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; cow tothe Goddess who is.

'the Soul of Ali Yantras

L2./i12.sahasra!12ma (205)

Yanrra or Vishr;uc the Presesves. the second god of th-e HrnCti if,;nity, inscribed wirh sacred sound-s;rr:6o!s



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Foreword by Ajit \'1ookerjee




1 introduction


2 Archetypal Space and Sacred Sound


3 Metaphysics of Yantra


4 Dynamics of Yantra-Rituai


5 Dynamics of Yantra: rViedication


6 Aesthetics of Yantra


/ Architectural Yantras


8 Occuit Yantras


Notes on the Text


r' ,-"ossarv







The vantra is essentially a geometrical composition; but to understand its true nature our notions of geometry must yield to those or dynamics. The ventra, then, represents a particular configuration whose power increases in proportion to the abstraction and precision of the diagram.

Yantras vary according to their use. l:idivloua! deities have their own yantras accornpaniec by appropriate mantras (or sound-syllables}: Yantra is ensouied by mantra,' the Kuiar''7av;;. Yertre 50.)15. vvben a sadhaka (aspirant! attains a high degree aT spiritual progress he is initiated into the use of a particular yarnra. The selection or the yantra with its appropriate mantra is a highly complex process, and the guru alone can guide the aspirant to his potent symbol. !t arouses the inner life-force to its fullest, and its dedication to the deity is one with the process of its awakening. Its action can bese€n as a physical, psychological and spiritual opening into comprehension of the mystery.

The study or Hindu yantras or power diagrams in this exhaustive analysis. the first of its kind, shows how each elementary geometrical form can generate a series of linear and multi-dimensional figures or the same shape, regardless or its original size. Common to such permutations are certain recurring linearities: the bindu, or point; the triangle; the square: and the circle. in the yantra, these function as 'thoughtforms' that are so constructed that the aspirant understands by them particular patterns of force. To identify wholly with the configuration is to 'realize' or to release the Inherent forces that each form denotes.

The principle behind this use or the vantra is basic to tantric perception. Each yantra makes visible the patterns of force that can be heard in the mantra soundsyllable. and each yantra reciprocally encioses its own unique power-pattern. Together, vantra-rnantra may be said to buiid form (by the act or configuration). to conserve form (the configuration :tself), and finally to dissolve iorrn (as the aspirant comprehends its inner meaning and soars beyond if:.



The art that has evolved out ci the practice 07 tantrisrn embraces a wide variety or imagery. of which the yantra, 'a geometrical diagram with abstract symbols', is one or the most vivic and central, 1n addition to the impact of its mathematicai perfection, the yantra has a universal appeal on the level of archetypes. Similar forms reappear in almost ail religions. operating as symbols or cosmic mvsteries chrough which man rediscovers his primeval consclousness.

With the exception of G. Tucci's work on therbeory and practice of mandalas, there has not so far been a comprehensive analysis of the vantra. its reiigious symbols have multiple meanings; the texts are often expressed in obscure language, and are susceptible to a vanety or interpretations. The dot ':binou! at the centre of the yantra, for instance, can be viewed in several ways: as a tool for harnessing concentration/as a symbol for' the source of cosmos, and as an emblem for the quintessential psychic unity or the male-female principles, when it implies metapbvsicaiideas orcosmicduaiism. Similariy,each element of a vantraisva multivalent svmbol..

This study examines the Hindu yantra from the interrelated aspects dits archetypal forms and sound associations, the,deitiesanacosmo!ogical principiesit embraces, the correspondences that are activated with its aid between man himself, the microcosm; and the macrocosm, through the internal: yantras of the subtle body; and finaiiy, the applications of yantras to temple plans and in practical magic.

Symbols such as the meditational yantra form part of the esoteric discipline of l"dian tradition. 80m or inner vision, they reveal truths that are timeless, and like weat works of art" inspire man towardsvseif-transcenoence.vlf ignored or undocumented, the knowledge and spiritual achievements preserved in these complex symbols and formulae could be wiped out forever under the pressure of the conternporaryworlc' 5 upheavals,

This study has been completed with the aid of several people 'withoutwnose personal help it would not have taken its present form. First, i owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Manfred vvurr and. vvissenschaftlicher'Verlag Altmann GmbH, Hamburg, ror providing facilities for research in Cerrnany and En-g!andr Myc grat:tuc€ is also due to Ajit tv~ookerjee for his helpfUl criticism and co-operation. and for lending a large number of vantra diagrams and three (mportar:t illurnir.atec manuscripts or yantra f.rom h\s collection of tantra art. [ wisr, to thank iV\r Hans-Ulrich ROleker for reading through the manuscript and Mr Michael Paula for his co-operation. Last of aii, ! wish to record my gratitude to my parents, who have been a source or inspiration to me.


Yantra o'eDicting tr.e evoiutior. and invoh.ltJ;cn 01· the cosmos. The expanding and corrtracth1g currents 0/ vibraticr: sym:x)!ized by the Ssnskri: tenets form a v,reb-/ike image, es ~he C05~·05 emanates and returns· to the primord,i2} cenlre~ the One. Ra;"as!nan, c. 79rh cent;"'f;/, gouache on paper



in the Brhadara!]yaka Upanishad (2.1.19) there is the metaphor of a spider sitting at the centre or its web, issuing and reabsorbing its threads in concentric circles. ali held at one point. This image occurs in several Upanishads since it points to the basis of the Indian world-view: wnity in diversity. The spider's threads symmetrically expand into a visible circumference, and though there are divergent lines in between and varying distances to be spanned they can ail be traced back. to the.

central point of the web. .

This apparently simple metaphor also condenses th~ essence or Indian thought: ail existence is governed by a single principle, and the point OT origin or the supreme consciousness is Simultaneously an infinite reservoir or collectivs energy, from which everything issues and into which everything returns. This centre is the One, 'the potential Ail-point', which not only serves as a bridge but is Cosmic Unity underiving the physical diversity or the world. The metaphor also alludes to the Indian vision of. the. structure or the-ccsmos.. which is conceivedoi as a 'horon" growing and expanding in concentric circles, and then contracting, dissoiving into a . single principle, The expansion can be atomic or infinite; no . matter what their magnitude, the expansions and contractions are interconnected and integrated in the general framework supported by the centre,

Theyantra is a potent and. dynamic sacred symbol which-reflects the same-three metapbysicai concepts embraced in the analogy of the spider: A geometrical figure gradually growing away from or towards its centre, in stages, until its expansion or contraction is complete, the yantra has around its centre several concentric figures 10, 11 which continue to expand or contract as precisely asa spider's web, not only as

bridges between different planes, but also as symbols or unfolding or gathering energies. The figure' 5 periphery is a square enclosure with four.sacred doors opening towards the four cardinal directions. The concentric iines of the yantra define. its volume and create a rhythmic unity, relating what they unite or divide to the-centre,

the point or integration. Like the spider in its web, the bindu (point) at the centre of

the yantra is a centre of every creation, the radiating source or energy that generates

ail forms.

The central quest of Indian spirituality is to achieve total experience of the One, ;Y\an is a spiritual traveilerwhosemain airn.In Indian traditio», is to Intuit the unity of the One. The traveller, whether he is driven directly to the summit, whether he pauses TO, a wbiie, whether he stumbles orrthe path or turns away, knows intuitively that all his movements inevitably lead him back to the starting point the Ail-point. the odgin and the end of all existence.


K8r:ud,: com (1st cenrL.'ry AD;- and sea's irotr:

Mohenjo-daro ic. 2500 Be;- v,,'i:h swastikas atic' sccere pat!ems


Al,.vakentng one's inner centre implies ga.thering or-e's set! into a single creativepoint and.~ntegrating and balancing its expansion into a totality. To centre one's self is essentially a way towards inner awakening. The quest or this centre is the pivot around which ventra svrnbollsm revolves.

The symbols of indian art echo this fundamental truth and direct man's spiritual journey towards the goal or transmutation. Visual metaphors through which we move beyond our material order. they serve 2S cosmic cross-points by' means or \Vh1Ch our contact with nature at large can be expanded to tap higher and more unified levels or experience. Vvhether these symbols are as monumental as Hindu temples or as small as coin-sized vantras, they mark a multitude of different stages on an individual's spiritual pilgrimage, They provide halting places, sites of rest and support where the seeker gains an awareness of the universe in its totality and discovers his inner identity with the single, immutable centre, as jf the whole universe were condensed in him. ThUS the symbols st.mulate man to explore and reveal this centre which is a link between himself and the cosmos,

The use of abstract mystic symbols can be traced back to early indian history.

Among the artifacts excavated in the remains of tbeHarappan Culture 'c. 3000 BC) are intaglio seals with designs that resemble yantras. .A number of seals depict the swastika symbol while others are marked with a cross, a pattern or parallel lines intersecting into a grid-square or a composition or square-on-square, The seal designs, liKe yantras. are conceived on a cardinally orientated square. In subsequent periods the Vedic altars Ie. 2000 Be), pregnant With cosmic svmboiism, were conspicuously abstract in design (see Chapter 6}. it was in tantrism (A D 700-1200. the tantnc renaissance period) that the use of mystic symbols was fuiiy revived.

Taritrisrn marked one or the most distinct and revoiutionary phases of Indian religious history, synthesizing many heterodox elements. One of the ways in which tantric lore is distinguished from the non-tantric tradition is in its intensive use of sacred formulae and symbolism. Tantrisrn is basically a ritual-orientated system. Tantric sadhana (ritual worship) requires the practice of yogic techniques and concentrated visualizations, and the linear cornoositions of the yantra are conceived precisely to meet the needs of such meditation. These mystic diagrams are ideallv suited to a senes of inner visualizations, growing and unfolding as links. marking· stages of consciousness Hence vantras were found to be an indispensable constituent of tantflc sadhana.' All sects and sub-sects 01 tantrism use aostract symbols? and yantras as part of their ritual initiation ceremony and dailv worship. as means to attaining the adept's spiritual goaL

The literature or the Tarrtras is vast, and there are many texts} dealing exclusively with yantras. in addition, there are a number or commentaries in a few secular languages other than Sanskrit, such as .Hindi Bengali. Maiayalam. Tamil and Assarnese. in which vantras are discussed,

Yantras have survived in use, though the last remnants of their living tradition may stili be found only in isolated areas in India. They nave been transmitted through family groups, pupil-guru descents and esoteric tantric groups like the Natha Saints of Bengal, Tamil Siddnais in South India and the Kaulas in Kashmir. Their

ritual use and esoteric significance have been kept a closely guarded secret from the uninitiated, and their esoteric meaning and mysticai associations are learned from a spiritual preceptor under strict discipilne. who enforces a yogic regime.


Conceot of the vantra

I ,

The Sanskrit word 'yantra' derives- From the root 'yam' meaning to sustain, hold or support the energy inherent in a particular element. object or concept. in its first meaning} 'vantra' may :erer :0 any kind or mechanical contrivance which ;5 harnessed to aid an enterprise .. '" ventra in this sense. therefore. :5 any sort of machine or instrument such as ;s used in architecture, astronomy, alchemy. chemistry, wariaraor recreation. A Sanskrit text or the eleventh century AD, Samaranganasuuadhara.5 on the science or architecture. gives vivid descriptions of the making and operating or such mechanical yantras as a wooden riving bird. wooden aeropianes meant to fiy with hot mercury as fuel. maie and female robot figures. etc. The vast observatories built in Delhi and laicur under the oatronage of lai Singh (1686-1734) are called lanrar-Mantar, as their massive structures are astronomical 'instruments' iyantras) for recording heavenly phenomena.

The meaning of the term yantra has been expanded to refer to religious enterprises, and has acquired a special theological significance. MystiC vantras are aids to and the chief instruments or meditative discipline. Basicaily a yantra used in this context and for this purpose .s an abstract geometrical design intended as a 'tool' for meditation and increased awareness.

Form - function - power

Mystic yantras are an amalgam or three principles: the iorrn principle ,:Akriti-rupai, the function-principle ,/riya-rCpa), and the power-principle (Sakti-f'Jpa).6

They are, first or all, believed to reveal the inner basis of the forms and shapes abounding In the universe, just as, whatever the outer structure, ail matter is made

. or an intrinsic basic unity. the atom, so each aspect of the world can be seen in its structural form as a yantra. As the scientist sees the final picture or the world in the ordcrlv __ simple" atomic structures ~n which certain primal shapes appear 2.5 a harmonized 'whole'. S0 the lndian shilpi-yogins (tn"akers of ritual art} seek to ident~fy

the innermost structure or the universe by concentrating the variegated picture of world-appearances through intense yogic visioo into s.mpie form-equations. A ~O) 11 yantra, then, can be considered an ultimate form-equation or a specific energy manifesting in the world, Tnese simple form-equations are held to epitomize the real

nature of the cosmos as abstracted f,om the concrete.

in its \v~dest apptkation, j~kdtj-rOpa refers to the inner or hidden form of structures, so that any structure. from an atom to a star, has its Akdt;-rupa yantra. Thus a flower or a lear has an outer Structure which is .mrnediately perceptible, but it also has an inner "form, which generally consists of a skeletal rramev·/ork If"1 which all its unear rorrns intersect with a central axis or nucleus: an forms have a gross

structure and a csubtle' inner structure, \\·,;th 2_ b2,S~C causal oattern (the inner forrn:

Tor the external iottci.

Yantras function as revelatory symbols of cosmic truths and as lnstructionai charts of the spiritual aspect or human experience. All the prima! shapes of a vantra 77-80 are psychological svrnbols corresponding to inner states of human consc'ousness. through which control and expansion of psychic forces are possible. It is for this reason that a vantra is said to embody a 'iunct";on-prhIClple' -(Krfya-rupa).

Bv constant reioforcernent in ritual worshio the aooarentlv inert vantra .. forms

, I I J I I •

shake off thefr dormancy and act together as emblems of psychic power. in this

case, the yarrtra is said to move beyond 'form' and 'function' and emerges as a ·povver diagram' CSakti-rupa)encowed with a self-generating propensity to transform a mundane experience into a psychic one, It is at this point that the yantra is said to be 'revealed'. Although its outward meaning may be relatively easy to understand, the innermeaning that gives it its efficacy is diff'[cu.!t to grasp because its archetypal forms are basically concerned with the inner facts of psychic experience. gained through intuitive vision.

As body ·IS to the soul and oil ·IS to the lamp, a vantra is to the deity Kui2fQa'ia ianua (Chap. I v. 86:

Dwellings of the gods

i Sudarshana Chakra {Wheel of Vishnu): var.tra formed of VisnQu's sixteen-armed Icon inside ·his sacred weapon, the disc vdth the fiery circle/ symboHzrng his Hmrtless power which destroys illusion. Ra jest han, c. 18th centu ry. Gouache on paper

Everv vantra is a sacred enclosure i.temenos' a 'd\veliing'7 or receptacle 0; lsbta-devata (the chosen, tutelar, deity]. A yantra is a substitute for an anthropomorphic image of the deity .. "viost indian divinities, such as KrisnGa, Visnl)u. Durga, and Kaii", in addition to their iconographic representations, have been assigned aniconic symbols in their specific yantras. A deity's vantra may bear no resemblance to the iconographic image (murti), whose proportions and human attributes are fixed by the traditlonal canon. The yantra is its 'trans-form' (para-rupa), its abstract translation. A yantra retains the suorasensibie vitality or an image, expressing the sense and spirit of the original.


2. The p"jm2) triang1eJ embiem of C05m~c energ:' as ~aktj, the iemafe princlDte, su?portfng the archetyp2:~ shapes of a DevT(godcess) yantra. South lndia, c, ~8th centurv. Copper plate

3 Devt vantrz based on the voru-shaped plan of the anoent vedic flre attars (yon)-kur!93,':. The archetypa! shapes of Vedic a.tars and their r):ual practices have bath survived in tantr.c v ... 'orship.·Ra)as~har;, c. 19th Century. Ink on paper

4 Swastika Ya~tra emolo,: ing tne .ancien: solar svrnbol of auspic)oU5i"'eSS, a onmal symbolic form Rajasthan, (. 19th centLl~y, Gouache on paper. R!gh: .. a swastika seal from ,\'1ohenjo---caro datIng hom c. 2500 B C

6. ,;\Y\angala varv-a. worshipped for goed fortune and success. (mangala'). The energy of the vantra's deity 15 exoressec in the- "mscribed sound-syllables or mantras. AHahabad., 'l8l19th centurv. Copper c.are

.. - . .;:_

8 Surya (Sun'] Yantra wrth images of the deities of the nine planets, A var.tra is a- (:kd~o:rthe gods. E.very vaotras iinea~ framework supports many- dusters of denles.flse sparKs from the fjery nuCiEiu5 -OT the cenual deiryc The cuterrnost periphery )5 protec:ed by guardian deities who forbid nega[Jve force to enre; the ho~y space. Seed rnantres are often substitutec for the rmages of thes€ deities, or the appropriate deities may be visualized til the spaces or the ~'antia by tn€ sadhaka curing me6~tatlon< 5ar.:asjddan:a<aftvacurjjm~H')~, PunJab. c. 1839. Gouache on pape"-

Yantras have been described as 'symbolic extensions or tne sacred piigrimcentres (pitha-sthana)' - the most holy temples of the Supreme Coddess which are scattered throughout India - and as 'spatial digits' or the divine.s The origin of these pilgrimage centres is described in an indian myth. Siva wandered through India carrying the corpse of Sati (or Parvati, his spouse) in grief and madness, until Brahma and vishnu became so anxious that Vishnu, with successive throws of his disc, dismembered SatT, \vhose limbs feli to the earth at places ail over India. These places became sacred centres'ofpiigrimage,;empies saturated with holy power. Thus vantras should be seen, nor as 'artworks' isolated .,from the religious tradition in \vhich they developed and which sustains them, but as twc-dirnensional- pTtha.:-sthana, or pilgrim tern pies. in which the movement from the profane to the sacred cakes place. The yantras or devatas are 'revealed' images or transcendental reality.


The symbolic syntax of yantra imagery

3y themselves. the constituent symbols of a yantr'a convey only partial meanings, and cannot carry the universe of meaning [hat a yantra as a whoie denotes. The symbolic syntax or the yantra reveals a 'universe-pattern' or the totality of existence, in which hierarchical. apparently heterogeneous planes of existence form a synthesis. This synthesis 'allows a man to discover a certain unity of the world and at the same time become aware or his own destiny as an integral part of the world'."

Broadly; the symbolic syntax of yantra can be divided into two specific dimensions; the cosmic and the psychic (that is, the rnacrocosrnic and the microcosmic). The cosmic.dimeosion can be further divided into the deity motif and

the mantra element. Though the deity motif is the centre around which yantra 9 symbolism revolves, it becomes fuily meaningful only with awareness of the metaphysical principiesand the laws and processes governing the cosmos which

the particular divinities denote (see Chapter 31. For instance, the goddess Kall represents the cosmic activities of creation and destruction, and the Kart Yantra is not only the receptacle or KaiTbut a symbolic projection of the metaphysical 'truths': which she personifies,

The second aspect of yantra syntax is the mantra element ,"tantras, the Sanskrit syllables inscribed on vantras, are essentiaUy 'thought-forms' representing divinities 6,7 or cosmic powers, which. exert. their influence by means at sound-Vibrations (see Chapter 2!. It is put forward in the Tantras that the entire world is symbolized in mantra equations, as the mantra is essentially a projection ofcosmic sound(Nada·=

the principle of vibration born out of the conjunction of Siva-Sakti, the Absolute Princlple), Yantra and mantra are always round inconjunction. Sound is considered

as important as form in yantra. if not more important, since form in its essence is

sound condensed as matter. .

