Please share this page!
An inspiring collection of original mandalas and articles about the peace, beauty and self-discovery found in the mandala.
A Fable of the First Mandala
One day, more years ago than there are stars in the heavens, an old woman sat upon a stone on a low hill near her tribe. A cool, damp breath hung in the air, and although the sun was directly above her, a thin fleece of clouds transformed the sunlight from rays of fire to a silver-honey glow. There were no shadows, and the old woman could see for a great distance in every direction. She uttered a prayer to the wind that the clouds might not flee and expose her to the heat of midday, and another to the sun that he have mercy on her, should her plea to the wind go unheard.
She was content simply to sit in such a beautiful place. Before her stretched the valley where her tribe now lived, although it was only the latest in a long history of nomadic travels. Yet each place was beautiful to her, for when all the land is your home, then all the world is your treasure. Through the center of the valley ran a stream, its softly flowing song reached her with a greeting and a caress. She smiled at its touch. A few trees dotted the grassy field, and on either side of the valley they thickened into woods, deep, dark, mysterious. It was as if the forest held the delicate valley in its green, powerful arms.
Behind her the valley turned rocky, the sea of grass slowly replaced by feeble clumps and hard-packed earth. Lizards and serpents skittered through the ebony gravel. Beyond the dirt and rocks, the earth rose up, mighty and noble, to a long string of peaks that stretched off in either direction. The mountains were high and majestic, rocky cliffs and snowcapped peaks. In her mind she saw the shadows of her children leaping from peak to peak, laughing at the earthbound stone below. She smiled, yet a tear formed in her eye and slowly slipped away.
The old woman turned back to the valley and looked upon the huts of her village. They clustered together in the center of the field, far from the forest, near to the stream. The simple homes stood elegantly against the breeze, all wood and hides and leather thongs, strung together with a masterful grace. She spotted the hut her daughter lived in with her children, and thought sadly of the homes and families missing after last winter’s freeze. One of the old woman’s sons had been among the lost, as had her husband, when one day they were killed on a hunting trip. When the party returned without them she wept for many days, and after that she did not speak at all for many, many more.
Beyond the valley, the arms of the forest grew closer together as if to tighten their grip, but never quite met. A narrow strip of grassland carried the stream off to a large lake in the distance, which in turn stretched to the very end of the earth. The lake’s waters were a heavy blue, just barely rippled by the gentle wind flowing across its skin. She wished to go there one day, to dip her fingers into its coolness and sip water from its breast.
As she thought of another lake many years in her past, and how plentiful were the fish there, how sweet the scent of the air, it occurred to her that there was as much to think upon within her mind as there was without. For all the splendor of the world they lived in, her thoughts and memories were as rich as the landscape, if not more so.
A bird suddenly swept too near her—she started and let out a cry, then laughed as the bird cawed and climbed back up toward the clouds. Perhaps a message from the winds, she thought, that her prayer had been heard.
All about her, in every direction—beyond the forests, the lake, the mountains—the edge of the world stood as a boundary to all that was knowable. No matter how far her tribe traveled or for how many days they walked, they would never reach its end. It would always be there, defiant, a magnificent circle penning everything in. It struck her then that she alone sat at the very center of the circle, then smiled and silently laughed at the realization that it could be no other way. She had always been the center, and would continue to be so until she was no more. Perhaps even beyond that. Maybe only then would she be free to break through the walls of the world to join the mysteries that surrounded her. With this thought she realized that the world did not stop at the edges of her body, hovering about her like a warm mist clinging to her skin, but rather penetrated deep within her in a richness of thoughts and feelings and memories vast beyond comprehension. The world was in her dreams and in her heart, experiences flowing in and out of her with no real boundary to separate them. She lived her life in the world and the world thrived in rich complexity within her.
And in the center of all that? she wondered to herself. Is there a final place within me, a point beyond the world and the thoughts and the memories? Is there a tiny seed that is the uncorrupted essence of me?
The old woman bent to pick up a stick from the ground, and began to trace a circle in the earth.
May 15, 2003 by Peter Patrick Barreda. Material copyright 2011, all rights reserved.