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Maṇḍala (Skt., ‘circle’; Chin., man-ta-lao; Jap. and Korean, mandara; Tib., dkyil.ʾkhor). A symbolic pictorial representation of the universe, originating in India but prominent in Tibetan Buddhism. It is visualized in the context of Tantric ritual. Although maṇḍalas are commonly found on scrolls or as wall-paintings, for important rituals the maṇḍala is traced onto consecrated ground using coloured powders which may be erased upon termination of the ritual. In meditation, they can be visualized without external representation.

All maṇḍalas follow a precise symbolic format.

In Hinduism, maṇḍalas are described in great detail in the Tantras and Āgamas. For example, the Pañcarātra text, Lakṣmi Tantra (37.3–19), describes a maṇḍala of nine lotuses.

In liturgy (pūjā) a maṇḍala is the place where a deity is invoked by mantra. The placing of mantras upon the maṇḍala (nyāsa) gives it life, and the maṇḍala is then regarded, like mantra, as the deity itself (and not a mere representation of the deity). A maṇḍala is also visualized (dhyāna) by the yogin who aims at merging with the deity. Visualization is accompanied by mantra repetition and the practice of mudrā for the control of mind, speech, and body. See also CAKRA; YANTRA.

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mandala (mŭn´dələ), [Skt.,=circular, round] a concentric diagram having spiritual and ritual significance in Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism. The mandala may have derived from the circular stupa and the ritual of walking around the stupa in a circle. The mandala is seen as a microcosm embodying the various divine powers at work in the universe, and it serves as a collection point for the gods and universal forces. Numbers of deities have specific positions in the diagram, and the symbolism and structure of the mandala are highly elaborated. The mandala symbolizes the totality of existence, inner or outer. Mandalas are used in meditation, particularly in Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese tantric Buddhism (see Kukai). Similar ritual drawings have been found in the sand paintings of Native North Americans and in other traditions.

See G. Tucci, Theory of Practice of the Mandala (1969); M. Arguelles, Mandala (1972); D. F. Bischoff, Mandala (1983). For an analytical psychology perspective, see C. Jung, Mandala Symbolism (tr. 1972).

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A mystical diagram used in India and Tibet to attract spiritual power or for meditation purposes. The term derives from the Sanskrit word for "circle," although a mandala may embody various geometrical shapes.

The Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung, who regarded the mandala as an archetypal image from the deep unconscious mind, investigated mandalas created spontaneously by psychological patients.

(See also yantra )


Tucci, Giuseppe. The Theory and Practice of the Mandala. London: n.p., 1961.

Wilhelm, Richard, and C. G. Jung. The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1962. Reprint, New York: Causeway Books, 1975.

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man·da·la / ˈmandələ; ˈmən-/ • n. a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. ∎ Psychoanalysis such a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer's search for completeness and self-unity. DERIVATIVES: mandalic / manˈdalik; ˌmən-/ adj.

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mandala a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism; in psychoanalysis, such a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer's search for completeness and self-unity. The word comes from Sanskrit maṇḍala ‘disc’.

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mandala. Geometrical figure with a centre, such as a circle, or polygon, or a square, often in the form of a labyrinth or maze with symbolic meanings.