The third aspect of yantra syntax is its psycho-cosmic symbolism. Despite its cosmic meanings a yantra.i$..a.reaiityiiyed.Because of the relationship that exists in the Tantras between the outoet';,vorid(th~macrocosm) and man's inner world (the

microcosm; e'./ef:' symbol in a vantra. ··is ·CmOTvzJeT").tiy resonant in rnner~outei

67 synthesis. and is associated with the subtle body and aspects of human consciousnessisee Chapter 5). Thus; for instance, .t0€ bincu in a yamra 15 cosmic v/nen viewed as the emblem of the Absolute Principle but psychological when It ls related to the adept's spiritual centre. Byaitgning these two planes of awareness, the yantra translates psychic realities into cosmic terms and the cosmos into psychic planes.

Each of these dimensions of yantra svnt>» c.~·ri be .equated with an the others.

Thus, the deity motif may be assum~rj ::-: ~i;2 mantra - in several instances the symbolcf the deity is the seed sound lbTja-mantra) inscribed in the centre of the yantra (see Chapter 27; ora mantra may be reiatedsimultansouslv to a deity (Chapter 3) and to body-cosmos parallels, or the human body with its cosmic identities may itself become an 'instrument' - a yantra - during the yogic process (Chapter 3).

Tantrism has evolved the most complex networks of these interactions, and if distinctions may be made between the syntacticdimensions, none can exist without the others since they are all mutualiy inclusive.

The symbolic syntax thus integrates ali the dimensions or the tantric universe. It is based on the holistic view of life characteristic of Indian thought. in the ultimate sense, the separation of elements of whatever kind 15 iii usory. The distinctions between psychic and cosmic, deities and mantras, are contingent. The fundamental aim or ritual and meditation on the yantra is to ruse ali the dimensions into a state of oneness. Hereinlies the symbolic unity of the yantra.

The complex nature or yantra syntax corrects the view or some scholars who have wrongly labelled ali yantras 'magic' diagrams. Diagrams used for occult purposes form a separate category (see Chapter 8) which has evolved within the tradition, and the role or such yantras is peripheral in comparison with that of yantras for meditation.

Varieties and types

Yantras are most commonly drawn on paper. or engraved on metals or rock crystal although any flat surface such as floors or walls may be used, esoeciaL)" for temporary yantras. Three-dimensional vantras may be on a small scale, O~ on the scale of architecture {see Chapter /).

An inexhaustibie number of fresh yantras may be made by rearrangIng tne basic shapes ana, .... or reshvffttng the mantras. V'/ith each fresh mantra-combination a riev, yantra is created. Reciprocaily, a particular yantra ~Hustrating a specific reijgioL!S idea may be composed in countless variations. Thus, for instance. one rantric text

34-46 describes how the sixteen yantras 01 the Moon Goddesses lNitya-Saktis} can be expanded into 9,216 variations simply by re-assigning their mantras.'?

Yantras in one tradition may borrow ~["'ments from another, and their great abundance presupposes many levelsofclassification. Yantras exist in the Vedic," Tantric and Buddhist traditions.'? each or which has adapted the use of yantras to its


own specific metaphysical ideas. Vedic yantras are the oidest; Tantric yantras are the most numerous and varied; and Buddhist mandalas (literally 'circle'), though they differ from yantras in being complex combinations of images within a rigorous linearframework, convey the same ideas, serve the samerehgious purposes, and have made a distinctive contribution to the yantra as a living form. Many yantras spring from laina sources" and embody specuiative ideas of jainism,

Yantras may be grouped according to their uses. Some 'architectural yantras' are used as prime anaiogues for the ground plans or tempies (see Chapter 7). Others are ernpioved in astrology.> Prirnariiv, however, vantras are used 'In rrtua: worship (see Chapters 4, 5), There are vantras devoted to male deities, to female deities, con [o.ntly to two deities, or to various aspects of a single female deity (see Chapter 31, F':naHy, some yantras are meant tor occuit purposes, and many of these are used as talismans .see Chapter 8), in addition there are several kinds or purelv abstract deSigns of a syrnboiic kind, akin to yantras and mandalas, drawn bv women on the floors and walis or houses with.rice-paste or powderedcolours during festlva!s and other religious ceremonies. These auspicious signs are known as Aiipana or Rangoli, ano are found ali over india.

A{'>f,):.J(r5. ,.;;, s-:::crpd cijJgrarn- drawl. on ;':'00r5 '~vjth ,ricepaste du'rin_s reiigious ies('i'-/ais

In Hindu tradition thepot-bellied earthenware or. copper jar also serves as a vaotra. Called . tnervtangalaChata, decorated-with auspicious signs and hoi ding ritual ingredients, the pot is symbolically the vessel that holds the nectar of immortality, Its spherical shape is an aptanalogy to the universe, and the water with which it isfiHedsymbolizes the cosmic elemental forces. The-worship of the pot as a complete yantrais very common in BengaL When not used as-a.substitute for a 5 geometricai yantra it is generaliy placed before icons or in the centre of f!oor mandalas as an auspicious syrnbol. in Tibetan tradition; the jar (Kumbhal is used to

aid meditation, during which the aspirant visualizes the entire pantheon emerging from the cosmic waters symbolicaily contained in the jar, Such an image is also revered in [airr.and tantric'traditions.

No external symbol, however sophisticated, is a substitute for the body-yantra.

With its physical and psychological planes, the human body is considered in tantrism to be one or the mostpowerful instruments of spiritual transformation: it represents the physical substratum of the divine, where the evolutionary unfolding of the being takes place, a repository of inexhaustible power which can be tapped in meditation (see Chapter S)_ Only by mobilizing and awakening it from its slumber can one come to the fullest appreciation or its divine grace, 'The eternal essence is within, so what need is there to seek for outermeans for liberation ('15 The body is the sacred centre or ail ritual,fori1"luia, offering,meditation, liturgy: 'Here (Within the body; is the Ganges and the Jamuna, herearePrayagaand Benares, the Sun and the



.tV'loon. Here are the sacred places, here the pl~has [pilgr~mage centres] and the upapithas - [ nave not seen a place of pflgrirYiage; an abode of bliss tike illy bcdy.">

0.0 Indeed, ''Tne ~./antra whicl: is one's body is the best of ali vantras.""

Yantra as archetvoai wholeness

/ ,

rViodern man, unaware -of archaic mysteries, spontaneously draws 0;- dreams manoala/yantra-like patterns when he is achieving a fusion or opposite forces wit"''', his psyche. jung's extensive researches have cemonstrated.that such a symbol is not 'manufactured' but discovered through primal inner sources. it springs from a universal ftuman compulsion and embodies 'timeless'<universal principles in archetypal language which is physically and spirituaily not remote from lire. This is evident in the impressive frequency with which similar archetypal forms appear in the various cultures of the world. Ma(H;lala-iike forms are to be found. for instance, in the crvstalline patterns of islarnic art, in the sane-paintings of the Navaho Indians, in Celtic motifs and the circular dance-forms or the Sufi.order. Hence yantras are not merely religious signs of a particular cult but constitute objective expression. They are primordia; '!mprints' of consciousness -'shapes or conception' that cut across ail cultural barriers and are the heritage of all mankind.

in archaic societies man viewed himself as a part of nature and nature as part of himself. In possession of this vision oiunity he created sacred symbols and used them for transpersonal experiences. Sacred symbols enabled him to see himself as part of a 'sacralized' cosmos, breathing and moving with a life in which all elements of existence were interlinked. For archaic man, the universe was pregnant with qualitative meaning. Modern man, on the other hand, has 'desacralized' the cosmos, developed a fragmented vision of the universe and lost his original unity with nature. The result of this 'quantification' is an alienation from within - a ioss of subjective identity and of inner and outer force. Jung has said that man's most vital need is to discover his own reality through the cultivation or a symbolic life: 'Man is in need of a symbolic lire .... But we have no symbolic fife; .. Have you got a corner somewhere in your houses where you perform the rites as you can see in India ?',a

Symbols like the yantra are transformers of our psychic energy - such symbols alone allow us to discover a 'missing partof the whole man' that makes life joyfui. radiant and infinitely meaningfuL

9 'As oocv is to th€ sou! ... a vantra is to ceitv.' Yantras are' the. sacred enclosures of and indeed are insecarabie from th~m. At the top is the_ vantra of the goddess BhuvanesvarJ_, who rules the three soheres of the earth. atmosonere and tne:.-heavens as soace: below leit the Visi..'avonl Chakra with ic;ns of Siva-Sakt;, the male ;no female principies, over atriangie representing th~ cosmic womb (vt~vayoni). Below right Siva appears as white point {brndu)"and .5akti as red point within the primal triangle/ symboJ;z~ng the unity of male and female principies. Nepa[, c. 1761. Gouache or: paper


-;0, ~1 Yal"lUaS as ir-nages -or th-e COSIT!OS in pristine$. The various geomet~:cai con;·ig'.,.; t aricos or they·.ar·e·composedind\.Joe T-shaoec portals. squares, lotus peta's. cirdes and ti\an3~es - buc 2H .are (;ent(e(.L~0_..·~th~ ni~'sth;.P9i_'1t. ~he ornou. The yan'C;-a o: tne godd,zss P'::rnesvari, above. ~s ail arc;--,et~ipai :mage of che delt~;\.vh.o· ~i':"1bodies the balance or COSi":""i{C forces ,,,;,;8intainec by the pL'imordial c:en:te. :':epaL c. ")7"61. CCLiach_e-'9n,:paper

12 The Nava-yoni Chakra Hoating b "\:1112 cosmic waters. slgnrfyir.g the creatior! of the unverse oy the union of the rnaie and rernaie p6nclpJes. represented by ;nte~penetr2ting upv-.'arq and dov~"ri\vard pointing triang'~es, The nine \rtscrlbed triangles inolc2·:e the n:ne (neva; cosmic wombs 'yonr). ;\iepai, C 1761. Couache on pacer


Archetypal Space and Sacred Sound

in every' Civilization there are consecrated sites and sacred places that are heavy with spiritual signif~cance. Teroples, caves, sanctuaries, or features such as rocks serve as vita: points or contact and centres of accumulated energy. Such places, once consecrated according to traditional canon, acquire sanctiry, and their 'enclosures' separate the archetypal sacred space from its surroundings. The two areas, the world within the enclosure and the worldwithout, also stand for the psychological separation or mar: from his habitual concerns. The wail or fence or 'magic circle' - whatever form the enciosure takes - stands between the visible and the invisible and recalls the ritual separation of two distinct realities: the one that is sacred in which. the divinity manifests itselfandthe other that is profane. the reaim or mundane existence.

Once consecrated, even an inslgnifkant stone wil! acquire uniqueness and spiritual significance. In India, one often comes across such objects where a sacred enclosure is marked: a sirnple stooe daubed with vermilion is laid under a tree; or a sacred syllable or the name of a deity may be scribbled on the wa!L Such images 'speak', 'move' and 'breathe' witn iife since they impart in a.mvstenous wayca sense or primal reality. To a seeker who searches for meaning in-such sites or images, the past participates in the present in that they preserve countless archetypal associations; Such a response necessarily puts out of balance all the notions of linear time of modem man, for whom the past is merely a dead sequence of events. The archetypal images, therefore. call for a new way or seeing through the sharpening of the innate faculties by which they were originally preserved. Ail such images, whether large Of small. abstract or figurative, simple or sophisticated. recreate a celestial prototype and recapitulate the symbolism of the centre where the' divine manifests itself, thus investing them with a spiritual value which is held to be ultimately real. The yantra enclosures follow a similar principle and. accord with ancient intuitions.

in the Yajur Veda (23, 60-'-61), a passage describing a conversation between a devotee and the priestwho performs the fire oblation. summarizes this concept The seeker questions:

\Nho knows this world's central point? \Nho knows the heavens, the earth, the wide air between them?

Who knows the birthp{aceof the mighty Surya [sun]?

I ask thee or the earth's:extremest:ii"nit;where is the centre of the world. I ask thee?



J-ie is anS\VefeC the pilest:

) knc,v the centre of the worid about us. i knc\y heave:L. eart!i, and air bel\!/eer tnern,

l knQv/ the birthpiace or the mighty Su'~ya .. ,

This altar 1S the e2~this extremes: Hrnlt; this secrmce of ou-s is the world's centi€.

Thus, although made of fragments of brick.and mortar; the plinth of the fire altar 1S transforrneo into a cosmic entity and 2. splrttual centre, and the altar beg~ns to exist in my5tica,~ 'time' and _lspace! quite distinct from the profane. In the same vliay, the archetypal space of the yantra becomes d sacreo encity recognized by the sadhaka (aspirant}.

In our ordinary perceptions we view space as an amorphous entity which is related to us in units of rneasurernent. For. us space is essentiaily quantitative: we understand 1! in terms of dimension. volume and distance, For the adept who uses vanrras in yogic meditation. on the other hand. soace enclosed within the bounded figure is pureiv qualitative: space is absolute void and unity is 2 (sacrament' by means of Vv'h~ch he communicates with a force that. stands for life itself.

The yantra is an archetypal unit, and in the making or every new yantra the archetypal activity' and the divine revelations repeat themselves. Each yantra's consecrated place acts as a dwelling for the gods, a space where movement from the level of profane existence to the ievel of profound reaiities is made possible. Symbol and meaning blend so closelv that they areone reality, indistinguishable from one another. The yantra or the goddess Kart. for instance. is not mereiy her symbol but an Indispensable complement of KarT herseli her total substance experienced through meditation on the 'metaphysical' spaces or her yantra. VVe not only perceive the yantra being 'of KaiT, but 'understand' it as being one with the spirit of the goddess. it is said, therefore. that the wise 'know no difference between the goddess [Manesi] and the yaotra'.'

Everv vantra creates a cower-field. a cosmicized circuit (kshetra! in ',.'ihicn the

• { I·

powers or the sacred are invoked, The lines and planes iocalized within the vantra. though distinct from at! the spaces that surround Its outer C~fCU:tJ are an expression of a transcendental real:ty. Stretching from star to star the ultimate substratum of all forms IS space, Empty space is in itself a primordia: substance and shares in the nature or vvithout it the prirnorcial substance whose abode is the "'ihole

universe would remain without support. Absolute void is defined


philosophers as a i~mitiess sec of undlfferei'"'r!lated continuum which js an ever.,_ present ent),LY not Detachable from the relative, thus mak·lng ail division of space illusory. So the spaces within a vantra.vhowever minute, can be svrnbolicaliy brought to 'presence' ana expressed as being as immense as the spaces Within the solar system. Although in the abstract this is the immotable principle on which the space concept of yaotras functions, or: the level othurnan experience we are led to locate the sacred by creating spatia: divisions. The act of bounding the f:gure. 'fencing' its four quarters, defintng its spatial orientations .. delimiting the sacred territory of the yantra, is an act or asserting where sacred space begins to manifest.

Grammar of archetypa! space: from the centre to the periphery

The optical focus or the yantra is always its centre. As the point of intersection, the centre is a supremely creative nucleus from which the etheric force-lines (setu) radiate outwards in concentric circuits and dissolve in the outer circumference 'nem!). The nucleus of the yantra is the place of the epiphany or the divine l:pT~hasthana). Its central cosmic zone is the inner focus or ali the outwardly directed circuits and lines.

in the sacred centre an epiphany mav be represented in anthropomorphic form 1,33

or as an emblem: or the spot mav oe marked by the mantric seed-sy!1abies or the

deity, such as Orr.' HrTng~ SrTng, KrTng. ln some instances; especially in the is Important vanrras such as the )r: Yantra and Kaii Yantra, the mantra or devata 62 image at the centre IS reoiaced by one of the most abstract OT aii symbols: the mathernatically exterisioniess dot, the bindu,

In the Tantras the bindu has been given several interpretations. As an ultimate figure beyond which energy cannot be condensed, the bindu 15 an appropriate symbol of the first principle. the One. Therefore, the bindu 15 a Vv'hole', Or 'Fuli' (pun::a), the undifferentiated, ali-embracmg reservoir of the infinite. With these associations, the bindu symbol is Viewed In cosmological terms as the creative matrix of. the universe, the 'world-seed' (visva-bija), the point of origin and return of cosmogonicai processes. Metaphysicaiiy,the bindu represents the unity of the static (male, $lva) and the kinetic (female, Sakti) cosmic principles, which expand to create the· infinite universe or matter and spirit.

In meditation, as we.shall see, thebindu is the region cftheabsolute where the ultimate union of the aspirant with the divine takes place. The centre or the bindu is thesanctum sanctorum, the abodeoi supra-mundane bliss (sarva-anandarnaya), and the ultimate goal or the sadhana (worship), Being-Awareness-8liss (Sat-Cite Anandai. Paradoxically, this iast metaphysical point or integration with the totality, the absolute void (Sunya:, is also the first causeof the universe. Thebindu thus symbolicaily functions in two dimensions, one in time, in existence, as a source and fount of ali life, and the other in a sphere beyond ail time, in 'timelessness'. Viewed. subjectively, from the point of view or the sa dhaka, the bindu corresponds to the energy centre of the subde or psychic body which is visualized as located in the forehead (see p, 120 til. in yantra meditation the centra: point of the yantra and the abstract centre of the aspirant are brought together by mental concentration.

Thus the bindu conveys a variety of concepts. There is a cosmological bindu which functions as the root matrix of creation; the psychological bindu which mirrors the sadhaka'sown spiritual centre: the metaphysical bindu which expresses the union of male and female principles; tantrikas have even evolved the concept of the physiological bindu. which is concentrated as human semen.

The 'root' forms from which vaotras are constructed .. the triangle, circle and square, are considered essetltiaily 'primordiai' since visually they cannot be reduced

further to orderly dosed shapes. .

I~t(.:;et\/oai sreoes based on the div.;s_ion or a circ-e, aite: eqt""~,:)OI~5 iii -the ;;;2cnematica{ treatise GJ.';ita Kaurnuof tAO 7356,:


,!? .




The rhythrn orcreation is crystal1ized fr·; the p!';~2) syrnbo! of COS!TlfC location, the triangle. The prirnarv sign of sacred enclosure. since space cannot be bounded rewer than three lines. the tnangle 15 conceived as the fjrst symbolic torrn to ernerze trorn the catacivsrnic chaos orecedinz creaz.on. fn this asoect it !s known as

v • l'__"_ ,

the root matrix of nature- {mCila-tr;ko"Da-: mOla=root, trJkooa=tr~angle). The

inverted triangie is also the symbol of creative-genetrix feminine power (Sakti;', whose kinetic dynamism gives impetus to the inert terce if} existence. It is the female emblem i\!oni-ma1)9aJa) of the sakti-principie. \,V;tn these two associations, the inverted triangle is the first enclosure surrour;d~;-;; ths";r-.Li\tes~maj nucleus of most yantrasdevoted .to goddesses, and is theemblem of the great goddess KzJi. The triangle with apex upwards denotes the maie principle (Purusha) ano is the emblem of Siva. Its nuroer.calequvalent is 3.

vvhereas the bindu is the gathering-up of forces. the circle represents the cyclical forces. the contraction and expansion of astronomical revolutions, and the round of cosmic rhythms. \Nithin this image lies the notion that time has no beginning and no end. The farthest region of space and the "innermost nucleus of an atomic structure are bound by the constant flow of life and the rhythmic energy of creation. The circle may aiso be considered, in its concentrated form, as a oindu, or in galactic proportions as the expanding universe; its numerical counterpart is the zero.'

