Tibetan monks making a temporary "Sand-Mandala" in the City-Hall of Kitzbühel in Austria in 2002 Details of Sand-MandalaA 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.

The photograph at right is a good example of a Tibetan sand mandala. This pattern is painstakingly created on the temple floor by several monks who use small tubes and rub another metal object against the tube's notched surface 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 his or her self. 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.