Mandalas have some of the most visually enticing designs in the world, from the intricate shapes that make up a mandala to all the vibrant colors that go into it.

But mandalas are more than just iconic circular graphics, they are also full of meaning and purpose. Many Tibetan monks, for example, have spent decades mastering the art of mandala meditation.

The mandala is said to have emerged from Indian and Tibetan ancient history and is normally used among Hindus and Buddhists. In Tibet, for example, creating mandalas using multicolored sand, known as sand mandalas, is also considered as a meditative ritual.

The word mandala itself came from Sanskrit, which is an ancient Indian language, and means circle. Some have also said that the word “manda” means palace and “la” means divinity, which makes the meaning of the mandala to be the palace of divinity. This makes sense considering that the mandala also reflects the top view of the way many Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries are built, with a statute of the deity located at the center.

Similarly, others have referred to the mandala as a set of geometric shapes and circles that take you through to the divinity in the middle.

The mandala is also said to form the meditative environment in a practitioner’s mind. In mandala meditation, the practitioner will attempt to keep that vision in mind for two hours straight. Doing so apparently means that the person has successfully “entered” the mandala.

Each shape that makes up a mandala is there for a reason and when one meditates on a mandala, the person is also focusing on the meanings behind the different symbols. This explains why some people also define the mandala as a “container of essence,” with the word essence referring to the meanings behind those symbols.

A Tibetan monk once told an audience in the US that the outer-most circle surrounding the mandala is known as the fire ring, which represents wisdom, followed by the Vajra ring, which represents compassion, and the lotus ring, which represents renunciation.

Vajra is a ritual object believed to symbolize the properties of a diamond and a thunderbolt.

Wisdom on the mandala means to truly understand and accept the reality and not to become ignorant, the monk said, while compassion will help to diffuse anger in a person and safeguard from the ill effects of ignorance. Renunciation in the mandala means to see the true value of things and not to over- or underestimate them, he added.

These three circles also symbolize a man’s three main emotions, he said, and they are desire, attachment, and anger. When one meditates on the mandala, he or she needs to separate from those three.