Taizokai (Womb World) mandara, Heian period, Japanese. Hanging scroll, colour on silk.
Pictured above is the iconic Womb World mandara, the best preserved and oldest of its kind from Japan. A diagram of the cosmic universe is presented, which consists of 12 zones, each of which represent one of the dimensions of buddha nature (such as, purity, wisdom, and universal knowledge).
The arts flourished during the early Heian period in result to the emphasis Shingon placed on mediation and ritual. Artistic forms such as sculpture and painting gave followers visualizations of Buddhist deities, and allowed them to ponder presented concepts of the religion.
While difficult to view without close-up observation, note the figures holding lightening bolts. This symbolizes the power of the mind to eradicate human passion.
Here I would recommend Gardner’s Art through the Ages: Non-Western Perspectives by Fred S. Kleiner, particularly the chapter ‘Japan before 1333,’ which I used for reference while writing up this post.
Photo via the Wiki Commons. This artefact is courtesy of and currently located at Kyoogokokuji (Toji), a Shingon teaching center in Kyoto, Japan.