What is Mandala?

    What is Mandala? Mandala is a geometric pattern or chart, typically circular or square, that symbolically represents the cosmos and is used for meditation purposes. The mandala originated in the Hindu religion, in which it was first used as a design element in temples, and was borrowed into Buddhism. Other religions and cultures have analogous meditation aids, and in an expanded sense, a mandala may even be a round, symmetrical building used for worship.

    Creating a mandala can be a form of meditation, as well as contemplating a finished mandala. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are strict guidelines concerning the content and design of a mandala, including the visualization of the piece and mantras to be recited as it is made. Different types of mandalas are used to represent different elements of Buddhist beliefs and cosmology, but they are generally full of symbolism and richly detailed.

    Tibetan Buddhists also make sand mandalas, using delicate tools and colored sand to create intricate designs. After they are made and contemplated according to ceremony, sand mandalas are destroyed, symbolizing the impermanence of everything. Every element of the sand mandala, from marking out the pattern, to pouring the sand, to disposing of the used sand, is ritualized. Mandalas also appear in Japanese Buddhist temples and rituals, although the sand mandala is unique to Tibetan Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. Meditation or prayer aids in other religious traditions, such as the rosary of Catholicism, are considered by some to be a type of mandala