Mandala meaning: the sacred circle

Mandala meaning, uses, origins, and benefits

A mandala is a work of spiritual art with a concentric design. Some call the design “sacred geometry” or “sacred circle” because of its religious meanings and effects. Mandala meanings and imagery are wide-ranging. Mandalas are popular in adult coloring books because their meditative qualities go so well with the calming benefits of adult coloring. But many colorists of these fascinating designs may wonder about mandala meaning, usage, and origins.

Mandalas can be seen across cultures, but are mostly associated with Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Hinduism. Mandalas exist in Buddhism, Hinduism, Aboriginal, and Native American spiritual works.You can find mandalas across Asia, dating back to the 4th century, in Indonesia, Bhutan, China, Japan, India, and Tibet. They were also used in Aztec and Mayan cultures, to mark time as a calendar for the former, and possibly as a ceremonial device such as an altar or basin in the latter.

Mandala meanings and symbolism

mandala meaning

Aztec mandala by Pacofender

Mandala meaning is often multifaceted, including spiritual, geographic, and political symbolism. In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala represents the universe and is sometimes made of sand. They are also used as offerings. They are created to transfer positive energy, purify, and heal. The Buddha himself initiated the first sand mandala. Monks spend weeks making them in combination with rituals of chanting and dancing. After the mandala is complete, the monks sweep away the sand to remind us of how life isn’t permanent. The sand goes into flowing water to heal the world.

The word “mandala” is a compound word in Sanskrit. As a word, mandala meaning can be “circle” as well as “container of essence” something that’s encircled by a circle, and “circle of kings.” It can also simply mean “disk.” Mandala meanings are many both as a term and a symbol.

Benefits of mandalas

What can mandalas do for the user and colorist? To find out, let’s look at why mandalas are popular in secular New Age philosophies. Psychologist Carl Jung’s use of them. Jung, famous for his work in dream interpretation used mandalas in his work exploring the human psyche, thus leading to the New Age movement’s interest in them.

Jung would wake up every morning and draw a small circular drawing, referring to them as mandalas. He felt they represented the wholeness of self, and that they restored order and helped people heal. He believed their circular path restored order and stabilized one’s inner life. When you create or color a mandala, you can immerse yourself in its depths, block negative thoughts, purify your mind, and calm yourself while feeling you are part of the universe.

Mandalas can be painted or drawn or you might see a woven mandala tapestry. Some people create their own out of objects such as seashells, flowers, or pebbles. They can be small or a ritual space you can stand or sit in. In using a mandala, you can find your place in the universe.

The mandala as the base of a place for worship in architecture can be seen in Indian temples. Mandalas are often the basis of a Hindu temple’s ground floor. Mandalas have been called “the floor plans of the universe.”

The temple designs depict time and space in geometric shapes. The believer inside feels their place in the universe. Often a specific deity would be represented in the temple.

Most people don’t think of mandalas as having a political meaning, but in early Southeast Asian culture, kingdoms took concentric shapes, with power radiating from the center. Power was political as well as spiritual. The architecture of the East, such as Beijing’s Forbidden City, reflects this concept.

Mandala symbolism and imagery
Mandalas can contain not only shapes, but many kinds of imagery that’s sometimes recognizable and sometimes more subtle, including the lotus, animals, Tree of Life, fierce guardians, palaces, and deities, celestial bodies. The lotus represents enlightenment and awakening, the tree strength and shelter. The labyrinth is a commmon mandala design. Certain colors are used in association with some of the symbols.

Mandalas can be seen in Christian imagery as well, such as in rose stained glass windows, the knots of the Celtic cross, and the Crown of Thorns. Circular and rose windows trace back to Roman times.

A Roman oculus was a dome that had a hole through which the viewer could see the heavins. It allowed rain in, which would cool the building, as well as sun to light it. You see this design carried through history in Neoclassical and Byzantine architecture. Standing under it one feels inspired by this path to the view of the heavens.

Gazing at a mandala is meant to take the viewer on a spiritual journey. A mandala is like a world in itself. When you color a mandala, you’re coloring the universe.