Practitioners of Buddhist Tantra pictured the universe in the shape of a mandala or ritual circle. Mandalas were used to explore symbolic and ritual connections between the self, important Buddhist deities, and the universe as a whole.
Mandalas can be represented in two dimensions, as they are in many varieties of Tantric art. They also can appear in three dimensions, ranging in size from small ritual implements to large temples. The landscape of a city or a nation can be visualized as a mandala, and movement through the mandala often serves as a guide for Buddhist pilgrimage.
Mandalas help understand how Tantric practitioners use the doctrine of Emptiness to transform ordinary awareness into an awareness of the Buddha’s awakening.