Way to Enlightenment
By Mark Evangelista
Houston Chronicle Interactive
Ever since human beings first started pondering
the cosmos, art has emerged as a physical and visual affirmation
in a belief of a superior being.
Works such as Michelangelo's Creation and
Van Eyck's Annunciation have become icons of religious imagery.
In contrast, art by Tibetan Buddhist monks
actually invites the divinity to descend.
The Mandala of Hayagriva... is meant to evoke the deity to come down and
inhabit the piece, said Amy Price, MFA curatorial assistant,
Created originally in chalk, a mandala
is a sacred space that is entered in the mind. Sand mandalas
are thought to have originated in India and were used as part
of the initiation of their disciples. The earliest ones were
crude, large circles within which practitioners sat while meditating...
a mandala is a model of the perfected realm in which a Buddha
The point of art in
Tibetan Buddhist culture, explained Price, is to reinforce its
Four Noble Truths:
All mandalas contain a thought component
[an intent], whereby a meditator uses the mandala to visualize
a succession of perfected realms and beings. Mandalas [were originally]
... created with paint or colored sand in two dimensions. These
mandalas are considered the most important ones in preparing
novice Buddhists to study the means of achieving enlightenment.
The making of a mandala is a form of moving
meditation. It is the slow, meticulous movement of creating the
mandala that reinforces the Buddhist belief in emptying the mind
and being totally in the present moment.
Seeing a mandala will benefit
even the casual onlooker.
The onlooker will absorb the mandala and
be guided more quickly toward enlightenment. But the greatest
benefit comes to those who meditate toward the mandala, focusing
their imagination to mentally build it into a detailed,
"This exhibition of Tibetan art represents
a singular opportunity to get a glimpse of actual monastic life
which is rarely seen outside of Tibet," said Peter Marzio,
director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
"Also, the exhibition complements
works of Tibetan art in the museum's permanent collection, now
on view in the Asian Gallery."
In the making of the mandala, art becomes
religious ceremony and religious ceremony becomes art.
A mandala becomes a building of faith and
patience, much like the raising of a church or a prayer or a
reciting from the Bible, Koran or Torah. In line with many religions,
the mandala, when finished, is a colorful wonder, only to be
Desanctification and deconstruction of
the mandala takes place with the vivid sand being deposited in
a body of water. Only a small amount of the mandala is kept and
given to the participants.