Mandalas in exoteric schools

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Jie Lei Jian
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:48 am

Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Jie Lei Jian » Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:28 am

Do exoteric schools of Buddhism use mandalas at all or is this practice restricted to esoteric schools? Many thanks!

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by rory » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:00 pm

there is a famous mandala used in many exoteric schools: the Pure Land mandala
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Jie Lei Jian
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:48 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Jie Lei Jian » Tue Mar 20, 2018 12:25 am

Thanks, Rory!

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by rory » Tue Mar 20, 2018 12:48 am

My pleasure! Here is an wonderful example from Japan, the famous Taima Mandala:
https://web.archive.org/web/20131215142 ... con-ex.htm
and there is a nice explanation of each section.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

User avatar
Vasana
Posts: 1712
Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:22 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Vasana » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:26 am

I remember reading a summary the other day about a sutra that mentioned the 5 budhas of the 5 directions and as such could be seen as an early foundation for the esoteric paths that use this mandala. Annoyingly I cant remember where I read it :broke:
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

Jie Lei Jian
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:48 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Jie Lei Jian » Thu Mar 22, 2018 5:19 am

Further thanks, Rory, and to you too, Vasana!

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1935
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Fortyeightvows » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:39 am

The Nichiren sect loves their mandalas

narhwal90
Posts: 611
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:10 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by narhwal90 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:42 pm

My understanding is Nichiren schools are somewhere in the esoteric spectrum, so inapplicable here.

User avatar
SonamTashi
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2017 7:30 pm

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by SonamTashi » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:31 pm

narhwal90 wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:42 pm
My understanding is Nichiren schools are somewhere in the esoteric spectrum, so inapplicable here.
This might deserve its own topic, but here goes. I know Nichiren has esoteric influences, but is it generally considered properly esoteric?

It seems to me that both Pure Land (especially certain strains) and Nichiren have esoteric influences, and some of those influences seem to be along the same lines (perhaps a result of Tendai?). Mandalas are one example. The nature of the Daimoku and Nembutsu are another(for example, Ippen said something along the lines of "the Nembutsu says the Nembutsu," and I'm pretty sure the Nichiren school has similar ideas surrounding Daimoku and Ichinen Sanzen?--I'm pretty uninformed about Nichiren so I welcome corrections because I could easily be wrong, and Ichinen Sanzen is particularly something I haven't looked into very much). You could maybe even argue that the figures of Nichiren and Amitabha have guru-like aspects in their respective schools. Is the Nichiren-esoteric connection deeper than this?

In my opinion, both Pure Land and Nichiren have been influenced by esotericism, but neither one of them are exactly esoteric themselves.
Formerly known as emceecombs

Also known as:

Kenyo

Josh

Amituofo :anjali:

tingdzin
Posts: 1049
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:19 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by tingdzin » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:52 pm

Vasana wrote:
Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:26 am
I remember reading a summary the other day about a sutra that mentioned the 5 budhas of the 5 directions and as such could be seen as an early foundation for the esoteric paths that use this mandala. Annoyingly I cant remember where I read it
You might be thinking of P.T. Denwood "Some Formative Influences in Mahayana Buddhist Art" which notes that the Suvarnaprabhasa Sutra (Sutra of Golden Light) contains probably the first mention of the four Buddhas in the four directions. It was translated into Chinese in the 6th century (?), in any case earlier than the emergence of Vajrayana. The four Buddhas, though, are slightly different from the familiar ones.

markatex
Posts: 283
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:33 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by markatex » Thu Apr 05, 2018 4:19 pm

If your definition of “esoteric” includes things like empowerments, initiations, and guru devotion, then Nichiren would have absolutely not have thought of his teachings as such. If you’re using it to mean the same thing as “mystical,” then sure.

narhwal90
Posts: 611
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:10 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by narhwal90 » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:14 pm

I believe Nichiren Shu provide various empowerments or at least talismans, the history of that goes way back to Nichiren himself, IIRC he made a talisman for his mother.

https://repository.wellesley.edu/cgi/vi ... collection

I generally view the distinction between exoteric and esoteric as sutra-only vs ritual practices for some transformative effect (perhaps with sutra support). On that basis I'd generally call Nichiren schools esoteric given the focus upon the gohonzon as object of devotion, occasionally instructed by Nichiren to be carried as a protective talisman. There are several examples of original gohonzon showing wear at folds and crumpling presumably due to being used in that way.

