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While on the one hand, the mandala is regarded as a place separated and protected from the ever-changing and impure outer world of samsara, or a place of Nirvana and peace, the view of Vajrayana Buddhism sees the greatest protection from samsara being the power to see samsaric confusion as the "shadow" of purity (which then points towards it).

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The mandala can be shown to represent in visual form the core essence of the Vajrayana teachings.

The mind is "a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe." The mandala represents the nature of the Pure Land, Enlightened mind.

Because of the relationship that exists in the Tantras between the outer world (the macrocosm) and man's inner world (the microcosm), every symbol in a yantra is ambivalently resonant in inner–outer synthesis, and is associated with the subtle body and aspects of human consciousness.

The Rajamandala (or Raja-mandala; circle of states) was formulated by the Indian author Kautilya in his work on politics, the Arthashastra (written between 4th century BCE and 2nd century BCE).

In many tantric mandalas, this aspect of separation and protection from the outer samsaric world is depicted by "the four outer circles: the purifying fire of wisdom, the vajra circle, the circle with the eight tombs, the lotus circle".