There is an old occult maxim which declares that—" Nothing is concealed from him who knows." No Mason is bound to conceal that which he has never learned in the Lodge. All else he receives as he learns any thing, places his own estimate upon its value, and becomes individually responsible for its use. It must be a matter of conscience, and be weighed in the balance of duty, and every one must abide by the result. If Masonry has lost the Royal Secret, or if it never possessed it, or if it was wrenched away in the very name of Religion little more than a century ago, all the same, it belongs to the Craft as the Heir-apparent of the Old Wisdom. But the time has come when no cable-tow can bind it. It now belongs to Humanity equally with the Mason. To this end has it been preserved throughout the centuries.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Raining Fire - The Dew of Hermon

"To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it."...St. John the Evangelist
"His name is called the Word of God." Each and every brother is told of the importance of the search for the lost word.
I remember the evening well, the night of my Entered Apprentice Degree, as I was being guided blindly in what seemed like a rather a large circle, I heard a deep baritone voice proclaim as of from atop a mountain: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord Commanded the Blessing, even life for evermore."
As the chaplain of my lodge I have since read the scripture quoted above numerous times, Psalms 133.
One evening while practicing my memorization my attention was drawn to the "dew of Hermon", a symbol I was unfamiliar with.
I had long ago realized that nothing was arbitrarily placed within the highly symbolic rituals of Freemasonry, and as I was to find out the "dew of Hermon" was another good example of the genius of Freemasonry.
For those unfamiliar with my Masonic writings please allow me to share a little of my personal belief as to the highly and little understood symbolic structure of Freemasonry. It is my contention that in order to understand the higher purpose of Freemasonry you have to go beyond face value and literal interpretation of the many symbols contained within the tradition, and only then will you understand the higher level of "Unity" the psalmist was referring too.
History has revealed that the rituals and symbols of our tradition arrived on the scene during the late sixteen and early seventeen hundreds, a time aptly known as the Age of Enlightenment, a period of history that experienced an occult revival of sorts, a reaction to mainstream religion gone bad with its oppressive and overly judgmental dogma.
Amongst the many subjects our learned brothers found interesting at the time were Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah, all very old traditions that used a highly symbolic language as a mode of transmission, all subjects the religiously controlled state would prefer be avoided.
The God of old no longer made sense, centuries of suppression and inquisition had taken their toll, the cultural and intellectual elite decided to rewind, looking again at the past and at the same time taking a closer look at nature and its reality for the real God.
The church saw this exploration as an affront to its authority, which caused many to discuss their findings privately, away from prying ears. What better way to transmit their findings than to create rituals drawn from the wisdom of the past and harmonize it with the science of the present, teachings the literalists would never get.
What many of these brothers began to perceive is that much of the Bible could only be understood through the highly complex language of symbolism, the very same symbolism found in Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah.
The question then becomes, why include the "dew of Hermon" in the Entered Apprentice Degree of Freemasonry?
I assure you that if research the 133rd Psalm in context to the Masonic usage you'll find simplified reasons as to its inclusion in the Entered Apprentice Degree, brotherhood, unity of brotherhood, even references to the rainy season in Palestine, all interesting, yet probably off the mark, all literal.
Let’s look to the past, the time when men spoke the language of symbolism.
"The dew of Hermon, the Holy Spirit, descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there *I.A.O. commanded the blessing, life for evermore..." Psalm cxxxiii.
This dew was also Hermes, the Sixth Messenger or Teacher of Truth and Morality to men.
The ancient significance of "dew" is that of teaching or instruction. This idea is represented in the hieroglyphs of the Egyptians by wavy lines in the form of a double arch. In Hebrew the word (ire) signifies drops of water and likewise to teach. The idea in a symbolic sense is that of instruction which prepares man for the gaining of wisdom, and rain which prepares the earth for bearing crops.
This same symbolism runs back through the ages and shows again the link connecting all the religions with a Secret Teaching given to each Messenger and he in turn transmits it to the people of his generation in a manner best suited for their intellectual development."...Brother Thomas Milton Stewart, Symbolic Teaching: Or, Masonry and Its Message, 1914
(I.A.O. is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. "I" is Isis, Nature, ruined by "A", Apep the Destroyer (Apep was thought to live in the underworld, he was sometimes thought of as an Eater-up of Souls and usually symbolized as a snake) and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris.)
As we can see in the paragraph above Brother Stewart clearly believed the meaning of the "dew" could be found in Hermeticism, the science of Hermes.
