A mandala in tantric Buddhism usually depicts a landscape of the Buddha land or the enlightened vision of a Buddha. Mandalas are commonly used by tantric Buddhists as an aid to meditation. This pattern is painstakingly created on the temple floor by several monks who use small tubes to create a tiny flow of grains. The various aspects of the traditionally fixed design represent symbolically the objects of worship and contemplation of the Tibetan Buddhist cosmology.
To symbolize impermanence (a central teaching of Buddhism), after days or weeks of creating the intricate pattern, the sand is brushed together and is usually placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the Mandala.
The visualization and concretization of the mandala concept is one of the most significant contributions of Buddhism to religious psychology. Mandalas are seen as sacred places which, by their very presence in the world, remind a viewer of the immanence of sanctity in the universe and its potential in himself. In the context of the Buddhist path the purpose of a mandala is to put an end to human suffering, to attain enlightenment and to attain a correct view of Reality. It is a means to discover divinity by the realization that it resides within one's own self.
The mandala is usually a symbolic representation which depicts the qualities of the enlightened mind in harmonious relationship with one another. A mandala may also be used to represent the path of spiritual development. On another level a mandala can be a symbolic representation of the universe, as in one of the four foundation practices of the Vajrayana, in which a mandala representing the universe is offered to the Buddha.
One important type is the mandala of the "Five Buddhas," archetypal Buddha forms embodying various aspects of enlightenment, the Buddhas depicted depending on the school of Buddhism and even the specific purpose of the mandala. A common mandala of this type is that of the Five Wisdom Buddhas (aka Five Jinas), the Buddhas Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi. When paired with another mandala depicting the Five Wisdom Kings, this forms the Mandala of the Two Realms.
Tibetian sand Mandela
To the Native American the mandala symbolizes the shield of good luck. With this shield it is believed the gods would protect them. By having one in their home, it would bring them prosperity, good health, and happiness. To some tribes a mandella was considered a shield. It was a prized possession of the plains Indians with each area having a specific meaning.
Mandalas are sometimes a variation of the dance shield used by the Plains Indians, influenced by the herders of the West. It was thought to bring its owner good luck, prosperity, wealth, and happiness.
Mandalas were originally made from Buffalo hides, Eagle feathers, and wild animal furs. Currently all natural materials are used, which come solely as by-products from domesticated animals.
Flower of Life
As you can see by now, from India, to China, to the ancient Americas, Mandelas were considered very important, both from a spiritual aspect, and as a means of protection.
Sadly, western culture tend to ignore these wonderful and mystical works of art and sacred geometry.
I have a nice one from India as well as a massive Celtic one on the wall that is about 10 ft. X 6 ft.