The Mandala Forest
 
One of my favorite speakers was the zen teacher Alan Watts.  In the video clip above about duality and the concept of the higher self, he alludes to the mandala form in reference to detachment and nonduality, when he says:

"And this person who doesn’t stick anywhere is like Dante's image at the end of the Paradiso where he says in the presence of the vision of God, but my volition now and my desires were moved as a wheel revolving evenly by love that moves the sun and other stars.  And the image of the wheel which is not too tight on its axle and not too loose, that is really with the axle, is the Zen principal of not being attached.  Not being sticky."

My last post about the Reconciliation Mandala fits into this discussion of the sense of duality and separateness.  Watts talks about understanding the reality of the one true self, without being caught up in illusions of fighting for the attainment of a higher self or fighting off one's sense of separation.  According to Alan, actively struggling with an illusion of a separate higher self or an ego would only strengthen a delusional inner fragmentation.   He also mentioned the mandala image from the Paradiso  in Volume 1, number 5 of the Haight Ashbury Tribune.

"People have always been fascinated by circles of glory, known in India as of mandala: the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, Byzantine mosaic upon the inner surface of a dome, the radiant and radiating petals of certain flowers, the design of snow-crystals, precious stones set in coronas of vari-colored gems, and mandala proper as they are found in Tibetan painting--circular paradise-gardens with their jeweled plants and trees surrounding an inner circle of Dhyani Buddhas and their at  attendant Bodhisattvas.  It is in this form, too, that Dante described his vision of God, ringed by the saints and angels, at the end of the Paradiso."

Watts was something of an iconoclast, pushing aside religious dogma and illuminating the fact that symbols were not the reality itself, and should not be mistaken for reality, as they often are.  One of my favorite examples of this was when Watts talked about the symbolic nature of money, and the lunacy of something like the Great Depression, in which the money simply wasn't there anymore to do the necessary work.  To Watts, such a scenario would be like showing up at a construction site, and the foreman saying, we can't work today because we ran out of inches.  Because of Watts's suspicion of symbols I think his reference to mandalas, like his command of language, should be seen as simply an arrow pointing to a fundamental reality beyond representation. 

His article in the Haight Asbury Tribune goes on to describe his wish to see or create a sort of psychedelic mandala light projection inside a planetarium, which would engage all the senses and move one through scenes of both horror and beauty, eventually engulfing the individual to the point that they were literally absorbed into this naturalistic mandala experience, and then, it would just shut off to the "here and now."  This seems to support the notion that Watts would have been less interested in a mandala symbolizing something, and more interested in an actual experience of a manifested mandala which reveals something about reality experientially.  With the advances of technology, someone may very well realize Watt's vision, though the mandala light show he described may be a thing of virtual reality rather than planetarium projections. 


 


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