"The teachings of Hermes -- the Hermetic tradition -- is one of the oldest spiritual traditions in the world, and while no direct evidence links the Emerald Tablet to Eastern religions, it shares uncanny similarities in concepts and terminology with Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In the West, the tablet found a home not only in the pagan tradition but also in all three of the orthodox Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and many of the most heretical beliefs of the Gnostics are also openly expressed in it."...Dennis William Hauck, A Hyper-History of the Emerald Tablet
In the Emerald Tablet referred to above we find a passage I believe significant to the "dew" and it's placement in the symbolism of Freemasonry.
"It ascends from the earth to the heaven. It extracts the lights from the heights and descends to the earth containing the power of the above and the below for it is with the light of the lights. Therefore the darkness flees from it."
If we look closely at the sciences known as Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah we find a similar esoteric allusion, the process of the divine Spirit descending down into Matter, called involution, followed by the process by which the divine ascends back upwards out of Matter to Spirit, called evolution. When we once again look at Psalms 133 we see this involution when the "dew" descends upon the mountain, only to be followed by the evolution when the heat of the day draws the dew “back to whence it came”. Talk about the Yin and Yang.
While researching Hermes I came upon an interesting passage from A General History of Freemasonry: Based Upon Ancient Documents by Emmanuel Rebold
"The Egyptian priests inform us that Hermes, in dying, said: "Until now I have been exiled from my true country, to which I am about to return. Shed no tears for me. I return to that celestial country whither all must repair in their turn. There is God. This life is but a death."
I was struck by the similarity of a verse found in the Fellow Craft Degree: "remembering that we are traveling upon the Level of Time to that undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns." Coincidence? I think not, it's not above the original brothers to give subtle hints as to where to look for the keys required to unlock the mystery.
Now let’s look to the science of Alchemy (a metaphoric science very much entwined with Hermeticism), where the heavenly dew is considered the universal solvent, the liquid form of the Stone which dissolves all old forms, the self-organizing matrix for the rebirth of new forms, symbolic of ego death and re-creation.
"The truth, symbolized by some alchemists as dew from heaven, had descended into their hearts, and they had all gathered it upon the tops of mountains, after having spread clean linen cloths to receive it; and thus, in one sense, they had secured each for himself, and in his own way, the universal solvent."...
What a beautiful passage highlighted by "truth" and "clean linen cloths". Each Freemason seeks 'light', symbolic of truth, as for clean linen clothes, you can't but help think of the white lamb skins worn by all brothers, symbolic of purity.
Dew in the magical world of Alchemy is also symbolic of divine incarnation or manifestation from Above. Alchemists believed natural dew contained the divine Salt, thoughts of the One Mind, which could transform the Sulfur and Mercury of the First Matter. In many ways, dew represented the Elixir or contents of the cup of God, the Holy Grail.
To this point we have seen how the dew may be interpreted in the traditions of Hermeticism and Alchemy, lets now look toward the Kabbalah, which I believe offers the deepest insight.
Two things you should know before we begin 'Mem' is actually a letter from the Hebrew alphabet, which is symbolic of water, and given the numerical value of 40, a symbolic number that is mentioned one hundred and forty times in the bible.
Nun is also a letter found in the Hebrew alphabet, in Aramaic, Nun means "fish", and the last letter you need to be acquainted with is Shin, symbolic of fire and oil.
The Mem, the waters of the sea, which is alluded to in the penalty portion of the Entered Apprentice Degree, is the natural medium of the Nun, the fish. The Nun "swims" in the Mem, covered by the waters of the "hidden world." The simple fact is that the fish doesn't even realize it’s in the water. If you tried to explain it to, the fish, they'd probably say, “Water? What's water?”
They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see, that is until they get outside of it.
We are told in the Old Testament that the nation of Israel was in the wilderness for forty years, which relates to numeric value of Mem. It was during this time God sustained the people by providing them with manna, which is usually translated as a “bread,” a type of food.
The manna is said to come down from shamayim.
Shamayim literally means “*fiery waters,” but is usually translated as “heaven.”
Shamayim is a “dew, or moisture.” and Manna is spelled Mem-Nun (MAN). Mem is water--that is the dew from heaven--and the Nun relates to a fish, symbolizes a fish, but is much more than that.
"I am the moisture which preserves everything in nature and makes it live, I pass from the upper to the lower planes; I am the heavenly dew and the fat of the land; I am the fiery water and the watery fire; nothing may live without me in time; I am close to all things yea; in and through all things, nevertheless unknown." unknown, Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucian’s of the 16th and 17th Centuries
So the Manna is that sustenance that the Initiates receive from God, to help their passing through their trials and ordeals. We need that Manna in order to survive our wilderness. We need more than just the water, the Mem; we also need what is in the water: the Nun, and that Nun is life. It is a type of primordial wisdom within the water.
If we look once more at Psalm 133 we find an ointment (oil) anointing the head, beard, and the garment of Aaron, here we find Shin, symbolic of fire or spirit, descending into Mem, water of matter, the involution, promise of a spiritual illumination to come, you just have to do the work.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Masonic Guru Meets the Masonic Teacher Who Meets the Mentor

 Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Considering that 'Purposely Hoodwinked' is primarily a Masonic oriented blog what follows will probably be very unfamiliar territory for most Masonic brothers, the guru vs. the teacher, a topic I feel that when looked at closely could assist any Lodge that is thinking of implementing a 'mentor' program.
At this present time the Worshipful Master of my Lodge is implementing a 'mentor' program, designed to assist new brothers through the often confusing allegories, rituals, and symbolism found within our tradition, and at the same time hopefully creating a friendship and bond that will last a lifetime. 

Riverside Webster’s II New College Dictionary 1995 defines a mentor as “a wise and trusted teacher or counselor”.

Of course we already have brothers that assist the brothers going through the degrees with their cryptic and memory skills, but a mentor program can be so much more. In most Lodges, sadly, newly raised brothers are often left on their own to analyze the allegory, symbols, experiences they just encountered progressing through the three degrees of Freemasonry, something they usually want so deeply to discuss bit are afraid to articulate.
More times than not many of these brothers find themselves alone lost in a world of unanswered questions.
Unfortunately many of these lost brothers will feel let down, after the first couple boring business meetings they find no one spends time discussing the rituals, the allegories, or the symbols of our tradition. Before long many of these seeking brothers disappear from the sidelines, pay their dues out of obligation, and sadly the next time we hear their name is years later when we drape the altar. 
I am proud the Master of my Lodge has the foresight to address this situation with the implementation of a mentor program, but we need ask, beyond friendship and simple not so simple answers what can a mentor ascribe too?

Now let's enter the rabbit hole.  

Considering that this is primarily a Masonic blog the idea of a guru may not make sense to most Freemasons, and I totally understand, with all the negative news some of these 'New Age' impostors have created its no wonder most in the west have a negative view of gurus. Yet I assure there are many honorable, respectful, and dedicated gurus that work diligently assisting those along their spiritual journey. By understanding the ways of these honorable gurus we might just find ideas that today's mentor may borrow for the task at hand.

WARNING: Before we proceed it should be understood that it's of the utmost importance that the prospective mentor not attempt to 'guide' from an egotistical position.

In this blog I would like to introduce the tradition to a brother that was actually assisted in his spiritual journey by a guru named Ramakrishna, perhaps the best known saint of nineteenth century India, the name of our brother is Swami Vivekananda, raised to the degree of Master Mason 20th of May 1884. The italic print to follow is actually the words of this Spiritual Master from his chapter 'The Need of a Guru' in the book Vedanta Philosophy: Lectures.