These three fundamental shapes, the point, triangie and circle. appear in intricate combinations and permutations, and may be related in several ways. Most frequent are the diagrarns formed by interpenetration or two triangles to form a starhexagon: the upward pointing 'male' and the downward pointing 'female' generate the concept of the fusion of polarities, the male and female, spirit and matter, the static and the kinetic in a perfect state of unity. The numerical equivalent of this figure is 6. Similarly, the astakona (a figure with eight angles) results from the superimposition of square on square; its allusion is to the number 8, a sign of infinity and associated with the eight directions of space and the endless cycle of time. The star-pentagon illustrates the total organization of space into the numerical order of 5. The symbolic references or this figure are to the creative and destructive power of S'lva in his fivefold aspect (as one of the chief divinities or the Hindu trinity, Siva has been represented in innumerable forms; in his fivefold aspect his epithets include:

Conqueror or Death. Mrityunjaya: an embodiment of knowledge, Dakshinamurti; Lord of Lust Kame~vara; the Being of Life, Pra0amava-murti.: the Lord of the Eiements, Bhutesha).

The lotus blossom is one of the principle archetypal symbols used in yantras.

Generally centred on the axis with its geometricaliv abstract petals pointing towards the circumference, it is the appropriate image to illustrate the unfOlding of power or the divine essence.

In ancient indian cosmology. the lotus was associated with creation myths, and is a type of physical prop to the universe, it is, for example, often depicted as springing from Vishnu' 5 navel, supporting and giving birth to Br",nma, the first god of the Indian trinity. From its pericarp the rest or the created worid issues. Since the earliest times, the lotus has aiways been a symbol of the citadel of the heart, the seatof the

LO~U5es as symbolS of urdojd/ng energies


Self. Yogis beiieve that there are actual spiritual centres within us whose essential nature and luminosity can be experienced during meditation; these spiritual centres are often represented symboiically as lotuses. The Chandogya Upanishad (VII!, I, 1-3) states:

Within the citv of Brahman, which is the bodv, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. This house has a shape of alotos, and within it dwells that which is to be sought arter, inquired about, and realized.

What, then, is that which dwells within this house, this lotus of the heart? ...

Even so large as the universe outside is the universewithin the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven ano earth. the sun, the moon, the li:shtning and all the stars. \,\/hacever is in macrocosm IS in this mtCrOC05m

Though old age comes to the body. the iotus or the heart does not grow OiO. It does not ale with the death of ,he bodv, The lows of the heart, where Brahman resides with aii his glory - that. and not the body, is the true city of Brahman.

Thus the true City or the Supreme Principle is the heart. or central Core or the individual, symbolized by the lotus which remains untouched by the banal reality of everv-day living; irom the taritric point of view, the lotus is the pure Self revealed in meditation, the spiritual state in its fullness,

Because of its associations with progression, development and the Iifeexpanding quality of prana (breath, or the vital force of nature), the lotus represents the 'out-petalling' of the soul-flower in the processoi spiritual realization: The aspirant's lotus-field (padrna-kshetra) is formed of the energy-centres of his subtle body, and their'opening-up'impiies the state or compietereposewhen the purpose of yogic meditation is attained,

The square is the fundamental format of most yantras, It is thesubstrawm,the receptacle and base of the The square denotes-the-terrestrial world which must be transcended. 1t5 prosaic regularity is contained by the compass points or the four cardinal directions, and its numerical equivalent ;s4. . .

four is a symbol of the world extended into four directions, uniting in its horizontaiand vertical directions pairs of opposites; and representing the totality or space. The square is the form of order and perfection, the 'support' or the yantra figure.

Each or these figures - circle. square, triangle.jotus - may function as a complete yantra or be combined with several linear circuits, Each primal symbol has a range or meanings, according to Its context and the plane-of consciousness-onwhich it functions.

At the periphery of the figure are four r-shaped portals, placed at the four cardinal directions and known as cosmic doors because it is through themthat.the aspirant symbolically enters the cosmic force-field. Pointers directing towards the interior of a yantra, the portals are an initiatory threshold which Simultaneously opposes the phenomena! and embraces the nournenal,

The portals, INith their extended gates, are the earthly plane of existence !bhugraha! or the region or materiaiity, and signify the lowest point or the ascent towards perfection, In effect;tney represent the earthly passage between the external and 'material' andrhe mternal..sacred space or the vantra. The frontiers

The cress ester ceo ,;,0:0 2 douoie S;"Va5~!ka, ;noica(ng tr:e 5-:...'oreme ?~inci.cle can be reached 0/ both ti,Qh~-na.'~d· 2nc '·'ei.:-h2r?d' oeihs. in (he ;'v/:'v iorrne-: scuare 2,:ciosut-E- or' ,~he ~lan:r2 che gates open out s: aU feu," -;,:'o'e ..... ;;_,-'!d 2,."12 :'rv/(_J.,ric ... r:. lo~,,,(.arc'5 the sacred centre







T~~ eight compass -=: ioeating v= divin,:!,ieS, of (he elgm regenzs 0: space >"V/'';.Q guarc ana prOlec: tne microcosmic universe o: the yanu.a

5i~ry;, seed rn~nr,~a ot' the goddess L2k5i;rr:~ [he 5a,~~;" oi ::ien:t:;de zr.:

'For note on Sanskrit orcnunciat.on, see p, "'i70




which are related to the directions and ceterrninants. of space have tbeir owr complex iconographic deities who forbid negative forces LO enter. The deities of the spheres, Lokapalas, who preside over the t-shaped oortals and square enclosure of the yantra. me)..' be four! eight or ten in number! corresponding to the. tour regents of space, the interrnediary directions, the nadir and the zenith. !n yantras devoted to goddesses, a group of auxiliarv.Saktis or the eight Bhairavas (epithets of Siva) flank the doers. vvhers the yantras. are compj€'7P'/ dosed circuits.vas in the Sarvatobhadra {square gr~d) form, each of the outer squares (pada) is presided over by a guardian divinity of one of the four quarters, sometimes represented by emblems, such as the trident, goad, noose, etc in ail types Of yantra. however, the basic function of-these divinities is the same: to protect the sacred precinct from negative or disintegrating forces,

Sacred sound

Inseparable from yantras are the subtle vibrations which help to intensify their power, These sound elements are often represented by letters inscribed on the yantra, and in principle ali vantras are associated with mystic combinations of Sanskrit {etters: The inner dynamics of the yamra can never be understood in isoiatlon from the system of sound dynamics, as the two combine to make up the complete 'definition' of the divine. The yantra-rnantra complex is basically an equation that unites space (akasa!, which in its gross form appears as shapes, and vibrations, which in their finite forms occur as the spoken or written word>

Essentially, then, a mystic sound cornbination composed of Sanskrit letters. a simple mantra consists of 'atomic' monosyllabic sounds such as Krlr)1, Hrl'1\ SriG, AiG, and more complex mantras are composed or a sequence of such svliables. Almost ali yantras have some form of mantra, either simple or complex, inscribed on them. The centre of the vantra is generally inscribed with the most important syllable of the mantra associated with it, while other rnantric letters are arranged in the spaces formed by the intersection or lines, either around the circle or on the lotus petals or on the outer square band (bhiipura) of the ventra. Certain important yantras may contain ail the vowels and consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet in their spaces. whereas others \V~U be .nscnbed \vitn whole mantric verses associated with the particular dev2t2 (tutelar deity) the vantra represents,

The infinite diversity of the universe as represented by the deities is manifest most explicitly in the iconographic image, more abstractly as the vantraanc most suetly by the mantra. The mantra projects through vibrations the subtle anatomy either- of the devata (from which it is inseparable) or of the forces of the universe, The rnantric energy condensed in the letters is seen as vested with a spirituai Dower beyond human comprehension, Pronounced correctly, joined, and with the correct rhythm, accent.jntonazion and mental attitude, a mantra becomes the 'SOUl of tbeyantra' (Kuian)ava Tentrei, and a vitalizing force within the mind of the seeker.

A common mistake is to view mantras in-conceptual terms, splitting hairs over the meaning of the vocables. Mantras are not to be regarded as parts of speech, or

The Sar,skrit a;'ch~oet, s;/rnboi of cosmic sOl.'nc, re/atea' [0 ~he partS of :he s'.:bcie body and ene:gJ'zed in 2 rftuai k.')o',vn 2S ,A,:~~i]_·n\~asa. AJter ,the Sans'!·uit ,,-,'crk Tararahas:/2 '\-, 38-.;!Q,:


~RCHETYPAL SPACE. ;:,~D Sf;,CRED SOL.:,\D elements of. grammar. They are non-dlscursive svrnbcls.articulatingtbeinetiable in

terms of resonating wavicles of sound vibrations. The concentrated symbol of the metric mantra and the compact whole of the yantraccincide to arouse.appropriate 33 psychic states in the sadhaka,

To be efficacious, a mantra must be transmitted by a gu,u to the disciple. it should bedstinguished from the Kavaca Cculrass' - a protecrive formula), the (a mantra based on a text;'. and tnedharaQ[ (a mnemonic formula containing a. rnantra) .. 3

The image of the world as a web or sound is a constant theme of the Tantras The Saradatflaka Tantra< describes the visionary worlricfre" (!:pHaru) as composed of an intricatemesbofSanskntietters which are the spreading resonances or cosmic energy, The entire physicai universe .. composed of .the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether), is represented by a set of sound combinations on the various parts of the world .. tree . .its seit-creatmg origlna] principle: its tap roots are cosmic 'location' and vibration (bindu and nada) that sp~jng from the eternal male and female principles: its branches are composed of fetters that denote the earth element ; its leaves that spread over the three worlds are made up of letters that stand for the water element; its shoots.ibnght 'as gems', are made up of the letter combinations that denote the element fire; the flowers of the tree are represented by the letters of the air eiement and the fruits of the tree by the letters representing ether. The Saradatifaka Tantraalso divides the Sanskrit iettets into rive classes, each of which represents one of the five eiements.· Virtually every aspect or the physical world, including the solar system with its planets and stars, is syrnbolicaliv represented by mantric equations.

The Tantrasaras divides the Sanskrit letters into combinations of two. three and four units, and equates these letter-combinations with the twelve zodiacal signs (Rasi-cnakra).

Man is included in the system of vibrations and in some Tantras- each letter is said to have an effect on a corresponding level in the human body. In a ritual known as the Matrika-nyasa, the ritual pro jection or the letters is achieved by touching various parts of the body whiie reciting mantras with the vivifying nasal sound. m; the aspirant seeks to transpose the sound powers of the V,atrika Sakti into his subtle body, In a similar ritual the alphabetical conjunctions represent aspects of the physical universe (macrocosm) and affinit~es are struck \vith the human body (microcosm:'.

The doctrine of the primacy and eterr161JT~.y 'of SCl.:'~d, ;.-,·/t-;k::h underlies.the theorv of mantra, has a very ancient history and ·!S upheld most zealously by the Trika school of Kashm1rl Salvisrn, which was influenced greatly by tantr.c thought. This school iinks the phenomenon of the pronounced' sound as mantra with the highest metaphysical principle or their system - the MatrikaSakci, the Primordial Energy. which is latent within the letters or the mantras or rnvstic syllables, Speech as it is expressed in vocables is looked upon not only as being generated by physica] organs and breath but as being supremely conscious in itself. Ultimately all letters are seen as the reflection of the universal energy divinized in the concept of Matrika Sakti,


Articulated speech and the alphabets are the 'little matrikfu;', or finite prototypes of the primordial Matrika Sakti, It is perhaps for this reason that the letters or the Sanskrit alphabet, called the Matrika, are also known as akshara or 'imperishable', because they share the immutable and eternal quality of their source. The Matrika Sakti emanates as speech on two different levels: in its 'eternal' aspect as mantra and in its finite aspect as ordinary language.

The mantras are also intimately associated with the theory of the eternai word, Spho~avada. expounded by the philosophers or Sanskrit grammar, who traced the germ of speech or words back co divine source ',an imperishable unit or speech:

Sphota. also known as Vak, or Pranava or Sabda-Brahrnari). tnus raising the formalism or grammatical speculation to the dignity or a theological discourse. The basis or everything, they held, is the word: 'It is the word-element from which ail the universe takes its birth"etains its :ire, and becomes capable of mutua: social behaviour." /".Ii transrtorv words that can be seen and heard are held to derive from a subtle form or sound (madhvarna) 'In which sound exists as a thought-force; beyond this is another leveler sound (pasbyanti) in which sound exists as a concept or idea in its germinal state. like 'the seed or a tree before sprouting'; ultimately, sound is generated by Para, the first stage of vibration, where it exists as 'unswuck' or silent sound..

Thus any letter inscribed on a yantra can be' traced back to its metaphysical sources; it then ceases robe..a method of-conveying meaning and becomes a fragment of sacred sound, theparallel of archetypal-space, .which has the. power to tap the inert energies of trie-vantra,

"Particular sound-syllables are.espeoallylinked toyantras.The sound-syllable Om " represents the fundamental,' thought~forrriof '. all-pervading 'reality. \Nithits associations with the universe fnaiLits manifestations, Om is a complete al phabeticalvantra in its own' right and can be equated with the creative point, the bindu,

A number of syllables, such as HrTrp,. Kr'\m, Aung Pha.~; which are frequently inscribed inor otherwise associated with yantras, are the primary mantras (mGiamantra) or the divinity, They are cailedseedmantras (blja-mantras) as they contain the quintessence or the powers or the divinity and complement the 'root' forms of the yantra. These basic mantras are omnipotent formulae, instinct \vith :he power of the divinity: 'Veriiy, the body of the.deity-adses from its basic seed mantra' (Yamala TantraL They are generaUy inscribed in the centre of the yantra, and are substitutes for an anthropomorphic image as its 'indestructible prototype'.

Tn ritual and meditation with yantras, the seedmantras are pronounced from. the diaphragm, then from the throat.rolled round themouth and finally closed off with a nasal sound. m. Although the seed mantras are composed of singie syllables, each sound is a rurther symbol or either an attribute or the complex nature of divinity. Thus, Tor instance, the seed mantra of the goddess Bhuvanesvari, the lady or the

Three Spheres, consists of four sounds, H-R-I-.,::,,: H = Siva, R = Prakriti or nature, 1 = Maya or creative piay, .¥=ciispeileroTsorrow, Thus the mantra represents the whole nature or the goddess whose worship grants boons and dispels sorrows.


Hr!:'TJ( seed rrranua,of th~:godde5s. Tr(oura-SulidJ;f_denoting ~he'lJnUy of the male and fernafe--{m·nciples. it is eiso !he primal- vibi;;ttion or'the :godde$$

Bh; ... wan.€5va_rT who presides 'ove- the ti';:ee spheres

KL"T.T, seed mdr:tra of the godde-s5 KJiT represe:1ting her power of (realion and

di:3so/uUon .


Like yantras. mantras can be cat.egor-ized according to classes and purposes. and jn pr~ncipfe are matched to particular yantras. i\·~antr2s \'vh~ch induce a trance-state, Tor instance .. are associated v\i[th yantras v\/nicn ale used for enlightenment.: protective mantras are paired \vith vantras \VhfCh are defences against malignant powers .. and so on. So intimate is this relationship that marnraand yantra are paiaBei to each other and in some cases may be interchangeable. /\ letter may assume the form of a diagram and manifest as a 'static' mantra-ventra: conversely the vantra may be aroused into vibrating rhythm and function as c mantra,

\Vhen a particular letter functions as 6. vantra it is given an abstract geometrical figuration. A characteristic graphic representation of the sacred monosyllable Omin its yantra form appears in the.Orissan manuscript Sayantra 50nya-5amhita/ I.-vilere it is split into five constituent parts, starting from the bindu and proceeding to curves having an element of the spiral. These rive graphicforrns correspond to the complete unfolding of the basic principles of the universe in its fivefold aspects. such as the five elements. five subtle essences (tanmatras', five deities, five seed mantras. etc.

in addition to the seed mantras, there are a number OT complex mantras composed of several seed-syllables. Their number, mode and purpose, with their yantras. are mentioned in several taotr.c texts.

The structure of certain mantras is based on the esoteric symbolism or numbers.

The mantra devoted to Siva, for instance. is composed of rive letters (pai'icaksharai' - Na/mat. Silva/ya. in religious practice and mvtnoiogy Siva combines in himself h'e aspects or the universe. His eternal energy is conceived or as evident ir, five

Devets Seed mantra Element Subtle element
Sudsrsana Plirp ether sound
Sirnhasana Dh!irp air touch
Jagannatha Klirn fire s~gh!
Subhadra Slim water taste
Balbhadra H iim earth smell Vita! air in

the sobtte body





Orpkara Yantra. a graphic reoresertsiicr: or the pr:;morc'ial seed sound Orn. svrnoo]fz:"ng the ~/\fhoJe cosmos. The lettEr Om is sDii~ uo into f/v€ sbeoes to recresen: the enri,~e urivetse.,\:ed ,;nto fivE' co.smic princip}es. Ait~! the Or,;s'san palm-feai ~rv;5. Saya.~tr2 SClr;y2+Sa!"hhiza

activities: he enfolds the whole of creation, and in this aspect is known as Sadyojata: he preserves it as.Vamadeva; he reabsorbs or dissolves it as Aghora;he veils or conceaisthe world of phenomena innis Tatpurushaaspect: finally; as lSana,. he grants boons and bestows on his devotees grace which ieads towards final liberation. These five aspects are correlated with important and fundamental sets or fivepsycho-cosmic principles such as the five elements; the five senses and five quarters (the four regents of space-l-zenlthrThls is one of the reasons why the pentagon is associated with Siva (see p. 32 above), The five syllables or the Siva mantra are an attempt to illustrate his immanence in his five aspects, and when his mantra is inscribed in the yantra, it symbolically recapitulates the fivefold Saivite tenets. Similarly, the mantra devoted to the second god of the Hindu trinity, Vishnu, has rwelve-syliabies - OGi Na/mo Bha/ga/va.te/ Va/su/deiviijya; as. does that or the sun god Surya, associated with the tweive zodiacal signs.

