Friday, April 10, 2015

Mandala of American Life


I saw this interesting & somewhat humorous "Mandala of American Life" on Ultraculture.


It is called "Americosmos" by Darrin Drda.


(click for larger image)
The image is a depiction of the "American way of life"- in the form of a Tibetan Buddhist mandala, or sacred diagram.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

It shows the illusory existence that so many people in this country experience, and the habitual patterns that give rise to our insane way of living.

There is a more in-depth description of this modern-day mandala here:


The traditional Bhavacakra mandala, known as "The Wheel of Life," is used as a meditation tool by Buddhists. This mandala is a representation of the idea of samsara, or the cyclic nature of existence.


The circular wheel containing the images represents the cycle of life & death, with all the various karmic activities that lead to suffering.

The very center of the mandala shows animals representing the 3 poisons; attachment (bird), aversion (snake), & ignorance (pig). People create their karma by acting through these poisons. In "Americosmos," the 3 poisons are shown as a dollar bill (greed), a tank (hatred), and a TV (delusion).

The thin ring around the center represents people ascending in consciousness on one half (white), and people descending to lower consciousness in the other half (dark).

The large divisions within the wheel show the six realms of samsara. The higher god-like states of being are on the top half, and lower hell realms are in the bottom half. These are the various states of being that a person can find themselves in during their lifetime.

The outer rim of the wheel show the 12 causal links, more specific activities that show how people get trapped among the six samsaric realms. They are basically a lesson in cause & effect, the essence of karma. Our thoughts and actions affect our being, and without awareness we are stuck in habitual or destructive behaviors. In "Americosmos," these 12 links are related to the endless cycle of consumerism, which traps us in the attachment to material goods & worldly experiences.

The giant demon holding the wheel is Yama, Lord of Death, representing impermanence & the transience of life. In "Americosmos," Yama is replaced by what the artist humorously calls "Uncle Samsara," a figure representing the illusion of nationalism & cultural identity.

Finally, the Moon on the upper left (in both images) represents liberation from the suffering associated with samsaric existence. It is possible to break the cycle of karmic conditioning and habitual behavior & thinking, to attain a state of Nirvana. This is the state in which suffering from unsatisfactory experiences cease to arise, due to a more peaceful & conscious state of mind.

The Buddha in the upper right points the way to the Moon, representing liberation. He pointed the way to this liberation through his teachings. The Four Noble Truths are the description of the problem of suffering, and The Eightfold Path is the Buddha's prescription to alleviate this suffering.

Mandalas, like these, are way to graphically depict profound teachings, in a way that people can easily understand. They are meditation aides that should be carefully studied, understood, and pondered to cultivate a higher awareness and deeper consciousness.

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