The Origins and Meaning of Mandalas
By Kristina Parr
Already the way the word rolls off your tongue gives light to its meaning and depth, man – dah – la: its rhythmic tone sounds as if the word could go on and on… just like the continuum and interconnectedness it represents.
Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’, a mandala is a timeless masterpiece, rich in both tradition and symbolism, and has long been considered a sacred object. Found in cultures and religions as far reaching as Buddhism, Hindu, Celtic, and Native American, mandalas are regarded as a symbol of harmony and unity, and serve as a tool to discovering ones spiritual truth.
Graphically, a mandala is often dominated by squares and triangles, and has a concentric structure. A play of colors and shapes create a visually balanced form that radiates beauty as well as unity. The design of the mandala is so visually captivating that the mind becomes absorbed and lost in its power, enveloped in a spiritual cocoon. (Easily mesmerized by its form, any outer noise and distraction can be quickly tuned out allowing pure concentration and mindfulness. )
Look about and you will easily see mandalas occurring naturally in the world around. Similar to the phenomena of the flower of life- the modern name given to a geometrical figure composed of 6 continually overlapping circles- flowers, snowflakes, even seashells are all made up of this sacred geometry. These overlapping circles naturally and continually open and fold into one another.
Life and our universe is also made up of such corresponding energies that flow and radiate from one to the other… in an out… growing, spiraling, intertwining, yet always coming back to the middle. In fact, humans have had a facination with circular forms since the beginning of time, and even the Milky Way itself, our orbiting planets, and cycles of life are all symbolic circle patterns.
It is this energetic flow and continuum that make a mandala so useful and effective in meditation. With its clear focal point, yet mesmerizing colors and shapes, a mandala supports attention and concentration, and is often used for achieving a higher consciousness and a deeper awareness, hence bringing the viewer closer to their own sense of self. It is believed that our attraction to certain shapes and configurations found in mandalas conveys our current physical, emotional, and spiritual subconscious condition or mood.
Psychologist Carl Jung, who believed colors and symbols were key to healing, not only believed in the power of the mandala in the journey to wholeness, but he is also credited with introducing the Eastern concept of the mandala to Western thought. He believed this symbol represented the total personality- – or the Self. Jung noted that when a mandala image suddenly turned up in dreams or in art, it was usually an indication of movement toward a new self-knowledge.
He observed that his patients often spontaneously created circle drawings and had his own profound personal experience with mandala images:
“In the products of the unconscious, we discover mandala symbols, that is, circular and quaternary figures which express wholeness, and whenever we wish to express wholeness, we employ just such figures. ”
-Jung, 1927 Memories, Dreams and Reflections
Given their aesthetic and spiritual appeal, mandalas are still used in today’s world to help one reach a sense of wholeness and spirituality.
Check out these really unique Mandala artists – a florist and a snow artist!
To see a view a beautiful collection of Mandalas – from tattoos to crop circles, fruit, quilts, flowers, stone and more– visit, and follow our Pinterest Page of Mandalas.
Want to learn more about children’s facination with circles and encourage them to create mandalas? Visit our childrens mandala page.
If you’re in the So Cal Area, Art for all People holds some great Yoga + Mandala classes, visit their amazing studio right on the shores of the Pacific!
Kristina Parr writes for Project Harmony Intelligence (phi), a collaboration of mindful designers, architects, and healers who bring “mensch and nature” together in a variety of artistic and therapeutic forms have combined their own type of unique mandala. Combining their specific talents and holistic sense phi mandalas can be used to help individuals enhance and discover their true self, bringing increased prosperity and value to their life. Find out more about having phi create a personal mandala for you.