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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



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The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala: Visual Scripture of Tibetan Buddhism by Barry Bryant, Namgyal Monastery (Contributor), Dalai Lama (Snow Lion) Why are people so drawn to the silent observation of a seemingly uneventful spectacle such as the construction of a sand mandala? The exotic and mysterious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism are based on one all-encompassing secret that the union of wisdom and compassion is the key to the attainment of bliss. If a handful of monks demonstrate a work of art based on the sincere motivation of compassion for others, peoplewill respond to that which resonates from deep inside us all.

The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala, with a foreword by the XIV Dalai Lama, is a stunning visual introduction to the artistic and spiritual heart of Tibetan or Vajrayana, Buddhism. The monks of the Dalai Lamas personal monastery combined with the Samaya Foundation to produce this outstanding visual narrative work.

According to the monks who create it, the Kalachakra Sand Mandala, also know as the Wheel of Time, , imparts peace and healing to all beings and to the planet. Remarkable not only for its beauty but also for the intricate process of its construction a delicate sifting of colored sands into elaborate patterns and symbols rich in meaning the mandala serves as a visual scripture and vital key to understanding the essential teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. The mandala represents the enlightened world and the brilliant colored sands represent its luminous vibrancy and creative spontaneity.

Bryant, the founder and artistic director of the Samaya Foundation, describing this mandala as a work of art; gives an explanation of its origins, development, place in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, and a step-by-step description of its use in religious initiation. He also reveals that the Dalai Lama shared this mandala with the world as a contribution to world peace. By bring out the secrets of the Kalachakra Initiation, based on assembling the mandala at the beginning of the initiation, and then dismantling it at the end, to whole communities of people, he hopes to encourage a greater openness in the display and accurate description of the mandalas, and to create a strong positive bond among those present and so plant fertile seeds of peace.

This lavishly illustrated volume captures each stage of the mandalas construction, the serenity and painstaking discipline of the monks, and the fascinating history behind its symbolism. The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala is a visual introduction to the artistic and spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism, essential for academic and museum libraries and recommended for seminary and public libraries.

The Theory and Practice of the Mandala: With Special Reference to the Modern Psychology of the Unconscious by Giuseppe Tucci, translated by Alan Houghton Brodrick (Dover) This classic exploration of the psychological and iconographical meaning of manadalas has been too long out of print.. It is a corrective to Jungs mistruial of facts and at the same time an important conceptualization of Tantra into a universal scheme of meaning.

Mandalas are complex arrangements of patterns or pictures used in Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism to represent the cosmos (or "wholeness") and to give expression to the infinite possibilities of the human subconscious. Though mandala means "circle" in Sanskrit, mandalas are more often squares or rectangles, filled with images and geometric figures that symbolize forces of the individual and collective psyche and the flow of energy to and from a central point. Believers use this powerful figure as a focus of ritual and a support for meditation‑through its use gaining possession of the energies signified by its images or symbols.

This intriguing, thought‑provoking study by one of the world's leading authorities on the subject examines the basic doctrine behind the theory and practice of the mandala in India and Tibet, by both Hindus and Buddhists. "As a whole," as the author says in his preface, "the spiritual background is the same: . . . the yearning to find out a way from time to eternity, to help the primeval consciousness . . . to recover its integrity." Individual chapters consider the doctrinal basis of the mandala, the mandala as a means of reintegration, the symbolism of the mandala and its various parts, the liturgy of the mandala, and the mandala in the human body. Of special interest to students of Eastern philosophy and art, this volume will also fascinate New Agers and anyone interested in the symbols and psychology of Asian cultures.

JAPANESE MANDALAS: Representations of Sacred
Geography by Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis ($29.95, paperback, 400 pages, University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 0824820819) HARDCOVER

Ten Grotenhuis has written the definitive English language introduction to Japanese Buddhist and Shinto mandalas, focusing on the iconographic meaning of the symbols and the ritual contexts of their creation and use in meditation and magical geography or mindscape. This broadly conceived study of the forms and functions of Japanese mandalas prepares the ground for more specialized investigations that will inevitably follow. Anyone interested in religious art will find images of exceptional beauty illustrating a readable yet authoritative introduction to the levels of meaning of the Japanese mandala. Specialists will find that ten Grotenhuis offers several improvements to ways of thinking about these pictures, for instance by placing Buddhist images in the context of pre-Buddhist Chinese texts.

This is the first broad study of Japanese mandalas to appear in a Western language since the well respected and massive study of  by Adrian Snodgrass, "The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism" (now out of print), which is a detailed analysis and description of the two great mandalas of esoteric Japanese Buddhism.
Ten Grotenhuis interprets mandalas as sanctified realms where identification between the human and sacred occurs. The author investigates eighth to seventeenth century paintings from three traditions: Esoteric Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and the kami-worshiping (Shinto) tradition. It is generally recognized that many of these mandalas are connected with texts and images from India and the Himalayas. A pioneering theme of this study is that, in addition to the South Asian connections, certain paradigmatic Japanese mandalas reflect pre-Buddhist Chinese concepts, including  Taoist geographical concepts. In convincing and lucid prose, ten Grotenhuis chronicles an intermingling of visual, doctrinal, ritual, and literary elements in these mandalas that has come to be seen as characteristic of the Japanese religious tradition as a whole.

