By Swami Ayyappa Giri
Purohit-Acharya, Yogini Ashram, California USA
Article Published During Sacred Navaratri, 2016
Then Shiva Mahadev spoke to Parvati, “O Devi, Because it restrains suffering due to desires, anger and karma, it is called Yantra. The Goddess who is worshipped within it, offers Grace to the Tantric” Kularnava Tantra
The academic or south-Asian scholar might believe that a yantra is an art form and a psychological symbol which addresses the worshippers perceptions of the Divine. This is a misleading and inadequate description, for yantras are understood more fully by those who actually use them. Yantras are literally a method and means of holding and maintaining the actual conscious presence of the Deity-essence, and the majestic power that accompanies the Diety, whether Siddha or Avatar, who is called into the sacred geometry.
It has been said that “mathematics is the language of the Gods”. God consciousness manifests expression through mathematics and geometry. Dr. Michio Kaku, the well known theoretical physicist, has stated that “we might imagine God as we know him, to be a mathematician”. On a universal scale, there is a direct relationship between mathematics, sound, and form. In tantra, the geometrical form representing sound (mantra) is a yantra. Imagine that every pitch and vibration creates a geometric pattern of expression for that frequency. So also, each geometrical variant has a unique associated note, pitch and frequency. The sacred geometrical form (yantra) and the divinized sound (mantra) are inseparable and constitute tantra. Thus, it is often said that “yantra plus mantra equals tantra.”
A yantra is not limited as a divine manifestation. A Yantra literally holds the energy of a particular deity. A yantra is verily a geometric pattern which contains both an energy and a deity-spirit, and which is also a represention of a sound vibration (mantra). In worshiping the presiding deity of a yantra we are acknowledging their presence microcosmically, as the soul within ourselves (Jiva), and macrocosmically, as universal nature (Prakriti). Tantra teaches that from Purusha, the primal cause of the creation impulse, emerged Prakriti, or mother nature. The yantra is understood to be a mirror of the inner universal soul (Jiva). Its internal reflection of the cosmic principles are inferred by the Tantric. In this way, the yantra, acting as a carrier of its representative energy, is massively empowering.
The tantric tradition states that one must become qualified in order to utilize yantras fully, as the knowledge of sacred geometry is a transitional process of revelations that lead to inner union (antar yoga). The aspirant is initiated into a specific yantra and mantra by a qualified teacher (adikariguru) and develops the core energy through yogic practices (sadhana) and the resultant purification.
The tantric practitioner first seals off the ceremonial space with mantra and then, again using mantra, sanctifies his or her own hands, body, and environment. The yantra worshipper (purohit or pujari) is incrementally transformed with these practices, which leads to sanctification of the being, inside and out. Thus it is said that only God can worship God, and it is through these various forms of purification, that the pujari connects with their inner divine nature and is made fit to have that direct encounter with the Deity and make offerings that are free from ego. Thus, the capacity to connect in this way is tied to ones total life and even previous lives. The tantric awakens the Devata within by yogic and tantric techniques, and using sacred breathing patterns, (For example, kundalini pranayam), mantras and transformational hand postures (mudras), as well as practices to awaken the heart space, the divine presence is aroused and witnessed in the yantra but also the practitioner and assembled devotees. Specific mantras, mudras and dhyana meditations result in the manifestation of divinity which assumes residence within the yantra.
Thus, the application of mystical geometry utilizes structural patterns which contain the power of mantra and yogic practices (sadhana shakti).
Without these sacred sounds there is no active transformative power in yantras, and their value is limited to being symbols. Symbols have a power in themselves, of course, but when mantra is “held” by sacred geometry in the prescribed manner, mystical power becomes tangibly present for those who are attuned to the subtle reams. Massive changes, even in the physical plane, can result, according to the intent (sankalpa).
Yantras in Ancient Times
Some of the earliest examples of sacred geometry originate in the Indus valley civilization, including the swastika symbol shown here.
Scholars, such as Bhattacharaya, have helped establish that the Indus culture was based on tantra. Yantras, an intregral part of that scientific art, were found at the excavations of the Indus cities of Mohenjadaro and Harrappa, dated from 3300 BC. More recent excavations suggest that this culture developed even earlier, at roughly the same time period of Sumerian cultures.
Ancient Dravidian texts refer to three yogic based “sangam” civilizations. Some part of those early civilizations were said to have been inundated by the sea thousands of years ago. Even during our time, we have seen tsunamis, originating from Indonesia, inundate the eastern seaboard of south India, killing many, and resulting in massive flooding. Work at archeological sites from the Temple of the Sun in Orissa to Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu have established that many ancient sacred temples have been buried by sea and sand in past centuries. It is difficult to know how much of the yogic culture, even yantras and urdu text, might have been lost due to such incursions from the sea.
There are linguistic and genetic links between the Dravidians of south India and this Indus civilization, but whatever the origins of the Indus valley civilization, there is no doubt that sacred geometry was in use at that time. In subsequent centuries, yantras have been placed in the foundations and roofs of temple sanctums and sacred spaces, as well as laid within temple walls. The geometry of temples themselves are considered yantras.
In the early 1970’s, as part of the initial dedication of the Babaji temple, I had the great opportunity to be with my Guru when yantras were placed in a hidden portion of the Babaji temple at Parangipettai, India, marking for the ages the sacred spot where the great Kriya Mahavatar Babaji was born, in the year 203 A.D.. (for more, see Mahavatar Babaji and the Golden Body of Light).
Babaji’s temple is quaint, artistic, and having been constructed of solid granite, will likely last more than 1000 years. The front of the temple, shown in the image above, has been expanded and beautified over the last two decades and no doubt those responsible have accrued great merit (punya) for their work.
