Posts tagged mandala
Posts tagged mandala
A mandala is a symbolic, concentric diagram representing both the universe and the individual.
In the Buddhist tradition, a mandala is a guide to the process of self-discovery. In theory, meditating on a mandala helps one to travel progressively through their unconscious, ultimately reaching the center of their psyche.Then, armed with this self-knowledge, the individual can begin to strive outwards, working towards enlightenment and an end to suffering.
A mandala is seen as a symbolic means to discovering divinity by realizing that it resides within oneself.
So what? That’s a pretty abstract concept. How can a picture help one achieve enlightenment?
As an example, consider the life of artist-activist Lily Yeh. In her own words, “I got in touch with my inner light. Now I use it to ignite other people’s pilot lights. Making art in a destitute place is like lighting a fire in the dead of night.”
Below you’ll find a video in which Lily explains her life’s work. This is one of the most moving testimonials I’ve ever heard.
A brief synopsis:
Lily Yeh began her outreach in inner-city Philadelphia, creating mosaics (often in mandala or tree of life patterns) in abandoned lots. Her helpers included children, homeless persons, and drug addicts. Says Lily “We are all broken in one way or another. We put our heads together like broken pieces of tile.”
Lily formed a bond with a homeless drug addict, Joseph Williams, who eventually became sober and also became her spiritual guide.
Later, with the help of another guide, Lily felt called to heal the wounds of genocide in a Rwandan village. She helped the community construct an elaborate monument containing the bones of their loved ones, providing a sense of closure to their mourning. During this process, the people of the village learned how to build mosaic and pour concrete, both marketable skills.
Lily then asked the Rwandan children to create paintings of things they hoped to see in their future, such as cows and computers. Thanks to Lily’s catalysis, the village eventually became profitable by African standards, acquiring livestock, sewing machines, and solar panels.
So, give a listen to the amazing video below about Lily Yeh’s mandala journey based on her core inspiration (a love of art) which she transformed into an outward journey. Lily Yeh is a living example of a bodhisattva (apologies for the 14-second ad at the beginning).
Thanks to my poet friend Atticus for inspiring this article with his tribute to Lily Yeh:
“…Until an empty lot is endless resource,
your darkest devastation is transformation;
Until your weakness is equalized
by the hands of need;
Note: This is a segment of my Living Saints and Bodhisattvas series, first published on Gather.com. You can find links to the other segments here.