Mandala Monday – Mandala: The Origin of the Word by Epouna

If you have ever wondered why every mandala that you see is round in shape, it is because the English word circle is translated from the Sanskrit word mandala. Although you may have been recently introduced to the term, it is certainly nothing new. In fact, the idea behind mandala was used in many religions, thousands of years ago, long before it began its rise in popularity in the Sanskrit world.

Painted 19th century Tibetan mandala of the Naropa tradition

The powerful circular form of the mandala is prevalent in Buddhist and Hindu religions. You will notice four gates in the shape of a T that extend from the center point in these pieces, showing the circle of unity. Vajrayana is a Tibetan branch of Buddhism that offer total enlightenment by creating their mandalas as sandpaintings. Of course, this is certainly not the only example of mandala used in religion.

Tibetan monks making a temporary “Sand-Mandala”
in the City-Hall of Kitzbuehel in Austria.

The moji-mandala is a common form you will find in Nichiren Buddhism. It’s created as a wooden tablet or a hanging paper scroll. These not only hold inscriptions of Chinese characters but medieval Sanskrit as well to cover Buddha’s concepts, enlightenment and protective elements as well as other gods of Buddha. Nichiren religions worship this form of mandala, also referred to as Gohonzon.

Two and three-dimensional mandalas with geometric angles are used in meditation in Hindu rituals. Referred to as Yantras in this case, it is believed that the gods live within them. Therefore, each Yantras is unique to one god. Individuals who use Yantras for worship are able to seek the presence of these gods to ask for guidance.

A diagramic drawing of the Sri Yantra, showing the outside square,
with four T shaped gates, and the central circle.

Those who practice the Christian religion may be familiar with mandala in the form of rosary, halos, Crown of Thorns, rosy cross, rose windows and Celtic crosses. These are all used by worshipers to feel closer to God.

Interior of the rose at Strasbourg Cathedral.

For many centuries, the Bora Ring site has been used for initiation rituals by Australian natives. The girdle or circular belt worn by the acolytes is referred to as the Bora. Intricate stone arrangements such as Stonehenge offer a close relation to the mandala and Bora Ring. Creator-spirit Baiame is represented in ancient art and rock carvings as a mandalan figure.

You will find a collection of both inner and outer circles when viewing a mandala. These offer a different representation depending on which religious group is viewing the piece. Native-Americans have also used the mandala form in their culture. The inner mandala supports offerings pertaining to the body while the outer supports human senses.

You may or may not be familiar with labyrinths which are closely related to the mandala as they both take you on a circular journey toward the heart of the piece. Minotaur of ancient mythology was the inspiration behind the first labyrinth being built so that it could be held safely. The labyrinth’s center is viewed as being divine just as the mandala’s center offers enlightenment.


The greatest of mandalas is the spiral or circle of life. Trusting in your beliefs will give you the truest meaning. These are the strong beliefs that send you on an inner journey as you observe and are surrounded by the outer world, just as the mandala began its journey in the Sanskrit world.

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons


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Mandala Monday – Stone Circles as Mandalas – Guest Post by Epouna

Stonehenge in England is one of the first places that many people think of when stone circles as mandalas are mentioned. However, there are ancient remnants to be found around the world that have been left behind by civilizations long ago. These types of intriguing mandalas remain mysteries that will forever invoke curiosity and the desire for answers. Why and how were they built and what exactly were they used for?


Although the meaning of many stone circles in mandalas have been determined, there are an abundance  that will remain a mystery forever. Similar to the Tibetan mandala where stones are used to reach true enlightenment, it is believed that most of these ancient discovered stone mandalas were once used for religious ceremonies. Sanskrit for circle, the center of a mandala houses the gods, which enjoin the circle to help complete one’s journey to their personal center to become one with the universe.

Wassu Stone Circles-The Gambia

Depending on the creator’s design and the forces that were instilled, some stone circles offer a life energy held within them all on their own. The person using the mandala is connected through their subconscious mind to the universal spirit. In this case, each individual stone has been placed precisely to work together as a circuit. If one stone is removed, it could affect the circuit adversely.

Placing stones in this type of pattern is considered to be a meditative activity. For the individual to reach total enlightenment, visualization, air and thought all play their roles in enhancing the experience.

The United Kingdom is famous for their collection of stone circles as mandalas. Aside from Stonehenge, in County Cork, Ireland you will find Dromberg, Beltany’s Circle is located in County Donegal, Ireland, Carl Llechart is in Wales and in Scotland you will find the Ring of Brodgar. Each one of these were used for ceremonial purposes, many were even solar calenders that were used to mark the solstice and equinox, boasting stones in specific areas to track heavenly bodies.

