What is a Mandala?

By Michael Quesada January 21, 2019

What is a Mandala?


Mandalas – you may or may not have seen them, circular designs with intricate details. You might have noticed one or more in places of worship, in art pieces, or even in adult coloring books. Indeed, they may beautiful to look at, but there’s more to the mandala than just its aesthetically-pleasing look.

What is a Mandala?

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “circle,” so it comes as no surprise why it is shaped as such.  They have been used by different cultures and traditions for many, many years, but the most famous users are the Tibetans .

There’s another reason why mandalas are circular, however.  This is because circles can represent continuity – that life goes on and on.  Mandalas are usually used in a spiritual context, with Hindus being the first ones to use them in that manner.


History of the Mandala

Mandalas have been around for so long now that it’s quite difficult to pinpoint the exact time the idea for it was conceived.  Some say that the idea of the mandala was spread out when Buddhist monks travelled across Asia to disseminate the word of Siddhartha Gautama.

Along their journey, they brought with them mandalas, so undoubtedly, they also taught others how to use and create them too.  The first traces of these Buddhist mandalas were actually during the 1st century B.C.E, but it might have started even before then.

On the other hand, a mandala artist named Charles Gilchrist said that there’s a possibility that one of the first meditation mandalas may have been brought to Tibet around the 8th century.

In recent years, people’s interest in mandalas have increased once again.  Partly because of the West’s increasing interest in East Asia’s spirituality and culture. These days, it’s not uncommon to find mandalas in everyday objects such as furniture, and some even get them as tattoos.

History of Mandala

How They're Used

Mandalas are usually used for meditation purposes, and its intricate designs help with that.  A mandala is pleasing to the eyes, and it allows you to get caught in its detail and beauty.  As a result, it will help you take your mind off of things that cause you stress and negativity.

If you want to use a mandala to help you meditate, then the first thing you have to do is choose a mandala.  Make sure that besides finding the mandala appealing, you must also know the meaning behind it as well.  If not, you can also give it your own meaning. In other words, what’s your intention?

Once you’ve figured it out, you can now put your attention on the mandala. Don’t be afraid to be sucked in by the mandala, but at the same time, it’s okay if your mind wanders.  If it does, simply bring your attention back to the mandala with no fuss.


Let the mandala’s unique patterns and colors completely immerse you. Once you’re absorbed, you might start to feel light.  Don’t worry if feelings or thoughts come to you at this point in your meditation, simply allow them to come and go.

However, if you start to feel uncomfortable, lost, and other similar emotions, turn your attention back to the mandala once again.  Not everyone will have the same experience when meditating with a mandala, though.  You’ll know that you have achieved your purpose when you start to feel completely relaxed when focusing on the mandala.

Different Types of Mandalas

There are many different types of mandalas out there, but the most common ones are the Teaching Mandala, the Healing Mandala, and the Sand Mandala.

Teaching Mandala

Teaching mandalas are symbolic and have something to do with religion.  In fact, each part of this mandala – the lines, colors, etc. – represent a different facet of a belief system.  As a student or believer of that belief system, you create your own mandala that conforms to your beliefs.

Once the mandala has been made, you will see that it symbolizes everything you have learned in your religion.  Because of this, it is safe to say that a teaching mandala is a colorful way to show and summarize your religion or belief system.

Teaching Mandala

Healing Mandala

A healing mandala, on the other hand, is far simpler than teaching mandalas.  Unlike the teaching mandala, which is usually used for religious purposes, healing mandalas are for meditation.  It is supposed to help you feel calm, especially if you’re undergoing something stressful.

As you meditate with this type of mandala, you will be overcome with the feeling of peace and understanding.

Healing Mandala

Sand Mandala

Mandalas aren’t only made with colored paint or markers.  In fact, Navajo Indians as well as Buddhist monks are known to use colored sand to create mandalas for religious reasons.  However, it’s still similar to the other types of mandalas in many ways.

For one, sand mandalas still have intricate designs that look like magic to the eyes. Creating this type of mandala doesn’t take just one day though – it’s done within a span of a couple of days.  Usually, depending on the tradition, there are even ceremonies that take place.

Sand Mandala

Common Symbols

Each symbol or pattern in a mandala has a meaning – whether it is religious or has something to do with tradition.  There are more modern mandala symbols, though, but they are definitely still inspired by the more traditional designs.

That being said, here are some of the more common symbols you might see in a mandala:


The lotus symbol is one of the key symbols in traditional mandalas.  You will notice that it’s a very symmetrical pattern, so you will get a sense of balance from it. Besides that, though, the lotus is also known to be connected with purity.

Lotus Mandala


The labyrinth symbol has been around for a while, and it has remained popular even during modern times.  This symbol signifies a journey that will eventually lead to enlightenment.  If you look close enough, you will see that the pattern will have a clear path.

Labyrinth Mandala


A wheel is a common symbol in mandalas – one reason being the fact that it is also circular in shape.  Besides that, though, the wheel is actually a significant symbol in Buddhism.  This is a symbol that means the circle of life, as well as the search for self-awareness and enlightenment.

In other cultures, such as the Native Americans, they use the wheel as a way to symbolize the way humans and nature are connected.

Wheel Mandala


The sun is another common symbol that has been used for many years. Even today, it is still widely present in many mandala designs. The sun can represent many things – life, the universe, and energy are just some of them.

Sun Mandala

How to Make A Mandala

Before you make your own mandala, you must first think of it as a reflection of who you are.  Creating and then drawing your own design can be a really fulfilling experience, one that allows you to look within yourself objectively.

You can choose specific colors, too, ones that can represent your thoughts and feelings.  For instance, red can be for strength or passion, pink for love, etc.  If you want a fully relaxing experience, you can even play some calming music to put you at ease and clear your head.

Before you start, however, make sure that you know what your intentions are; know what you want to achieve.  Then, choose the colors that you think best represents your intentions.  Focus on your intention and allow it to inspire you on what you want to draw.


Set aside all your worries and judgements – don’t worry about perfection.  You can stop drawing once you feel like you have achieved what you wanted.  If you look at your creation, you will feel it giving off energy as well as your initial intentions.

If you’re happy with it, you can situate it somewhere you can see it all the time.  You can even take a photo of it and make it your phone’s wallpaper.  Allow your masterpiece to change your life for the better.


Mandalas are beautiful and therapeutic, and they have been around for quite a long time now.  If you want to do a calming activity drawing or coloring, or if you want something that allows you to relax and meditate with ease, then the mandala is the right tool for you.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to creating a mandala – as long as it’s conveying your intention, then you’re on the right path.

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What is a Mandala?

Michael Quesada

Founder of this website; currently living vicariously through himself.

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