Another use of the mandala within the Buddhist tradition is as a symbol of wisdom and the impermanence of human life. In these types of mandalas, the circle usually begins with a ring of fire as the outer layer. This represents wisdom, and a protective boundary against the outside world. Next comes a ring that depicts the eight charnal grounds, which is a powerful symbol in Buddhism. Charnal grounds are areas in which human bodies are left to decompose; sometimes after being burned and other times simply left above ground, exposed to the elements. Charnal grounds represent the impermanence of human life, and meditation at such sites is intended to remind one that they, too, will one day attain a similar fate.
Mandalas in Psychology
The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung is credited with bringing the mandala into Western culture, and pioneering the use of the term as a name for symbolic circular drawings. A longtime appreciation of Indian philosophy and tradition led Jung to connect his own circular art projects to the ancient use of the same basic structure and form. Jung believed that during intense periods of self-growth, people have a natural urge to create mandalas, and that the resulting artwork is symbolic of the transformative re-balancing that is underway in the psyche of the individual artist.
Mandalas in Popular Culture
Creating a mandala can provide a pathway to meditation and centering, giving the artist a focal point to direct his or her energy and thought. The act of drawing, painting or otherwise creating a mandala can also teach essential self-soothing skills. In other settings, mandalas can be used in conjunction with other exercises to facilitate emotional expression, and can give the artist the visual representation of a confined arena in which to place his or her anxieties, frustrations, fear or anger.
The potential applications of mandalas within the therapeutic setting are as varied as the symbol itself, and mandala art has become so widely appreciated that an array of mandala coloring books can be found in bookstores and other settings.