The basic fivefold mandala is fundamental to all tantric practices. In these practices, the meditator identifies with the central deity and emanates the surrounding deities in the cardinal directions, starting with the east. Symbolically, the meditator always sits facing the direction of the rising sun, so that east is in front, south is to the right, west is behind, and north is to the left. When a mandala is drawn or painted, east is normally shown below the central figure, south on the left side of the picture as one faces it, west at the top, and north at right.

Basic Fivefold Mandala
Csaba Osvath

Notes from
Francesca Fremantle: Luminous Emptiness; Understanding The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.
(page 117)