Shashi’s stunning mandalas (click on fullscreen).
Copyright © Prem Shashi. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.
There is surely some connection between my love of whirling like a dervish and my enjoyment of making mandalas. Both are centring techniques, and a whirling skirt is as circular as a mandala is. Whirling is the wild, active Sufi approach, while mandalas are the calm, quiet Buddhist approach to the same search – to find the eye of the chaotic whirlwind within our minds, the silent centre that is the seat of the being.
Both techniques, originally discovered at the Pune Osho ashram, have enabled me to enhance my centring and awareness while above all indulging my aesthetic sense – ever the source of my deepest joys. It is this aesthetic sense that has driven the creation of the mandalas on the conscious level – I always work only from a place of simple joy in the play of forms and colours, and wonder at the complex and decorative patterns that emerge from the lines I draw, as it were, blindly, without planning and without much concern for the end result. So it intrigues me that when I survey the finished piece, I frequently find aspects of the mystic vision and, sometimes, traditional esoteric symbols, encoded in it. Their presence in my work is never the result of any deliberate intention on my part; it is the magic of the mandala form and its universalising structure.
This structure makes the mandala a kind of diagram of both macrocosm and microcosm, and the hand-drawn geometries of my mandalas, with their slight irregularities, reflect the ‘hand-drawn’ symmetries of the natural world in a way that computer-generated designs could not. When I start a mandala, I first plot a grid of three or four concentric circles and a number of radiating lines: 10 for a five-point design, 16 for an eight-point mandala, and 24 for a 12-point design. This underlying grid ensures the regularity of the drawing as I work out from the centre (occasionally, in from the circumference), though there is also a great deal of detailed measuring with rulers and compasses involved. To achieve the complete symmetry of a true mandala, every curve of even the most complex and free-flowing shapes is carefully plotted on the grid.
With its evolution controlled by the mandala form in this way, the work has a rather ‘impersonal’, universal quality. And indeed there is no conscious intention of self-expression – the mandalas contain nothing of my personality or life experiences. Nor is there any engagement with creating a ‘great work of art’, since I have no idea what the whole design will look like until the drawing reaches the edge of the circle. I am often pleasantly surprised by the results (though there are a few notable exceptions). A similar process of discovery happens when I add the colours – usually gouache, sometimes with gel or metallic pen, or alternatively, decorative ‘bindis’.
The creative process does not end there. Each design is then scanned, then loaded into the Mac, where I add a coloured background, created in Photoshop, before having it giclée-printed onto canvas or other media. I now regard these mixed-media pieces as the true completed artworks.
Osho has repeatedly drawn a distinction between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ art, basing his words on the ideas of Gurdjieff. In essence, most modern art he labels ‘subjective’ because the artist’s focus is usually on self-expression and catharsis, and, as a result, its effect on the viewer is often to make him tense and disturbed. In contrast with this, ‘Objective art means something that helps you to become centred, that helps you to become healthy and whole. Watching the Taj Mahal in the full moon, you will fall into a very meditative space. Looking at the statue of Buddha, just sitting silently with the statue of the Buddha, something in you will become silent, something in you will become still, something in you will become buddhalike.’ (Osho, The Dhammapada, Vol 9)
If my mandalas create even a faint echo of this effect, then they are not missing their mark.
Abandoning a foundation art course in her native UK, Prem Shashi turned to art history and journalism, before eventually finding her way to the Osho Commune in Pune, and Prem Taro’s mandala studio. She has spent most of her time in that city (though no longer at the ashram) ever since, painting mandalas, creating equally vivid photographic-based art, writing, and editing books about Osho and other subjects. mandalascapes.com – worldinsplendour.com
Objective and Subjective Art – a compilation of excerpts where Osho talks about these two art categories
More about mandalas on Osho News