The Cayatri Mantra

Qneot.themosti'frl;56rtant!onger mantras, commanding great respect since Vedic times, is the Gayatrl Mantra. This reads: Oryl bhur bhuvah swat: tat savitur varenvam, bhargo, devasya dhirnahi, dhivo yo nal) pracodayat, Orr - 'May we meditate on the effulgent light [or Power) of he who is worshipfui and who has given birth to ali worlds. May he direct the rays or our intelligence towards the path of good.'8 The tantric version or the CiyatriMantra in the SrividyarJ)ava Tantra!9 given in



the table below. illustrates how each of the svllables of the expanded mantra is linked \vjth a deitv. a colour, a bodiiy mecnanisrn ar.c 2:; cosmic principle. The mantra is inscribed ~n 2 circular fashion ~n the CayatrT Yarrtra svmbolicailv integ:at~ilg a whole mantra-picture OT the universe with the ventra form.

tv1antra sYljable


Tat yellow
Sai pink
vLi red
blue ..
va/ r;ery
re. white
nil 'white
yam v,:n'lte
8ha/ black
rgo red
De,' red on lotus
va! white
sya goiden-yellow
Ohi/ white
rna/ pink
hi conch-white
Dhi( cream
yo red
Yo red
i'Xary/ colour of the
!"ising S!_)::
D ...... CO\OUf 0' blue
i \0;
co. ye'~lo\\'
cal \Vn1te
yat vlhite, red.
black Sakti (goddess)

D "- I' •

. ran~aOlnr









Vyapini Virnaia

Visvayoni Jayavaha




CosrnJc principie (ni.icro-rnacrocosm)





















principle of the \vorid (mahat}

Three qualities or materia: nature: sattva. rajas, tam as !j.e. radio ance, activitv. ine~tia\

The CJ~i.alt! ·,;'anu.a inscribed \,'Iith the GJ,/2Ui" i'v1:at7tra. Raiastha(";, C 19th cE"n~u(y. ink a:;c cciour Dn p2.oer


Cbekres of Deity Sri Vidv2
the subtle IVlantra
Sahasrar& -:::.?r
~~ i-ir7n:;
8hOmT C? ie
Vishnu r::p Xi:
ShartT rr sa
Ajna 8 i-irin:;
b-etvveen the
ShOrn! c;- te
Brahma ~ na
throat centre
Vishr;u CF fa
Bhartl ~ sa
Brahms ~ ha
levei of the
Rudra / Rudrani n Hrin:
(Siva) (Sakti)
~If" ~
8hOm: is
vishnu ~
celow the
Share: ~ e
Brahma Cf? kg
MCi:adh§ra ,..
base 0"7 spine Yog/nls presiding over the subtle body







