala: a birds-eye view of a lotus in the larger central circle, and a side view at the white gate. In each of the four directions are gateways to the various paradises--each gateway topped with a wheel flanked by two deer. This symbolizes the Buddha's first sermon (often called “setting the wheel of the law in motion”) delivered in the deer park at Sarnath. The square portion is framed by four bands symbolizing the truths in Buddha's first sermon. These are:


The Four Noble Truths

                      1. Life contains both joy and suffering.

                      2. Suffering is caused by wanting things.

                      3. Suffering is reduced by understanding.

                      4. Contentment is gained through the eightfold path.


The Eightfold Path:

                                                                                   1. Right View ~ Wisdom

                                                                                   2. Right Intention

                                                                                   3. Right Speech ~ Ethical Conduct

                                                                                   4. Right Action

                                                                                   5. Right Livelihood

                                                                                   6. Right Effort ~ Mental Development

                                                                                   7. Right Mindfulness

                                                                                   8. Right Concentration


Reading Erik’s Mandala

The primary deity of each mandala is represented at the very center, (the throne within the palace). At the center of this mandala is Erik’s aquamarine in the protective star of David surrounded by the wisdom of the open lotus.

A mandala is read from the outside in. Begin with the outer circles. First there is a ring of fire, depicted as stylized scrollwork. This symbolizes the process of transformation which ordinary human beings have to undergo before entering the sacred territory within. This outer ring, of rainbow colors with flame-like designs, represents wisdom and overcoming delusions. This is followed by a ring of thunderbolt or diamond scepters (vajra), indicating the indestructibility and diamond like brilliance of the mandala's spiritual realms. It (yellow/black) represents compassion and contains a stylized thunderbolt which represents the tantric effect of concentrating on the mandala. The third circle (purple and yellow) represents the aggregates of human consciousness which tie us to the phenomenal world and to the cycle of birth and rebirth. This band contains 64 lotus petals representing the purified state of mind and nerves of the heart. (There are many forms of enlightenment which are achieved by passing through the realms of wisdom and compassion.)

The inner squares represent the celestial mansion (enlightenment). The walls are five parallel lines of red, green, white, yellow and blue symbolizing

                                The Five Wisdoms

                                                 Mirror - reflecting all sense perceptions

                                                 Equality - accepting all feelings

                                                 Analysis - helping according to needs and disposition

                                                Accomplishment - acting according to circumstances

                                                Reality - understanding the illusion

The red/yellow ledge represents goddesses offering elements. If you were to walk around the mansion, beginning at the blue gate, you would first pass goddesses offering water. As you rounded the corner, goddesses offer flowers, incense, lamps and perfume. Next, you would pass those offering food, music, form objects and sound. Turning again you would first walk past goddesses offering smell and taste, and then, passing the gate, goddesses offering tactile objects. As you arrive again at the blue gate, you pass two more goddesses making offerings of water. The purple/gold/green wall represents the wisdom through observation (peacock colors). The next wall offers flowers as symbolic of the peace of understanding.

This square structure has four elaborate gates. These four doors symbolize the bringing together of -

                 The Four Boundless Thoughts

                                    Loving kindness




Each doorway detail, in all four quadrants, faces the center: the resident deity of the mandala. Each of these gateways is adorned with bells, garlands and other decorative items. This square form defines the architecture of the mandala described as a four-sided palace or temple. It is a palace because it is the residence of the presiding deity of the mandala, a temple because it contains the essence of the Buddha. Finally, at the center of the mandala, is the deity. It is the power of this deity with which the mandala is said to be invested.

                                               The Mandala: a Sacred Offering

In Tibetan life the mandala is traditionally offered when a request has been made for teachings or an initiation - where the entire offering of the universe (represented by the mandala) symbolizes the most appropriate payment for the preciousness of the teachings. Buddhism teaches that, when we recognize the sacred within ourselves, we recognize it everywhere.

It is hoped that each person who sees Erik’s mandala will take something beautiful away. His mandala is consecrated through use.


Home | About | New Classics Series | Seniority Series | Contact

Copyright © 2005-2006 S. A. Shipley.