The mandala is one of the most universal spiritual symbols of any religion. Coincidentally, most symbolize the universe, consciousness, and the self all reconciled within one image.
Mandalas as most know them stem primarily from Hinduism and Buddhism, but religious and spiritual scholars have identified mandala-type symbols in a variety of other religions, primarily Christianity. They are rapidly increasing in tattoo popularity for the boldness of their designs, and part of the top 50+ best tattoo ideas in 2020.
In general, they comprise of intricate patterns and details confined within a circle. Subsequent circles have subsequent meanings, and specific meanings differ between regions, sects, religions, and the media by which they are created.
The mandala was introduced to¬– and popularized in western society by the psychologist Carl Jung, a student and colleague of Sigmund Freud. The first mandalas the Jung discovered were those created by himself. “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,” Jung wrote in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “… which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. … Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: … the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.” Jung then related them to the similar spiritual images of Hinduism and Buddhism. Jung was the first to categorize these images as “mandala,” a word he took from an Indian dialect.
While the specifics of each mandala differ, Jung believed they touch on a universal reality shared by all people. He summed them up by writing, “The mandala serves a conservative purpose—namely, to restore a previously existing order. But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique. … The process is that of the ascending spiral, which grows upward while simultaneously returning again and again to the same point.”
Hindu and Buddhist mandalas differ slightly. In Hinduism, they are known broadly as yantra and are used in meditative rituals. Every yantra is unique and relates to a specific god. The subsequent rings of yantra help the individual call forth the qualities bestowed by a respective god, using it to summon him or her. In this way, the yantra connect to the heavens, but translate into lived practices of individuals and act as a guide.
In Hinduism, mandalas also have political significance. The ancient author Kautilya in his political work, the Arthashastra, used them to describe the makeup of the state. According to Kautilya, the Raja-mandala places the king at the center, and each surrounding ring describes different factions and groups that makeup his kingdom.
In Buddhism, mandalas function primarily in a religious context. Like in Hinduism, they act as a guide in meditation, but instead of leading their devotee in their daily life, they lead Buddhist monks in chant. They decorate temples throughout the Buddhist world.
In the Tibetan sect of Vajrayana Buddhism, it is common practice to create intricate mandalas out of colored sand. Jung probably received his conception of mandalas from the teachings of Vajrayana which, as one scholar writes, portray the pure, enlightened mind through the circular symbols. Manadalas in Vajrayana portray the mind as “”a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe.”
The meaning of any mandala is often felt before it is known. Deeply spiritual people wear a mandala as a tattoo to represent their belief in the connection between all things. The mandala represents their consciousness, and the their consciousness represents the universe, and the mandala represents the universe. Though it is a permanent mark, they know that they themselves are as impermanent as the sand paintings of the Vajrayana monks, who upon completing each mandala, wipe the slate clean and start again.
This mandala hand tattoo is an excellent example of the versatility in design they can create. By starting at the center and working out the artist is able to build an artwork of intensity without having to sacrifice any core tenets of the mandala, such as balance and unity. This mandala ink also works to complement the subject’s previous geometric tattoo.
Another mandala that slots in effortlessly with previous ink. The use of red color along with smartly applied white ink highlights add a slightly different element to the traditional balance of black and gray. This is a technically excellent shoulder tattoo.
The artist uses a combination of styles to create a nice chest tattoo mandala. Again, the versatility in its depiction helps to combine the piece with previous work. The artist has worked hard to complement thick black lines on the outer image, with varying circles of negative space tied in with time consuming levels of difficult dotwork.
Wow. This is a truly remarkable black and gray expression of different tattoo styles worked together with masterful technique. The versatile mandala tattoos are deployed to create linkage with the more esoteric geometric pieces, such as the maze at the wrist or the black and negative space vortex high on the upper arm. This is a rich, interesting work of great quality that could be transferred to an adult’s stress reducing coloring in book!
