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A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, romanized: maṇḍala, lit. ’circle’, [ˈmɐɳɖɐlɐ]) is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shinto it is used as a map representing deities, or especially in the case of Shinto, paradises, kami or actual shrines.[1] A mandala generally represents the spiritual journey, starting from outside to the inner core, through layers.

Buddhism & Mandalas

In Buddhism, a mandala is a sacred and symbolic representation of the universe, often used in various religious and spiritual practices. The term “mandala” comes from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit and means “circle.” Mandalas hold significant importance in Tibetan Buddhism, where they are commonly used, although variations of mandalas can be found in other Buddhist traditions as well. Here’s an overview of how a mandala used in Buddhism tradition:

  • Meditation and Contemplation: Mandalas are primarily used as tools for meditation and contemplation. Practitioners focus on the intricate details, geometric patterns, and symbolism within the mandala to achieve a state of inner peace, concentration, and spiritual insight.
  • Spiritual Guidance: Mandalas are used to guide practitioners in their spiritual journey. They serve as visual aids to help individuals connect with specific deities or enlightened beings. Mandalas may depict these divine figures at the center, emphasizing their importance and presence in the practitioner’s life.
  • Rituals and Ceremonies: Mandalas are incorporated into various Buddhist rituals and ceremonies. They are often created as intricate paintings or sand art, symbolizing the impermanence of life. In some practices, the creation and destruction of a mandala represent the transient nature of existence.
  • Healing and Transformation: Mandalas are believed to have healing and transformative properties. Meditating on a mandala is thought to help individuals attain a deeper understanding of themselves and reality, facilitating personal growth and spiritual development.

A mandala is considered a microcosm of the entire universe, encompassing both the external world and the internal world of the practitioner’s mind. It represents the interconnectedness of all things and the unity of the cosmos.

Types of Mandalas:

  • Yantra Mandalas: These are geometric and abstract representations of the universe and are often used for meditation and focusing the mind.
  • Mandala Deity Icons: These mandalas feature central depictions of specific Buddhist deities, each of which carries its own symbolism and significance.

Mandala in Carl Jung’s Psychology:

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology, incorporated the concept of the mandala into his psychological framework. In Jungian psychology, the mandala is seen as a symbol of the self, which represents the totality of one’s psyche. Jung believed that the mandala emerged spontaneously in the dreams and artwork of his patients, and he saw it as a powerful archetype with the following characteristics:

  • Self-Integration: Jungian mandalas symbolize the process of self-realization and self-integration. They are seen as representations of the individual’s journey toward wholeness and the integration of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the self.
  • Psychological Balance: The mandala is a visual representation of psychic balance and equilibrium. It reflects the need to harmonize conflicting elements within the individual’s psyche, helping one to find unity and purpose.
  • Expressive Tool: Jung encouraged his patients to create mandalas as a form of self-expression and a means to explore their inner worlds. The act of creating a mandala could reveal insights into the person’s psychological state and serve as a therapeutic tool.

In both Buddhism and Jungian psychology, mandalas symbolize unity, harmony, and the interplay of the individual with the cosmos or the inner self.

“This is the first mandala I constructed in the year 1916, wholly unconscious of what it meant.” — C. G. Jung
This diagram — titled Systema munditotius (The system of all worlds) — is symbolically related to the creative,
cosmogonic vision revealed in VII Sermones ad Mortuos, and was drawn about the same time.

According to Jung:

“ The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in man.”

“Mandalas are all based on the squaring of a circle. Their basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances. This centre is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may so express it, as the self. Although the centre is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self — the paired opposites that make up the total personality. This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind.”

“From the very beginning, the UFO reports interested me as being, very possible, symbolical rumors…
UFOS seemed to me to have a good deal in common with mandala symbolism…
The plurality of UFOs then, is a projection of a number of psychic images of wholeness which appear in the sky because on the one hand they represent archetypes charged with energy and on the other hand are not recognized as psychic factors… The projected image then appears as an ostensibly physical fact independent of the individual psyche and its nature. In other words, the rounded wholeness of the mandala becomes a spaceship controlled by an intelligent being.”


[1].Tanabe, Willa Jane (2001). “Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography”. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies28 (1/2): 186–188. JSTOR 30233691.

[2] Mandala Symbolism: (From Vol. 9i Collected Works) (Jung Extracts, 42)

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