“They call it yantra because it restrains prolonged suffering arising from defects (in the form) of desire, anger and other limitations.” Commentary on Sardatilaka By Raghvabhatta
My Early Experiences of Sacred Geometry
My adi Guru, Yogiar S.A.A. Ramaiah, (shown above) Kriya Master, direct disciple of Babaji, and Pranayam Siddha, had a great deal of experience of the Siddhas and their Siddha yantras, and the Siddhas certainly supported his work in a powerful way. Without his pioneering work, little would be known worldwide about the 18 Yogic Siddhas. My brother-disciple (gurubai), M. Govindan, now known as Satchidananda, has also served dynamically in this respect, as have many others, both in Yogiar’s Sangam, as well as those whom Babaji has called in a different direction. All of the Lahiri lineages too, should be acknowledged. No doubt, in the coming decades, there will be many more souls who are blessed with Babaji’s darshan. Let us appreciate the sacrifices and efforts of all who serve Babaji. If there are some minor differences, such as the exact birthdate of the immortal Master, I am sure that Babaji will clarify any confusion as needed.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, we were trained in sacred geometry and yantra carving methods by my Guru, S.A.A. Yogi Ramaiah. During that period he gave specific assignments to me to carve many yantras. In doing so, he shared very specific drawings of many yantras. This included the yantras of the great Kriya Masters and Siddhas, or yogic supermen, as well as primary dieties in the tradition. I still cherish and maintain the sacred notes which he recorded in his own hand as he drew the yantras out to serve as models which he instructed us to carve. Yogiar was a direct disciple of Kriya Babaji and also a temple builder. Yantras were placed, at Yogiars instruction, at several sites in India, Mt. Shasta, as well as centers and temples in southern California, New Orleans, Chicago, Yuma, and upstate New York. On one occasion, a yantra which Yogiar had us bury in a power spot on Mt. Shasta, was discovered by a hiker and ended up on the desk of a forest ranger. Someone in our group noticed an article in the local newspaper about the mysterious yantra, and, at Yogiars direction, it was soon retrieved from the ranger’s desk on the next journey to the sacred mountain. What a pilgrimage that yantra took !
Later, my Kaula Marg Tantric Guru, Swami Rudranath Giri Maharaj, also a disciple of Sathguru Babaji, introduced me to the sacred geometry of Maha Kali and the 64 Yoginis, as well as numerical yantras. Numerology is an ancient scientific art. Numerical yantras have been a part of Indian spiritual practice since vedic times. One example is the 3X3 yantra, one of the gifts given to me by Swami Rudranath decades ago. It is associated with Ganesha, and numbers are placed in a way that by adding those of any column, whether horizontal, vertical or diagonal, the resultant number is always 15. The planetary Dieties each have a version of a numerical yantra associated with them. Modern mathematicians refer to these yantras as “magic squares”. Ironically, the real “magic” manifests in fullness only when yantra and mantra are united in combination.
The use of numerical yantras has continued through the centuries. I have had the fortune to view a 10th century 4X4 numerical yantra, which is installed in the Parshvanath Jain temple at Khajuraho. (see adjacent image) The Sanskrit word Chautisa means 34, and because the sum of all its columns is 34, it is known as the Chautisa Yantra.
Other precious souls who made contributions to my yantra knowledge include Sri Melsanthy, the late chief priest of the Sabari Malai Ayyappa Swami temple, in Kerala, who, in 1971, blessed my Ayyappa Swami Yantra. Also, P. Sundar of Thanjavur and A.S. Vasan of Pondicherry, have each imparted to me sadhana shakti and knowledge regarding the esoteric use of sacred geometry. Others prefer to be anonymous. Except for the immortal master, they have all passed from the physical plane and if Babaji wills it, not a drop of the blessings they have given will be lost to the world.
The Sanskrit word, Yantra, suggests a machine or instrument; perhaps a tool. The suffix tra implies protection and defense. Indeed, a yantra is a tool that provides protection to its users. It is much more, of course. The Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon describes its meaning as an “instrument for holding or restraining” as the derivative prefix, “yam” also suggests the function of containing or holding. Whatever the linguistic origins of the word itself, yantras are understood by those who use them as geometrical structures which are energetically charged by sacred sound. In common parlance, they are power generators that assist the tantric in channeling and containing the grace of sadhana shakti energy. If one thinks of a microchip in a computer as the storehouse of massive content, it is not an exaggeration to understand that a yantra is a macrochip that accesses and contains for the user a knowledge and power on a multidimensional scale, transcending time and space.
The Yogini Tantra states that Devi is to be worshipped either as an image (pratima) or sacred geometry (yantra). Each angle and point of a yantra (avarana) is associated with a specific mantra, deity, and energy. Whether one approaches a yantra from the outside and works inwardly or goes from the center and works outward depends on the mode of worship and the instructions of the teacher. One should follow ones preceptor to ensure success.
There are two modes of yantra worship using mantras. The siddha yogi advances in internal energy through internal worship (antar yoga) by worshipping the yantra from the outside in. Conversely, when there is a particular need to externalize the energy worship (bahya yoga) the tantric begins in the yantra center and works progressively to the outer square.
Yantras and Sound Waves
Swiss physician Hans Jenny is considered the father of cymatics. Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena and visible sound vibration. He published his life’s work in 1972, the year he died. Jenny made use of crystal oscillators and an invention of his own, the tonoscope, to create the vibration of quartz sand crystals on membranes generated from sound.
He showed that sound vibrations on fluids, powders, and liquid pastes did not create an unregulated chaos but rather a dynamic, albeit ordered, pattern.
In vibrating the membranes, he discovered, without intending to, that when “Om” was chanted in a very specific tone, the sand medium that he was using, vibrated into the very clearly identified shape of the Sri Yantra.
In optimal circumstances, celestial energy pervades both Yantra and mantra. The Yantra has been likened to the physical body of a spiritual energy (thus manifesting that energy in the denser planes). The mantra, particularly the expressed bija, IS THE ENERGY ITSELF which can transform consciousness, and originates from the most subtle vibratory levels as sound vibration which, for the yogi and tantric, can be back-traced to un-manifested reality.