Sektis and their cosmic energies

Raudr! = Energy of action 3hagamal~nT

Jvestha = Energy of knowledge VajresvarT

Vama =

E.nergy of vV:Lll K§mesvarT

Cosmic cyc/e

Sarrd)Bra Dissolution

Sthiti Preservation

Sr.sti Creation

i\;!ava-voni Cflak!";;:, The yantra lor SrT Vid;'Ja worshipi composed of interpeneti"aUng lriangies 10 syrnbclize the imperishabie

~~~:';/~:s~:~~e5[~~::'~~~:/:(~~;e~;::~~~~~;n~fr;:.~~~~~~~~~':,~e:'~~~~cr:s%es;~~ ~~ :~~~!:;f;:~C~~\~~~cf:"~~;~h~~~1:r~~~;~O~he

first has 5 .seed vibrations .. ka = primordial desire, e = causa) v,;omb! i = substance 01 :e.en';:{2Lhfe force. ia = Siva, .and Hil,T

5~c:e5:c2i~'~ke:i~f ~:e ~~~;::So;~~:':ra~Sa~n;:~~~~~k~~;~e[~~2Y::(g~aT~~~~~~:c~g(~;l~~~;:~~~ C~i:'Ss~~; ss::

I~rlf'[r. The tni«: gfOU.D consists of 4- syI/abies: sa, .<at la, Hr~T'J and reoreseris the unity in duaiity of the male and iem2ie pr,:ncf,ofes. The aspiranr ma~' inieinaJ!,;ze this ccm.pJex svmootizrr: by co.rl(enuaring on :he eso(eric essence of eeci: oj rhe 5v/fabiesJ anc" so in1Ui~ nis uni!y wr:': (he COSmos, Aher Ihe ter.:r.c ·.,../ork Vai1vasva-RahasY2

The reason the sound vibrations of the Cayatrl Mantra are divided into twenty-four syllables is probably to correspond with the twenty-four cosmic principles, technically called tattvas, of the traditional Samkhya system of Indian thought (see p. 74). These principles, from the point of view of creation, represent the entire static and kinetic universe; from the point of view of man, they embody the whole psycho-physical and spiritual self.

The Sri vidva Mantra


A highly esoteric mantra is the Sri" Vidya·'v\antra which is discussed in the Varivasya· P.anasya. a tantrrc text devoted :0 the supreme goddess Tripura-Sundari who, in her knowledge aspect is known as SrT Vidya. The cosmic vision at the tantras can be considered either exoteric or esoteric; these two viewpoints give two sides or a single doctrine. The former loOKS at the exterior, the lireral, and is easily comprehensible: when rantnc deities are in their exoteric sense, tor example, they are comprehended by the senses in their image form. But from the subtle, or esoteric. point of view the deities are expressed 'In a group or vibrations like the mantra or Sri Vidya. Esotericism being more subtle and interior, jri Vidya sadhana (ritual practice) is confined to 'secret circles' in which the individual teaching is by oral transmission from the preceptor according to the disciple's level of spiritual awareness. The Sri Vidya Mantra consists of fifteen seed-vibrations which are partial aspects or the supreme goddess and are believed to hold the force of Enlightenment.

This mantra may be worshipped intheSrj Yantra (see p.l09), orin the Yantra ofJ"i[ne62 Triangles (Nava·yorii Chakra, seeopposite), in which case the fifteen esoteric 12 syllables are dlvidedrnto three principal. groups and are inscribed in the primal. triangle around the.bindu,

ttis held by SrlVidya practitioners that one syllable or the fifteen is in the nature of Pure Consciousness (Citl. This secret syllable is generally not recorded in the texts, vvhen uttered by the guru with the correct instruction it can bring about the. aspirant's direct comprehension of the htghly esoteric properties or the vantramantra complex, Like theCayatr! Mantra, above, the Sri Vfdya Mantra has a precise psvcho-cosrnic symbolism.

The combinations of letters inscribed on the yantras must be logically congruent with the structure of the Sanskrit language. Certain important yantras, such as the Sri Yantra, have all the Sanskrit vowels and consonants inscnbed in their angles or on the lotus petals. According to tantra. the first Sanskrit letter; A, represents Siva. When the letter A is aspirated and pronounced from deep in the throat; it sounds Ha, the letter symbol of Sakti as weil as the last letter of the Sanskrit aiphabet. The cornbmation.of the two letters Aand H2. embraces the entire range of the Sanskrit aiphah~t and epitomizes the whole of creation in its subtle aspect as sound.

As related to vantras, then, mantras serve two main purposes. They stand for the deity whose mantra is inscribed on the yantra, and they are used extensively during worship and meditation with yantras, chanted and intoned during iiwai (see pp.




102-5). Ritual mantras may take the form of cornclete verses. reccated combinations of the seed syllables {japa:! or singie letters \-\thlch serve in some cases as 'reminders' of ideas of the qualities elther'of the ceities or of the universe.

Finaliy, the mantra and the yantra form a complex dialectic of form and sound, Although the varitra and the mantra are two distinct principles and operate on two distinct levels, they are mutually infiuentiai and cornpiernentarv: every yantra can be reduced to certain frequencies of vibration (mantra' and ev,zry sequence of vibrations can be grouped into particles of matter to form an appropriate geometrical shape (yantra), Tne vantra and the mantra are meant to substitute for each other.and operate on a principle of modern science similar to the conservation or energy into matter and matter into energy, A varitra in its 'root' vibration may be considered as a seed mantra of the divinity and allowed to exist only in the mind as a thought-force, or the nucieus of the seed mantra may be exteriorized, expanded and

0:) Iocalized as harmonic lines, in other words, it is possible to 'see' sound as form and 'hear' pattern as sound.

Recent research in cvrnatics (the study of the interrelationship of wave-forms and matter) has shown remarkable results: 'The Hindu sacred syllabie Orr, when correctly uttered into the tonoscope, apparently produces the circle 'U, which is then filled in with concentric squares and triangles, finally producing, when the last traces of the'm' have died away, a Uyantra":"c Such complex energy transformations lend support to the conclusion that yantra and mantra, in the ultimate sense, are one and the same,

Yantra and mantra thus present the union of archetypal space and sacred sound, Both are aids to inward illumination which tap the senses or sight and sound in order to transcend the phenomenal, Each is inseparable from the other, with mantra the 'soul' and yantra the 'body' of subtle sound.

13 Yantra of the goddess Chamu093 {a form of the great goddess Kaiii inscribed with sacred svllables or mantras, Here the seedrnantras Om, Hrirn and KITm are relatec to each Dart of the vantra. intenSifying the diagram's energy and vitalizing its static shapes when they are meditated upon or chanted during worship, Rajasthan, 19th century, Ink and colour on paper

14 Yantra and seed mantras of the goddess Ou'sac a_i"'1 aspect of Ka[ :epresent;ng th~ d;S:;;O~U:,():i c/ t>e dar-, Torces 01 nature anc triurnbh over ev.l. R2jasthai:. i9th cenrurv. ~;;k 2nd colocr on paper

-;5 Y2;;tr2 ",v[t:; the 5vl(able-s O~ 1+-:7 iilSC(~beci in the centre and at the cardinal dire(:tloi1~. T;;rs ni2ntra ~5 the sYfT:bo~ of the tant:<c godcess L2;itaf denot~~g her creativs play (;"v1aya) wi:ic1i .s~'/es :i'5E' :0 ~he ,~an?restec · .. vorld. Ra·;a$thart 1Str: csnt:..;ry. lr.k ar.c colour on p'[)oer

16 Ka),)-'3(,c Chakra, the '\<Vheel of Fortune', The :-nystlc svltabies raclating from the centre are grouped in 2. crvp;.c manner in o;-der to ccncea' the vantra's esoteric significanCE: from the uninltjated. Rajasthan, c. 19th century. lnk and colour on paper

;7, 18 Ai[ ·tar.~~k: ce.ties nave the!r corresponding yantra TOrr';1s. Top. rrorn .ert to right: ',Ian:ra or Anr:ap(..'Z"Ga. a forTi of.D~rga> and th:-ee vanrras of >",'iznavidy2 8a32.ia~:nukhT: abol/e. i;-om le~: to. ~:?h:: :·.· .. 0 yanti85 of SDrya. ~he Cod: one of. ~;va; aoc one of 2,r:o~he;, aspect of j~·va, \"irtc:niaya, t~e. Cy~cL..!e~('" G~· Oeath. ,.\ii.Jf:uarn.::i-:oc20hi, Raj2SthZ:.n.. c. "18th cent""\'. C>'y\.~z,che on ?2pt2i


19 Ceremon~a! varitras of the partia: aspects of the ;emin~ne 0:- k.neric principle, \vhich :s considered by tantrikas to be the h~ghest orinc.ple or" the cosmos. Left, three vantras of the Supreme Energy as a young malden! 8a~a; i'~ght. an Ani1apu;"r)~ Yan~ra devoted to the goddess as the g:ver of food and plenty .. Mantramahodadhi, Rajasthan. c. 18th centurv. Gouache on. pa?e~

·20 Ya·nttas of deities areessentiailv.aids to cancen:rated vsualization and contemolacion. The: [ma~E:~yor .. :he <;csmi.-::.\'.'ho[e'. at.1o~vs the wcrsbipcer to discover h.~s own .nnsr v.·h~jene35. T;'re.e yantras·:or ·the goddess·Ta'ra draw the sadhaka"s vision to the mys::'lc centre ·'viantran;ancdt,dhi, Rajasthan, c. 18th cenrurv. Couache on paper

2""; Vant;"2 from a used for inn€r vsua.ization of the cosmic processes provide a metaohvsica! basis ioc their svrnbolisrn ieading to the experience or man-cosm~s unity. "eDal• c. ',8th cemurv. Go~ache on board


Metaphysics of Yantra

Considered as being essentially guides to human eriiightenment, yantras express a comcrehensive vision or' reality.' iIiDmiriatingfof . .thesa_dh?Ka,he nature and mystery of tne cosmos. The framework of metaphysical teadllngs'witfliri which vantra symbolism evolved is a 'transcription' of the main principles of indian thought. some or the oldest systematized speculations on man and nature.

One of the principal symbolic components of the vantra is the deities inscribed or depicted within its linear framework. So varied and numerous are the possible deity projections that the whole pattern or the yantra may be considered as a complex rubric of divine marutestations. These deities are expressions of conscious principles, relating the aspects or the manifested universe; and. as we shall see in the following chapters. they are equally symbols or the phases and forces of the human mind and personality.

Tantra has absorbed the whole corpus of earlier traditions and evolved its own cosmic vision, giving specific tantric interpretations to the traditional Hindu deities. Accordingly tantric Saiva yantras project the manifold nature of Siva: Vaishnava vantras depict Vishl)u in his divine incarnations, with his qualities and characteristics; and vantrasdevcted to goddesses are the summary or the attributes and emanations of the Female Creative Power CSakti). The surrounding deities or yantras-there may be as few as three Or as many as one hundred ina single yantraare-technically knowrlas .A.varaQa Devatas (deities who shadow or veil the principal archetype). According to KamaKaiavi/isa (v. 35), in goddess yantras they are like a 'patch of cloud' which hides theiuminous effulgence of the Primordial Goddess placed at the centre of the yantra whose radiance is!ike the sun. The Avaraoa Devatas are !ike the limbs of the primordia! Sakti in her tr ansiormation in her vantra,

The Principle of Energy

AfuHer understanding of the metaphysical basis of yantra must begin with consideration ofthe tantric doctrine or Sakti. Saktl is the immense power inherent in the universe. Everything that moves and breathes isa manifestation of Sakti and has its basic consciousness, power and actiortSaktl is a creative mystery that displays itselfir; different spheres in different ways. To the physicist Sakti implies the inherent active force or matter; to the psychologist Sakti displays itseif through the external stimulus that acts on the mind : to the mystic the spiritual experience of unity is Sakti. The entire editke of'stience ma.y'beseen as being related to the notion or Sakti, with matter. energy, sound - all the main constituents or pnvsicai science -

disp!aying a power that is their essential nature. c\,(clythJng In life possesses 2. force to transform, to become, to be. to expand 1tS ~nnerent nature and grQ\:\:' as it were iron: within, which is Sakti.

For tantra this Sakti is both transcendent {abstract) ana immanent (concrete). I{ a synthesis of aii active and potential forces were possible, there would stil! be an inexhaustible and untapped reservoir of thistorce. Sakt;, is therefore seen as creating, maintaining and absorbing every aspect-of .lHe and plane of existence. A[thougn the Sanskrit \vord sakti is feminine, the concept :-efe~::;, to a cosmic princip~e that transcends finite explanations in terms-of 3e;;'::::·;-. Sak~i" i\i~a:haka!a S2r;:hita states, ~is neither ~eilla;e nor male nor neuter. It is inconceivable, immeasurable Power, the Being of ali which exists, Void of all duality, attainable in.illurnination."

The nignestpersonification of the Supreme Energy Principle is expressed iconographically as rem!nlile in the Tantras, Though neutral in her ultimate aspect. tbeolcgica'lySakti is contemplated asa goddess, crDevi .. under the names of Kai:. Tara, Durga, ParvatT, l.akshml, etc.

in early indian history the vision of the sacred as feminine received tittle attention.

Vedic theology was male-oriented, and goddesses were assigned peripheral roles: they appear as consorts to male gods and as subservient to male power. By the beginning of the tantric renaissance {A D 700-1300). however, the female reappeared with greater importance and began to share the grandeur of the gods, Eventually, goddesses exercised so great an influence jn Hindu mythology that they overshadowed the previously male-dominated theology and became 'total' symbols of divine power.

The female principle as an emblem of kinetic or potentia! energy as weil as the chief symbol of the Absolute Reality (Brahman) has since dominated the whole range or tantric thought.s in the OeviLJpanishac' (1-3) the Supreme Goddess explains her true nature, that transcends all empiric existence and represents ail the attributes and functions of the Hindu trinity:

Crear Coddess, who art Thou?

She reoiied: ! am Brahman ithe Absolute),

From ~e has proceeded the world comprising Prakriti :materia! substance] and Puru;ha icosrruc consciousness.. the Void and the Plenum.

i am (alf forms of] bliss and non-bliss.

Knowledg€ and ignorance are -"lyse!i.

i am the five elements and also what 1S different i-orr then:, the panchabnutas

[five g:oss elements] and tanrnatras [five subtle e>~n1en:sJ.

i am the entire world.

l am the Veda as wel as what is different from it. I am unknown; i am born

Beiow and above and around am I.

The origin of the goddess has been described in several ancient texts.3 A Hindu legend explains that in a battle to overthow negative forces, the denizens or heaven, Brahms, Vishnu and Siva, emitted a flood of their energy in all directions which condensed into the form of a woman, This is how Sakti, having emerged from


a miraculous amalgamation of the energy of the gods, concentrates all the powers of the gods in her person.

Around this centra! feminine principle, a complex and varied feminine theology has been developed in the Tantras. Innumerable goddesses were named .. each representing one of the manifold aspects of the principal feminine divinity .. and many have been given their symbolic identity in vantras. A substantial number of yantras of female divinities are described in some of the important tantric texts.' Severa: tantric texts' deal exclusively with specific goddesses and give elaborate descriptions or yantra. mantra. mode of worship .. etc. Thus just as there 'IS a representationai iconography or feminine theology .. there is. parallel to It, a

·symboiic. abstract. repertoire or Sakti yantras,

The theology of Sakti as iemirlinebranched orr into two major streams. the schools of the goddess KaJi (Kali-Kuia) and the goddess ~rT. whose worship is known as )r! Vidya.' Both schools developed their own specific auxiliary deities around their central goddesses and aiso devised yantras which illustrate some of the dominant philosophical concepts of their respective systems of thought.

Yantra of Prim ord ial Energy: Kafi

Kaii. one of the most awe-inspiring goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, gained an extraordinary popularity in tantra and is the object of fervent devotion in tantric forms of worship. Perhaps her great popularity in ranrric ritual is explained by the fact that she is the embodiment or certain key metaphysical principles of the tantric tradition. Reigning supreme among.goddesses in the Tantras, KaJiis a power-symbol displaying the original unity of the transceodentalin her feminine form. Although her prehistory has been traced to Vedic origins and non-Aryan sources," Kal! makes her 'orticial'trrst appearance in the MarkaQcjeya PuraQa,3 where.she is said to 'nave been born from .the brow of Durgain a battle between gods and demons. in this context, Kafi is considered as the terrible form otthe great goddess Durga. another consort-Sakti of Siva, who was so called to commemorate her victory over the buffalo-demon Mahisha. Kafi's gory image and symbolicallv fierce appearance have been the subject or extensive descriptions in several taotric works. The Karpuradistotra, a short devotional hymn, describes an awe-inspiring vision of the goddess: K§Ji is dark or SKin, garbed in space (naked), with dishevelied hair; blood trickles from her mouth; in one hand she waves a sword and with the other holds a skull: her waist is girdled with severed heads. Kafi's favourite place or repose is a cremationground littered with corpses.

The terror-drencbed.iconographic imagery of Kali as the annihilating power of Timeahdthe Energies of creation and dissolution is condensed in her yantra for worship into the bindu, a circle. an eight-petalled lotus and 'three pentagons'Iactuallv 26 five Inverted concentric triang!esi9

In her yantra rorrn, Kafi appears in the central dot, or bindu, as a conscious source or womb of the world. She is the energy aspect of material nature .. whose inexhaustible kinetic quality is possessed by and unites with the Absolute for the


Avarar;a (surrounding) deities fnvo.~ed in the KaE Yantr, fn. the. 7S 2ng/€5 of rhe rriangfe-: 1. KalI 2 Kapalin[ 3 Kulla; 4' KurukL,jJa· 5 VlrcdhinTr 6· Vipraciaa, .7 b'gra, 8 Ugtaprabhi 9 O~O~2, 70,r..,liIi 17 Ch2na, 72 BafJk?i/ 73- ,\.1atra; '14 \,1udra, 75 :\'tita.:n ~he 8 iOtU5 petaJs~ i Brahrni; 2 Jndra(l7"; 3 ,\-1§hesvar":; 4· CJmCJr;Q§; 5 Kaurnar 6 Apraii(a; 7 Varani; 8 N§rsimh,; and the (radirionai' deities oi the e,~ght regents of space. AiLei' the [;;mtric work K2.JT'T antra


sale of creation. Her primordial explosive will to create ~s contrasted with Purusha. the mare pnncipiel not as irr:2tter' to 'spiritl but as n-;·ale to female, The blncu shows her non-separability and non-difference from the Supreme \;\aie Princiole, 5"1va.

As the Supreme Generative Energy, Kat is the material, instrumental and efficient cause oT materia! nature, and in this aspect she is represented as Prakriti, symbolized by the lotus-form of the yantra, Her creative urge impels material force (PrakritiJ to diversify into an infir.ite number or grosser forms. The eigbt petals of the lotus denote the eight elements of Prakriti - earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind (manasJ, intellect (buddhi}, ego-sense (ahamkara) - of which the phenomena! world is held to be composed and which are none other than.herself. Kafi's creative function as Prakriti associates her with the active power of time, ShP i<: tree c',,~;ctre5s of Tir"e who weaves the warp ar.d woof of countless aeons from age to age, She represents the cyclic time-consciousness of nature that transcends the short span of individual destiny. vvorids emanate from her womb ~jke bubbles trorn an ocean, \\f~thou~ her pulsating Pr akriti-function, the whole of existence ties inert and unmoving as a corpse. just as she is the Creator, so she is the preserver, or the infinite cyclic order of time, Her ceaseless mother-aspect sustains iire, whiie she slmultaneously carries on her cataclysmic functions of creal ion and dissolution.

Prakrit: in her phenomena! aspect is associated with the concept of Maya - represented in the circle of the vantra, The word maya has two connotations, Positively! it is the spontaneous, inexplicable power of t1:", oivins: Kail is Maha-maya and the world is an effortless creation of her div':ne reflex. But in relation to created matter" the maya-created worid is viewed negatively as an ail-pervasive veil, or delusion and ignorance. Maya is that which intoxicates man and deludes him into taking the fleeting and shifting appearance of the world for reality, The-lesson of Maya is that man must apprehend the true nature of the "\'0 ri d, the inner meaning of its secret forces operating beyond the nux or appearances, The circle of the Kai:

Yantra symbolically indicates that the veils OT Maya which confine man to the 'circie' of iife need to be pierced in order that he shali 'see' reality,

The fifteen corners of the rive concentric inverted 'triangles 0; the Kafi Yantra represent the Avayavas, the 'aspects' or psychophysical states: the five organs of knowledge (jnaendriya:':, the five organs of action (karrnendriva): the five vita: airs {pra0a;'; i.e. they relate to the body, the senses, and the receouve functions, The Karpufac/stot,,"'2 states thar [he symbols or the Kaf Yaritra are to be taKen into thE body of the worshipper, while the famous tantrika poet-saint Ramprasao (1718-7Si in his hymn written in adoration of his patron goddess Kalt, bids the worshipper to 'Fashion Her irrlage with the $t~ff of rnindsndsetit on the-lotus throne of 'lour heart, The KarT Yantra is both an 'object' existing in the external \~.'(Jn'.Q, and a '5~_bj.ect'·.to be interiorized in the human body, Kali is both a cosmic reality and a psychic Tact,


The roie of the Supreme Sakti can be compared \vith the role of the sun in the solar system: like the sun, the Supreme Goddess is the source of countless 'energies',


female deities who are principaily her emanations, or her partial archetypal images. The concept of Sakti emanations is similar to the doctrine or the incarnations of Vishnu in Hindu tradition, but the notions of emanations and avatars should not be confused. The immense array or Sakti transformations developed separate personifications and are classified in descending order, Certain goddesses are the complete manifestation (purnasakti) of rhe supreme female principle; some are her partial emanations lamsa-rupiniJ: some are fractions of her power (kala-rupinl); the lastgroupcc mortal women are included here - constitute the 'parts of the parts of fractions' of the Supreme Coddess (kaiamSa-rupin\). These manifestations may be worshipped individually or collectively in a 'circle' or goddesses, The innumerable Saktis appearing in yantras are obviously ordered and generally form dusters like galaxies, which 'orbit' together. In principle, a particular divinity is assigned to a specific group. moves with it and is worshipped in the centre O:pitha·sthanai of the yantra: like the sun, sne commands the luminous sphere or her )akti-c!uster, who are disposed on the inner circuits of the yantra, on the lotus petals and within the square band. Eachoi these Saktis is a power emblem, poised to transform the baser aspects or materia: existence into the radiance of beiog. All these divinities have their roots in Siva's 'consort', who is held to be the Source or the 'entire female mythological system' .10

Dasa-vtahavidvas: the Sakti-duster of the 'T en Great Wisdoms'

The 'knowledge aspect of Kaflis represented by a Sakti-clusterof goddesses who are known as the Dasa·Mahavidyas, theTeo Creat or 'Transcendent/Wisdoms .. The Oevibhagavata PuraQa explains the mythical origin of these goddesses, essentially goddess transformations a feud between Siva and 5ati (h is consort par.;atT), the goddess transforrnedherself into her terrible aspect as Kafi.5eeing her horrific image, Siva tried to flee from thescene,whereupon Kaflin all her magnificence 'filled' the four-quarters, in the ten directions .. with her ten energies or major forms, which are to her what sparks are. to fire,

The mythsymboiically alludes to the notion that the ten energies encompass the whole knowledge of the universe. Together, they are the expression or the cycles of life. and the summary of all planes or existence. These feminine embodiments of knowledge constitute (he power of wisdom that rouses the aspirant from the illusion of existence, and awakens dormant qualities of mind towards conscious awareness and perfect wisdom. In their yantraforms they are a duster of varying degrees of

concentTatjbn~~arrd··area5pected either as divine,heroic, terrifying, demonic or peaceful, or as embodiments and consummations of human perfection_In a particularly tantric connotation their contrasting aspects, the horrific and beneficent, constItute two opposite principles. They inspire and shock, flower and fade, simultaneously, since the polarity of the divine nature is perfectly acceptable within the tantric systemtn their 'knowledge' aspect their greatest boon is that they represent forces that are related to the powers of time, or death, or the continuous


Yantra devoted to the Sakt,-c/uster oi 64 Ybginis, r2nrric deities reotesemirg the-,Cycle ci.time. Each 'inverted.

triangle }$ the ,sacred- sea! of" the- D"ev! .

K3;~(2en-fth} N

~ 'L~------l


S 8aca1;~ Sha.ira\;~ {Nad~i"j

5aktj.-cJusrer o~' rh'e (en ;V2nav,idy'as ana' their 2ssociarion



flux in Ere wrucn is a constant reminder that !!fe is a passing phenomenon continuously deVOlir,;ng ar:d being devoured, To a ;'Y1:nci that is sunk in the mire of vvorldly ;ilusion .. the pOV .. i2i of time appears as tearful. But for the aspirant. the confrontation or the- oie\./:ty of existence symbolized by the fearful aspect of the goddess generates conSc10US introspection 'and renewed soirituai impetus.

There are specific Tantras devoted to each of the ten fv\ahavidyas,'l each named after a goddess and explaining her nature .. yarnra, mode of ritual. and the benefjte that are gained from her ritual. T\vo main Centres of th.e D~3a-,~v\Cihavidya worship are Bengal and}Vilthn~ i;: Bihar state, eastern india. In .\~lth~;a, when a chiic IS born the 10c2.: priest assigns one of the ten Mahavidyas as his chosen deity (lsr:i;a-devata) and tne individual generaliy adheres throughout his iife to the worship of the deity in either a yantra or image form.

Each of the goddesses has a specific cosmic function. The first Manavid/a is Kai' herself. As \ve· have seen in discussing her yantra. KarT is the Sakti of Ka1c, or the transcendent power of Time; she is the embodiment of the time-force of the universe and is therefore the primordial evolutionary principle. Her seed mantra is KrTrp.

Time-movement presupposes change and transformation, so the second IV,ahavidya. Tara, symbolizes the power or aspiration. spiritual ascent, the potential that is actualized through the process of ~;·::;:-:""::;,-:'i-;::::2::. Her yantra is an eightpetalled lotus in a circle. with an inverted triangie, thefirst pattern of cosmic location significantly representative of the goddess's fundamental urge, the pure desire to create. Her seed mantra is Om.

The third Mahavidya, ~oQa5;, represents the power ot.periection and sustenance.

Her name means 'sixteen', a number associated with perfection and totality (see pp, 65-6). $oc;laSi 15 the full cycle of creation, when the entire universe, like a flower, is in futi bloom. a quality that is represented in her yarxra with its nine 'cosmic wombs'. She is one of the goddesses or this group who is worshipped widely in her own right. She is the chief deity of the S6 Vidya form of worship (see pp. 42-3) and is invoked either in the great SrT Yantra or in her own vantra. the Nava-voni Chakra, Her seed mantras are Airn, Kfirp, Saub,

The fourth goddess-transformation is the Ladv of the Spheres. Bhuvanesvari who iiiumines the universe With her radiance and beaoty. She appears in her yantra seated on a star hexagon which is associated with the transcendent immensity of the two (male and female) principles as one. V\/Itn the colour of the rising sun and moon as her diadem. her anthropornorphicirnage placed in the centre of the yantra is surrounded by Ivv O ;~ngs of e~ght- arrd s;x~::::ci:-p-2ta.~Led, . .Jo.tL1S.e5 .. " . .\\/, .. J~,~..IT.!S supreme as time-consciousness of the universe, Bhu\:anesva6 is the chie: projection of space-consciousness, a quality recalled in part of her name (She.: = space. and also support). The supporter of all existence. she is, therefore, extension, expansion and infinite space in which everything is contained, and is aiso the ruler of the three spheres. earth, atmosphere and the heavens as space. Her seed mantra is Hrirp.

The fifth !'v~ahavidya. Chinnamasta.vsvrnbolizes the end of existence or the consummation of the ever-burning, life-cycle that precedes and

--. .



i I i. • u:


influences resurrection. She is showrrdecapitated, hoiding her head fn her left hand, 22 \.vhiie drinking streams ofblood-nectar flowingfromherowrrsevered neck. In her yantra, the destructive aspect of-her image is implied symboiicallyby triangles and 23 circles. Her seed mantra is Hum.

Tripura Bhairavi-jhe-sixtb manifestation, is the embodiment of the power of destruction and is constantly dissolving the world by her incessant active (rajasika) tendency. Her yantra is ahexagon.placed.wirhm.a circle of lotuses, and her seed mantra is Hsrairp, Hsklrirn, Hssrauh, AI! existence is permeated by the two opposing forces or growth and decay; ail that existsis subject to dissolution from the very first moment ofits being: The annihilating power of time is represented in the yantra of this goddess by the nine triangles which .symbolize the disintegrating planes of existence.

TneOilliJipotentiydestructive Tripura Bhairavi is followed by the ash-coloured

..... ;0\aha~idya Dhumavatl, the embodiment of ultimate destruction. Her all-powerful destructive tendency, with which she reduces the world to ashes, is recalled in her name, the 'Smoky One'. Dhumavati is the. night of cosmic slumber, a state of existence when everything in the universe lies inert, unused and 'dead'. She is conceived as a 'widow and therefore without a maie consort. She symbolizes

The vantra cluster 01 tire ten lv1ahavidv2s iirort: ire top, clockwise): .Vfanavidya Kafj; Tara,. $oQcic Bhullarreiva(J, Chinnamasta, Tripura 8hairav~ OhumavatJ: Bagaiarriukri, ~'0§(a;'g~ Kamaii A variant ziter the tantric

manuaISakta-pramod<0 .


tgnorance and darkness: vei'ed within itself: her outward rr.anilestations ~n the world are despair .. dread. poverty, hunger and misfortune. Dhumavaf~·s yantra is 2 hexagon within an eight-pet2.tled lotus and. her" seed mantra is Dhum.

