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mandala [Skt.] - (Tib. kyilkhor; wyl.dkyil ‘khor). Mandala can be translated literally as ‘centre and circumference‘. A mandala is generally depicted as a circle which revolves around a centre. On the simplest level, a mandala can be understood to be us, the student or practitioner, and the phenomenal world around us. The word ‘mandala’ also describes an integrated structure that is organized around a central unifying principle.

It also means:

  1. the sacred environment and dwelling place of a buddha, bodhisattva or deity, together with the deities, which is visualized by the practitioner in tantric practice,
  2. the two dimensional representation of this environment on cloth or paper, or made of heaps of coloured sand, or three dimensional traditionally made of wood.
  3. an offering of the entire universe visualized as a Pure Land with all the inhabitants as pure beings.

See also mandala offering.