Best Days for preparing and performing puja to a Yantra
The best times to prepare a yantra or to perform sadhana with a yantra are during full moon (poornavasya) new moon (amavasya), the bimonthly 13th day of the lunar cycle (pradosha) which begins at both the full and new moon. Other important dates include the annual Shivaratri, the biannual Navaratri, and othere holy days identified in Jotish astrology. Contrary to common thinking, an eclipse offers excellent opportunities for certain yantra sadhana as well.
The Significance of Common Geometrical Shapes
Most yantras are surrounded by a square with four “T” shaped projections on each of its four sides. These projections, referred to as the gates of Bhuper, a reference to the earth (bhu) have themselves a mystic significance. This square forms the foundation of the yantra. The square contains the earth energy and when activated, the projections are understood as gates which control energetic access in the lower planes to the resident divine energy. Specific mantras will “lock” and “unlock” these gates.
A comprehensive analysis of geometrical parts of the yantra is beyond the intent and scope of this article, nor would it be particularly beneficial. In the end, mantras and yantras must be learned from a teacher, not from a book. An important part of the learning is in the form of a transmission and cannot be conveyed through the intellect or the mind. A few points could be noted. Circles used within a yantra generally suggests the water element. Vertical lines are understood as containing the fire element, diagonal lines, the air element and horizontal, the either. Though not always present, these five elements are present in many yantras. Triangles, when pointed up, contain the divine masculine, as well as the fire nature. When triangles are pointed downward, they contain water element and the divine feminine.
The typical yantra with its central point (bindu) and concentric circles of petals and other geometries are conceived of as a sacred dwelling in which the presiding deity and their retinue take up residence.
The bindu represents the location of the highest manifestation of the deity as well as the focal point through which the deity transcends the relative plane, with its form and structure to merge into the formless consciousness. This is the very same formless consciousness in which the worshiper merges with the highest truth. The yantra then, is reflecting the nature and potentiality of the pujari or worshipper and their relationship with the divine.
Materials for Yantras
Yantras are formed of copper, gold, spatika (natural crystal), bhoj patra, or, during certain portions of a puja, drawn with sanctified water or sandal paste. The most traditional method is through carving or engraving. Commercial yantras embossed by machines on thin copper are available, have value in their symbology, but do not hold energy well.
Bhoj Patra is natures paper, an organic paper, removed in sheets directly as the bark of the bhojpatra tree, the himalayan birch, and is acceptable for most yantras. The best ink is compounded from a mixture of camphor and sandalwood. The red powder used to mark bindu in the third eye, kumkum, is also ideal. The Sri Kali Tantram states that the Kali Yantra should not be made from leaves, wood, or stone.
Copper & Gold
The electromagnetic qualities of copper and gold make them the most desirable choice for materials for most yantras. The yantra should be engraved by human hands in the prescribed manner and not mass produced by machines with no soul.
The word crystal is derived from the greek word “krystallos” meaning frozen light. Called spatika in yoga and tantra, crystal has been used as a medium for yantras for many centuries. In recent centuries, crystal has become uniquely traditional as a carving material for the Sri Yantra. The buyer should be cautious. Unscrupulous merchants have been known to sell glass as spatika. When in doubt, make sure you have a reputable dealer.
There are specific methods of construction for each yantra. Yantras seen internally in meditation by one with a purified mind are the greatest yantras and serve in advanced tantric and yogic practice. This is how great yantras come into being. As stated, associated with every yantra is a sound vibration. Condensed, this sound vibration is referred to as a bija. Symbolically, the bija resides in the center of the yantra, often represented by a central point, or bindu. Bindu, in term represents the core of consciousness. The bija also very often forms a part of the mantra for each petal and level (avarana).
“Japa can’t occur without Puja; and Puja can’t occur without Yantra & Mantra”
Sri Mahakala Samhita 5th Chpt, Guhyakali Khanda
The clear implication of the above line is that the best success in Japa and Mantra is when it is performed in concert with puja, or ceremonial worship using mantra. The puja formulae includes the offering of flowers to the Divine who, attracted to the space by the power of mantra and devotion, is then worshipped with deep humility, profound faith, and an open heart. The prefix “poo” or “puu” means flower, and the ultimate puja is to offer the refined flowers of the subtle body, the chakras, to the Divine. The flower represents the most beautiful end product of the plant. Offering the finest and most beautiful part of the plant is an expression of an open heart offering, increasing the desired effect.
Preparation of Puja with the knowledge (vidya) of Yantras
There are well more than 100 yantras received in training training from Babaji through the Gurus. Babaji’s Kriya Tantra Yoga is vast and includes thousands of other yantras as well. For this article, I have chosen to briefly discuss some of the most important yantras in Yoga and Tantra. They are yantras to which we regularly perform puja at Yogini Ashram. The active participants are led by the pujari (aka purohita) through the preliminary procedures (samanya vidhi) which include sealing the energy of the puja space from interference or negativity (digbhana), sanctification of water to be used in the puja (jalasuddhi), purification with mantra of the hands and fingers of all who make offerings (kara nysha), purification of the body through mantra (anga nysha), purification of the body through sipping of water (achaman), dispersing negative energies and agents of disharmony (bhutapasarana), cleansing of the inner elements (bhutasuddhi), and statement of commitment and visualization of intention (sankalpa). This, and other processes, prepare the participants for the puja. Abbreviated pujas offered to Guru, Ganesha, the assembled Devatas, and Shiva are usually performed. After these preliminaries, the yantra of the primary deity is propitiated. Those who lack the emotional scope for devotion and humility will not unravel the mystical threads of yantra sadhana in a hundred lifetimes.
