Mandala Teacher's Guide
1: Write about an Idealized World (Elementary, Secondary)
The mandala represents an idealized world that is sacred to Buddhism. Ask the students to write about their own idealized world, describing their "place apart" from the everyday world. It may be an imaginary place or a favorite place such as the piano bench, the pitcher's mound, the end of the dock, a special reading chair, or a spot where they are at one with nature. They might write a poem, a children's story, or a personal narrative.
2: Explore Idealized and Imaginary Worlds in Literature (Elementary, Secondary, Visual Arts)
Lead the students in a discussion of idealized or imaginary worlds they have encountered in literature.
Black Elk Speaks, by Black Elk
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Paradise, by Toni Morrison
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
"Eldorado," by Edgar Allan Poe
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree," by William Butler Yeats
"Imagine," by John Lennon
"Woodstock," by Joni Mitchell
The Wizard of Oz
What are people really looking for when they go to Innisfree or Woodstock? Do idealized worlds exist? If so, where do you find them? What images (e.g., gold, gardens, sun) suggest an idealized world? The students could create a mandala using symbols of an idealized world.
3: Study the Quest in Literature (Elementary, Secondary, Visual Arts)
A discussion of the quest as a theme in literature can focus on any number of ancient and modern heroes, such as Sir Gawain, Dorothy of Oz, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Moses, or Buddha. Have the students read a quest story. Then have them discuss the various symbols in the story and design a mandala based on the hero's journey.
4: Write about Your Quest
Making and meditating on a sand mandala requires great skill, discipline, and patience as well as commitment to a goal. Discuss these qualities with the students, noting that Buddhist monks believe that by disciplining their minds and remaining focused they will gain awareness and enlightenment. Have the students write an essay about goals of their own-achievements in sports, music, or school, for example-that require discipline, skill, patience, and concentration. How are those qualities useful to them? What rewards come from such commitment and hard work?