The Meaning and Symbolism of Mandala Tattoos


The Mandala design is an intricate pattern featuring fine lines, geometric shapes, and recognizable images, such as flowers. It is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle,” and in this sense, all Mandalas are of a circular shape and design, though they incorporate other images and shapes. They also happen to make for excellent tattoos, given the scope for design, and many people enjoy their aesthetic and deeper spiritual meaning.

Where Does the Mandala Come From?

Like many symbols that have seen recent popularization through the art of tattooing, the Mandala was also once associated with a small number of people. It has its origins in Hinduism and Buddhism, but has since become important for many people.

What Does it Mean?

In essence, the circle is one of the most important aspects of the Mandala design. All other shapes and symbols are contained within the circle and this has profound spiritual meaning.

The circle is representative of a universal whole. The circle does not end and is symbolic of eternity, harmony, balance, and wholeness. This eternity encapsulates all of the other shapes and designs, and creates a sense of symmetry, peace, and wholeness.

Importantly, when you draw a line from the center point of any circle to the outer edge, the distance is the same. In this context, the circle is not just representative of harmony and balance, but also of perfection. The perfection of spiritual reality gives shape to our myriad experiences and all else in the universe.

What Does it Mean to Different People?

Primarily, the Mandala is associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. For the Buddhists, the Mandala is important in religious ritual. The balance and perfection of the circular Mandala symbolizes our relationship to the infinite. It is also used in Anuttarayoga Tantra, which is an ancient Buddhist meditative practice.

In Hinduism, the Mandala takes on a slightly different meaning. Though it is representative of perfection, harmony, and balance, it is also used primarily as a meditative aid. Here, the Mandala helps to focus the mind into a state of meditation. It may often be seen in Hindu artwork and temples.

It must also be noted the Mandala does not just belong exclusively to Hindus and Buddhists. In fact, the simplified Mandala-type symbols are often seen in Christian Churches as part of the design of stained glass windows. Such symbols may contain important images from the Christian faith.

Should You Have a Mandala Tattoo?

Getting a tattoo is always a very personal choice, but when it comes to tattoos with distinct cultural references, some care must certainly be taken. Having said that, the Mandala has seen widespread use around the world and is not just restricted now to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Those who have a profound spiritual belief may find that the Mandala is significant. The circular design is truly universal and connects us all to the planet, the universe, and the infinite. Given the use of the Mandala in Yoga and meditation, it may also appeal to those who have a regular meditation practice.

It must also be noted that many people simply love the beautiful visual of the Mandala. The circle can contain many different shapes, colors, lines, and images. It can easily be modified to suit the specific vision of one person.

The Nature of the Spiritual Journey

Mandalas are inherently spiritual symbols, and this is intricately tied to their aesthetic qualities. Like the snake, Ouroboros, the circle is eternal. It does not end, just as the infinite has no end. Engaging with the deeper meaning of the Mandala is to come to terms with our own individual place within the universe and within all reality.

The first step is to contemplate the unity of all nature and reality, as represented by the Mandala circle. The second step is about relating to the world and reality around us and finding our own place, in the context of the unity of the whole as symbolized by the Mandala.

Where to Have the Mandala Tattoo Done

If you have decided to have a Mandala tattoo, it’s important to be aware that placement is crucial. The Mandal does not necessarily scale well down to smaller sizes due to the often intricate nature of the line works and images within the boundaries of the circle. A Micro style tattoo may work, or a simplified version, but this may lose the visual impact of the tattoo.

Because the Mandala design must often be quite large, it is always best to place it on a larger area of the body, such as the chest, stomach, thigh, or the back. Not only will these areas allow for more intricate design work and a larger Mandala, but they will also not distort the design. Placing it on an area such as the shoulder or arm over a curved surface may interrupt the circular design and limit visual appeal.

The Importance of Color

Color values also have great meaning in the design of Mandalas, and this may be reflected in a tattoo. The following colors have great significance:

  • Black: The mystery of reality, deep thought, and the individual
  • Blue: Meditation and peace
  • Purple: The color of the spirit and spirituality
  • Pink: The color of love and intuition
  • Red: Energy, strength, and a sense of passion
  • Orange: Transformation of the self, creativity, and an awakening of self-awareness
  • Green: The color of nature, caring, healing, and psychic ability
  • Yellow: The color of happiness, joy, and wisdom

Different Mandala Styles

You can have whatever you like within the circle of the Mandala, but there are certainly some traditional symbols and designs that have distinct meaning, including the following.

The Eight Spokes Design

This Mandala wheel with eight spokes is specific to Buddhism because it represents the eight-fold path of Buddha: right speech, right view, right resolve, right livelihood, right conduct, right mindfulness, right effort, and right meditation.

Lotus Flower

The Lotus is especially significant and prominent in Buddhism. The perfect symmetry of the Lotus petals combines with the perfect circle of the Mandala to symbolize balance and harmony.

The lotus flower also flowers on water, but it is rooted in the mud. For the Buddhist, this represents that beauty, harmony, and balance can be achieved in one’s life. Just as the Lotus grows out of the mud and into a flower, humans can transform their lives and achieve enlightenment.

The Mandala and Bell

When a bell is used within the Mandala design, it is representative of living in the moment and emptying one’s mind. This empty mind can then achieve clarity and receive the wisdom of Buddha.

Conclusion

The Mandala is a significant symbol in both Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions, and represents balance, harmony, and infinity. It has also become a popular type of tattoo, due in part to how visually appealing it is and the fact that it can contain anything from fine geometric line work to Buddhist and Hindu iconography.

Whether you enjoy the symmetry, color, and beauty of the Mandala, or you connect deeply to the meaning of the Mandala and the spiritual traditions it represents, there is little doubt that it can make for a truly eye-catching tattoo.

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