…and then Shiva spoke, “O Devi, Mistress of the Kula, because it can protect always from absolutely all dangers, such as dying (yama) and disembodied spirits (bhuta), therefore it is called yantra.”
Sri Lalita Yantra
The Sri Yantra is undoubtedly one of the worlds most recognized yantras, but few souls understand her real power and the method of approaching her with mantra, tantra, and mudra. Historically, female sacred geometries have been identified as vidyas rather than yantras, but, in our current time, the terms are synonymous.
The antiquity of the very specific geometry of the Sri (Lalita) Yantra is unquestioned. A contemporary Indian-American scholar, Subhash Kak, has identified that a description of the Sri Yantra can be found in the Svetasvatara Upanishad, dated from between the 4th to the 6th century BCE.
In many personal pilgrimages over the last four decades, I have seen Sri Yantras carved out of granite into the ceilings or floors of ancient temples. A number of these three dimensional carvings are locally attributed to Adi Shakara, who is historically linked to this yantra, and is known to have traveled throughout India and reorganized the Sanyasin (Swami) tradition during the early 8th century. The initial usage of the Sri Yantra may be lost in time, but it is known that Adi Shakrara manifested four crystal Sri Yantras through his siddhi, and gave one to each of his four main successors. For over 1200 years now, their worship is the personal duty and practice of the four Shankaracharyas who are the chief representatives of Advaita Vedanta.
The Sri Yantra, or Sri Chakra, attracts Lalita Devi, also known as Tripura Sundari. As an embodied divine being, she is viewed as a perpetual youth of sixteen, and the ultimate Goddess who contains all things within her being. Progressing through her yantra, with its nine levels, feels like a veritable pilgrimage. The epicenter of focus moves from the outer gates progressively toward the central point (bindu). Her yantra is a profound expression of non-duality and is understood as a microcosm of the entire cosmos. The sacred mantra of Lalita is a fifteen syllable bija mantra which is chanted aloud as part of the puja. The mantra is preceeded by OM which serves as her 16th syllable. A precious sixteenth bija syllable is given to initiates, and is sometimes chanted in silence during public pujas. Her yantra represents the union of the masculine and feminine divine. Because her yantra is composed of nine triangles, it is known as the wheel of the the nine yonis (navayoni chakra). These nine triangles are overlapped in such a way that they form 44 triangles.
The puja begins with the chanting of mantras associated with the outer square, with its four gates (bhuper), representing the root energy vortex (muladhara chakra) of the great Goddess. The mantras that are used relate to the Goddesses of the ten supernatural powers (siddhis), the eight great directional shaktis (digbhandas), and the ten great mudra shaktis. The ancients have said that the worshiper who knows its inner secrets can mesmerize the three worlds. Prakata Devi is the ruler of the gate level.
Moving progressively inward, the tantric soon reaches a sixteen-petal lotus, representing the sex center, or svadisthana chakra, herein ruled by the Goddess Tripur-rishi, the fulfiller of all desire. She is the veritable wish fulfilling tree, granting the wishes of even the subconscious desires. The 16 petals of her chakra represent the 16 qualities, elements or energies through which the inmost soul (jivatma) interacts with the external manifestation. The Siddhas proclaim that mastery of physical creation itself is attained with an understanding of these energies.
The next level is an eight-petal lotus, representing the naval center, the Manipura chakra. This center of Sri is the agitator of all things. The Goddesses of this level creates destructive agitation (kshobha) in all the thirty-six tatvas, from the basic elements (bhutas) to Shiva consciousness. This generates duality in the external manifestation. Recognizing the duality through progressive development of the process of letting go of the mental and emotional modifications (varaigya) cultivating a lifestyle, as well as performing actions and speech that lead in a positive direction (abhyasa) one achieves increasing capacity to discriminate between that which changes and that which does not change (viveka), the sadhak dissolves false perceptions of duality and ultimately merges into God consciousness. Mantras at this third geometrical level agitate and destroy duality within the sadhak. The agitator of the Gunas, the quality-mix of inertia, dynamic aspiration, and divine consciousness, are all ruled by Gupta-tara Yogini, the Divine queen of the eight petal lotus. She and her retinue of Goddesses teach us about the devinization of communication, manipulation, locomotion, elimination, sexual balance or energy recirculation, and transformation of the mind, intellect, and ego as it ascends into light-filled realms.
The next level of fourteen small triangles is representing the heart center, the Anahata Chakra, and in the Sri embodiment, is the giver of good fortune, the cosmic queen of the 14 nadis, the beautiful red Tripura Vasini who reigns over the Sampradaya Yoginis. Transformation of the 14 energy channels, of which she rules, is a prerequisite to enlightenment.
As we move inward we encounter the level with ten large triangles, representing the Vishuddha Chakra, which leads to accomplishment of all things. This level is ruled by Tripura-Sri, with her 10 attendant Shaktis, her kula yoginis, who together rule the vital fires. Knowledge of these vital fires is critical in ayurvedic and siddha-vaidya medicine, as also the control of energy through the nadis, mentioned earlier.
Then the level of the ten small triangles is reached, representing the Ajna Chakra, and known as the chakra that gives all protection. Here, the alluring red Tripura Malini reigns supreme. Her domain protects all who recite her mantras. Her ten shaktis, the Nigarbha Yoginis, are omnipresent, considered as having no beginning or no end, and are represented as the color of 1000 rising suns.
The next level is of eight small triangles, representing the Manas or Manasa Chakra. The manas chakra is located just above the forehead center, and produces the nectar of immortality, which drips down toward the throat for as long as the experience of pure jnana awareness persists. In her yantra, this level is the ultimate remover of disease, and is ruled by Siddhamba Devi, the red Queen. When kundalini reaches manas, bliss ensues. This is the great healing level, mantra recitation to which, will destroy all disease, as well as prevent disease from occurring. Siddhamba Devi destroys even the effects of poison.