The eighth manifestation or Kau is the crane-headed goddess Baga:a-mukhT who represents the unconscious tendencies in man that lead him towards ii:usion, though her power immobilizes and stifles ail movements and actions. By her force fire turns cold and anger is appeased. She is prop,~t:ated to SUSpeiiG activities of nature. Her yantra is like DhumavatT's apart from an addrnonal triangle within the hexagon. Her seed mantra is Hlrii]l.

The ninth ;\Aahavidya, Matangi. represents the power of domination, ci:;peis evil and dispenses justice. Her vantr3. ag;;.;;-":, :~ :;~e0numavatl's and is differentiated by

The tentn;\rjanavldya/ the lotus-coloured Kama]2, ~s like a rio .... ver blossoming in everything and represents a state of reconstiti.tec ur;:t'/. She is the embodiment or att that is desirable and therefore reveals herself in good fortune. Everything joyful is associated with her. The yantra of this !Vlanavidya; too, is a hexagon placed \-vitn}n a circle of lotuses. and is differentiated by her seed mantra. Srli]l.

The ten Mahavidyas can broadly be grouped as belonging to descending or ascending planes of reality. Starting from the nadir of creation, there are the Mahavidyas associated with the darker forces of life which are invoked through theif yantras for occult or magical purposes, while those at the zenith of creation and dominated by the effulgence of the pure state of being are invoked for spiritua: knowledge of the highest order, Ali the aspects of goddess-transformations bring liberation, although some may bring the aspirant to th e shores or knowledge. others to the summit.

in the tantric tradition. especially among Saktas (worshippers of the Female Principle). these deities are looked upon with great veneration because they hold the key to the psychic transformation of the seeker. The ten goddesses act as an impulse of inteliigence. Their gory associations are meant to horrify and shock. They strip reality bare in order that the seeker may confront the truth or transience. There is. however, another revelation of the Tantras which is brought out boldly through this Sakn-cluster: that life and its manifold processes are not an inert, even, state of oneness; what justifies existence is variety, corrtradiction. change and rnultiplicitv. Tamrisrn shows 2 preference for a cvnamic.concept of cosmic unity \vnich implies a harmony of ail differentiations and paradoxes, The Sakti-cluster of the Mahavidyas as a whole reflects this dynamic unity or existence in which ali aspects of ide, the darkest, the purest, the most forceful and the inert. have been combined to torrn a wnole. Tnp 1..l\t~mate consummation for thesadhaka lies in. his absorbingthis vision of unity in diversitv.


.22 .. 23 ;\_,~2h2.vidya Ch[nnamasta, iIf:h transrcrmat'oo of ~he great goddess KaG:, in. icontc and yantra forms. The Devi"·with her two Sakt.s(female energies; whom she nou-ishes reoresenr che tdad of cosmic phases - cre;tion, creservation, and d;5S~ii)t~on - trioie and ·cydiqd runct~on5 svmoolized ecually by the citangle) 2:<.6 circle of the vantra. Rajasthan, c. 18th century; Couache on paper

... ,

24, 25 Contemporar:' :rT·rage of the gr€,2t goddess Kaf, fiist i;] tne duster of ten 8?cde5Ses .k!"!o\.v~ as .\,"ah.§v~ovasc anc the pl"iir'\a! Sakti. symbolizing the t:tpie COSi:tlC p~'l~se5 of creat.or-. .oreservatior. 2i!d dissokr:.\on - that :·5 .. er:ioracing the tOi.:a~rrv of exsrer.ce. B-eto\v, Kart's, presence is invoked chJ!hg fJtu21 worship by S~7 S2ty-anGnd .Ciri a -::a.ntr;c glJ:-i\ r"'! K2i:ghat, Caicutta

Cosmic Time: the Nltva Saktis


The Supreme Energy is personified as Cosmic Time in the great goddess Adya Nitya Lalita !)'dya = primordial. Nitya = eternal), who divides herself sixteenfold and is to be contemplated as sixteen Nitya Saktis. These Saktis' descriptions, with their meditations and yantras. occur in the Tantraraja TantraY The Nitya Saktis partake of the iumillous nature of the moon in the bright half of the month, and their esoteric symbolism is based onthe mathematical enumeration and multiplication of the number 16 which has mvstical asscciatloos in indian.tra.dition. The irnazerv or the

r ' ., c - .•• ~_ .,,~_, • '-' I

sixteen moon digits tor Kalas = fractions} is drawn from the cycle of the mooriwhich

waxes. wanes, disappears ana is 'reborn'. a symbol of recurrence, fecundity and abundance. just as iri the bright haifor the lunar month the moon appears to evolve gradually in tractions until its fifteen parts vanish and merge in the 'whole'. or full moon. though its actual un~ty remains unchanged, 50 the rifteen minor Nitya Saktis ',aiso known as KalaS:' are partial emanations of their principal arcnetype. the Adya Nitya, Each digit of the moon has been given a special name and an attribute, and

each Sakti personifies a phase or the moon and has been assigned a special vantra. 34-46 mantra and auxiliary divinity in which her 'presence' is worshipped for the fuifilment

of worldly jovs.

The number 16 is arrived at by muitiplying the three quaiuies ;gul)as) of material nature (sattva or mind, rajas or energy, and tamas or Inertia) by the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether}: 3 x 5 ="15, and adding the Nityas' single transcendent source, the AdyaNitya. Together, the Saktisand their sixteen vantras form a unity embracing the manifold nature of the universe and typifying all that the universe holds.

The 'totality' or the lunar phase may also be represented iconographicallv, as the sixteen-armed image of the Supreme Goddess, or as a body mandala consisting-of the worship of sixteen virgins (Kumar! pujal, in which sixteen girls aged from one to sixteen are worshipped in tum, starting from the firstdayof the new moore

The most significant application of the sixteen yanrrasof the Nitya Saktis and their associated. mantras is to provide a model of cosmic time. India .. does not think in terms of historical time, but has developed the conception or cyclical time through the doctrine or 'yuga' or ages, /\ complete cosmic cycie consists or four successive ages or varying length. in the ratios 4:3:2:1, The 16yantras of the Nitya Saktis are multiplied by reshuffl'ng the 36 Sanskrit consonants (their mantras) according to prescribed rules to give the key number of yantras, 576; which multiplied by 3,OOO~ also prescribed by the Tantras.'> gives the duration of the first and longest age, Satya-yuga, i.e, 1,728,000 solar years. The second age, Treta-yuga, is thus 1,290~OOO

solar years: the third. Dvapara-yuga, consists of 864,000 years; and the fourth, the present age, Kal"i-yuga,consistsof 432,000 years .. Time fiowsthrough the ages like an endless river, never exhaustirrgitsei{: Each age has its period of zenith and decline. The four ages are succeeded by a state of universal cataclysm when everything 'bursts into flame', ana then the universe will evoive againa,d iniii")J[um.Thusthe microcosmic unity or a single rliQOnpnaseinepeated;~~ cosmic time scale.

27 $1v2. a-s Kamesva:-a .top )ett}, the or" primordia: desire. and Siva with his Saktii Kamesvar7;:tcp tight). The cosmic parr represent the primordiai male and femalepitnc:pies, and the corresponding energy patterns are sno\',m below. NepaL c: 1761. Gouache 0"



;\':/t~ '2, '\;i,~!)2.,~}ir: nt~\'i:\ '5, Bhf!r~,'''':ci2 ,'a~'nr,'a'i' ,,' ·\:;t\,2J .;'v1aj"";avairesv2,1'~ .\"it\'5, DCi:T T\.,~ar,:ta \,;'ityi guiasund~tT ;-':/:/2, ;\ity~~~\~i1';),i:\'iiaoata:,1.-:2

~~;:~i~"~;ii, i~~);f~~~r;"~~~;~~'i;r~;~':-;i;~a(~;:~~'~:n~~~~




o ()

() C) ()

ct C)

The circle of the ,,:itya Saktis is a reservoir of delight, for they embody ali those aspects of life that make existence a celebration or the spirit. They combine the afibeneficent aspects of the divine, As partial manifestations of transcendent completeness, they are representative of lire-affirming qualities and the prima: founts of power to bestow worldly joys, Thus worship of their yantras grants boons, dispels fear and brings enjoyment to the worshipper. Esoterically, their vantras may be usee for higher meditation, but exoterically they are employed as wish-fulfilment charts. Thus the first Nitya Sakti. Adya ·Nitya, tS a\l-benef!cent ~ Kamesvar: is the fulfiller of desires: ShagamztitnT charms and incites; Nityakiinna grants fortune and supernatural powers (sidcnis): Bnerul}c;La frees from evil influences; Vahnivasini (the fire-dweller) can make one master- of the forces of nature and ~n the three worlds: ~V1ahavajresva!"'T (the embod:ment or mercy} destroys crueltv: DutT (the chief savicur OT the devotees:' destroys feat"" bestows prosperiry and the objects of one's desires:

Tvarita grants beauty and fame and expands the faculties of learning: Kulasunoar: bestows a,~l esoteric knov./iedge: Nitya-Nitya IS beneficenr ; ,NiJapataka bestows rnasterv over evr: forces in nature: ViJiaya stands for conquests and prosoentv:

Sarvamanga:a is totally beneficent: 'Jvalamai~nT bestows propitious esoteric knowledge of one's previous births; Chitra grants the objects of one's desires.

Though it is true that since the female prjncipi€ gained popularity in the tantric pantheon, an immense number or yantras have been assigned to the various aspects of Sakti. nevertheless within the goddess's kinetic and pulsating nature is a point oT stillness which can only be mlf:iledbY3 counter-principle, her exact opposite, represented by Siva.

Cosmic biunity: Siva-Sakti

In the essentially dualistic cosmic vision of tantrism the kinetic verve of the primordial female energy (Sakti: is supported by an indispensable correlative principle. Siva (Purushai or the male principle. Siva is identified with cosmic consciousness and as the static substratum to ail phenomena. Compiementary and opposite' to the inert Siva is Sakti. whose essential nature is to be active, creative .. mobile. and co pulsate with the rhythm of life. Siva :s the silent seer of ail phenomena. the innermost focal point of the subjective seii<Consciousness or cosmic spirit; and Sakti is the phenomenon itseif (matter or nature = Prakriti). The whole

"·universeiiEs.e..> these two opposite yet complementary principles. and ail creation is held to be a resuit or the creative piay (ma) between them. in our own sphere of existence these two cosmic principles appear as opposed (male/female. static.dynamic. piusiminusi. but in conceptual terms their contrariety is the basis or syntheses - unity is the foundation or duality - and their quiescence is in fac: a perfectly balanced tension.

Though the universe is an expansion of the mystic combination in the ~iva-Saktl equation and though the two principles are diarnetricalty opposed they are 'essentially' identical. Their mutual dependency is so great that they remain inseparable, since each requires the other in order to manifest its total nature. The SaivaPura(la 'i4,4) emphaticaliy states: 'Just as moonbeams cannot be separated from the moon northerays from the sun so Sakti cannot be distinguished from Siva,' So dose is their interrelation that there can be no Siva without Sakti and no Sakti without Siva. Thiscosmicbiunity is paralleled as 'psychic biunity' in the human male and female, and suggests that there is necessarily feminine in every man and masculine in every woman, as.partial illuminations of a whole.

In yantra the chief emblems of these two principles are the iiriga, the phaliic object, representing the Siva principle, and theyoni, the-vulva, denoting Sakti. The combined linga'yoni has been the object of veneration or the various sects of Hinduism - Saivaites, S1iktas and Tanrrikas - who worship it as the principal symbol of divine biunity.

in this context linga and yon! should not be interpreted as references to the physicai male and female sex-organs or to human sexual intercourse, nor is the linga to be regarded as part of ~iva'5 body: it signifies the static principle whose visible form has also been given a shape of an egg i.a!)9a-rCipaBrahmani and characterizes the essential being>of Siva in the 'attnbuteless' (nishkala) aspect. It is the cosmogonical emblem of his substance." Similarly, the yoni does not refer to the individual female vulva, but through the emblem to the sum-total of the creative womb, the kinetic field of creation that impels static forces towards movement. change and expansion. Theemblems, therefore. point to archetypal principles and operate above the ievel of. mundane consciousness.

In Hindu mvth, however, the ih'lga is taken as a sexual symbol paradoxically fulfillinga- ccsm.c-runcrior.. andtne myth ofthe origin of Hriga-vliorshio. from the ancient \1ahabharata, is described in terms of a cure for ~iva's unabated sexual desire:


'\/~~TAPHYSlCS O~ YANiR..:"




~:;~f~'~~~~~a~~;:i i,~~'~:~~ ~~t~:~i~~:~,~~;/~r~~:t;~~~c~~~.Jpe

male ane' iemeie principles (see also pis, 70, 73-4)


The sages ccrsed S~\./a"s nng2 to fan to the earth and it t<jint e"·'·2-~ything before \t nke free Never still. it went to the netnerworki anc to heaven and evervwnere on ea~th_ AI' creatures were troubled. and the. sages \\·'e-;t :~; despeia:~cn to Brahma who sa~d to the.n. 'As long 25 the li~8a is not stiH there Vv'i[; be nctt-:;ng ausc.cious in the ~~ive;,se. \{oc must oroc.tiate Dev~ so that she \vlII take the ror.-n of the vo:», and then the !lhga \-viH be s:iil.c Th~y honoured Siva! and he appeared and sa.c. 'lf f:1:'~' i~nga is nejd in the '-" tnen al: wi!l be 'NeH. Only Pa~vatT can hold the tinge. 'and then ~t wlll becorr.e ca:(f'L.t~5 They orcpitiatec him and thus iif:ga-vvorship was establisbed.

)~varS phallus and ParvatTs yoni .. are presented as sexual emblems but on the deeper, noo-rnytnological level they represent the non-separaoilitv of principles which cannot be at rest when disunited. Their 'synthesis' restores balance, changing a state of chaos and d~sequijjb1'tunl causedbvtheirseparation to perfect contmuitv and eculiibriur».

This polarit/ is represented figuratively in the icons of Sakti s~tting upright on the body or the inert sr\/a, 'not to destroy him' as Agehananda points out. but to svrnbolize for the devotee the basis or its cosmosopny: 'i/Siva without Sakti" is a corpse'." ln other words, Sakti, kinetic energy', is the instrument to arouse trie slumbering Siva beneath her. Again representing unity 'in duality, S'lva is sometimes shown as Ardhanariswara, the hair-female and half-male deity, .in which the right half is depicted as female and the left half as male.

This cardinal doctrine of cosmic biunitv is expressed in many yantras dedicated to the Siva-Sakti principle. Such vantras are often constructed as a network of souares, with !inga-yoni emblems within their geomeuicai framework. The colours of the rhythmically arranged patterns of identical squares are themselves used to exemplify the contrasts of dynamism and become a way of expressing the dualistic principle.

In Hinduism, time and space are considered cvclical and self-perpetuating. Ali existence issued from a single source and ultimately returns to its point of origin. Thus it can be abstractly viewed not as a linear motion in a single direction but. as forming a curve. Planets and constellations move 1;1 orbits to trace expanding and contracting spheres. These curvilinear cosmic images are the basis for the roundness of the Siva-linga (though in the ~aiva yantras the 'curve' is 'squared' ano adapted into a framework).

The geometricized Siva-linga In most yantras lies embedded in the voni-shaped pedestal (voni"_o~tha): embraced by Siva, Sakti manifests her creative powers, becomes the f\ov~r of evolution and blossoms into inrinjty. As the force or nature. she withdraws and creates the universe in he; womb-like vessel. The pedestai-yoni therefore, is given tne elongated shape of a sacrificial vessel into whicr. '7: 0 \ v" the pervasive forces of Sakti

The poianty principle appears in vanrra in a variety of rorrns. One of the most important is the blndu. ~n which the tension between the 'opposites is resolved. in the bindu the empirical and the transcendent -merge into an indistinguishable unity. Expanded emblems ofduatity as male and female (.considering the oindu as the contracted emblem) are a pair of interpenetrating triangles \vhicn form a star hexagon: or a figure formed by splitting the bindu into

two dots, one male and the other female. In linear form, the dualism is expressed as two intersecting lines. The KaJika Puraf)a explains this image in describing the Tripura Yantra: The line that begins from the north-eastern region is called Sakti: [the one] going from the south-western region to the north-western region and then reaching the north-eastern region is called Sambhu [Siva]; one should cause the Sarnbhu to intersect with the Sakti."?

The concept of dualism permeates tantric symbolism. Even Sanskrit letters, which are iiiscribedontheyafit:ras, are divided into male and female. Every consonant is articulated with a vowel, and thejnanamava Tantral8 divides thesymboiic properties or the Sanskrit alphabet into two: the vowels embody thereminine energy and the consonants the male principle. jf it were not for the force and dynamism of Sakti represented by the vowels, all the letters (consonants as Siva) would be inert as a corpse. Hence. for example. the 'force' of the mantric sound rooted in ,his conjunction or opposites. Only by the union of Siva-Sakti can speech be articulated expressiveiy.

Conversely, in another text the Sanskrit consonants are referred to as yon; (Sakti) because they cause the formation of compound words known as bija (seeds) with the vowels (Siva}.'9 For instance, in Krirr, the seed syllable of the goddess Kafi', two of the four sounds (K = Kaii', R = Siva) denote the. union of the two principles.

Since these two principles are inseparabieand indispensable to the continuum of existence, Sakta yantras (yantras devoted to goddesseslimplicitly express the 'Siva element'. (In tantric philosophy the female principle, in addition to her. own attributes, possesses alltheattributes.of Siva.lConversalv, Saiva yantras with their linga-voni motifs are considered to possess an inherent Sakti-nature,

in the yantras oevotedto Sakti-c!usters, the goddesses as agroup denote the dual principles. In the sixteen yantras or the cluster ofNitya Saktis, who constitute the moon-phases, the Kamaka!aviiasa· ('1,. 'ill states that'the.15 Nltyas represent the 15 lunar days and the lunar days are the union of Siva-Sakti'.

Tantric symbolism employs several images to iHustratethe integration of the dual c principles in the physiology of the subtle body. Thls.duality is 'vertical' inasmuch as Sakti (energy) lies in latentform as DevTKuD9alinTat the base of the spine, and Siva in the highest spiritual centre, the. Sahasrara Chakra at the Gown of the head, and 'borizontar in the two psychic nerves in the subtle body: k;la, the lunar or female channel, on the left side of the body, and Pingaia, the solar or male channel, orrthe right side. The subtle body thus appears as an amalgam of paradoxical energies. From this theory follows the entire disciplineof tantric sadhana; which consists in unifying these opposite forces. The vital energies circulating in 193, and Pingala are unified in the central SushumGa nerve; the union of KUQ9alini Sakti with Siva takes place in the chakras at their various levels in the subtle body, until theirfinal.union in

th e.highest centre; the . S ah2.staraChakfa. . .....

One of the most striking representations of Siva-Sakti biuniry, and at the same time, the most spectacular abstraction of yogic vision, is the Sri Yantra.


BiunUy expressed' in the.subtle body,.through,the t',NO psychic channels, Icfa ( on (he lim and Pingaia .. (maJe,i. ~J1 ibe right

Cosmoaenes.s: the $~rf '/ antra


..:/ 62 Tne )~T Yantrz. considered the greates":' 07 2) vantras, cisplavs :he splendour of S~\/aSaktl in their rn2niiest2t.\on in order to createthe root principles of !ife (tattvas\ ,::'\ graphic svnthesis of the abstruse cosmo~ogica\ and metephysicai theory of SaivaSaktc/ the 5rT "{antra. is to be read as a chart of the evolution of the cosmic scheme,

step the theorv of creation and i:s categories. lt also demoristratcs

how the passage rrorn rcrmlessoess to form takes ·pbce, as the- aruagonistic principles of life 2manate 3.;-c.r1 d:fierent:ate themselves from the originai wholeness of Siva-~akd, The SiT Yantra marks each phase of cosmic evolution and articuiates €'v'ery descending Jevel of the creative precess.

One of the earliest SUiV[\![ng specimens or the Sri Yantra ]5 preserved in the re!~gtOU5 institution SrTngar'1 iv~a~ha, establisbed by the philosopber-saint Sankara in the e~ghtJ~' century AD! although its tmcgery ~$ tar older. The hvrnn from the /'.tna,n/2 "~/ed22C ':c. '] 200 B C) contains a description O~" a yantra-iike figure ccrnposec. like the SrT Yantra, of nine geometrical permutations.

The Sr"TYantra is one of the chief instruments of instruction of the $rTV~dya form or worship, which consists essentially in the USE' ct an esoteric fifteen-syilable mantra representing the supreme divine power manifested as a form of the universe tsee Chapter 2. p. 42). The Sri Vidya was the chief form of worship or a number or famous sagesI21 and has survived among ali sects of tantrisrn.

The Sri Yantra (a150 known as Sri Chakra, chakrz = Clrde;' is 2 'neutral' circuit of wend-creation. In itself it is not limited-by oe[ng either male 0: female but embraces. both principles in a totabtv. The Siva-Sakti equation contains the constant tendencv towards fusion or the two principles. They cannot be divided because their apparent duality implies a th,jrd principle: unity which subsumes the two. It is precisely this allembracing un~ty vvhich transcends duality that is structurally reproduced in the enigmatic but harmonious arrangement of the triangles in the ~ri Yantra. Hence the SriYantra is a representation of macrocosrmc, impersonal. absolute realitv wrnch is neither male nor r€";-'naie nor neuter/ but 15 pure existence with ail its cualities and categories. and is uitirnatelv qualitvless. Tne 56 Yantra represents aH'parts' of the whole: everyth}ng that has name and iorrn as \,."eiJ as super-empirical completeness - in other words. everything given to €xDerience as \vel1 as transcendent ~rdlnjte fullness, Th1S uruversaliry is testified to by the numerous diitereru svmbol.c references to the S6 Yantra in the tantric texts.22

The metaphysica! basis of ai! yanrras is the theory of the tnir:y-six cosmic principles (tattvas) which o\ve their origin to the svrrthes.s of Siva.:'Sakt:. Jt \viH be found heiptul to understanding-of the svrnbolism of the S6 Yaritra if the var.tra '~P< 73:;

and the table ci ,t~c scher'0'? 07 tattvas "74;, are viewed side bv sice.

Cosmic evolution takes pi ace in stege-S. Orjgrnaiing··rrom pi';'in'b"rdj-arStYlhjt:'~;~:-;-t-;C~{: cosmos exoands and evolves through several graduations and attributes, only to return to its pristine \vhoieness'. The pre-creative stage of evolution is a state of total void, the purest principle of creation. Siva. The beginning of creation is an omnipotent ail-pervading cosmic principle (Pararna Siva or Samvit) In embrace with


Sakti ihis potential power). Everything we know, fee! and hear is latent in this primordial consciousness. This Being is empty (sunya} of any objective content. The oniy knowiedge this Being-Consciousness has is the cosmic concept of Self (the Universal Ego or :", in Sanskrit aharn) as a self-ignited incandescent light (prakasikasvabhava). The Self's awareness is of a dynamic indwelling essence manifesting infinite power and freedom (svatantra: other Sanskrit terms Tor the same manifestation are maya. sakti, vimarsa), This Being is neither male, female nor 'it', and is above and beyond all divisions. There is neither any anti-force nor any external power to act as a counter-entity. There is' oniy the One without a second,

, and ail phases of creation are part or this pure vision.

'Th!sreality,srehectedinthe primal svmbol of the cosmos: the bindu which rests in the centre of the Sri Yantra: '\Nhenthe mass of the sun-rays of Supreme )iva is reflected in the pure virnarsa ·,Sakt:! mirror. the Mahaoindu appears on the wall of Consciousness ~Humined bv his reflected ravs' U<arYla.~aia~',.:rasa, v.4::;,;n the pre-creative stage, Siva, In his absoi~te state called Sarnvit. ;s a dear mirrorwno in his inexhaustible freedom reflects the universe as a mirror reflects an image. Just as a mirror cannot be separated from the image, neither can Siva be separated from the universe he reflects. in contrast to Siva as the luminosity or cosmic consciousness. Sakti is the immense power (virnarsa) that causes the rerlect'lon or the universe which shines forth as a radiant seed-point (Mana bindu).

Thus, the point which is the .first form to emerge on the surface or the void :represented in the centre or the SrI: Yantral is wl-"1Olly transcendent, the germinal state of the. worldwhenmaterial power is still very pure. It projects a level or creation on which aU the combined energies of the universe lie dormant, a realm or infinite poss'blliry.

The appearance of the bindu is the gathering-up of centripetal tendencies which will unfold during successive phases of evolution. Just as the seed of a tree is not a 'manifested' tree yet holds the essence of a tree, so the bindu holds auniverse not yet differentiated from the original monad. ?hilosophic~Jiy lin terms of the SalvaSZikta theory or creation) it is Siva's consciousness or 'I' when it begins to be limited and negated by-his power to create ('Sakti). Therefore the limitless 'contracts' into a point. The experience or location, illustrated by the contraction of infinite space (akasai into the bindu which appears upon the dear mirror-like consciousness of Supreme Siva. is in itself a negation or Siva's limitlessness.

The creative urge of the Supreme is set in action underthe irresistible force of selfregeneration. The hindu expands. Cosmic evolution is moved 'Into expansion by a spUtting or originaJunity into two, and the pristine homogeneity of the point is modified: 'the two Bindus. white and red, are Siva and Sakti, who, in their secret mutual enjoyment, are now expanding and now contracting llnthe manifestation or the universe]. They are the cause ofcreaaen-oftettered sound [vak] and meaning Iarthal noV/entering, now separating (KamakaiJ:vi/5sd, v.6).

In yantra symbolism this process of world creation is called visarga-rnandala (visarga e emission, outflow). The two bindus are.represented in Sanskrit script by the aspirate H. vvhen pronounced with an outflow or breath, H is analogous to the



ivieteor.vs.cs of evolution

1 The un.verse in .ts U/VTifdlif6sted form, In the vo-,'o'

2 Siva's potentieiaower. Sekt». sctivises the ouiesceo: state

3 Modjfication ol original unhy in the IwO principies Sivei Sekt]. the IWDin ONE

4 Trensiormstior: of origin&/ unity

5 Expansion, doubling .,'d deveiooment, bv the .rneqretior: of [he male and temete principles

6 Creation ot tenves, cosmic categories, by external orojection tbet gives rise to tne world of diversity


Ysmre svmbot




Nada or Cosmic Sound, symbol of Siva


Binda. symbol of Serii

o escriotior:

The sp{::(_ing of the brndu b~! the force of ccsmtc cesue

8ihdu splits Visarga ·m<lr'Jr:tde

fIJD/a-uikol}f), the foot uiangje as the cosmic w ornb, fepresenting cosmic triads

Sive (prftkasa) and Sekr! (vrmarss) a'/v/o'/ng (0 c!ea[e the roo: prine/pies 0/ tite. A steoe of creetior: whict: begins to give lise to psvcnics! tsttves (kalrCh'..1kaSj v .. b.ct: obscure our cerceouo» of original wholeness

//!,ijia-prak(j[/_ primordial nature, pro/ecting its 2~ gross tettvec of the material universe, Tr:e five Sekt. uiangles (Jeh) reoresent all the. fivefold ceteoories. such a-s the five eternerns. {il'e oraens of ect.or: and five sense orcens

The tour Siva triangles representing {,'idi'v:'rJ"_;..;/ consciousness tits: is

coscorea by the crezuve play 0/ r02/E $aiai

4 (nvoiutiOfr, or process of return to L Unhv

quasi-biological emission (visargaJof the cosmos, But at this stage the'paj(js ~~il! structurally indivisible: even though two, .. it forms a single unit;

The intense impulse of procreation in whichSiva-Sakti join to produce the bihdu, the primordial seed of the universe; has sometimes been equated with. thehtdman sexual impulse, The 'sexual' aspect of Siva-Saktisnou!qnot be-over-emphasized, and in tbe.creetive.acs we. must not see a divine coupling, but the.uofoidingofcosrnic principles that produce two forces, matter and anti-matter, changeless Siva (Cit Sarnvitl and changing power (Cit Sakti) full of Hght(prakasa) and power (vimarsa), and giving rise to sound (nada) and material forceimiila-prakriti, or kalaJlt is a gross misconception to view the SrTYantra as an erotic symbol.

The fully created'cosmos (5\i~(ijarisirlg from (he union of maieand female princioies, in which the worid of multiplicity is held by the' (fniPI of the primordia! hindu et.tbecerxre. Each'triangle of this yaNrahdSi/S. oresiding_ ceit«: Manv eo/thets of the Sooreme Energv. 'such as- Adva IXfty·a_,$odaSi:_ Laiical and T~jp!,Jra ... 5unda;r:. are invoked as the cerwai divinity in this van/ra, known

as the '-5(~ Yantra f C


2 $ak:; :st:va

Energy of Bsiss fA~-2i;:d5:

3 ~adasNa = er,-ergy o-;wiI,; {ic:ch~.J

L ~svzr2 = ~~B~;\' c: k.iiO'Ariedge (;f:8r:8~'

:; SlJbchcr,!~dY2 ~ 'E:n~l'gy of ac~ion (ArjV2)



, '7 _ ;:,m:~;:. ~he ir:f!ni':e cower of SeVe

S pov.e: Of knc-w~eog?

\ ~anc~-;,;kas 9 Pd:Q8 - L~e ;::--0','<'8; of cesire

-; 0 Ka:a --)im~~s the .po'i\'er -0: ;::;r;~

~ ;_1_N_'_;v_a_ti_-- __ i_!m_"_'iS_._.h_e_p_o_~_'e_r_O_i_c_a_u_sa_i_l1Y~ ~

Microcosmic, Ccnscioosoess



. /v1~zeriai Ute/verse 12 P~r~sha

~ 3 ?raki;~j ~

Gross ~mer,t:;


Subtle eiem-entS 27 ether

23 B:1

29 tire

3D water

31 earth



35 \Nate' 36 ea',"

The tart ', ·,::; diapram aoo'.'e summar,:zes :h{_~ ;2.;'"1~r,;c \'i .... .!{).'"! metaphysiG:f basi::.- G_; ih€" svnlbo/i:'ii! 0':" rhe SrT Yt.!nrrJc

7he un!w;rsp ;:.'. (crnDosed oj 36 co!'m~-( Thp iirs: t~~,·'O 0;" ;he .5 pU,'·(;:' Or s~'bUe 1a:t\",J,O; l~rapiljra!,'J' iep_'·e-5-enir.::d in lh-(_---' ;.-an:'(,·: 2~ ,i;e f),:;'i·j,,)"

= Sao'iisf\'2j; o k,r;ow/ed,'?-.f' i = L~\,i1ra;·; ar:d (J7- sctk»: =

Dr l: .. ·~e~2.~' 0,' 3J,;.~,~ ;C!u\.~;~ a!'(' 5;·,.-,/ ),",I,.;:.:".~ i:~reei(/c! e1iu,~::_)(~..;:, ,;i ·:;,;i ~\'hich ,:::r(' 1he pr;:n~·e n~o,.'(;':,~ ciccsrr« t"r"'o,,':.;/ie)J",

