A circular, geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. It sometimes refers generically to any geometric plan or chart that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; it is also associated with the notion of journeying, in particular of labyrinths, and as such is used ritually as a meditation diagram, to create a sacred space.
From Sanskrit, mandala means circle – a spiritual symbol representing the universe, and an idea that is common to most contemplative religions or spiritual practice, and which we all recognise as a symbol of unity and the universe.
The mandala is often seen at the centre of ancient textiles. The basic form is usually a square with four gates- which might also be a particular animal or other symbolic motif – containing a circle with a center point. A concentric centre offers depth and meaning, a place and a tool for concentration and meditation – one-pointedness.
The mandala is closely related to the labyrinth in ideal, and in their simplest versions, form. Either or both are found carved, stitched, or otherwise made onto or into all forms of material, and in ancient places as well as temples and private meditation spaces.
North American, Celtic, Buddhist and Hindus all have some form of recognisable mandala- as have many others; for Christians their mandala is the Cross.
The overall design of each mandala is a intended as a visual representation of unity and harmony, symbols and motifs that aid concentration and calm the chattering mind, from which to ground, rebalance and lead to deeper meditation. Whilst each tradition with it’s own interpretation of just what that means to them, many of the symbols and forms, the ideas and purpose are universally recognisable.
These complex patterns echo the labyrinth in the ground or the stitching pattern. Mandalas appear in costumes and temple cloths from China, Tibet and India, with Buddhist and Sanskrit reference. Chinese textiles of the Qing dynasty (1740 especially), a period much influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, show individual, linked and repeated meditation ‘diagrams’.
Where the designs are quartered they also the reference the Paradise garden – Char Bagh.