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Mandala. Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism

A cosmos of sand

The world of mandalas has never been described so sensitively and in such depth of detail. As H. H. the XIV Dalai Lama implies in the foreword to the book, mandalas were simply viewed as works of art for many years. That simplistic interpretation of sacred signs has led to numerous misunderstandings.

That is why Martin Brauen has focused on the connection between sacred doctrine and meditation images in his book, MANDALA ‒ Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism. A basic introduction to the “Buddhist way” hones the viewer’s senses to perceive essentials. Thus the many descriptions of mandalas provided become a cultural feast for the eyes, which at the same time provides insights into Buddhist teaching. This sacred art has attained its zenith in the sand mandalas. They are created by monks clad in reddish orange robes, who sprinkle pigments on a cloth, taking days of ceremonial ritual to do so. The result is not, despite what one might expect, a rough juxtaposition of coloured fields. On the contrary, the monks draw exquisitely detailed figures, script signs and patterns with brightly coloured sand. Magnificent decoration spirits the viewer away to another world. Yet no sooner has one abandoned oneself to this cosmos of sand than it has been consigned to the past. For the fate of so many mandalas is that they must be destroyed to pass through the cycle of transformation.


This book (all 264 pages of it) pulses with life, from its scholarly and always highly readable texts to its many illustrations in large formats and brilliant colours that pay fitting tribute to the mandala’s infinite richness of detail. A section of this extraordinary book is a lavishly illustrated catalogue of 38 top-quality examples taken from museums of international standing supplemented by detail photographs, tables and plates elucidating the world of mandalas. This is a particularly lucid work on the “sacred circles”, which, according to Buddhist doctrine, represent the unity of man and cosmos in an infinite variety of ways.


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