Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle," which represents wholeness. A mandala is a two-dimensional circular shape that has a central focal point. From this point, a symmetrical design radiates outwards. Different types of mandalas are found in different cultures and religions. For Tibetan Buddhists, the mandala symbolizes the center of the universe, which is a point of ultimate consciousness. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Longchempa described the mandala as "an integrated structure organized around a unifying center."

Teaching Mandalas

The teaching mandala is symbolic and each shape, line and color represents a different aspect of a philosophical or religious system. A student of that religious system learns to create his own mandala in accordance with prescribed principles of design and construction. This type of mandala visually symbolizes everything the student has learned. The teaching mandala that is created can be described as a colorful, mental map, which summarizes religious doctrine.

Healing Mandalas

A healing mandala is simpler and more intuitive than a teaching mandala. It is usually created for the purpose of meditation, and to invoke a feeling of calm and inner wisdom. Mandalists create mandalas. They can be used to focus the mind on the source of all being, which brings a sense of peace and of healing.

Sand Mandalas

Buddhist monks as well as Navajo Indians have a religious tradition of creating sand mandalas. These are intricate sand paintings using many symbols, and are made with colored sand. In both cultures, the sand mandalas represent the impermanence of human life. The sand paintings are meticulously constructed over many days and ritual ceremonies are enacted over them in both traditions.

Mandala Symbols


Some symbols used in mandalas include the bell, which represents feminine energy. This bell is open and empty and also allows wisdom to come in. The diamond is another common symbol. It represents the mind, which is clear and can reflect different energies. The wheel with eight hubs is associated with dharma, or the path of righteous action, which leads to true wisdom. The lotus is associated with Buddha. It reaches toward the light even though its roots are in the mud.