This east-meets-west mixed-media painting is a non-traditional mandala created with acrylics and peacock feathers on canvas. It combines the geometry of a cathedral rose window, with the beauty and symbolism of the peacock found in eastern spiritual traditions. Specifically, the design is the tracery of the 16th century rose window at Saint-Pierre cathedral in Beauvais, France.
Throughout the world, in many different cultures and religions, mandalas have embodied different forms of artistic expression and been used as tools for spiritual development. Mandala, literally circle in Sanskrit, is interpreted as being a representation of the spiritual universe. In North America, mandalas are used by native people in the form of ceremonial sand paintings and medicine wheels, while in Europe, pagan walking labyrinths and Christian cathedral rose windows are forms of mandalas intended to enable communion with the divine. In Asia, especially in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist paintings and sand drawings, mandalas are created to achieve higher states of consciousness. Psychologist C.G. Jung believed that meditating on a rose window or mandala harmonize the energies of the individual self with the collective unconscious.
Peacocks are conventionally admired for their beauty and grace. In Buddhism peacocks symbolize purity and their feathers are used in purification ceremonies. As explained by Geshe Lhundrup Sopa in his book Peacock in the Poison Grove, peacocks are also seen as metaphors for bodhisattvas, those great beings who are dedicated to achieve spiritual enlightenment not just for themselves, but for the benefit of all. Peacocks are able to thrive by eating plants that are poisonous for many other creatures. Likewise, bodhisattvas are able to transform the poisons of conventional existence ignorance, attachment and aversion into the medicine of wisdom and compassion.
Similarly, western Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, while teaching Tonglen meditation practice explains it is believed that peacocks eat poison to brighten the color of their feathers. Simply explained, Tonglen is the practice of taking and giving with the breath. The practitioner visualizes breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out relief for them. Chodron uses the peacock as a symbol of the practitioner, consuming the suffering of the world with the purpose of transforming it into happiness for all beings.