Beltany’s Circle

Covering 28 acres with a diameter of over 1,000 feet, Avebury is the world’s largest stone circle. There are two smaller circles found within and once the stones, harvested from Marlborough Downs, stood 55 feet high. The annual Beltane Festival inspire the name of Beltany while Dromberg is known as the Druid’s Alter, from Ireland’s old religion. It is also interesting to note that Temple of the Sun was the original name for the Ring of Brodgar.

Avery Stone Circle

These stone circles are similar to all mandalas. As one would journey to the center from the outer ring, there were statues where the pilgrims would stop to make time for meditation to become closer to their gods.

Interestingly, the sky, fire and death were once associated with stone circles in France. Archaic astronomers would even use constellations, solstice and equinox to hone out their years. Also, the needs of the region’s inhabitants would affect which gods were worshiped in these mandalas.

Rujm Hari in Israel, constructed of basalt is a prime example. There are five concentric circles found here that are considered to be a message dated back to the beginning of creation. This location is spoke of in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Genesis in Torah and the Bible. This is just one of the many stone circles found in the Middle East.

There are also stone circles as mandalas found in America and Canada, a popular one being the Medicine Wheel found at Big Horn. Many religious rituals and ceremonial dances took place here. It is also suggested that it was used as part of a journey for pilgrims to get closer to the center gods.

From prehistoric dwellers to today, stone circles as mandalas have been created around the world. Stone circles, cairns and mandalas are all used to reach enlightenment to offer gods the lives of pilgrims, thanking them for their existence on Earth.

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons


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Mandala Monday – Meditating on a Mandala – Guest Post by Epouna

Meditation has been used since ancient times to reduce stress, find one’s center, calm the mind and soothe the soul. Contrary to what you may think, not all meditation is spiritual, just as many individuals use it for personal use. Regardless of your reasoning or goals you hope to achieve, your personal journey can be significantly enhanced by using a mandala.

Sanskrit, for the English word circle, the mandala has been introduced to the population through Buddhist and Hindu religions. When you choose a mandala for meditation purposes, it is important to be aware that each one is very different. They offer their individual symbolism and quite often, a deity is housed in the center.

When you gaze at a mandala during meditation and follow one point to another your mind and body naturally become intertwined. When you are able to become one with the mandala, you have entered into a quasi state as you are captivated by the mandala’s design.

Choosing the right mandala is imperative for your journey. Although Tibetan Monks sweep their sand mandalas up and take them to a nearby body of water so they can finalize their circle of life, your actions don’t need to be as extreme to be effective. In fact, there are coloring pages which are available online that can be downloaded or you can simply draw your own if you’re feeling creative.

(See the post, 10 Links to Free Mandala Coloring Pages for sources of coloring images)

If you want a more traditional mandala, you will find them primarily made from silk, thangka or sand but contemporary versions are available in the form of photographs, paintings, fiber arts and even sculptures.

When you prepare to meditate, it is important that you are able to find yourself in a comfortable position, somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted with your mandala placed across from you at eye level. Some find it helpful to create an altar for their mandala, adding objects that are symbolic of peace, grace, purity and spirituality.

When you begin to meditate, you will start at the entry point which is always the mandala’s outer ring. According to Tibetan tradition, it is this part of the mandala that essentially purifies you so that you are able to continue on with your journey. As you concentrate on the various colors, shapes and lines, the path gradually leads you toward the center. Quite often, you will reach a dead end on your journey, this is to be expected. A mandala takes you on a path to enlightenment so there are times you need to reverse your path to get closer to the center.


Mandalas of Deep Trust, No. 8

Mandalas of Deep Trust, No. 8
© Atmara Rebecca Cloe

As you make your journey inhale and exhale slowly through the nose, concentrating on your body’s rhythm. You will find that as you become one with the wisdom of the universe, your body’s rhythm will begin to match the design of the mandala.

Mandalas from the Heart of Peace, No. 1

Mandalas from the Heart of Peace, No. 1
© Atmara Rebecca Cloe

It is recommended to partake on this journey to enlightenment for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes. You will likely feel energized as well as quite surprised at just how powerful this sacred object actually is. As you release the stresses of the outside world, you will become quiet, calm, still and tranquil.

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons and Atmara Rebecca Cloe

See all of Atmara’s Mandalas at


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