The term mandala is Sanskrit and translates with circle. The Tibetan word for mandala (dkyil‘ khor) literally means “that which encircles a center point”. Basically it describes a circular image possessing a magical or religious meaning, used in cult practice of Hinduism and Buddhism. The visual can be geometric only or crafted with figural motifs. Nowadays, the word mandala is used as a generic term to describe all kinds of meditative, circle oriented images of various cultures and origins, which can include also a wide variety of religious, esoteric, psychological and spiritual symbols.
The form of a mandala is generally square or circular and always oriented to a center point. A simple design can show for example a triangle which symbolizes a trinity (Trimurti). Some depictions may however represent a complex, structured plan of the universe with heaven, earth and underworld.
Mandalas are visual tools (with representation of gods, landscapes, symbols and other aids) to internalize complex, religious contexts. In this sense, the mandala can be understood as a kind of diagram, whereby different religious traditions are using various different “blueprints”. In addition there are also existing very differentiated mandalas for specific rituals and practices.
In addition to Indian mandalas, the western world knows especially the Tibetan mandalas, common in Vajrayana Buddhism. These mandalas are showing a top view on the so-called mandala palace, surrounded by a pure land – or they center one of the many deities. Mandalas are also known in indigenous, Islamic and other cultures around the world. In Chinese and Japanese traditions mandalas are often decorated with characters instead of pictures.
The symbolism of a mandala aims directly towards the unconscious, so that targeted areas of the psyche can be addressed and stimulated by specific colors and shapes. This characteristic is used by a wide range of meditation techniques and by therapeutic practices as well. By dealing with the symbols and patterns, the harmony of the circle transfers to mind and soul. One can find back to the own inner stillness/silence. The goal of a mandala meditation is the experience of unity.
> Usage of the symbol
The use of a specific mandala derives from its content. A “heart mandala” is best placed in your bedroom or in the love corner, a “water mandala” in the North of your home, etc. Keeping it general: a mandala can strengthen the spiritual center of your home (Bagua n° 5) and support your mental and spiritual development.