~~~;!~;r~~~i~~V~ ~~:)~~~;:~~~t~~;~~~i~~l~;~~'~~,~~rt~~,.~~t;::'~;~~:~t~~i~~i~~~ ~~~;:'uka of ,5/2 ~;:,;!;a ~.~~.a~~~e;~~ (0

moriaijtv; the ornr:ioorence of S}va,i5akzi is re5tn"cted ov the kancn;...'k2 of ,\}ivati (fate, oredes!inzt!:on,; and con'-ditions US to the ro;.J.~c' o! life. Like 2 husk that enveiops .a seed, these six psychic2,.' i/."rJtaljons vei!' 2nd obscure our perception oi reaky.

Up 10 this su~gE- or" ctesticr., everythh-:g is h2rnE:ssed in unit;.' .. \JO'N evolu[ion bjfurca~-e.s irno suoiec: and oo?eGJ when at tiivisicr: and opposites appear. At {he neXl level, Siva zanv.a rranS1'orms as PUTusna ta-r-tl'a, or the Primord)a/ tv1aJe Ptinc,i_Die. Pur!.isha r~ta;ns his aosol:ure substance o!Jt app~ar-s /}r.~J}(ed u,nd~r the s.p~1i .oi ,\1ay§, ),'1 C~(i!iast to Purusha ';1 .... ;;0, rectesern: every senuen: person - the innermost fOC-a/ poirv: of me sub)ec!lve sei; }I,IYlIted b}! conditions frnposed Dr' creation - rhe


The adept realizes his Oneness i oiodo stale and becomes :N/";oie




Symbols are interiorized bV the sedhet:», in ritual and meaitstion

The dynamics of psyche and svmocl. This process shouid be see-,'! in relation to :he dynam!;cs of cos-rr.ic evofutlon anc invoiuUon 1:see eJiagra.!T;,or1 :'c:c'ng pa,r;e)

Path of evolution

Original unity = Atman!Siva-Sakti

18 o


• • ~ •• Creedon splits original

• •• unity into multioticit».

• " .. e which gives rise 10

\,"0",1 "1.",1,,




Individual is seoereted from original wholeness, ver there is a fink which is obscured

The adept seeks rhfol.Jgh sadh;;nf; to heal the split, in this case with the aid of yantras and related disciplines, The vantrasymbofs become a link between men] cosmos


Prak(iti tactva, tr e Feme.e Prine,./)!'e? is ~he ernoocime,'?t or' tne kir.ei«: quality and c.onSL:tu~e'S the ociecuve maniiest.a.tions oi

~'~;~~~:~;~~:~'~~t~O~~i::;~'~f~~~;~~:;'€~;~~g~:~:~~;~~,~:~c~ ~;,~a~~~~Z~~~i~e~[~~~ ~~i~~;:~~~~~~~:;~:;;;e~~~~a;;~2S~i.:~~:~i,

T~~ h,om~g:'2~~ily ~~ p'.lr€ u.eation 1'5, wrn, sscroe: in~his St2g~: ',N~en matt:~ dominat~5 seirA 2nd gi\_'es :is,€: ~~ ~he, 'None or mu!t:p;!ct~'. J ne g:055 cdtegori€S or osture are gro-upea HI Gus·:ers oi : tattvas: tne:J sense- ergans, ire _J -aC~ion

~~:?£~~;~~1j:~,~F;f£;~ ~t:~~~~~1f£i:~ri~~~;£I~i~~t~1;,~~f~~~~:~;!EXt~J~~2rt:,~~~~~'~£~;~s~se;;~~~i the

the~~O~~i~;~ v: ,:': be;~~:;,~~~~~: ~ E~~ ~~ i';:~,(:'~!~:~e~~";::i ;~~);~j~~;n (/~h :,O,~:,~~. j:it~~e~:;; ,~~,;7~,~,~s(~~;:,~c!e aii

f!,;nca.mend;' ident~:-:/ oetv.eer: mer: cosmos 2nd yzulttd 5;,·,;;,(:;0.:'

.vET . .'J,PHYS; CS 0;:: Y A \TR .;:;,

From the union of the tVJO bindus issues the ;:n\;-nar;-' sound-principle !:nadatfY'~[k2 sakti.L The Sa!l'skrit (etters thc:t are inscribed i:l 3. spira: on the vantra. begi.'i:lrng iron: the outer rirn or the f~gure and er:d~ng at the bindu. are the gross aspects o~ cosmic sound springing from the interaction of Siva/Sakti. The two bindus are thus related to the entire Sanskrit ajphabet whose first and last letters, A and H, contain the ent!re range of sound between them I just as the t\VO bindus in conjunc~ign_.::;::.9nt2.i:~:, '[he seed of the universe. it) this re5?ect.t,b.,c-j-2.~~,2-~s_:2,presell: the subtle ene~gies of all the elements; 'ether. air, fire, water and earth. The rnodification of these five elements or of their representative figures constitutes the whole universe, macrocosm and microcosm'."

With further expansion and contraction or energies there emerges the primordial cosmic womb, and the bindu rests in the first form of cosmic location. the downward-pointing tnangie in the centre of the Sri Yantra, in this phase 5iva and Sakt~ tattvas have fUllY evolved into dis~inc:t C?!togc:,:~:, 8·(_;t are :,tiii YOKed b,:.-' the unity of the primordial "iangle iKama-Kala:' This phase is marked bv Sakti's awareness of her threefold characteristics: her creative wii! (iccha) 'Nhich is the prime cause of ail creation; her inexhaustible power of discrimination, or knowledge (jnanai which gives rise to multiplicity; and her power of action and movement (kriya). Sakti's threefold activity is described in the Maiiniviia}'ottara Tantra (u, 6-8}:

o Devi, she is called Sakti, inherent in the sustainer of the world, assumes the desire nature iicchatvaJ of Him I,.vho desires to create. Hear- now hoy\-' she attains rnultiplicitv. though one. That bv wh·~ch a thiil£ ~5 known for creation to be 'this' and not otherwise goes by the name of ji'iana Sakti in ~his world, When the idea is born 'jet this thing be thus' the power making it so is at that moment Krtya Sakti,

These threefoid aspects of Sakti have been phiiosophicaiiy related (Kamakaiavjiasa, v.22) to the triad of basic attributes that make up the world, They are seen in three theistic expressions of Sakti and the three phases of cosmic sound:

Goddess (Saktij


.Aspect of Saki.' VOlition (iccna'

Sound manifestation

Cosmic pi"iases

subtle sound (pashyanti :'


inteimeciiate sound. ;-mc.dh~'am2":



action (kriya)

articulated sound


These primary categories. symbolized by the triangle. efiect transformation only in the self-experiencing of Siva"'Saktl; they are not extra-menta: and therefore do not bring about any element of difference inrhe supreme unity . .At tbis stage of creation, the spirit still asserts itself over materia: nature, and the three aspects of Sakt'r constitute her self-experiencing creative funtion in her circumscribed universe, Pbiiosophically, this stage corresponds to the pure creation of the Siva tattvas \C7. table p. 74). It is oniy in the next phase that the primordial homogeneity of Siva/Sakti is divided by manifestation,


After the initial crystallization of primordial energy, the subtle principles of matter and spirit begin to make their appearance, and the whole process of creation alters course, as matter begins to dominate spirit. At this stage original unity splits into two streams. into subject and object in which ail divisions and opposites appear. This phase or the SfT Yantrais indicated by the interaction of nine triangies.

The triangles of the Sri Yantra are called nine cosmic wombs (Nava-yoni) and parallel nine categories of nature in the macrocosm. The triangles are in two sets: the four upward-pointing (known as Srikanthas) emanate from the Siva principle and denote the.indiv\dua! sou! (Jiva) and its vita: energies~ the five downwardpointing represent Sahi principles and from them emanate the material elements of the macrocosm - earth. water. tire. air, ether - their five corresponding subtle states .taomatras) and aii the human organs which react to the impressions of the senses. These are the organs which iaciiitate action {mouth. hands. feet. bowels, genitals! and sense experiences (ears, skin, eyes, tongue. nose), The two sets of triangles are superimposed to show the imperishable unity of Siva-Sakti. So united, they form the creative cosrruc field represented by forty-three smaller triangles, each presided over by a goddess, within the rings of lotus petals and the outer SQuare rence. Metaphysica!ly this seage constitutes the evolution or aii the elements of nature: '0 Supreme One, the-whole Cosmos is a Sri chakra formed of the twentyfive Tattvas - five elements plus rive Tanmatras plus ten !ndriyas pius Mind pius Maya, Suddha-vidya, ,V\ahesa [Siva}, and Sadasiva.'24


Cosmic order

AccorcEng to indian evolutionary theory, the cosmos is to be viewed as a continuum. Whatever is born wiil develop,. age, and dissolve again into the primordial reality that gave it birth. Like a circle. the cosmic order presents an interrupted continuity. Hence, there never was a 'first', nor will there ever bea 'last' cosmos, nor wi!! there ever be a period at which the universe wi!1 have reached a static phase or total disintegration or total integration.

There are three phases of the cosmic process: creation, preservation, and dissolution. a vision which Hindu iconography represents in the unified image or the Hindu trinity formed by the three major- deities, Branma,tnecreator, vishnc, the protector, and Siva. the destroyer.

The structural synthesis of the SriYantra illustrates the indianview of cosmic time as a triad, with three phases of universal. becoming. To match this, the goddess Tripura presiding over the yantra has three aspects: the young one (Trividha-Baia), thebeautifut one (Tripura-SundarJ),andth~'terrible' one (Tripura-Bhairavi). Each of

...... _.themt!:lrB2-periods''*cosmiCtime 'assfrnilates another triad .. producing numerical association to the order or nine, Hence the symbolism and basic structure or the Sri Yantra always revolve around a ninefold division which is basically an expansion of three. From its outermost periphery, the square. to the bindu, the S,i"Yantra has nine circuits, each with its own name and presiding devata, These nine circuits are divided into three groups of three circuits to denote the three phases of the cosmic


cvc!e. These three rnajor divisions v,>~~,fch n12ke up the nine circuits can be viewed 2.5 SUCC0S5~\··e of creation. pieSei\.·2.~:O:ii and oissoiutior.. Tf!€ TO]fO\ving ecuation of circuits oi the Sr; Yantra arid cosmic phases is based on the Tanuar2ia Tani;'2 (ChaD V;:

'-<t InE square


2 The circle of 16 ictus petals

creation - p reservat: 0 li

.3 The d[ejp O~~ 8 lotus peta ls

Great: on -0 issei ution


Second phase: PRESEFzVATiO:\·

4 The ~J.-angfec chakra

5 The iO-angied chakra


6 The 10-angied chak-a



Third phase: OlSSOLUTlO.;\

7 The a-angied cnaxra

d;550] utior-creation

8 The pr[mary triangle

c; ssol utior- prese rvat ~Ofj


9 The bind"

di s501 u uo n -c.ssoution


in the cosmic cycle no phase is absolute in itself but each is a synthesis of opposite principles. \,,/~th the apparent disequilibrium neutralized by the principle OT unitv. in the first phase, for example. creation is seen as a vast cosmic activity in ~",;hic~""l certain forms of H1:e are evolving. others are si rnu'taneousiv vanishing, \-\-'niJe some are statlc (preserved'. in the second and third ph ases the same principle asserts ~t5elf, tor \-vn\Je preservation or d~5S01ut10ri dominates; certain rorrns Of life sirnultaneous'v evolve, are pr2ser\.'ed and dissolve, Thus each phase· c/ the cosmic cycle is c. cyna7Yl ~c whole. and while the vvhole contains an the parts. 2d~ the parts assimilate the \Vhoj€

The er:~gnlat\C nature 07 these divisions should not surprise us. They demonstrate the core-nature 07 ::;akta philosophy \\Chich sees every aspect of i~ie as 2 spectrum of oaracoxes 6.(10 fts resoiuuon. No ·e·ierrh.:.:nt--,,:Yf--::.'lt.~_r_e .... nc~ __ ~JJro(PSs of rie, can ever be

, V"lr-.~" . .-.~,.. o-~.: i.... ,'" ;.... .. ..., c.. ~...... r<"rto ... -t- ~-"-- -~·:·~·······-······;'"·;'··~··-·'-~r-';-;··\·;.:-.;,-···

COf i ,t..-,ele ~i I ~~s--..,;, >i... mL..SL em""-I d.C ... an oppos, t, e )"0 maJ 1" '-~'..- ;lS...,J" ana, eso;\- ... ".:-

tension and contradictions by a third principle: unity. From this dimension. each phase of the cosmic cyde is complete in itself and retains its cyclical continuity.

The association of the number 9 with 3 appears in Indian thought to be an mescepabie necessity. since it is based on the symbolic association of the structure or cosmic time. The Whole (consisting of three phases of cosmic cycle! is threefold. It


denotes two opposites and its resolution, a neutral. Every part in creation must also be of the nature or the Whole (viZ" threefold), Therefore each of the three parts of the Whole (creation, preservation and dissolution) is necessarily split into triads, bringing the numerical order or 9. This concept of the Whoie is embodied in the nine

", ,', '" "cir.f_uits or the Sri"Yantra, and the nine Siva-Sakti triangles, which are an expansion of the unTtyof3'or the prJenordiai triangle.


The web of ivlava


The concection or hiera-chica planes OT existence occupies a central place In tantric thought. The cosrru c categories and principles of the universe known as' tattvas which Siva-Sakti project in their infinite expansion to create the world are organized ':;5 a pyramid of which they are the apex. Starting from pure unity (Siva!. the world is a continuous unfolding, and the lower \ve go down the ladder of creation the greater the differentiation and the more numerous the cosmic categories become - until a state is reached, according to 5aiva-~akta theory, when the process must reverse. and involute back to the very beginning. In other words the series or categories that are created during evolution must reverse their downward fiow and move upwards

become the-essence which gave them birth +rnultiplicity mustonceagain become unity. This spiritual descent and ascent, which applies to everything in existence, is charted in the Sri Yantra,

The vision of man found in the Tantras corresponds to thetantric vision of-the cosmos: Thetantric scheme or the universe is divided into three levels or kinds of tattvas: the spiritual or pure, the psychical and the physical. These three categories are regarded bv'Saiva and Sakta Tantras as making-up the circuit or lire, and as exemplifying man's entire being of matter and spirit:


Pure or >piritual tattvas (SivacSaktil Psychical tattva C'vlaya Saktil Physical tattva (Prakriti!


Atmanor Self

mind (organs of inteiligence)

body (organs or sense and action)

As primal cosmic un\ty first divides into tVV'OI so. our consciousness emerging from the precreative to the post-birth state divides into two parts: one who as a silent Seer observes in detachment (the)\tmanl, the other who as the phenomenal ego yields to the creative play of life. These two basic levels or consciousness are radically different but co-extensive. The Atman; the eternal point of consciousness in which the male and femaie principles (Siva-SaktiJ meet as equals! is pure unity. The phenomenal ego, the first form which consciousness assumes when it splits from its original unity, is composed of organs of mind, senses and action yielding to constant change and impulses.

The Atman has no boundaries. no liroitatlon.jtretains its wholeness and purity throughout eterni,ty. ltts'tbtai'Tncer the spell orthe creative play of the Supreme Energyi\\aya Sakti), man mistakes the phenomenal ego for reality and identifies it


\-~ ETA? H Y S:: C S 0 F Y A ~ T R ~,

\\"ith Atrna,'i, The phenomena! ego 5hatter~ O~:r perception of our 'nne:" \,vno\er:'ess and makes us see Pie as an accumulation of d'lsjo~:ited irnagesc The real self lies hidden, veiiec by the fimiting factors {kanc~lUk2.s,:; which J;ike sheaths hide the jumjnos~ty of /;'trrlan and obscure from us our ~nne:- unTty with the cosmos. The purpose of the tantric quest and the goal of rituai and medit2t1~n\Chsp.t.e;-~~4"v·;J··d·'ST!'s. the gradual realization of the rea! self, so that the pray of,the phenomenal ego yiel ds to the inner wholeness of Atmanl as the s?chaka retraces his steps from the outwarddtrected world of multiplicity to the inward focus of unlty.

Return to the centre

lnvo'iutjon is a compulsion into the spiritual !t ;mpi~e$ rncving against the current of life. in subjective terms it means thirsting for a higher" state or consciousness .. suppressing the .'(o\verJ by ascending the ladder of rnultiplicitv into unity. a spiritual itinerarv which takes the form of a return to the state of cosmic fcetaiizatiori tne J priori state before experience begins. Such a return shifts the centre or the personahrv from a fragmented awareness of his ego-centric consciousness to cosmo-centric wholeness. and brings about the union of the individual and cosmic consciousness (Siva-Sakti). It means a death of the profane self, the perishable phenomenal ego. and a rebirth to an eternal, deathless state of being. The entire discipline of vantra-ritua: and nledi:atron rs directeo .owards this s~ng\e goal. a return to the Supreme Centre. The yantra makes the process of invoiution conscious to the adept.

The hierarchical planes of the cosmos are depicted in the yantra as successive concentric figures, 'ascending' from the periphery to the centre. or in pyramidaJ vantras, from lower [eve!s to hjgr:'::;~'r and up to the summit. The journey f;-c~ periphery to centre is known as the involution model OJ the "dissolving' v,!ay Oay2.krarna), (Converseiy, the interpretation of yantras as symbols of cosmogony is outwards from the bincu, and is known as the evolution rnoce. or srigi-krama.:·

A yantra thus maps the road 07 eternal return, and the way to inner wholeness, Escaping from the web of ;\I~aya, the adept graouailv rediscovers his eternal be;ng through tne vantra's symbols. When he has internalized aii the svmbols of the cosmos and his bod~ .. · 'becomes the '{antra', the adept :5 no longer alienated irorr; the truth that the symbol illustrates, but 15 transformed into the truth he seek::;.