As we approach, in the progression of the puja, the central triangular temple of Sri, representing the forehead center (soma chakra), we encounter the 15 nitya shaktis standing guard around its outer walls. The celebrated Goddesses rules these 15 phases of the waxing moon.
The central triangle is known as the Chakra which gives all success and cosmic knowledge. As we enter the central triangle, we encounter Tripura Amba. In each of the three corners reside her three great forms: (1) Maha Kameshvari, the Goddess of desire fulfillment, who rules over the energy of desire (Iccha Shakti) and the dynamic quality of nature (rajas guna) (2) Maha Vajresvari, the unchangeable Goddess, who rules over the wisdom power (jnana shakti) and the divine quality nature (satva guna) and (3) Bhagamalini Devi, the Goddess with flowery yoni, who rules over the energy of action (kriya shakti) and the quality of inertia (tamas guna) Their mantras are life changing and most powerful. The siddhas have said that puja of this level bestows incessantly good life and leads directly to supernatural powers (siddhis). This is stated in the seminal work on yantra and tantra, the Mantra Mahodadhi.
Finally, the central point, or bindu, which is bliss itself is reached. It represents the crown center, or brahmarandra, which is the doorway to undifferentiated awareness, referred to as the 1000 petal lotus (sahasrara chakra). Having reached this center, the sadhak experiences the Supreme Goddess of the Sri Chakra, Tripura Amba, known as Sampat-prada Bhairavi in formless absolute. It is imposable to describe this ascent of consciousness. The energy and awareness reverberates for days after the mantra and yantra puja. Embodied, She is an enigma, young and alluring, appearing intoxicated and sexual, and yet conversely holding a book of knowledge, while she dispels fear, and holds a sacred rosary (mala) as she grants boons of every type. It is as though her every answer to every request is yes. One can never renounce what one has not experienced. Thus, she seeks to fulfill every desire so that we may know her in truth, the formless one without a second. The mystical knowledge of the three gunas becomes increasingly understood through the ongoing worship of this chakra. Liberation and great power ensues.
Maha Kali Yantra
In the sacred text, Mahanirvana Tantra, Lalita (Sri Sundari) is equated with the great mother goddess, Kali, who is manifested as her Rakta form. The equally inspired work, Sri Kali Tantram, reinforces this point as indicated below.
“Kalika dvividha prrokta krsnaraktaprabhedatahKrsna tu dakshina jneya rakta tu Sundari mata”
“Sri Kali is described in two ways; one black and the other, red. When black, she is Sri Kali; when red, know her to be Sri Tripura Sundari (Sri Lalita).” Sri Kali Tantram, Chapt1
As stated earlier, each petal, point, and angle of a yantra (avarana) represents and holds the energy of a particular deity, a particular divine vibration, and a unique consciousness that is a portion of the fullness of the principle yantra Deity. Thus propitiated through devotion, kirtan, pranayam, dhynam, and particularly, mantra, the diety manifests. The degree of manifestation is related to the soul capacity of the practitioner or practitioners.
The Sri Kali Tantram describes the inscriptions and geometry required for the Kali Yantra and states that “He who knows this great yantra attains liberation.” This is because the yantra, with its 24 avaranas, represents the 24 tatvas of Kriya Tantra Yoga, and holds the energy of the Goddesses that these tatvas are associated with. Having an intuitive and direct understanding of these 24 tatvas, or elements, of the individual soul (Jiva) is, in fact, the essence of liberation from the veils of Mahamaya, the great illusion.
Just as the mantras of the waxing moon (bright moon) are chanted during the puja of the Sri Yantra, the mantra recitation of the 15 Nitya shaktis of the waning moon (dark moon) become manifest in the Kali energy, with their focal point of residence being the 15 locations within the 3 angles of each of the five triangles in Kali’s yantra. In addition to the mantras of those 15 Shakti avaranas, the avarana mantras of the 8 Mother Shaktis and Prakriti Devi, who is the totality of cosmic nature, is honored at bindu. With the honoring of Prakriti Devi all of the 24 Shaktis and the 24 tatvas of the individual soul are acknowledged. One can see that the worship of the Kali Yantra is simultaneously a worship of the pujari and assembled devotees themselves for each jiva or individual soul, is constructed of these 24 tatvas. During the climax of the puja, the worshipped and worshiper become, an honoring to the exalted state of nirvakalpa samadhi, for it is said that only the divine can properly worship the divine.
The great Kriya Guru, Sri Yukteshwar, was directly requested by Mahavatar Babaji to write about the tatvas. Doing so, he explained the Pancha Tatvas as five forms of electricity. He identified them as the cause of all other creation. He explained them as the five root-causes.
Referring to them collectively, he wrote, “They are the causal body of Purusha, the Son of God. These forms of electricity, being evolved from the polarized Chitta, are also in a polarized state and are endowed with three attributes (Gunas), namely Satva (positive), Tamas (negative) and Rajas (neutral).”
The positive attributes of these five forms of electricity are Jnana Indriyas, the five sense organs…being attracted under the influence of the mind (Manas).
The neutralizing attributes/principles are the five organs of action (Karmaindriyas) and the energetic principles behind them. They are (1) elimination and release (represented by the anus), (2) generation/creation (represented by the genitals), (3) communication, (represented by the mouth)) (4) movement, (represented by the foot) and (5) manipulation of the environment, (represented by the hand).
Matter itself is part of the wider illusion. The Tanmatras are five attributes, or objects perceived by the senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound. These need not be seen as the physical organs, as one can see without the eyes, such as in a dream or mystic vision. When these objects of the senses intermingle with the negative attributes of the five electricity elements, they combine together to produce the concepts of gross matter. This appears to us, being under the influence of Maya, to be solids (kshiti), fluids (ap) fiery (marut), gaseous (vyoma) and etheral (akasa). We know from current science that objects which appear solid, liquid, fiery, and gaseous are not what they seem to be and that electricity and magnetism play an important role in holding together a substance on the atomic level. For example, it is now understood by contemporary physical science that an electrical charge is the only thing that prevents two objects of substance from occupying the same space. One object repels the other due to electro-magnetic energy.
