Mandalas are commonly used by tantric Buddhists as an aid to meditation.

Sand mandalas, as found in Tibetan Buddhism, are not practiced in Shingon Buddhism.

The Sun Stone is thought to be a ceremonial representation of the entire universe as seen by the Aztec religious class, in some ways resembling a mandala.

The Layer Monument, an early 17th-century marble mural funerary monument at the , is a rare example of Christian iconography absorbing alchemical symbolism to create a mandala in Western funerary art.

The re-introduction of mandalas into modern Western thought is largely credited to psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In his exploration of the unconscious through art, Jung observed the common appearance of a circle motif. He hypothesized that the circle drawings reflected the mind's inner state at the moment of creation. Familiarity with the philosophical writings of India prompted Jung to adopt the word "mandala" to describe these drawings created by himself and his patients. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:

I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, [...] which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. [...] Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: [...] the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.

Jung claimed that the urge to make mandalas emerges during moments of intense personal growth. He further hypothesized their appearance indicated a "profound re-balancing process" is underway in the psyche; the result of the process would be a more complex and better integrated personality.

The mandala serves a conservative purpose – namely, to restore a previously existing order. But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique. [...] The process is that of the ascending spiral, which grows upward while simultaneously returning again and again to the same point.