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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Mandala?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Mandala

Conceptualizing the Thread of Personal Unfoldment

A useful image to help us conceptualize the thread of personal unfoldment is the mandala. By mandala I mean a field with a midpoint, such as a sphere with a center. The field is the totality of your experience – your thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, actions; it is the totality of your life at each moment. The center is where Being's dynamism touches your field, touches your mandala. This is where the transformation of experience begins, which then ripples through the whole field. The center is where you are – the essential aspect or state in which your soul is manifesting, which is where you find your identity, your true nature. Being interacts with your mandala by touching you right at the center – in fact, the touch is what makes it your center – which has a rippling effect throughout the whole mandala.

Content of the Mandala in the Second Journey

We see this most easily in the second journey, which is the journey with presence. You are aware of your essential presence, but other things are also going on in your mandala. You may be experiencing a particular quality of presence, such as the Personal Essence or Peace or Compassion. This quality constitutes the center of the mandala, and the rest of the mandala is composed of your feelings, your memories, your internal dynamics, your actions—the whole emotional inner atmosphere and how it manifests in your life, as well as the entire perceptual sphere. So we can say that the way Being is manifesting in you at any moment is the center of your mandala. Being touches your mandala through its essential manifestations, which are its center. This center is a changing point, and this point, as it changes, forms a thread—your essential lifeline. Thus, in this journey, the mandala is quite clear, and it is easy to see the thread. In the second journey, the distinguishing characteristic of your personal thread is the essential presence, something that is not available in the first journey. Because of this, we can’t clearly talk about unfoldment—the direct impact of the dynamism of Being in the soul—in the first journey, even though there is a current of experience. We can speak about unfoldment quite precisely in the second journey because the center, which is the essential presence, is arising as one quality after another.

Interactions Between the Center and the Field of the Mandala

Interactions are always happening between the center and the field of the mandala, for the quality of presence arising is responsive to and impacting what’s going on in the totality of the mandala. If, for instance, you are feeling powerless and helpless, the center of the mandala becomes the Black Essence (the quality of essential power) after a while because it is responsive to what’s happening in the mandala. The response is also related to the history of your mandala and its location in the universal mandala. In other words, your personal mandala, which is your experiential world—the totality of your consciousness with its essential presence—is the result of both your personal history and your interaction with the larger mandala of the whole world, within which it is situated. However, beginning in the second journey, your experience within the mandala is determined not only by these two factors, but also by Being’s optimizing dynamism arising through the center of your mandala as essential presence.

Relevance of the Mandala to the Three Journeys

The way I have described the mandala does not exactly apply in the first journey; it is a picture more appropriate to the second journey. This is because in the first journey, the optimizing force is not yet a directly felt experience, not a direct recognition. It is experienced more in the effect it has on the mandala, for even though the movement is toward presence, presence isn’t manifesting in consciousness yet. In the second journey, presence manifests directly in experience, and this presence is the center of the mandala. That presence, that center, is you, and the mandala is the totality of your experience. In the third journey, the center and the mandala become coemergent, for everything at this point is presence.

Soul is the Totality of the Mandala

We can also discuss the mandala in terms of the soul. The soul is the totality of the mandala. Essence arises in the soul, but for a long time throughout the second journey, the soul is not completely essentialized; only part of it is. The rest of the field of the mandala – the rest of the consciousness of the soul – is composed of all your mental, emotional and physical experiences. The thread is defined by the center of the soul, and we can know that center most specifically and in a delineated way by recognizing the essential presence and what quality is manifesting. This is the journey with presence, where the soul is moving toward wholeness, toward the integration of the mystery, through the dynamism manifesting the essential presence in its various qualities and dimensions.

The Deepening at the Center of the Mandala

In actuality the soul is always unfolding, for it is the nature of the soul to change and flow; however, the unfoldment of her identity is a subprocess that forms the deeper and most central part of the inner journey. It is the deepening of the center of the mandala while the unfoldment of the soul is the transformation of its general field. The center keeps deepening until it arrives at the dimension of depth itself, the absolute mystery. When this happens the identity remains the same. Who one is, what one is, is unchanging as the stillness of the absolute. We find ourselves, or the center of our experiential mandala, to always be the unchanging mysterious absolute, beyond being and nonbeing. The mandala is bound to be in continual change: the field of the soul will continue to transform and unfold. Yet, the center and ground of the soul, her conscious sense of her true nature, will always be the absolute. This is one of the implications of the dimensions of descent being all a matter of various degrees of integration of the manifest dimensions into the absolute. The inner nature of all these dimensions is always the absolute; thus, as the soul self-realizes these dimensions, the depth of her identity continues to be the absolute.

Transforming the Mandala

But the optimizing thrust does not function only by focusing on the problems or the barriers. It illuminates the entire mandala. Sometimes the illumination is focused on understanding the essential presence itself. Engaging in that understanding can lead to the central part of the second journey, which is the luminous thread itself, the awareness of the presence itself. You are aware of it, and you are feeling it as the center of your experience because it is the deepest and most transformative force in your experience. And it will affect the totality of your experience. I don’t that mean that it will transform your experience totally every time this awareness arises. But it is a force, so it will begin impacting, transforming, and clarifying your experience. So the work, then, which is the work of inquiry, is a matter of being present, being aware of the presence, and of understanding it and its interaction with the rest of your experience. The presence will change from one quality to another, from one dimension to another, and these transubstantiations will bring about changes in the totality of your mandala. They will activate different object relations, different identifications, different feelings, different memories. All the situations and relationships in your life will be impacted. What is required of us is not just to know the thread, but also to know its relationship to the totality of the mandala. Because if we focus on one or the other, we tend to split our experience. If we focus only on the thread, only on the essential presence, without paying attention to the totality of the mandala, then we can become spiritual materialists. Some essential development will occur, but it will be split off from the rest of your soul, so a large part of your soul is not touched, not transformed. On the other hand, when people always focus on their problems and difficulties, or only on their external circumstances, they lose track of their essential presence. Either way, there’s an imbalance. So we need to be aware of understanding both the essential presence—the center of the experience of the mandala—and the totality of the mandala.

Using the Analogy of a Mandala

Holy Wisdom, then, is living and working on oneself in a way that is informed by understanding Holy Work and Holy Plan. We can use the analogy of a mandala to describe this understanding: The mandala is the whole universe. Your consciousness, your soul, is the center of this mandala, and the rest of the universe is the environment surrounding it. The totality of the mandala is unfolding according to an intelligent pattern; it is a dynamic mandala. The unfoldment of the center of the mandala is therefore part of the unfoldment of the whole mandala, and we can also say that it is the result of the interaction between the inner nature and potential of the center with the totality of the mandala. In other words, you are not separate from the rest of the world. You are part of the universe, and so you are always influenced by, and influencing, the rest of the environment. This mandala is the totality of your experience and your perception—that is really what “mandala” means. The mandala is a symbol for your experience, in which you are the center. The center of the mandala is a point, and the point is the center of the soul. Living according to this understanding is wisdom. Practicing according to it is the Work.

Facets of Unity, pg. 175

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