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The term mandala may be applied to various tangible objects, depending upon the particular religious practice that uses the term. A mandala may take the form of a geometric pattern representing the Universe. It may also graphically depict a landscape of the Buddha land or the enlightened vision of a Buddha. Mandalas are commonly used by Hindu and Buddhist monks as an aid to meditation. In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, the mandala is a scroll of Chinese calligraphy that embodies the enlightened life condition of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of that Buddhist practice, and is the highest object of worship to which his followers chant the words "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo."

The photograph above is a good example of a Tibetan Sand Mandala. This pattern is painstakingly created on the temple floor by several monks a few grains of sand at a time. The various aspects of the design represent symbolically the objects of worship and contemplation of the Tibetan Buddhist cosmology.

To symbolize impermanence (a central teaching of Buddhism), after many weeks or months of creating the intricate pattern, the entire work is swept out the temple doors.

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