The outer covering of the Purusha, the gross material body (sthula sharira) is constructed of these illusionary components. These five element electrical energies, together with mind (manas), Intelligence (buddhi), heart consciousness, and ego (aham), interacting with the tanmatras and karmaindriyas discussed earlier, cast a veil of illusion over the embodied soul which maintains a sense of separateness between the external illusionary Self and the macrocosmic oneness as the original son of God.
Purusha is the universal cosmic male principle. Prakriti is the cosmic female principle, the nature of consciousness by which the universe exists and functions. Prakriti literally means, “that which gives shapes”. Vedanta, Saiva Siddhanta, and Shakti philosophy all agree that there are 24 elements that allow for the creation of form. These 24 tatvas make up the Atman, or indwelling Self. The Kali Yantra is sacred as a geometrical shape which holds an honorable space for each of these 24 elemental goddess energy. Thus these petals and points of the Kali yantra hold the energy of the 24 goddess related elements of Prakriti, the cosmic female principle. Since they are all understood to be emanations of Kali, the geometry does, in fact, represent the containment of her entirety.
Knowledge of this Prakriti Shakti leads to salvation. Shiva speaks to Devi thus, “Sakti-Jnanam vina Devi niruanam naiva jayate”-“O Devi without the knowledge of Shakti, the great bliss (mukti) cannot be attained”
The individual soul (jiva) under the influence of many layers of illusion (maya), imagines that it is the doer and the enjoyer and identifies itself with the body. Nothing that exists in the physical plane can lead to truth, for it is all part of the inexhaustible illusion of maya. Thus the siddhas taught us that the physical body is not the doer. The energy sheath around the body is not the doer. The mind, connected with the senses is not the doer. Nor is the intellect. The ego, the part of the being that imagines itself to be the doer, is also not the source. Only when one makes the heroic effort of lifetimes, can the deeper well spring be reached. By worshipping the Goddess who stands for these twenty-four principles, salvation is to be achieved. In the meantime, Shakti gives every pleasure, even to those who don’t seek it. As we dive deeper, the Guru calls from within to release our illusionary control and identity with her essence. Every soul passes through a stage where it is important to learn to just be a good human being rather than present ones self as “somebody”. At a later stage, it is important to stop pretending to be human and be willing to assume the divine mantle.
All challenges are overcome through the worship of the 24 principles of the Self (atman) through the sacred geometry of Maha Kali. Jai Ma Kali !
Gayatri Mata, the sages have proclaimed, brings great advance in every area of life. She inspires all who approach her with wisdom and Grace. She assumes the form of exquisite beauty and potentiality, as she manifests with ten arms, each controlling one of the doorways of the 10 openings. The bija mantras for these gates are powerful tools for controlling energy during the great awakening. Her yantra glorifies the 6 Yogas.
The Siddhas have said that she bears complete responsibility for the protection of all that is good in the affairs of those women and men who choose to align with her cosmic light energy. She offers massive strength and great protection, symbolized by the weapons that she carries. In her 10 armed form, she holds Shiva’s trishul, Kali’s skull cup, and Lakshmi’s lotus. She wield the parashu, the close-in battle axe which Lord Shiva has given to Maha Vishnu for the protection of the Dharma. She carries Vishnu’s discus, conch, and mace. She holds the erdu-book of Lord Brahma, which contains the most cosmic of knowledge. Most importantly, she holds the two great mudras of grace; abhaya, the fear-not mudra, and vara, which confers blessings of abundance and happiness in both earthly and spiritual life.
Her great mantra, representing the supreme divinity, leads to the realization of Self and God as one.
The great knowledge of the 7 Vidya Tatvas resides within her sacred geometry.
Gayatri is the personification of the all-pervading Para Brahman, the ultimate unchanging reality that lies behind all phenomena. She is the one who stands erect before the full light of the truth. She gives us the divine vision but also uncovers the 6 cloaks (kanchukas) of limitations surrounding the souls of men and women; of Purusha, the individual self, in order that we recognize the ever present subtle illusion and the embedded truths that lie within. These 7 Vidya Tattvas are Kāla (time), Niyati (order), Rāga (love), Vidyā (knowledge), Kalā (art), and Kārya Maya and Purusha. The 7 levels of her yantra inside the gates of Bhuper are in fact, holding the essence of each of the 7 Vidya Tatvas. Learning the mantras to awaken these potentialities will be seen as a great blessing to any spiritual aspirant.
10 Great Mothers of Wisdom
The Das Mahavidyas have revered by tantrics and shaktas for centuries. They exude strong energy and their yantras should be approached under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher.
Their worship through yantra is prescribed as an astrological remedy for malefic placement of poorly planetary influence. Kali is propitiated for Saturn, Tara for Jupiter, Shodasi for Mercury, Bhuvaneshvari for the Moon, Chinnamasta for Rahu, Dhumavati for Ketu, Baglamukhi for the Mars, Matangi for the Sun, Kamala for Venus, and Bhairavi for Lagna. The Lagna is ones ascendant, the degree of the sign (rāśi) which is rising on the eastern horizon at the time of one’s birth.
As recorded in Todala Tantra, Shiva was asked by Parvati to reveal the relationship between the ten avatars of Vishnu and the Das Mahavidyas. From a fascinating 1824 publication, the first six avatars of Vishnu are shown above, depicted by Giulio Ferrario, in ‘Il costume antico e moderno’, Florence, 1824
The full grouping of 10 Avatars are shown below from Rev. James Gardner in ‘Faiths of the World’, Edinburgh, 1880.
