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Maṇḍala (dkyil 'khor)

  • The Sanskrit "maṇḍala" conveys a number of basic meanings- circle, wheel, circumference, totality, and assembly. In the context of Anuyoga and Atiyoga, the expression "three maṇḍalas" specifically refers to the scope of buddha-body, speech, and mind. Then, in a more general usage, this term indicates the central (dkyil) and peripheral ('khor) deities described in the tantra-texts. These deities reside within a celestial palace (vimāṇa), which has a perfectly symmetrical design- with four gateways and four main walls composed of five layers of different colours, each of the features corresponding to a particular aspect of the principal deity's, and thereby to the meditator's enlightened mind (bodhicitta). The maṇḍala thus represents a perfected state of being and the deities within it symbolise the perfected states of the meditator's own psycho-physical aggregates, elemental properties, and so forth. When such maṇḍalas are represented symbolically, they may take the form of a two-dimensional image on painted cloth, or they may be made of coloured sand, or else constructed as a three-dimensional structure, carved from wood or other materials. The visualisation of maṇḍalas in their three dimensional form plays a crucial role in the generation stage of meditation, yet these "abodes of the deity" are never perceived of as independently existing universes but rather as manifestations of the enlightened mind of the principal meditational deity being meditated upon. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)