The word mandala comes from the Sanskrit language and is loosely translated to mean circle, though it is so much more. The mandala is any of various ritualistic geometric designs symbolic not only of the center or core of our being but also of the universe and our relationship to it. The mandala represents wholeness, and it is said that it can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself.
Clockwise from upper left: Tibetan Buddhist mandala; mandala by psychologist, C.G. Jung; mandala by Hildegaard von Bingen; Navajo sand painting.
Mandalas are found in every culture and in most religions throughout time. Mandalas are traditionally used by the Buddhist and Hindu religions as aids to meditation. Labyrinths and rose windows in Christian cathedrals are a part of the mandala family, while the 12th century Christian visionary and mystic, Hildegaard von Bingen, painted sublime mandalas. Carl Jung, the preeminent psychologist, not only created personal mandalas but used them in his practice. The Navajo and Hopi create mandala-like sand paintings for healing rituals.
Mandala-like structures, based on a foundation of sacred geometry, are abundantly found in nature - from the face of a sunflower to an orange slice to the perfect whirl of succulent plant leaves. From a single cell to a snowflake to the awesome spiral of a galaxy. If you begin to really observe nature, you will see the perfection and beauty of these 'mandalas' everywhere.
In the last 15 to 20 years there has been a huge resurgence of interest in mandalas worldwide. Contemporary mandalas are generally based on and inspired by the mystical art of those that have come before but also have a very distinct originality based on the spiritual insight, intuition and creativity of the artist.
In the end, the purpose of these sacred circles remains the same; to quiet the mind and to open the heart. It is there that the language of the mandala speaks to the soul.