By metonymy, the term bodhimandala is also (perhaps more frequently) used to describe a place, often a city, monastery, or temple, where a particular bodhisattva is believed to have achieved buddhahood, taught Dharma, or performed some other significant function. Ningbo, for example, is regarded by many Pure Land Buddhists as the bodhimandala of Avalokiteshvara.
The term «bodhimandala» is used in a looser sense to describe a Buddhist temple of any variety, whether or not it hosted a bodhisattva. In this respect, the term is similar to the Catholic style «Our Lady of..», which properly prefixes a site visited by the Virgin Mary (as in Our Lady of Lourdes, but has gradually become a generic church appellation.
Bodhimandalas are regularly visited by Buddhist pilgrims, and some, like Ningbo, have gone on to become popular secular tourist destinations as well. In many forms of Buddhism, it is believed that bodhimandalas are spiritually pure places, or otherwise conducive to meditation and enlightenment.
It should be noted that different Buddhist sects often disagree on the location and significance of different bodhimandalas. As one would expect, the southern Theravada tradition tends to emphasize the bodhimandalas of the Indian subcontinent, while the northern Mahayana schools (such as Zen and Ch’an) tend to venerate sites in China, Japan, and Tibet.