Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning something like “whole world” or “healing circle”. The word is traditionally used to describe spiritual diagrams, painted or created in sand, primarily by Tibetan Buddhists.
However, a definition that covers modern usage of the word must include more.
Circular images are a deep part of every human psyche. Amerind medicine shields and sand paintings, Gothic rose windows, and Hindu Yantra use circular diagrams as symbols or tools for meditation, protection and healing.
Carl Jung explored mandalas as keys to the psyche. He drew on traditional sources, but developed his own method. Today, many healing practitioners and spiritual seekers draw and use mandalas to better understand the self.
Circular patterns are common in nature and appear often in decorative arts. Many people enjoy creating mandalas for their aesthetic values alone.
When someone uses the word mandala today, they could mean any of these things.