IIRC the Pure Land mandala is not given that sort of tantric significance, intended and used for different purposes.

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5533
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Queequeg » Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:28 pm

rory wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:00 pm
there is a famous mandala used in many exoteric schools: the Pure Land mandala
gassho
Rory
According to Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis in "Japanese Mandalas", the Taima Mandara is not really a mandala, but rather a "Transformation Tableaux". In Japan, the term mandala or rather mandara has been appropriated to describe many objects and images that are not technically mandala. For instance, check out Alan Grapard's paper on the "mandalization" of the landscape.

My wife did her dissertation on a type of painting genre that are commonly called mandara but really are not mandala. Like, really not mandala, at all, though it is speculated that some of the ways in which one relates to the paintings resonate with esoteric practices...

This is actually a very interesting phenomena in Japan and speaks to the saturation of esoteric norms and aesthetics in Japanese culture by the late medieval period.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5533
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Queequeg » Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:54 pm

narhwal90 wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:14 pm
I believe Nichiren Shu provide various empowerments or at least talismans, the history of that goes way back to Nichiren himself, IIRC he made a talisman for his mother.

https://repository.wellesley.edu/cgi/vi ... collection

I generally view the distinction between exoteric and esoteric as sutra-only vs ritual practices for some transformative effect (perhaps with sutra support). On that basis I'd generally call Nichiren schools esoteric given the focus upon the gohonzon as object of devotion, occasionally instructed by Nichiren to be carried as a protective talisman. There are several examples of original gohonzon showing wear at folds and crumpling presumably due to being used in that way.

IIRC the Pure Land mandala is not given that sort of tantric significance, intended and used for different purposes.
Though there are definitely esoteric influences, including direct references incorporating the Womb and Diamond World Mandalas on the Gohonzon, Nichiren's teachings are exoteric, IMHO. This has to do with the Tientai foundation of his teachings. Tientai, in itself, is definitely exoteric. See the MoheZhikuan Study Thread that Jikai is leading - that text states at the outset it is not a "secret" teaching. I don't think any contemporary Tendai folks would object to the statement that esoteric influences were incorporated long after Zhiyi.

My standard here is a question about how one can become a Buddha. In exoteric teachings there is no need for the esoteric rituals to actualize the encounter with Buddha and open the awakening path. One does not need to receive special teachings to quicken the stimulus-response relationship with the Buddha. That, in the Tientai view, is intrinsic in the moment of mind (ichinen). No empowerment necessary - its happening all the time, whether one realizes it or not. Acknowledging it and cultivating that dynamic function, after hearing the Buddha point it out, enhances the process.

In Nichiren's teachings, the mandala functions similar to the Taima Mandara - so maybe it would be properly described as a transformation tableau, ie. a narrative image based on the Lotus Sutra, not really a mandala.

I might be hair splitting. I can also see the other side of the argument that Nichiren is an esoteric inflected path, with the Daimoku functioning in a mystical manner that does not square properly with exoteric teachings.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5533
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Queequeg » Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:08 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:54 pm
I might be hair splitting. I can also see the other side of the argument that Nichiren is an esoteric inflected path, with the Daimoku functioning in a mystical manner that does not square properly with exoteric teachings.
Thinking about this a little more, the symbolic representation of ichinen sanzen does resonate with some esoteric sensibilities, but it is founded on the exoteric ichinen sanzen teaching, so we might say that esoteric teachings have been appropriated but their application and meaning is different.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

markatex
Posts: 283
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 1:33 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by markatex » Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:03 am

Noooo, there are no empowerments in Nichiren Shu. Amulets are another thing entirely.

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by rory » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:41 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:28 pm


According to Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis in "Japanese Mandalas", the Taima Mandara is not really a mandala, but rather a "Transformation Tableaux". In Japan, the term mandala or rather mandara has been appropriated to describe many objects and images that are not technically mandala. For instance, check out Alan Grapard's paper on the "mandalization" of the landscape.

My wife did her dissertation on a type of painting genre that are commonly called mandara but really are not mandala. Like, really not mandala, at all, though it is speculated that some of the ways in which one relates to the paintings resonate with esoteric practices...