Relationship between the Mahavidyas and the Das Avatars
Tara Devi is associated with the fish Avatar. It is Tara who pilots the ferryboat that transports all souls across the turbulent and vast waters of Mahamaya. Thus, she is the Goddess of instantaneous change.
Bagala is associated with the tortoise incarnation, She is the one who strikes with paralyzing intensity, lighting the darkness, awakening the primordial energy, and purifying the subconscious. She is the Goddess of black magic and poison, for she rules over the subtle perceptions creating pain, death and misery. She puts a halt to backbiting and gossip. She is a destroyer of the negative forces and the great teacher of detachment.
Dhumavati is associated with the boar Avatar. She is the unmovable One, the frank one, who holds the keys to eternity, who is mighty, even to the great ones. She is the ancient smoky goddess, old and ugly; borne out of misery, loneliness, and pain. She preexisted all creation and will be present after the dissolution of the cosmos, for she is the void itself, personified by Divine mind for the human benefit. At first blush she appears at once deceitful and terrifying, an appearance horrible in every way, constantly demanding from hunger and anger. Look closer. For those who compassionately find the Divine within her, as our very own cosmic Grandmother, will find God in themselves.
Chinnamasta is associated with the lion Avatar, Narisimha. She is the one who exudes the miracle knowledge. She is the tranquil one who eliminates the thinking mind, who teaches all to conserve and recirculate the living life force through mastery of prana. She is the retainer and distributor of life energy. She dissolves attachment to all things and teaches us to contain the sexual energy through Urdvamnaya Bhairavi Kriya.
Bhuvaneshvari is associated with the dwarf (Vamana) Avatar. She is the earth, space and all things between. She is the very underpinning of space, present throughout the universe. Her bindu is none but the center of the universe itself, expanding ever outward, She is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all creation. She is pure knowledge and thus gives cosmic knowledge to all who seek it.
Matangi is associated with the Rama Avatar. She is the destroyer of obstacles, with a passion for swift and direct strokes. She is a killer of demons, within and without. She operates the control room over domination and ignorance. She rejects racism, caste distinctions, sexual inequality, and all who support them. She destroy social inequities and supports every underdog.
Shodashi is associated with the Jamadagni Avatar (Parashurama) and is the essence of freedom; unbounded and unattached to physical, vital and mental entities, forms and structures. Though engaged in the realms of both men and angels, She is knower of the transcendent Self and guides her own to the shores of oneness.
Bhairavi is is the Avatar Balabhadra (Balarama), She is the oneness which pervades every universe. She is the light in every eye, a sage to the wise, the opener of the cosmic vastness, the beloved of the Kaula. She is the un-traversable ocean of mercy, the root of all worlds, the most subtle of all subtleties, manifesting in the formless and yet all forms. She lives in divine love, the Hridaya, the spiritual heart of man.
Kamala is the Buddha Avatar. Her core nature is all embracing love, her essence is light energy within every creative seed. Thus, she is verily the nectar of immortality. She is the source of dynamic shakti and change. She reconstructs unity in the great lila, the eternal play of Creation.
Kali is the Krishna Avatar. She manifests with infinite forms and at one with all elements, permeating fire, water, earth and sky alike. She resides within all space and yet transcends both space and time. She holds the ultimate siddhi over time. Her body is nature itself, and yet she cares not for nature’s laws. To her, death is yet another change. She throws illusion and dissolves illusion. She is present in every joy and sorrow, resident in all light and darkness, for she is the mother of the universe.
As with all the yantras discussed in this article, each angle and petal of each of these 10 yantras has a corresponding mantra and Avarana Goddess. They are each dynamic in their own way and approaching them with faith in the underlying goodness of Mothers creation with an open heart, calm patient persistence of mantra practice is required to attain mastery of the energy of each. Massive rewards will return to the sadhak. Not an ounce of energy is ever wasted on the spiritual path. The grace of spiritual merit (punya) will always return in the fullness of time.
Yantra of the 64 Yoginis
The Mantotara Tantra, authored more than a millennium ago, describes the yantra seen above; a hexagram star, indicating the ultimate union energy between Shiva and Shakti, surrounded by an eight petal lotus, representing the ashta matrikas. Surrounding the lotus is a square, representing earth, or the aspiration for their descent into the earth sphere, and finally, 64 aras or rays, displaying their presence. In other versions of this can be found the five triangles of Kali in the center of the lotus, as the Yoginis are manifestations of her own being. The yantra also reflects and glorifies the 64 Tantric Kriyas of trance and transformation. Like all puja yantras, the mantras and activation process is to be learned from a qualified teacher.
Three Dimensional Yantra of the 64 Yoginis
The grandeur and power of the sixty four yoginis has been discussed in an earlier blog (Enigma of the Tantric Goddess: Darshan of the 64 Yoginis). A prerequisite to this sadhana is always performance of the yantra of the Shahir Yoginis, the Mahavidyas and the Ashta Matrikas. The Ashta Matrikas, or eight original mothers. There qualities are briefly discussed in Goddess: Darshan of the 64 Yoginis. While these practices are too involved for this discussion, a significant level of mastery should be attained before approaching the matrikas or the 64 Yoginis. It is well known that while these shaktis can lift illusion, they may also cast illusion, often as a test. For those who aspire to gain the grace of these magnificent shaktis, their aspiration is well placed. There are several yantras, both historic and contemporary, that have the capacity to hold the energy of these great Goddesses.
There are several important Shiva Yantras, each having its own distinct energy. Shiva Yantras that we propitiate frequently at Yogini Ashram are (1) The Great Seat of Rudra (Rudra Pitha Maha Yantra), (2) Mrityunjaya 5 Element Yantra (Mrityunjaya Pancha Bhuta Yantra) and (3) Rudra Bhairava Mahadev Yantra. Other Shiva Yantras which we use are beyond the scope of this article. Two of these yantras are discussed below in brief. Mrityunjaya is he who has conquered death, an epithet frequently given to Lord Shiva, for not only does his consciousness transcend death, but he follows his chosen beyond death and guides them into the higher reaches. When necessary, he assists them in being reborn in a favorable way to enable further soul development.
