Healing the World, Healing the Self: Comparing Sand Painting in Tibetan and Navajo Traditions Dr. David Otto, Professor of Religious Studies What is a Mandala? A highly symmetrical design Concentrated on a center Divided into four quadrants Built on concentric circles and squares Often using symbols to depict gods Designed to be used only once But what should I look at? What direction is the Mandala facing? • Black, in the east, is associated with the element of winds. Sometimes also seen as Green. • South is red, its elements is fire. • West is yellow, associated with the element of earth • North is white, representing water. North West East South Next, locate the Gates Each gate leads into the central palace Gates are T-Shaped and placed at the four cardinal points Where is the Central Palace? Mandalas work as two-dimensional and three dimensional objects simultaneously. So far, we have been viewing the temple from the sky—literally, a “god’s eye view” If we look at it in three dimensions… So where is the temple located? In Tibetan cosmology, the universe is comprised of hundreds of millions of cylinders. Each cylinder represents a universe On each universe, a temple for the gods is constructed. Temple as Mount Meru Mount Meru is a place which simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the singlepointedness of mind Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence Building a Foundation Space/ether represented by the farthest concentric circle Next, the air disk Then the fire disk Water disk Earth disk Earth Disk Water Disk Fire Disk Air Disk Space Switching Viewpoint So, when we travel back to our “god’s eye view”, how do we locate the lower disks/realms? Viewing the Foundation Earth Disk (Green) Water Disk (White) Fire Disk (Red) Air Disk (Black) What is the purpose of the Mandala? To reduce order to disorder through mediation Movement toward emptiness Shift through the three perspectives – Outer perspective – Inner perspective – Alternative perspective Outer Perspective Comprised by the six elements of earth, water, fire, air, space and wisdom; and all objects of smell, sight, taste, touch, sound and Dharma. Another division follows the cosmic buildup of the universe. Each universe is born, lives, and dies. The lesson: Impermanence Inner Perspective Consists of the body and mind of living beings, the psychophysical aggregates, the sensory and psychic capacities Includes the six types of living beings (gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings), the six energy centers (chakras) of the body Inner Perspective In short, the human body is a Mandala. Head as the dwelling place of the gods Trunk of body as Mount Meru Legs and arms as the four main continents of the universe Eyes as the Sun and Moon Alternative Perspective Describes the spiritual method leading to enlightenment in the form of Kalachakra (a special type of mediation based on the mandala) It describes the Generation and Completion Stages of meditation So, what about Navajo Sand Painting? Navajo Sand Painting In its earliest form, exclusively bound to healing rituals and exorcisms. With increased tourism, sand painting has been largely removed from its religious context, with much of its symbolism removed. Navajo Sand Painting In a literal sense, Navajo Sand Painting (iikaah) means “A place where gods come and go” In the religious context, sand painting used during Chantway rituals to restore the balance to the universe (Hozo) Hozo Navajo traditionally believed that the Dine (Holy Ones) placed them on Earth to keep the cosmos in balance through Chantways. When illness occurs, apparently a lack of balance between goodness and evil (both considered necessary for life to exist) Hozo and Sand Painting Only three Chantway Ceremonies make use of sand painting: – Blessingway (ceremony of cosmic rebalancing) – Holyway (rebalancing due to improper contact with gods or supernatural forces) – Evilway (rebalancing due to improper contact with ghosts or witches) Chantway Sand Painting • • Sand painting ritual occurs only during the last four days of the Chantway ceremony (which will last either five or nine days) Can only occur under the direction of a “Singer” who is trained by the Dine in the construction of the painting. How is a Sand Painting like a Mandala? A highly symmetrical design Concentrated on a center Divided into four quadrants Often using symbols to depict gods Designed to be used only once What Should I Notice? First, look at the border of the painting. Literally serves as a “containment field” so the supernatural beings cannot disrupt that which stands outside the painting Opening always on the East East Guarding Border What should I notice? Next, identify the gods. Clockwise from the top: – Talking God (B'ganaskiddy), the teacher – At the bottom, Calling God (Hastye-o-gahn), associated with farming and fertility – On each side, left and right, are two humpbacked guardians, seed gatherers and bearers. The two guardians usually carry tobacco pouches. Why These Gods? Mythic tale of journey and adventure to discover a cure to a disease Apparently, this sand painting will be used for an ill “patient” Once painting is complete, the patient will be seated in the middle of the work, thus becoming part of the painting Navajo Sand Painting in a Hogan What Should I Notice? The Symmetry The balance represents the mythic topography of the Navajo Nation. Each cardinal point associated with a color So, like Tibetan mandalas, Navajo Sand Painting represents a sacred cosmology, uses color associations, and possesses an outer (universal) and inner (human body) perspective.