This beautifully illustrated work begins in the first millennium B.C.E. in China with an introduction to the Book of Documents and ends in present-day Japan at the sacred site of Kumano. Ten Grotenhuis focuses on the Diamond and Womb World mandalas of the Esoteric Buddhist tradition, on the Taima mandala. and other related mandalas from the Pure Land Buddhist tradition, and on mandalas associated with the kami-worshiping sites of Kasuga and Kumano. She identifies specific sacred places in Japan with sacred places in India and with Buddhist cosmic diagrams. Through these identifications, the realm of the Buddha's is identified with the realms of the kami and of human beings, and Japanese geographical areas are identified with Buddhist sacred geography. Explaining why certain fundamental Japanese mandalas took the way they do and how certain visual forms came to embody the sacred, ten Grotenhuis presents works that show a complex mixture of Indian Buddhist elements, pre-Buddhist Chinese elements, Chinese Buddhist elements, and indigenous Japanese elements.

Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, an associate in research at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, is assistant professor of Asian and Japanese art history at Boston University.

THE MANDALA: Sacred Circles in Tantric Buddhism by Martin Brauen, translated by Martin Willson ($45.00, hardcover, 152 pages, 49 color and 62 b&w photos, Shambhala Publications; ISBN: 1570622965) PAPERBACK

A exceptionally well-photographed, this full color illustrated study of a traditional sacred art form, THE MANDALA focuses on a single initiation ritual presided over by the Dalai Lama, which the author underwent and received permission to document. Close-up photographs take us from preparatory stages then through the entire process. This offers some general insights into how mandalas are used within Esoteric Buddhism in its Tibetan setting.
After introducing the basic theory and practice of mandalas, Martin Brauen describes the main Tantric Buddhist worldview with the aid of computer-generated models. To provide a deeper understanding of the mandala's function, the rich and sacred symbolism of the famous Kalachakra mandala., in its various stages, is then explained in great detail.
Western interest in the philosophic, religious, and psychological aspects of the mandala. is discussed in the final chapter. Several different approaches to the mystery of mandalas are presented, not with the intention of transmitting incontrovertible truths, but as a means for readers to develop their own understanding of the Tantric worldview.

THE SAND MANDALA OF VAJRABHAIRAVA by Daniel Cozort ($8.95, paperback, 40 pages, Snow Lion, ISBN: 1559390565)

This small volume documents the creation of a Mandala at a museum in the USA. It offers a lively introduction to general aspects of Tibetan ritual practice.

CONCENTRIC IMAGINATION: Mandala. Literary Theory  by Charu Sheel Singh ($22.00, Hardcover, New World Literature Series: 78, South Asia Books, ISBN: 8170187761)

Singh attempts a general introduction to the Tantric and poetic basis of Mandala development.

MEDITATION SYMBOLS IN EASTERN AND WESTERN MYSTICISM by Manly Palmer Hall ($39.95, hardcover,   Signed edition, Philosophical Research Society; ISBN: 0893145432) PAPERBACK

The great Masonic occultist hall's writings on occult symbolism are uniquely popular and accessible while being authoritative and almost unique in American metaphysical writing. Hall's works represent the best early 20th century synthesis of  the Western occult traditions. Because of his unique perspective Hall offers some important perspectives and points of ritual practice in comparison that is not otherwise represented in the literature on mandalas in the West. Even  Carl Jung, whose work very much brought mandalas to the forefront of the western psyche, cannot top this shrewd occultist in his appreciation of western and eastern symbolism. See Masonic Symbolism.

The fruition of a lifetime dedication to the study and interpretation of both Eastern and Western mystical symbolism, this book consummates insight into these themes first presented by Mr. Hall in THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES. Elucidating the use and meaning of mandalas or cosmic diagrams within the context of mystical experience, the role of disciplines is accentuated through which the mind can be attuned toward the realization of the aspects of Deity in all forms that exist. A rich variety of mystical symbolism is amassed together with illuminating keys to its inner significance.

About the Author: Manly P. Hall was the founder of the Philosophical Research Society. In over seventy-five years of dynamic public activity, he delivered more than 8,000 lectures in the United States and abroad, and authored countless books, essays, and articles. In his lectures and writings, Manly Hall always emphasized the practical aspects of philosophy and religion as they applied to daily living. He restated for modern man those spiritual and ethical doctrines which have given humanity its noblest ideals and most adequate codes of conduct. Believing that philosophy is a working tool to help the individual in building a solid foundation for his dreams and purposes, Manly Hall steadfastly sought recognition of the belief that world civilization can be perfected only when human beings meet on a common ground of intelligence, cooperation, and worthy purpose.

MANDALAS OF THE WORLD: A Meditating & Painting Guide  by Rudiger Dahkle and Katharina Von Martius, illustrated by Katharina Von Martinus ($21.95, paperback, 286 pages, Sterling Publications; ISBN: 0806985267)

There is a practical craft and working-artist focus in this study, so that one can learn the compositional elements of Mandala design and coloring. Recommended.

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE STUPA by Adrian Snodgrass ($32.00, hardcover, Motilal Banarsidass Pub; ISBN: 8120807812)

The Stupa has a complicated symbolic, archeological and pilgrimage complex associated with them. Snodgrass has without a doubt made the most complete presentation of this infinitely complex phenomenon to create a useful and fascinating study. This work stands as a monumental study of the Stupa.

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