Mandalas and Meditation


This Mandala one of the most popular paintings today. It could be considered the archetype mandala, rich in meaning and full of visual aids help us decode and remember its message. This version, is a strict reproduction of the "sand mandala" used by the Dalai Lama during his conferences to help iterate the concept of impermanence,causing it to become extremely popular in the West.

For now, we will consider it a simple “diagram” of the basic principles and structures to follow when Meditating.

The Mandala of  Kalachakra is visualized in the practitioner's mind as a three dimensional palace but it also exists in the physical world. A temple situated in Lhasa is a perfect 3 dimensional reproduction of the painting. The temple itself contains 722 Deities, in its center atop a golden lotus throne, a single Buddha : Kalachakra.

It is a 5 level structure, that when painted could be considered the top view of the structure, detail of the painting symbolizes a particular element of the Tantra. As our spiritual journeys grows we become more and more familiar with the Kalachakra Tantra.

Kalachakra Tantra

The Kalachakra Mandala, come with an interesting legend or history depending on how you look at it. Involving the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama. Legend has it that King Shuchandra, the king of the mystical Kingdom of Shambala, asked Shakyamuni Buddha for a Tantra or teaching that would allow him practise Dharma without giving up his wordly enjoyments and responsibilities. Much like what we all desire, a way to keep our comforts and remain faithfull to our beliefs and ideals. Buddha then began teaching this to King Shuchandra, who transcribed his teaching into a 60,000 verses that became known as the Kalachakra Tantra. It is upon this Tantra that the Mandala was created.



There exists three different Kalachakras, or “bodies” which Buddhist regard as vital to the understanding of life, linking our “being” to the Universe. This very concept that has prompted the Kalachakra Mandala to its current notoriety., offering a simple yet effective way to practice dharma and more importantly compassion.

1 – External Kalachakra – This can be considered as the basic sciences : Astrology, Astronomy and Mathematics

2 – Internal Kalachakra – The structure of the human body and its Energy System which are known as Chakras.

3 – Other Kalachakra – The Study and practise of the Kalachakra which leads us from our ordinary state to the state of Buddha-hood or Enlightenment.



Each of the 5 levels, or Mandalas if you will, represents a different “initiation” or support for Meditation. Starting from the outermost Mandala and finishing in the lotus center.

  1. Mandala of the Enlightened Body

  2. Mandala of the Enlightened Speech

  3. Mandala of the Enlightened Mind

  4. Mandala of the Enlightened Wisdom

  5. Mandala of Great Bliss - Lotus Flower center

Each mandala has the same features, 4 doors in the 4 cardinal directions and a perfect symmetry across the diagonals. They are listed in order from the largest to the smallest.


The purpose of these 5 Mandalas is to create a visual support for Meditation and what is to be achieved, perhaps even how to achieve it. One may wonder how exactly to penetrate into the Mandala, and therefore begin the slow yet steady journey towards Enlightenment. This information is extremely complex and even I could not allow myself to teach anyone the practice of Kalachakra, scholars and monks spend years if not decades, guided by Gurus (teachers) to gain sufficient siddhis (merits) that allow them to pass from one Mandala to the next. Each step taken towards the center is considered and achievement.



The 6 elements, may seem a strange concept, as science has it that there are only 4 elements : earth, water, fire, air. Buddhism accepts the existence of 2 other elements: space and wisdom. Although this may seem as strange concept, it is through these 2 elements that a Kalachakra adept is able to meditate on the Kalachakra Tantra.

Support for Meditation

This Thangka is only a support for your practise and gazing at it for countless hours without any prior knowledge or initiation by a true master would be equivalent to boiling water without a source of heat.

I do not want to come across as an expert in the field of Kalachakra Meditation, and although I consider myself a Buddhist, I myself have many Siddhis to gain before I would dare calling myself Kalachakra Guru or even adept.

It is safe to say that anyone who believes themselves to be an adept of Buddhism, will have heard of the Dalai-Lama probably the most veneered teacher of the Kalachakra Tantra.

I strongly invite you to visit the following links to find a more detailed explanation of the Kalachakra Tantra, and perhaps seek out a Guru for your practice:

Comments 11

  1. Pingback: India: The Teachings |

  2. Thank you for a most informative piece of writing and so well supported with images that help me grasp the over riding concept.

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  4. Tashi delek!
    Thanks for this wonderful detailed pictures. May you bleesed by all Buddhas and surrounded by many dakinis.
    Om tare tuttare ture soha

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    This is something my friend that, as mentioned in the article, only a Guru can teach you!

  6. Yes – this post is very useful as I just received my thangka today and have started meditating with it.

    Just a quick question: if I understand correctly, it can be hung on the wall and placed on the floor for this purpose but the directions like North, South, East, West are different depending if it is hanging or on the floor.

    Believe the East is symbolized by the dark blue/black section – i.e. the area which would normally be South in the picture above under “The 5 Mandalas of the Kalachakra Mandala” ?

    Thanks in advance,

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  8. I have a question please- my kalachakra painting has yellow at the top , Blue at the right but it has two black portals- the bottom and the left side on all are in black. There is no red- what does that mean? thanks so much

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    In strict terms the mandala should have a red gate – but in some cases the artist takes a certain amount of liberty and choses the colour he thinks suits his work best !

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