kbenedict49 January 12, 2016

Personally, I struggle with the use of this term. I’ve been making some form of this kind of drawing ever since I was a little child. As a child, I called them, Gods Glory Clouds. However as I became an adult, most people who were exposed to them referred to the drawings as mandalas, since the drawings seemed to remind them of Buddhist mandalas.

Lately I’ve been struggling with using this term. I see Buddhist mandalas as being completely different then the drawings I produce in a few very key ways:

1 – Buddhist mandalas are meditation devices like my drawings, but the visual outcome is already predetermined unlike my drawings. The best Buddhist mandalas are ones that are exact copies of already existing mandalas. Each Buddhist mandala is a religious icon used for religious practice.

2 – Buddhist mandalas are created with an intricate visual language steeped in Buddhist religion. Each color, stroke, shape, design and visual placement is signicant and purposeful to help with a Buddhist in their meditative practice. This traditionally leaves no room for personal interpretation. This is in contrast to my drawings which are nothing but spontaneous, personal interpretations. Instead of being  drawings aiming to be timeless or better yet, transcend time, my drawings are the embodiment of a fleeting state of consciousness in a particular time and place.

3 – Whenever I have heard people refer to the word mandalas, it is generally in the context of Buddhist mandalas, and I’m not a Buddhist.

For these three reasons I have begun to feel that to refer to my drawings as mandalas is a horrible example of cultural misappropriation. Because of this, I am going to refer to my drawings that have been called “mandalas” as something else. Anything else. Maybe my eight year old self was right and I should just call them by their original name, God’s Glory Clouds.