This is actually a very interesting phenomena in Japan and speaks to the saturation of esoteric norms and aesthetics in Japanese culture by the late medieval period.
this is a very interesting discussion, academics and their research are to be respected but should we prioritize their intellectual understanding and categorizing of what is/isn't/should be a mandala versus the living experiences of practicioners? Are there any living people who practiced with the pilgrim mandalas your wife researched? Agreed esotericism was very influential, still is, goma ceremonies are very popular in Japan....
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 5533
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Queequeg » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:53 pm

rory wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:41 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:28 pm


According to Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis in "Japanese Mandalas", the Taima Mandara is not really a mandala, but rather a "Transformation Tableaux". In Japan, the term mandala or rather mandara has been appropriated to describe many objects and images that are not technically mandala. For instance, check out Alan Grapard's paper on the "mandalization" of the landscape.

My wife did her dissertation on a type of painting genre that are commonly called mandara but really are not mandala. Like, really not mandala, at all, though it is speculated that some of the ways in which one relates to the paintings resonate with esoteric practices...

This is actually a very interesting phenomena in Japan and speaks to the saturation of esoteric norms and aesthetics in Japanese culture by the late medieval period.
this is a very interesting discussion, academics and their research are to be respected but should we prioritize their intellectual understanding and categorizing of what is/isn't/should be a mandala versus the living experiences of practicioners? Are there any living people who practiced with the pilgrim mandalas your wife researched? Agreed esotericism was very influential, still is, goma ceremonies are very popular in Japan....
gassho
Rory
In the case of the subject of my wife's work, the term "mandara" was appended recently - 1960s, IIRC. They are maps of sacred space and largely symbolic... its not clear if people traveled through the images... there are similar paintings relating to the Kasuga Shrine where we have diaries of people who traveled to the shrine through the aid of the images... Its weird Japanese religion stuff.

The Taima Mandara is extraordinary... IIRC it may be a reproduction of an image of Sukhavati from one of the Dunhuang Cave murals. What were those monks doing in the caves at Dunhuang? No idea. No body really knows. Were they interacting with these murals in a manner similar to mandala? Incidentally, my avatar is from one of the Dunhuang caves depicting the Two Buddhas of the Lotus Sutra.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

User avatar
rory
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by rory » Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:05 am


In the case of the subject of my wife's work, the term "mandara" was appended recently - 1960s, IIRC. They are maps of sacred space and largely symbolic... its not clear if people traveled through the images... there are similar paintings relating to the Kasuga Shrine where we have diaries of people who traveled to the shrine through the aid of the images... Its weird Japanese religion stuff.

The Taima Mandara is extraordinary... IIRC it may be a reproduction of an image of Sukhavati from one of the Dunhuang Cave murals. What were those monks doing in the caves at Dunhuang? No idea. No body really knows. Were they interacting with these murals in a manner similar to mandala? Incidentally, my avatar is from one of the Dunhuang caves depicting the Two Buddhas of the Lotus Sutra.
Even more interesting, so I wonder what they were called and again how academics categorize things.
It may not be weird Japanese religion as I recall that Chinese meditators travelled via Daoist landscape paintings
bother I think it may have been in one of Livia Kohn's books, it quite interested me no end.

About the Taima Mandala, well I need to know more, it's so interesting, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, viz. your avatar in Kempon Hokke you vizualize the whole scene of Shakyamuni and Taho Buddha, the ceremony in the air, whilst chanting....so why not.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Varis
Posts: 130
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:09 am

Re: Mandalas in exoteric schools

Post by Varis » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:10 am

rory wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 1:05 am
Even more interesting, so I wonder what they were called and again how academics categorize things.
It may not be weird Japanese religion as I recall that Chinese meditators travelled via Daoist landscape paintings
bother I think it may have been in one of Livia Kohn's books, it quite interested me no end.

About the Taima Mandala, well I need to know more, it's so interesting, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, viz. your avatar in Kempon Hokke you vizualize the whole scene of Shakyamuni and Taho Buddha, the ceremony in the air, whilst chanting....so why not.
gassho
Rory
Agreed! I want to hear more about this.

Rory, do you remember what book Kohn says this in?

Post Reply

Return to “Mahāyāna Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 32 guests