28 SrT Chakra-pZl':';;;._ Y;1:;:ro of VishQ,Ll as.Ha(i-~;arayar:;a \·\,[tn his conso« LaKsnm7. The inscrrption on t.he :,ant~a states that ~t was given by a k~ng named \1~.':"~0.?-t~!,~y~ to his daughter the princess at, her marriage, {or her worshio [0 ensure her \';Jeirare ana orotecuon. r::j"esvmb01~ .. receatec many tJm"2S around the centre 5quai~ repres€nt the nine planets. S\"mboiicaiiy thes~ serveto p'rot€CLth~· ·c,~-:;:rr;fc energy 07 the deities invoked ~n the centre, Tam;! N2CU, c. 16th cent.ury. Copper piat€, 38 x 38 m


3~, 32 Radh,a, Kflshr}a's power oi def;ght H(ad~r~-sa~t ::, in human shape arid as her ausp.cous yantr2;. Sensai. 18th centu~y. Blass

33 Yaiiva of thE Mahav~dy2 Bhuvane-svar;, iO'.Jith 0"7 the ten aspects of the great goccies5 Ka::.. Tne gOOC-2SS who presices at the centre of her Y2)""tr2, J,s appro2chec dunng i~tua: worship b~' means of t~€ ma0~ias of ~€:' su:-round~ng Correctlv chanted. the3-e ·;r~ant!2S bri2ig abcut pfoge~s~ve t)ar;sfO~i;,atlons in the psvch'c stare of ~he sadhaK2 (see P? 102-5\ Rajas::han. c. 16t;-, cent!Jry. Gouache on paper

34-37 The s~xteen goddesses; the ;'.;itya Saktis, togetnei provide a model of Cosmic T"lme understood oy indian though~ as cydicaL Four ae;t)€S of LJi,cr phases dur;ng the bnght hal: of the month are (from the top, jeft to rrght) KamesvarT Nity2_. Bhaga;i'.aHnT N!tyz/ ~:;ryakiiniia Nitya and Bhe,uDQ2 N\tya Ra.iasthan,

c. 19th centurv. jnK on paoe:-


38-~1 Each ~';:y2 5ak(' is G part;a,: yet cO:Tipie:e maniiesrar.ion 07 cosmic energy the pa_rtia; asoects svmbo.izec by the erementa-; forms of each ~'2;;i:;"ac the 'Jrw.'e~5a~ by the cirde whic:---, er cioses tilerT', al.. ;ike the moon, never ios;ng its completeness. A6ove, a yan:ia o{ a 5~ng:e moon pnase, Slvacuti ~itY2: oppcs.te. yan:ras of Vahn~vas:nT N;tY2, Viaha\-Iaj:esvar: 'rtya~ "Tvartta t-,r~tya 2nc Nl::ya- \iitya_ RzjaStn2c;, c. 19th ce;it:,;~y. ink on paper

---.-~'''---~"- --.~,--~---.--

". \ \

43-46 Goddessesoi,theconciudir~phases of the lunar cycle: Nilpataka N"tya, Vijaya Nitya, Sarvamangaia Nitya aridChitra Nitya, The last is Adya Nitva, worshipped in :he Sri Yantra (see p. 73), Rajasthan .. c. ;9tn century. Ink on paper'

or the evolution of the cosmos. Vie~ved rrorn the centre, the bindu. outwards to ::h-e

periphery, each the Ti~ne circuits of the yaotra represents a stage in :he unfolding vvhich gfves o.rth :0 the

apparentlv.separace entities at-the manHested worki. The svcstance. rock crystaL on \vhich this vantra is in6sed, is itself svrncol.c: ~ts translucent substance .s bei1eved to contain every colour. as the yantra embraces t~,e totality or creation. viewed in the opposite d~rection, from the periphery to the centre. known

as the [nvdution r:loder-the·Sri Yantra is a reo: or rituai v/Dfship, enabnng the sadhaka ':0 ~ntuit the Ore ar.c to red.sccver hi:; original wnolencss. :\ep·aL c. 1700

4B .. 49 Yan:r25- of Car esha. the eiephant-headed god, honoured as 2. svmbd of good k_;ck and wisdom and as a cispeller of obs::acie5_ Above, his iconic yai1tra emboss-ed on copper :Tarr~il Nad, . •. contemporary image based on tradrtional forms:). Right, his abstract Y2.ntra inscribed \vJth rr,ant:-as. Contemporary -:mage

S0-53 Yantras embossed on small ccocer plates, to be used in ritual worshio, From too ~eft to bottom Sudarshana Yantra_. :;vmodiz';ng Vish,~~IS po~ve: anc r26ance: Vtshsu and Lak:;hmT Yant:-a 5ymbc\~z~ttg

u:-,ity or ~he maie and terr.a!e t)r(ncj:de5; yantra of Vish~u" t~._~~~,p, .~,~. ~.~.;~~~, ~::,~:',-;~,,~ .. ,~. 'a'~,:~o,"~,',; anc K~la 5halr.a\',J

Chakrar tin a.',_is?ic;o~:s vancra or one or the e;>,thets of S,~va...... '-"'",~I..I _'-' c c >.-' (~ :';T12ges based 0;;-

u2.citional r:orms

S4 Navapadma (n!ne lotus) ,'v\af)Qa:a, a ta:'1tr[c ya~tra devoted to the worship of Vish(;iJ, The- nine lotuses in the centre are the seats of Vishnu's nine eoithers. Tne sou are forms are characteristic of vaishnava

vantras used by the sect of Pan~aratra:., C~ntempofary d;agzoam ba-sed on trad:tiona:- 'lOT;;: .

35 Chak.:ao Ja \\as9a\a .. a vantra mace up or circuits of i~tuse5. \vnich ;5 usee "In cantric i~~::ja:t;o~ ceremOii~es. South (n6a> conte:t'>porary cJagratii based on trad:tiona! ~or"'"

56,57 $eroii lief:} ~"Iith mantras '70; $6 \'ant~2·p;:;,i2 ~6tua1 worshio, normaH\, pert"ormed da!iyi. "Thee correct rhythmic cna:ltingoi thes€ yantra~ er,ergize~ the state pattern of the Sri- Yanna ibe!oy.,<:. SI")'..!th lnG.ia, c. 17th century" Copper

58, 59 Yantra 01 the :vlahavidyii Tara (:ert;' beering the marks 01 sandal paste and red cowder used in puja South India, c18th century. Copper plate.. The ,V"leru form or the SrT Yantra (below}J in contrast, is generajjy used for meditatlon. lts pvrarnide: form of nine levels represents the sadhaka's steps of ascent from the world of matter to the highest splritua! revet the sumrrir/oindu. Rajasthan, 18th century. Bronze

60, 6-; T~'2 ;;;ag:li,ficer'1t tradr::~On3j image 07 the godde5-5 Du:'ga, v.':i:h he~ Y2ntT2_, a bote co::tras~ ~ii ex:xessior-;, Ye~ lmag€_and y8.:i:,2 ere 'sp2:-ks. Of the sarr.e fi~e', and h \VO~-Shjp are:n:erchangeab;e, Cay ;':'g'.1re; 20 feet h~gh, \\·'est Sengai' y2~tra based or t!""!€ tar1t::-!( work Tal' -, traS2.r2~ Ra\25t'han, 19th century. In~ on paper


Dynamics of Yantra: Ritual

The practices or ritual andmeditario» involve an internalization and extemalization of svrnbois by means of parailei activities, the oneim~~~aanath'eCii:hefoutward, This constant interplay or inner and outer constitutes the dynamics orvantra. For it is held thattheenergy(sakti) of the power diagram remains inert until it is activized and made meaningful through sacred activity. It is through ritual that power descends into the yantra and man is able to begin his ascent into a higher reaim of being.

'There can be no sadhana in an unreal world by an unreal sadhaka or an unreal iord.'1 This statement implies that the god or goddess must be known as a.presence - visibly through the yantra. audibly through the mantric chants - and that the sadhaka must try to achieve an inner experience or the divinity. The sachaka must ritually purify and prepare both himself and the yantra lest the deity he wishes to invoke in the yantra remains a stranger to him.

Ritual initiation

Initiation is the first major.existential experience which prepares the sadhaka for the return to his inner centre and maps his journey towards integration with the cosmos. lt is through the rite of initiation that he learns the nature and use of the yantra-mantra complex and begins to grasp the inner meanings or its signs and syrnbols..

Traditionally, the ceremonies of initiation mark a passage from one world to another. The rite is not simDiy a static event but is a dynamic transforming experience or the whole being, a second or 'true' birth, which conditions the sadhaka towards the primordial sources. Elaborate ceremonies are conducted to bnng about 'death' and 'rebirth' which are understood as taking place literally. Some Tantrass.list as many as twenty-five different types or initiation which lastfor many days and form a complete yoga sequence. The Simplest form of initiation consists of mantra initiation (mantra-dlf;shiiJ performed bya guru. Yantras generally piay an important part in initiation ceremonies; and among theSaktas,for.exampie, initiation may be performed with the aid or the SrrYantra. In the Simplest form of ceremony, the guru initiates the disciple in three stages: first he touches the disciple (sparsa-diksha) concentrating deeply on Devi: then he looks attbe Qisciplewithlove and grace (grik-dikshai; fin?iiy, he jm parts to him the vyords of knowledge and .i.n-troduces-tcfhTmtl-1eesoteric techniques of Chakra-pfija {ritual worship or the chakras or circuits of the SrT Yantra). This is followed by the recitation of the hundred-syllablemantra of the Devi and the offering of flowers to the Srl Yantra.


Some initiatorv rites. are qUt!€ elaborate! lJKe the one described in the :\1ahaniry'2i,)2 Ta.'1t:a (x, ~r09-97L ioliowed by the Kaulas. or ?jeft-har~-d' tantrikas. Th;s rite ... KnO\Vn as purGabh~seka r is performed \\Iith the five -'forbidden elements' .. \\.ilne, meat. f~Sh.

72 cereals and intercourse. using the Sarvatobbadra .\·~.209a\a made on an earth altar with rice oowder. and coloured vellow. red, black. \\<'hite and dark blue. A iar is placed in 'the centre 0; the mandala, and in an extended ceremony consisting of bodily purification. nyasa. meditation and recitation of mantras. the five ingredients are offered on the jar symbollcally. rtnaHy, the guru irTtp2rt:: -the ~nd;ltra to the disciple and glves him a. new name, Th~n 'lhe disciple worships his tutelary.deity on the (rki.f~~Qala. Such rit'-e"s may take oneday. or- three or-five or seven or nine days: with a special yantra for each day.

Among the tantric Vaishriavites {Pancara-tra) also. initiation is performed vvlth the aid or mandalas, The Lakshm: Tsrnre gives an elaborate version of one such rite

53 which uses the Chakrabja \lteG9aia, divided into nine sections, each of which is named after one of the aspects of \/[Sh(LL After the initial phases of the ritual the adept is gtven a new name. For this, he is blindfolded and made to cast a f~ov .. -er on the Chakrabja ;V,aDQaia; according to the section where the flower has falien, the disciple is named after one of Vishnu's epithets, Another feature of this form of initiation is what is called the 'tattvacoiksha', in which the guru prepares a thread made of three strands, each to represent one of the three qualities of materia! nature - sattva, rajas and tamas - and each with nine knots, These twenty-seven knots syrnboiicaily denote ali the cosmic principles in the body of the sadhaka and are offered as oblation into the sacred fire, a ritual act to denote svrnbollcally me 'death' of the old self which is accompanied by the birth of a new self open to the life of the spirit.

Irrespective of the method that is followed, it is through the ritual of initiation then the psychological transformation or the ?d~0t :::;::,'g1ns< rile rites of initiation bring a complete renewal of the sadhaka and equip him to carry out the various practices of vantra sadhana.

The pranapratistha ceremony

just as the sachake is ritually transformed by the rites of initiation. 50 the vantra has to undergo a complete ritual transformation In order to be accessible for worship. One of the most importaot rituals of vantra worship is the infusing of vita! force (praQa) lnto the geometr~ca[ pattern of the yantra, caned pra0aprat~~;ha< The goal JS to cause the spiritual universe underlying my:h and iconography to 'descend' into the yantra 50 that it becomes a radiant emblem and receptacle of cosmic power (sakti-riipa), and conC!OUSneS5 (cr.aitanyaJi transforming into sacred archetypal spa.:e v/h"s,t ls phenomenally no more than a mere design.

The transfer of power from the sadhaka 'L(;"-t-h0"':~;/2:,n~rq."s.:h.~ng~$",~,~~,, nature of the diagram, and the consecration of profane space conversely elevates thesadhakero realizing the inherent energy of the theophany. so that the yantra becomes a powerful means of contact between the sadhaka and the cosmos,


In the beginning of the ritual, the yantra which is to be made a living entity is ritually established (yantra sthapanal on a wooden pedestal, A mandala is the seat on which the yantra wiil be consecrated, and it is purified by worshipping the specific divinities of the seat Ipitha pujiil and the four regents of space by chanting appropriate mantras. The yantra on its pedestal is then placed on a plate and put on the table, on the mandala, for the ritual or pranapratistha proper, To create a rituaiiy pure archetypai space devoid of negative vibrations, the rite of expelling negative or evil forces (bhirtapasarana) is performed with a mantra. There follows another rite,

·'h'T1own-a""'iancingth.",.quarters· (digbandhana). in which the sadhaka symbolically binds the four quarters of space by snapping his right thumb and middle finger ten times (8 points or the compass + nadir + zenith).

The sadhakas body rs next symboiicaily purified. It is through his purified body, in which the deity is present that divine consciousness will be transmitted into the vantra to make it a living entity. The sa dhaka's body is made infmiteiy radiant bv means of.the ritual of bhurasuddhi. in which the denication of the body is achieved by the symbolic dissolution or the five elements. Each element is dissolved by the chanting of mantras. The sachaka then uses meditation to concentrate deeply on the deities, and performs the ritual of nyasa, in which he touches various parts of his body while reciting mantras.

Through these rituals the sadhaka becomes an embodiment or conscious force and his body an epitome or divine energies. Thus vpurified' and 'cosrnicized', he is considered an appropriate vehicle io: the transference of power to the yantra.

This descent into the yantra can be achieved in several ways, but one of the chief methods is a breathing technique IpraClayama). Whiie the adept is in complete concentration, the devatais exhaled by prank transmission through the right nostril as he chants an appropriate mantra. He. controls his breath, exhaling it over a red. flower which he-holds in his hand. The divine essence is thus communicated through the. adept's body on to the flower. He then places the flower at the centre of the yantra: which begins to be permeated with the spark of consciousness. The J\1ahanirva!)a Tantra (Vir 63-74) describes this process:

Then, while making with both hands the 'tortoise rnudra' (finger gesture]. let the worshipper take up with his hands a beautiful flower scented with sandal, fragrant aloes, and musk. and, carrying it to the iotus of his heart let him meditate therein lin the lorusl upon the most supreme Adya.

Then let him iead the DevTalong the Sushum:;a Naqi, which is the highway of Brahman to the great Lotus ora thousand petals, and.there make HerjoyiuL Then .. bringing Her

._r_~hrougb his n0201~J_.,tbi.mplace Heron the rtcwer; [herptesencebeingCCimmunkatedl as it were, by oneiight to another, and place the flower on theYantra. Then, uttering the bija.. lseed-rnantrai Kring, say the following: '0 Adya DevT Kaiikii come here [into the yantral with aii Thv following, come here; land then he savsl stay here, stay here; [and then] place Thyself he~e; land then: be Thou detained here. Accep't my worship.

Having thus invoked (the Devi1 into the Yantra, the Vita: Airs of the Dev'! shouid be infused therein by the fonowing pratisiniimantra:

-'::;':ng, HrTng, Krong, Shrlng, $vaha, may the five Vital Airs of this Devata be here; ,:;':ng, Hring, Krong, ShrTng, Sdiha, Her Jivais here placed: Ang, Hring, Krong, Shiing, Svana,al! senses;, HrTng, Krong/ 5hrTng Svaha r speech, rn.nd. Sight, smell, hearing. touch.' and





A iotu: unfolding its petals towards the e;gh~ regions. of the cosmos provides zhe sacred seat on which the yantra is ccosecreiec for ritus! \ ... .forshjp


tne Vjtal Airs of the f,cya-KaJj Devata- rnav forever, Svaha."

conie here arid stay


Another method of infusJrg vital force into the yanti2~ is

r{I\\ 0~.

i I I \\'\ \ \ \

1 ~ I , ~ " " " \

I \ \ \ ! \ \ \ \


r : I f-~

\ \ j f I

~ / 1\ I /

. . \


finger-gestures (A\:"2nana"mudra)J The adept exhales h~s breath or, to the appropriate finger-positio.ns to 'arrest svrnboiicallv the essence of the divtnity< He then slowly lets his closed hands descend on to the yantra.

[n other ceremonies. the de}:y may be installed by uttering the tantric version of the famous C2!')"at6 .\-\antra (see p. 40;' or variants 01 other well-known mantras, Sorne ritual manuals' also outline a ceremonv ~,n.S~0 . .0Xl"t..~J.3·,ortt·;:;;'dto'";;Va5tYf"(~"~Cof~t\le" yantra with several liqu~.d.s;, ~n 5~-ch c' case 'the \vasnlng JS symbolically suggestIve of cleansing away impurities.

No matter what method the adept follows, the prar_1ap;ati~tha ceremony effects a transformation of the vantra. whlch now begins to function on a different level of reality: it has become a receptacle of divine manifestations, divinity ;TL abstract form. The vantra is "transformed' into 'a unit of archetypal space Us.kaSa) \vrdch is ideorfied vvtth power {sakti::', No longer can the yantra be equated \,vith gross matter veding thespirit, but it has become instinct with the being of the deity with which it is aroused.

Avahana-mi.J'dr~, the ge:s:ure by 1/.'hich the d.':\f.i(";,~y ":s =«» to ,rxesence J;r: [he (i~uai 0; pra0apiaU~tnd

Yantra puja

Then follows the external ritual of puja (adoration). or offering homage to the deity through the symbol of the vaotra, Yantra pu.\a is generalty carried out dailYI as an individual ceremony in which the adept establishes a link with the cosmic forces invoked in the ventra through the mystic groupings of devatas, By means of an aesthetically pleasing ceremonial involving a variety of ritual ingredients - flowers. incense, water, food offerings, etc. - ali of which have a deep symbolism and involve his entire psycho-physicai complex, the worshipper strives to achieve a state of concentration.

The type of offering and technique of pGja wiii vary depending upon the sect or the worshicper. For instance, the 'left-hand cults of tantnkas wi!i always svmbolically offer the five forbidden ingredients (Pai'icha-makara) - wine, meat, fish, cerea: and intercourse - whereas others \v:U use simple everyday svmboiic ingredients, such as flowers and perfumed substances and finger gestures. Though pCqa may involve complex techniques anc elaborate accessories. 1tS value and essence ne in the attitude (bh;§,va) and inner experiences .anubhava: of the devotee" T{lt ri~i.)ai is acoroachedwith 3 deen sense of corncassion Of hurnihtv. with utter dedication and 'a feei·lng of total surrender towards the651e·t:ofvv~or;;i-(,p:·7·' ,e""<:"\~,y offering, however small .. has meaning:

vvhazever man grves me in true devotion:

Fruit or water:

A leaf. a flower: 1 wili accept it. That gift is love,

His heart's devotion.

Bhag2vad-Cita (Chap. IX'