Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Mandalas for Engineering Design

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Mandalas for Engineering Design

Article excerpt

A Five Element System

Iterated meditation on a Mandala, as Leidy and Thurmann (1999, in appendices) explain, should lead the practitioner to ever more refinement. In particular, one is expected to transform the five gross modes of sense-related behaviour prevalent in the pre-given world to three more subtle modes of perception and behaviour (which we called 'meta-qualities' in the section on The Three Jewels). Now we will explore the exact steps how this transformation from 'real to ideal' happens and why it is relevant for Engineering Design.

As a complement to the ideal world represented by the five Buddha families, we introduce another Buddhist Mandala, which traditionally represents the pre-given world. In this, five figures are represented as worldly 'Kings' who are not completely liberated from fixation. They do, however, still hold the key to mystical knowledge and outwardly seem to act in a manner similar to the Buddhas (see for e.g. McArthur, 2002, p. 71). Buddhists suggest the reason for this similarity is that someone who strives to reach the pinnacle of achievement and also contribute to the best of all his fellows, will reduce chaos in his actions, and streamline, refine and evolve his preferred style of behaviour to achieve his goal. Ultimately he will exemplify a behavioural pattern which psychologists call 'archetypal' and Buddhists call 'achieving highest worldly dharma'. Without Meditation, this is the closest a person can get to true dharma. The so-called Mandala of the Five Kings is said to mirror the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, the two kinds of world (that of the Kings and that of the Buddhas) relate to each other not just by reflection, but by being integrated in the perception of someone sitting in the middle of both worlds. The one who sees both worlds and integrates them, thereby overcoming all duality and discrepancies, is the historical (and primordial) Buddha.

How can this be possible?

This is possible because, as we pointed out in 'On the difficulties entailed in reporting'; and 'The need for Maps and Methods', both worlds (the pre-given world of the Kings and the ideal world of the Buddhas) are actually based on a concept or mental construct. We can exist in a mentally constructed world only with a mental body and not with a physical one. Thus, as Long & Burnama (2005) point out from ancient Mahayana texts, '... the mental body of the (Buddha-to-be) ... proceeded to the (divine world), even as his (physical) body remained seated on the bank of the ... River'.

The practical use of this statement will become more evident in Figure 11a, where we show how a Buddha might separate his view, while seated in the centre of the two Mandalas. This figure is based on the view of the practitioner we introduced in Figure 4. We, the external observer (outside the plane of the page on which the diagram of the event is drawn) looking at a theoretical Buddha, would see him seated in the centre of one non-conceptual and two conceptual worlds. The only non-conceptual world is the one in which he is seated, meditating. Of the conceptual worlds, one is a pre-given divine world, to which he travels to with his mental body, and whereupon he becomes its central figure (the world of the Five Buddha Families). The other is a pre-given human world, in which he ordinarily acts with his physical body (when he is not sitting on the bank of a River) and where he has also reached the highest attainment and become the central figure (the world of the Five Kings).


Importantly however, we can show the very same situation integrated into a single geometry. As is described in Figure 11b, the theoretical Buddha of this paper may also make both his worlds coincident and coevolving. This integrates (and inverts) the geometry of the preceding figure. This diagram is technically speaking an octagon, but we loosely call it a diamond. …

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