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mandala (mŭnˈdələ) [key], [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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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