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Michal's question on teaching Mandalas


From: Judy Decker (judydeckeriad_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Oct 06 2003 - 20:15:31 PDT

I read Michal's question on how to teach mandalas to
students. I am wondering what others thought on this
topic. Anyone have anything to add?

From Michal,

> I was just curious as to how those of you who teach
> mandalas approach the Tibetan culture and their
purpose for creating mandalas. My step mother-in-law
is Tibetan and it is such a complex culture with deep
political interference with China that I'm not sure
I could begin to do it justice. What brought this to
mind was all the discussion recently on the
political correctness of teaching Native Americans,
Aboriginious, and Africa. Just tossing out food for

My answer to Michal,

I know where you are coming from. I looked at the
some of the links posted. The computer generated ones
are very similar in appearance to the Tibetan Mandalas
- yet there is no mention (or none that I could find
at a glance) of using them for inspiration - or
anything about the Tibetan culture.

The difference is one can teach mandalas with no
mention of Tibetan Mandalas. Mandalas bridge all
cultures....Now if one were teaching Tibetan Mandalas
- then that is a different story. Mandala is a word
that is used for circle design in many cultures and is
not just used with Tibet(or at least is used by "us"
to describe the circle designs of that culture - I
first saw it used to describe circle designs in
African cultures and drawings of preschool children
before I knew anything about Tibetan Mandalas. In
stages of drawing with children - the first symbols
they draw were referred to as mandalas in many texts -
this is a common observance across all cultures). Very
few list members teach Tibetan culture - or Tibetan
Mandalas (in my observance of posts). Sharon Kennedy
did a very thorough unit a couple of years ago. I
never did a unit on Tibetan mandalas - but did
introduce them to my students as a "character
development" lesson - we did the Mandala Ice Breaker
...Students were encouraged to learn more about the
culture via the Internet (with parent permission). I
had planned a unit but was not at school to do it
(none of the social studies teachers taught Tibet in
my school).

The word mandala has almost become synonomous with
circle design now. Many use this definition:
>>a symbol representing the effort to reunify the self
Which does not refer to Tibet - or any culture. That
comes from phychoanalysis. Others simply use this
>>A circle, ball, wheel, ring, or circumference

When I do the lesson plan for the site - I will put
some of these observations - and your concerns. All
cultures deserve respect - awareness - and

Thanks for bringing this up. I hope others will have
something to add. We need some "food for thought"
every now and then.

Judith Decker
Incredible Art Department
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