Mandalas are all the rage right now. You can hardly find a store that doesn’t carry an adult coloring book of mandalas and Prismacolor colored pencils. They’re really quite beautiful; these circular, usually colorful works of art. It’s easy to see why they’ve become so popular.
But what are they?
Besides being works of art, they are primarily a tool for meditation.
Traditionally, they’ve been used by Buddhist and Hindu ritual meditations to encourage its viewer to wholeness or oneness. It’s meant to be visually appealing to keep the attention of the viewer, and is circular in shape to represent wholeness as the organizational structure for all of life. It’s supposed to remind its viewer of their place in the greater picture of the universe as a whole.
It represents the sun, the moon, the universe, circles of friends and family, relatives and everything we know in our lives, including the individual’s journey through life.
More modern uses include purposes such as relaxation and stress relief. In a coloring book, it can be quite calming to fill in the repetitive, circular designs.
As Christians, we are warned in the Psalms to not put any evil thing before our eyes. Are mandalas something we should be wary of?
Per usual, I will give the disclaimer that I believe this is a personal conviction issue. The Bible never once mentions a mandala so we are left to interpret scripture and apply it to our own individual situations. If you have fallen prey before to some sort of idolatry through a blending of ritual practices from Christianity and other religions and philosophies, then flee. The Bible is crystal clear that if your right hand causes you to sin, to cut it off. If meditation tools like mandalas might cause you to sin, avoid them. Simple as that.
But for me, I will admit to owning a mandala coloring book, and even have a mandala tapestry in my yoga nook in my home. These facts likely make my feelings quite obvious, but I’ll explain anyway.
It’s been argued by Christians that we can unwittingly open ourselves to demonic spirits, and I’ll be totally honest, I don’t know if that’s totally accurate. As it relates specifically to mandalas, some have suggested that we risk some sort of demonic worship or something using a mandala coloring book, and I am especially skeptical of such an idea.
I know the enemy is cunning and tricky and sly, and can find his way into poisoning and perverting even the holiest of worship practices – song, prayer, even in studying God’s Word. But we do not avoid such acts just because it’s possible that our own sin nature and/or the enemy could warp our hearts into some sort of idol worship (usually of self).
I have a hard time believing that merely looking at or coloring in a mandala (often filled with beautiful depictions of creation, such a flowers and animals) is going to cause me to worship false gods, or couldn’t be done to the glory of the one, true God. At least, not anymore than looking at other works of art, such as paintings of landscapes, or coloring in the back of a Bob Evans coloring page with one of my kids might cause me to stumble.
The mandala tapestry that I have hanging in my yoga nook, for example, is lovely shades of blue and purple, and features flowers, peacocks, and my favorite animal of all, elephants. Whenever I view it closely, I’m reminded of my appreciation for, admiration of, and gratitude for such things (especially the elephants). I am not worshipping these things, but rather just being able to enjoy and admire their beauty. I don’t believe God created this vast earth, with an infinite number of species of plants, animals, and insects, and did not want us to enjoy them and appreciate them in anyway. He literally created them as companions for Adam, and while none filled the void they would eventually be met by woman, these were to be Adam’s to care for and enjoy. We can absolutely take in a cotton candy shaded sunset, be struck by the vibrant hues of fall, take comfort in the softness and tenderness of a pet… without it being idolatry.
Furthermore, however, we can also take in art with a deep appreciation for it without dipping into witchcraft, okay? Admiring the content or appearance of a piece of work, marveling at careful brush strokes and intricately drawn lines from a pencil do not equate to idol worship.
Because ultimately, things – objects, like mandalas – only have the power we give to them. It’s not idol worship if there’s no worship. I often think of the Israelites and the golden calf they crafted. The calf statue itself wasn’t the problem – their worship of it was. Coloring in a mandala to become “one” with the Universe and seeking to be the center of said universe and/or to live void of Gods presence, yeah, I believe God would take some issue with that. But coloring a mandala because coloring brings you joy and you think mandalas are pretty is, I believe, simply coloring pretty pictures for fun, and that’s that.
So, moral of the story: if you find them visually appealing, or if they allow you to focus more on things of God, or if you just like coloring them for fun, do you, boo boo. Have at it. I’mma do it, too.
But in the spirit of guarding our hearts, remember that it’s just a piece of art… albeit a beautiful one, but a piece of art none the less. We can find God in all things, but seeking Him and His Kingdom first is of utmost importance.