Mandalas have traditionally been used in many religious and spiritual practices to represent the universe. Some are used in meditation practice, healing, or others to symbolize different stages of enlightenment, or to teach a lesson. The meaning and uses for mandalas are vast, but the form we engaged with are called Earth Peace Mandalas, shown to me by a friend, Veronica Ramirez.
Veronica has been building these mandalas for many years, bringing this art to festivals, ceremonies, community events, and gathers of many kinds. Her intention was to create a sacred space where people could create something beautiful together. This art form uses all-natural foraged materials gathered by a group of volunteers. In this way the mandala integrates localism, seasonality, and reminds us of our connection to nature.
Some of the intrigue of earth mandalas comes in the organic, group participation that is necessary for its design. Often times there is a general vision or skeleton structure that the group starts with, but the rest is left to the collective creativity of the group to feel out. It is inspiring to stand back and see the spectacle that was created by many hands at work after hours of detailed and thoughtful placement.
The reason our group chose this medium was because we saw so many ways that it aligned with the philosophy of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. We saw that it involved the gift of shared labor, or a shramadana, by foraging and also creating the physical mandala. We found the work itself to be meditative, and encouraged individuals to be in a more enlightened state of mind, a component that resonates with the meaning of sarvodaya, or “the awakening of all.” In addition we supported the food sales of a local Tibetan organic farmer, supporting our global mission to encourage sustainable farming practices. And as a result of this event we strengthened our relationship with other non-profits that share a similar mission in Madison.
A few items that added substance to the event were having a group meditation led by a member of a local Buddhist chapter, a group discussion of chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka, serving Sri Lankan cuisine, and having a children’s table that offered henna and mandala coloring pages.
The Farley Center was so impressed with our mandala that they have already scheduled our next for this summer! If you are in the area, we’d love to see you there.
Written by Bridgette Weber
Member of the Sarvodaya USA Board of Directors