"Every soul is destined to be *perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies, does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary. When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end."
*(In the esoteric tradition the soul is symbolized by the stone. In Freemasonry we begin with the rough ashlar (soul) and seek to perfect it. This 'soul' work is symbolized by the rough and perfect ashlar. But you knew that.)

For those unfamiliar with the guru relationship we should ask what is a guru, is a guru compatible with Freemasonry, and how can this supposed individual assist us one on his path to 'light'?
"A 'guru' is a spiritual teacher who helps remove the darkness of ignorance in one's life and leads him towards the the 'light' of wisdom, which frees one from the sufferings of earthly life."
You can't more Masonic than that. When we spend the time to really delve into the rituals and symbolism we find a path from Matter to Spirit, earth to light.
Or how about this definition from Wikipedia; "A traditional etymology of the term "guru" is based on the interplay between darkness and light. The guru is seen as the one who "dispels the darkness of ignorance." In some texts it is described that the syllables gu and ru stand for darkness and light, respectively.
Surely every brother can relate to that definition, all we need to do is look at the floor in a Masonic Lodge Room to see this juxtaposition between dark and light. 
Many who may of have heard of gurus have heard the occasionally negative stories of abuse and cultish behavior, by the few. I still remember in from mid 80's the Indian guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who created a commune in Oregon, rode in a Royal Royce, and was eventually deported for immigration violations. Although he died in 1990 much of his writings are now being released under the name Osho, which I find it interesting, even though his behavior seemed erratic his analysis of ancient teachings are truly enlightening and insightful, I highly recommend them for anyone seeking 'light' from an eastern perspective.
It's understandable that many in the western traditions would avoid the use of the word 'guru', preferring the word 'teacher', which I feel may be very different in their approach to mentoring as we will see.

"This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that we have not developed at all spiritually. It is not true that a high order of intellectual development always goes hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in Man. In studying books we are sometimes deluded into thinking that thereby we are being spiritually helped; but if we analyse the effect of the study of books on ourselves, we shall find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit. This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul."
As you can see from the paragraph above Swami Vivekananda sees the importance of the one on one relationship the soul requires for advancement, so why do we leave so many brothers alone in their questions?

Look closely at the comparisons and see which one you feel could assist you on your path to 'light', teacher vs. guru, and at the same time look to see what positive qualities a mentor could use in his toolbox of assistance towards his fellow brother. The purpose of writing this is NOT to create gurus, either you got it or you don't, it's to see the best approach a mentor may take to guiding a brother.

The great Chinese poet Confucius once said, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." 

A teacher takes responsibility of your growth.
A guru makes YOU responsible for growth.

A teacher gives you things you do not have and require.
A guru takes away things you have and do not require.

A teacher answers your questions.
A guru questions your answers.

A teacher helps you get out of the maze.
A guru destroys the maze.

A teacher requires obedience and discipline from the pupil.
A guru requires trust and humility. 

A teacher clothes you and prepares you for the outer journey.
A guru strips you naked and prepares you for the inner journey.
A teacher is a guide on the path.
A guru is a pointer to the way.

A teacher sends you on the road to success.
A guru sends you on the road to freedom.

Although Freemasonry is NOT a religious endeavor, I do believe it is at its core spiritual, although Swami Vivekananda uses the word religious please do not let this ruin the message if your one of those hung up on anything religious. 
"The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru — the teacher; and the person to whose soul the impulse is conveyed is called the Shishya — the student. To convey such an impulse to any soul, in the first place, the soul from which it proceeds must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were, to another; and in the second place, the soul to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it. The seed must be a living seed, and the field must be ready ploughed; and when both these conditions are fulfilled, a wonderful growth of genuine religion takes place. "The true preacher of religion has to be of wonderful capabilities, and clever shall his hearer be" — ; and when both of these are really wonderful and extraordinary, then will a splendid spiritual awakening result, and not otherwise. Such alone are the real teachers, and such alone are also the real students, the real aspirants. All others are only playing with spirituality. They have just a little curiosity awakened, just a little intellectual aspiration kindled in them, but are merely standing on the outward fringe of the horizon of religion. There is no doubt some value even in that, as it may in course of time result in the awakening of a real thirst for religion; and it is a mysterious law of nature that as soon as the field is ready, the seed must and does come; as soon as the soul earnestly desires to have religion, the transmitter of the religious force must and does appear to help that soul. When the power that attracts the light of religion in the receiving soul is full and strong, the power which answers to that attraction and sends in light does come as a matter of course."

