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  • Writer's pictureSurapsari Fujimaru

Living in Cosmic Mandala

The news about the assassination of the former Japanese prime minister took me by surprise. I was born and lived in Japan until moving to the U.S. at 25. I know the country well. It should be the last place for such a shocking tragedy.

The uneasy feeling of the world descending deeper into a dark era echoes through countless messages online. In an increasingly connected world (thanks to the internet and social media), we are more and more exposed to worry, suffering, and pain in faraway lands. It evokes our compassion and can motivate us to help people in need or contribute to positive changes. On the other hand, we may feel overwhelmed and want to look away not to get more disturbed than we are now.

We are all interconnected and breathing together in a cosmic mandala.

What is happening in the world influences our moods and emotions. At the same time, our individual states—such as frustration, hate, sorrow, joy, and peace—culminate in either the pain or happiness of the world. One person’s senseless act, irresponsible behavior, cruelty, or brutality could physically harm (or even kill) someone and hurt countless others psychologically. Another person’s kindness, thoughtful action, commitment, or service could benefit many others directly or indirectly.

Positive social change occurs when masses of people perform acts of goodwill. Our individual powers may seem too trivial to shift our direction. But the accumulation of those leads the world to the light.

It is more crucial than ever to see the suffering in the world in a panoramic view, find each person’s place and role in it, and take action that contributes to world peace.

This process demands us to stay present through global challenges. It makes us feel vulnerable.

How can we maintain calmness, compassion, and joy while staying open to the world’s pain?

How can we contribute to positive social change instead of getting swallowed by overarching anxiety and escaping into nihilism?

Mandala holds answers within.

What is a mandala? A mandala means a circle in Sanskrit, the archaic language of ancient India. It starts at the center and grows into a sphere by incorporating various patterns and designs. In a mandala, all elements are interconnected, and each plays a specific role.

The mandala is not only recognized as a sacred symbol in many cultures and religions but is also found abundantly in nature. Look around — you will see a mandala everywhere, in a fully blooming flower, spider web, orange cut in half, and more. You can use the mandala to explore relations between you, the people around you, and the world. Your mandala will reveal the universe where your inner world is a reflection of the outer world, and the whole world is a collection of individual persons’ states.

Mandala Exploration 1. Look within yourself It starts with observing your inner world.

Many of us are so busy connecting with others (Facebook! Instagram!) that we hardly know what is going on inside us. When we get stressed, we eat sweets, have a drink, go shopping, binge-watch videos, or do other things that distract us. We can’t stand discomfort and pain and look for a quick escape. If we don’t fully acknowledge uncomfortable feelings, they stay within us until growing into forces we can’t ignore anymore.

Turn off your phone and laptop and stay with just yourself. Listen to your inner voice instead of others. What is the state of your mind? What are you feeling at this moment? What do you want? Do you laugh like a child? If not, what is blocking you from doing so?

2. Explore your environment Expand your awareness to include people around you and your community. How are they doing? How do they affect each other? How do you describe the energy in your family/the circle of your friends/community/town? How closely or loosely are you connected with people around you? How do you engage with your community?

3. Connect with the larger world Further expand your awareness to contemplate your state, country, and the world. What is happening in each layer of the world? Where is your state, country, or the whole world heading?

4. Find your role and purpose How can you positively affect people around you and your community? Can you extend your goodwill or service to the larger world?

Create Your Mandala Mandala art helps us understand our interconnectedness, not intellectually but in a felt sense. You can draw a mandala with colored markers or make a collage with small pieces of colored paper in various shapes (printable shape patterns are available here). I prefer collage because it is easier and does not require artistic skills.

Tools & Materials

  • 9” x 12” construction paper (I like to use black or white) or a different kind of paper large enough for the base of collage art

  • Scissors

  • Printable shape patterns (print on different colored paper if possible)

  • Colored markers or crayons (if you want to draw a mandala instead of making a collage)


  1. Create a space where you can work quietly without any distractions. Turn off your phone, computer, music, and entertainment devices. Lay out all the tools and materials in front of you. Cut out the shapes you printed out if you are making a collage.

  2. Breathe deep until you feel calm. Tune into the essence of your being and notice its quality and energy. How do you describe it?: Does it have a color or shape? Is it shining brightly or flickering weakly? Find a shape (or think of a design) that represents your essence and glue (or draw) it at the center of the base paper.

  3. Add shapes (or designs) around the centerpiece to express the elements in your inner world, such as your thoughts, feelings, values, and energies. Add more shapes (or designs) to form a small circle and keep expanding it with additional pieces.

  4. Once you are done exploring and expressing your inner world, extend your awareness to the people around you (family, friends, colleagues, etc.) and your environment (home, workplace, etc.). Find shapes (or designs) that symbolize them and glue (or draw) them to grow your mandala.

  5. Keep expanding your mandala by adding shapes (or designs) to represent people and the environment in your community, state, country, and the whole world. What do you see in each phase of the world, and how do you describe it?

  6. When you are done with your mandala artwork, take the time to reflect on it. What thoughts or feelings come up? What is your mandala telling you?

The mandala art I have just introduced to you is a very personal practice. Its purpose is not to create beautiful artwork but to explore the universe on personal and global scales. I hope this practice is meaningful for you and helps you cultivate a life more fulfilling and nurturing for you and the world.


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