Many people know what a mandala is, and many do not. Even if we think we know....well, sometimes that is the most dangerous, isn't It? ;)
The term "mandala" has become a widely used term to describe all sorts of circular, geometric patterns and designs which have a central point expanding outwards, usually with a meditative or metaphysical connotation. It is amazing the amount of beautiful images you can find if you do a search for "mandala" on google images and I am consistently inspired by mandala-related hashtags on social media. The psychologist, Carl Jung, considered them to be an archetypal pattern that represents consciousness itself and speaks to the human psyche irrespective of cultural context. Indeed, this "squaring of the circle" archetypal image can be seen in cultures and religious traditions the world over.
The actual word mandala is Sanskrit for "sacred circle", but it is more than that. It is a deeply meaningful, mystical, diagrammatic design found in ancient Hindu traditions (and subsequently Buddhism) that is created as a form of worship, used as a tool for meditation, and can be a way to create sacred space. The depth and breadth of the symbology found in any traditional mandala is overwhelming. The whole process in which the mandala is created is meaningful. The site is carefully chosen. The practitioner(s) is highly trained. Each line has a meaning. Everything is sacred.
With all this in mind, I have struggled over using this Sanskrit word, mandala, to describe my own designs and practices. Although, as Jung so profoundly realized, there IS a universal archetypal image that has deep roots in the collective consciousness, I would hesitate in then calling all these images from other traditions mandalas as well. Navajo sand-paintings, while very similar to Hindu mandalas in their purpose, geometric structure, and spiritual significance, are NOT mandalas after all.
I do not want to appropriate the word mandala, although I know it is the easiest way to describe some of my designs to others. It is also one of the best ways to communicate what my process is about: a meditative activity, a tool for engaging the Sacred, a spiritual AND artistic practice. BUT, even though it is the easiest word to use, there is a tendency for growth to come out of the struggle to find the "right" words.
I don't have a perfect new word for what I do. I probably never will, but for now I will use the phrase "mandala-inspired" to describe some of my designs (and, as you can see for yourself, some of my designs would definitely not be considered mandalas anyway). This phrase isn't perfect either, but it is an attempt to pay respect and homage to the beautiful, complex, and sacred tradition of mandala-making that is specific to Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a form of sacred art that I am humbled by, blessed to have been exposed to, and honored to share, in my own small way, with others.