A teacher explains the world and its nature to you.
A guru explains yourself and you nature to you.
A teacher makes you understand how to move about the world.
A guru shows you where you stand in relation to the work.

A teacher gives you knowledge and boosts your ego.
A guru takes away your knowledge and punctures your ego.

A teacher instructs you.
A guru constructs you.

A teacher will punish you with a stick.
A guru will punish you with compassion.

A teacher is to the pupil what a father is to his son.
A guru is to the pupil what a mother is to her child.

One can always find a teacher.
But a guru has to find and accept you.

A teacher leads you by the hand.
A guru leads you by examples.

When a teacher finishes with you, you graduate.
When a guru finishes with you, you celebrate.

When the course is over you are thankful to the teacher.
When the discourse is over you are grateful to the guru.

As we can plainly see the role of the guru is much more than that of the teacher. Do I believe there could be gurus in Freemasonry, why not. Just the other day I read an obituary of a brother from my own Lodge, I was instantly struck by the amount of service this brother performed, his obit took up nearly half a page. Sadly I never knew him, he stopped attending Lodge years ago. I so wish brothers like this would return to the sidelines and speak up, sharing their insight and aged wisdom.
Nevertheless I do believe the mentor program if done correctly may just save another from the abyss of 'what was that all about?'

A word of warning from Swami Vivekananda to perspective candidates; "There are still greater dangers in regard to the transmitter, the Guru. There are many who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and not only do not stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch."
"Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind." — (Katha Up., I. ii. 5). The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Buddhism and Freemasonry - Seeking Harmony

Over the years I have been contacted by various individuals as to the compatibility of Buddhist thought and its seemingly non-theist philosophy to that of Freemasonry, two seemingly opposite traditions that when looked at closely are more similar than most could imagine. 
This seemingly opposite philosophy, Buddhism, is something I have addressed in the past and surely will again in the future has to do at it's core the western concept of 'God', a 'God' the Buddha spoke nothing of, and even if he had it would not of been the Judaic concept of Deity, a problem for some brothers that believe Freemasons must believe in a 'personified' Judaic god, a mistake I believe that has caused the Tradition of Freemasonry a great many exceptional candidates. It should be noted that even as I write this in the State of Florida the Grand Master has sent out an edict banning certain individuals because of their seeming different belief systems from what he perceives Freemasons should adhere, a slippery slope indeed. 
But we'll save that discussion for another time, for now let's look at a little harmony and avoid division.
Allow me to share an interesting passage from 'The influence of Buddhism on primitive Christianity' by Arthur Lillie, 1883 (written during a time when Freemasons still explored alternative philosophies).
"In modern Masonry it is feigned that Hiram Abiff, the architect of Solomon's temple, made three efforts to escape from three assassins. These are plainly Old Age, Disease and Death."

For those unfamiliar with the ritual story played out in Freemasonry Hiram Abiff is the name of the persona each and every mason assumes as he proceeds through the degrees (series of progressive rituals), he is symbolic of every man.  
All Buddhists have heard the story of the Buddha and what some call 'The Four Sights', the cause of the Buddha's search, for those Masonic brothers unfamiliar with the story of the Buddha allow me to share a lite version: when Prince Siddhartha (the Buddha to be) was a few days old, a holy man prophesied the Prince would be either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. His father, King Suddhodana, preferring the first outcome prepared his son accordingly, a conqueror he should be. The wise king at the same time fearing the Prince could become a holy man attempted to cover his butt by raising the boy in great luxury and opulence shielding him from knowledge of religion and human suffering, a futile attempt. 
The Prince reached the age of 29 with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces.
One day, overcome with curiosity, Prince Siddhartha asked a charioteer to take him on a series of rides through the countryside. On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of an aged man, then a sick man, and then a corpse. The stark realities of old age, disease, and death seized and sickened the Prince.
Finally, he saw a wandering ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic was one who had renounced the world and sought release from fear of death and suffering (you could say he was searching for light, the quest of all Freemasons). The future Buddha's heart was stirred.

