What are Mandalas?



A mandala (in Sanskrit ,‘manda’ = core, quintessence ‘la’ = container) is typically a square or circular chart with geometric designs. It symbolizes the cosmos and everything within; another meaning for ‘mandala’ is wholeness.

Mandalas exist everywhere in nature, from a snowflake, a snail’s shell and the rings of a tree to the solar system. Ancient civilizations viewed themselves as patterned on the cosmos, from the basic unit, man, to his place in society and the world at large. The design and structure of their sacred edifices reflect this thought from Khajuraho in India to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Java.

Divided into four equal quadrants, a mandala is constructed of concentric circles and squares leading to a center. The eye is drawn naturally to the center, making it a useful tool during meditation. Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst famously painted mandalas, claiming that they offered him deep insight into his patients’ emotional disorders.

Tibetan Buddhism elevated mandalas to an exquisite art form and means of ritual worship. Buddhist monks create intricate mandalas of colored sand and destroy them; this signifies the transience of all life.