The variety in this mandala tattoo is astounding. It’s these types of tattoo where you gain the understanding of how the mandala is known as the circle in Sanskrit. If the subject hadn’t run out of available skin the mandala images could just keep on expanding ever outward, building and thriving based on subtly different expressions of line, pattern and shading.
This feature chest tattoo is a cool piece of art. It moves out from the tiny central negative space circle, in layer after layer of tightly detailed, triangular patterns of black and gray shading. However, the mandala images don’t really fit the shape of the subject’s shoulders nor do they link up with clarity – it’s a bit of a mess of blackness. The success of the center technique is lost in the transitions of a different shaped canvas. A different pattern of mandala application for the shoulders may have resulted in more successful flanking images.
A small, almost minimalist mandala tattoo that successfully uses the dotwork style to create the quintessential radiating image. The artist has applied this tattoo with sublime technique – you can see how each dot contributes to the mandala’s balance and effects negative balance.
Two different mandala tattoos. It’s interesting that under the central mandala idea of harmony,circle, and balance these mandalas don’t quite fit. The top tattoo across the shoulder encroaches on the bottom ink, and is also cut off near the neck line.
This series of mandala tattoos morphs into a successful sleeve tattoo. The image is a little far away for up close detail, but the body art flows nicely along, with the possible exception of the singular lotus that stands apart from the rest of the arm’s work. The upper arm sleeve stands out, with two bands of zero space central work bracketed by gradual changes in color and pattern as the mandala radiates outward.
A beautiful piece mixing amazing layers of mandala imagery with the weird, abstract central bird image. The delivery is masterful, from the gray shading of the fowl’s feathers through the different sized mandalas all working in concert to cecome a brilliantly interlinked full back tattoo.
This shoulder mandala tattoo effectively place the artwork into an awkward space. the artist has done a great job allowing the central image to ‘flatten’ against the shoulder, then chosen to work outward from this point with patterns suitable to work with the angles created by bone and sinew. Another eye catching part of this tattoo is the expert deployment of small dot work to the central mandala and uniquely shaded through other points of the tattoo.
This is a funky mandala. I bet there are lots of people with stress issues just itching to take to it with a set of colored pencils. With no shading to speak of, this body art relies on clever patterns and directional changes to achieve the sense of unity and circle that mandalas are known for. This piece could either be left as is, shaded in black and gray or totally filled in with layers of bright color.
The technical skill needed to form the intricate details of this mandala tattoo is almost off the charts. The intensity needed to create this artwork – each level radiating out from the last with a different degree of clear, precise, black work – is almost as impressive as the results. The upper part of the arm where the mandala cuts off to meet the previous work – including some J.R.R. Tolkien high Elvish – by flipping from light to dark across the diagonal shows an expert level of skill in shading and technique. This is poster worthy work by a master!
Do mandalas have meaning?
Mandala means circle in Sanskrit and symbolizes balance, eternity, unity and perfection. The mandala is a key motif in Hindu and Buddhist religions with it commonly representing the universe and can also be described as ‘the center of surroundings’ or ‘sacred circle.’
Mandalas are often used to promote a sense of peace, calm, and tranquillity which is often useful in yoga teachings, meditation practise and various methods used to relieve stress while presenting a wide range of versatile meanings.
Where do Mandala tattoos come from?
In western culture Mandalas are used to promote balance and harmony. This idea extends to mandalas becoming a spiritually linked method of tattoo, body art, and peace in general.
Mandala patterns and pictures start at a central point then radiate outward in a circle, with a variety of other images or patterns making up the whole. They are often very intricate, detailed sets of images when drawn together and make for aesthetically pleasing tattoos that many people respond to on a deeper level.
Do guys get Mandala tattoos?
Mandala tattoos are popular with both guys and girls. With men becoming more vocal in their quest for lifestyle balance and the elimination of stress, Mandala images have become an increasingly popular s tattoo choice, especially those guys looking for geometric styled ink with a spiritual meaning.