Question the candidate for Freemasonry is asked in the first ritual: Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason? The answer: In my heart.

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."...Buddha

Now let's look at another passage of Arthur Lillie's 'The influence of Buddhism on Primitive Christianity': "(speaking of Hiram Abiff the author writes) he sought to evade the first (assassin) at the east of the temple, in the same way that Buddha tried to escape by the eastern gate. The second and third flights of Hiram and Buddha were to the same points of the compass. Then Buddha escaped the lower life through the Gate of Benediction, and Hiram was killed."
What are these gates Arthur Lillie is talking about and where could they be alluded to in Freemasonry?
In the design of the Masonic Lodge Room we find these cardinal points of the compass emphasized with the chairs of the Lodge officers, except the north, the darkest portion of the sky. It's only fitting that the Buddha end his journey in the north, according to Buddhist philosophy after enlightenment the Buddha is no longer stuck in the cyclic existence, birth, old age, sickness, and death.
We can clearly see the path of the future Buddha alluded to through the symbolism of the gates. The east, also symbolic of spring, is the beginning of the Buddha's journey, the south gate represents the summer, the west fall, and the north winter the end of the Buddha's journey.
This same journey is played out in Freemasonry, albeit with a different ending, yet maybe passing on the same message.
In Freemasonry we find the candidate progressing through the gates, east, south to west, only to loose his life to be reborn into the 'light'. As you can see a similar journey, a similar outcome,
the Buddha achieves 'enlightenment', the Freemason seeks 'light', coincidence in the vernacular? I think not.

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture."...John 10:9

Just a little note for those interested in Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism teaches that there is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and that the process is according to the qualities of a person's actions. This constant process of becoming ceases at the fruition of 'enlightenment' at which a being is no longer subject to causation, karma, but enters into a state that the Buddha called amata, deathlessness.

Spend a little time brother contemplating the Mandala above, you just may find the similarities yourself.

Those who have followed my blog know that I strongly believe the Masonic Lodge Room symbolic of Mandala, a Sanskrit word that means "circle". Yes I realize our Lodge Rooms are really rectangle in design, but our rituals are done in a circular fashion, and the center of the Lodge Room is also considered to be the symbolic point within the circle. 
In the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions their sacred art, shrines, and temples are often mandala in form. At the center of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas we find a 'square' with four gates containing a circle with a center point, no different than the basic layout of the Masonic Lodge Room.
In the Masonic Lodge Room we find these gates spoken of as north, south, east, and west, similar to the directions used in the Buddhist Mandala. 
Mandalas are constructed from the center outward, beginning with a dot in the center, very much the same way the initiate in Freemasonry begins his journey from the center of the Lodge outward.  
With the placement of the center dot, the Mandala is consecrated to a particular deity. In the case of the Masonic Lodge Room we usually find the Scared Volume of Law at the center symbolic of the deity of one's choice. This center in Buddhism is a symbol. it means a 'seed', 'sperm', 'drop', the salient starting point. It is the gathering center in which the outside energies are drawn and, in the act of drawing the forces, the devotee's own energies unfold and are also drawn. Thus it represents the outer and inner spaces. Its purpose is to remove the object-subject dichotomy (our typical dualistic view of life).
In its creation, a line materializes out of a dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometrical patterns. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world moving in four directions, as we have seen represented by the four gates.

Mandalas are seen as sacred places that reminds us of the presence of sanctity in the universe and their own potential. In the context of Buddhism, the purpose of a Mandala is to put an end to human suffering, to attain enlightenment and to attain a correct view of Reality. It is a means to discover divinity by the realization that it resides within one's own self, no different than the goal of the initiate in Freemasonry.
If you would like to see a little more comparison between the mandala and the Masonic Lodge Room check out my previous blog 'Welcome to the Mandala of Freemasonry'.