In Vajrayana centers, you will see mandalas—drawn, painted and occasionally three-dimensional. During ceremonial empowerments, you are guided into a mandala—its environment, deities and you ware introduced to the central deity that represents you. Later, you receive instruction in how to experience and navigate the mandala as your personal path to enlightenment.
The day of receiving my first empowerment, I sat in the front with great expectations and lots of ignorance. I sat with the thought, "This is my choice. This will help me to not get lost in life and to find what I seek." I was not at all skeptical.
Mandalas are not just a personal fascination of mine. They are the beating hearts of the entire Vajrayana tradition. Every deity (and they are countless) has a unique mandala. So I naively thought, "Is this MY deity mandala? My ticket to enlightenment?"
Instinctively, I sensed the answer, "Probably not," but I still felt that this empowerment would be a big change maker. I'd heard mandalas were gateways of liberation, a means of freeing ourselves. I wondered, "Are they real?" "Is that even important?"
After four decades of exploring, it is extremely difficult to say if they are real. And the question has become moot as I gradually came to access the deeper meaning of "real".
My mandala dictates the experience of every breath, awake or sleeping. I've been coverted. I've been mandala-ized!
Of course, I am too often defeated and seem to become un-mandala-ized but that is also part of the mystery. Mandala is the place from which once cannot fall out of grace. It handles everything from toothpaste to meditation.
The pleasure of this is like worshiping pure water continuously coursing. There are no errors!