Mrityunjaya Pancha Bhuta Shiva Yantra
This yantra, properly awakened, carries the energy of the celebrated 12 Jotir Lingams of fire and has as its core a star with five points, associated with the five faces of Shiva, as well as an acknowledgement of Shivas mastery of the five elements (bhutas). Surrounding the star are three concentric rings, each containing eight petals. It Is perhaps the most well known of the Shiva Yantras. The earth element, or root chakra, is represented by the bhuper square, in which the pujari pays homage to the 8 Blue Shiva Nagas. The outer ring of petals represents the water element, or svastisthana chakra. The central ring of petals represents the fire element.
The inner ring of petals represents the air element. The either element is reflected in the central star. Reaching the central star, the mantras and mudras for the five elements are shown for the pleasure of Shiva, as well as the recitation of the mantras of the five bodies. (pancha koshas).
Mrityunjaya Rudra Mahadev Yantra
This yantra (above) has as its core a central triangle, which holds the energy of three great forms of Rudra: (2) Kameshvara, (2) Swachanda Bhairava, and (3) Mahakala. Their attributes are remembered (dhyana) and their mantras chanted. Reaching the central bindu is the point at which the embodied soul transcends the three gunas, represented by the triangle avaranas. Outside the triangle is a six pointed star, representing the five forms of Rudra, plus Vishvanatha – the light power of self manifested lingam. Six siddhis are here associated with the full unbridled blossoming of the six primary chakras, and are particular challenges or obstacles to samadhi. (1) super-smell (varta siddhi) at the mooladhara. (2) super-taste (asvadana siddhi) at the svatisthana, (3) clairvoyance (adarsha siddhi) aka divya siddhi) at the manipura (4) super-feeling (vedana siddhi) at the anahata,(5) clairaudience (shravana siddhi) at the vishudhi, and (6) divination (pratibha siddhi) at the ajna. Thus, we see the direct relationship between the Jnanendriyas, or subtle senses, and the chakras.
When the 6 pointed star appears in a Shiva yantra, it is associated with the six magical powers (siddhis). (Siddhi in the Satkarmas are intended for highly evolved souls as the powers obtained could be used maliciously).
The 6 siddhis are; (1) Shantikarma, (power to create peace) (2) Vashikarana (power to attract), (3) Stambhana (power to restrain), (4) Vidvesana (power to separate), (5) Uccatan (power to uproot) (6) Marana (power to kill). Shiva has said that “One should worship Kalagnirudra, Netresha, Vishvanatha, Maheshvara, Sadyojata and Vamadeva in the six yonis.” Thus, each of these forms of Rudra, are remembered in the Yantra puja, and the mantras of each are recited to make their essence felt and known.
These forms of Shiva also represent the capacity of the puja in overcoming the 6 points of attachment (shadripu) that perpetuate rebirth and prevent complete absorption in the Divine. They are, in order, Kama (excessive lust), Lobha (greed) Krodha (anger), Mada (arrogance), Moha (Attachment), Matsarya (jealousy). Ethical behavior springs naturally from an open heart, and the siddhas assure us that the high reaches can never be attained without a solid foundation of morality, compassion, and ethics. Hara Hara Mahadev !
The sacred geometry of Babaji, the bindu surrounded by a triangle, in turn surrounded by a square with a more exterior circle, is loaded with esoteric meaning relating to the great Kriya master himself, and his mysterious state of perpetual youth. The yantra puja is performed with mantras, moving from the outside in. In the earth square, the snake guardians are propitiated, remembering that Babaji is indeed Nagaraj. His achievement of soruba samadhi reflects the eternal state of physical immortality represented in the circle which has no beginning, middle, end, or any other demarcated points. The transformation of the four subtle bodies into light by the Divine energy is represented in the square, and the three primal manifestations of Shakti represented by the triangle. The central cosmic source is the bindu, the originator of all things and the eternal residence of the immortal Himalayan Avatar.
The circle (Vartula) symbolizes the entire cosmo-creation. In Babaji’s yantra, it represents the omnipotent omnipresent power of god-hood. As Babaji’s body has fully manifested the golden eternal light on a cellular level (Soruba Samadhi). Here, one experiences the power of his presence, and the presence of the golden body, which has no shadow, no footprint, does not age, and indeed, is light itself. The golden body is described by the siddhas as the descent of the omnipotent light of God into every plane of existence, including the physical. Like the great master has done, let us continue to call the divine descent into every part of our own being and into the cells of the body.
Entering the square, the pujari reflects upon the elevated state by feeling into his or her own subtle bodies. In this state, mantras call on the master to make each a golden light-body of God-power. Each, a sheath of light more subtle than the last. Each filled with truth-consciousness-bliss. The first subtle body is the energy sheath. The pujari intuitively feels into this pranic body of Babaji to observe the awesome power. This divinized vital plane gains its power, not from food, but from the descent of shakti through the mouth of God above. The vital plane of Babaji is so strong that it seems to contain all of the energy of all the temples on earth. With calm persistence, the aspirant feels into the mental sheath, the body of the mind and related senses. The connection of the mind to the senses, both physical and subtle, allows for experiences in the external world. The mind moves like an excited monkey stung by a scorpion and swarmed by bees. A siddhas mind is as still as a desert night. There is a detachment from the lower planes. The mind is not an incessant thought factory because the subconscious is purified and the past karma has been incinerated. The mind-space is clear. Without desire clouding the mind, discrimination is precise and unfailing. Only high vibration thoughts can find a home. As yogis, we may know that we are not the mind. After transcending the senses, the siddhas may allow us to bring the divine light-sound vibrations into the mind, transforming it forever.
Through mantras, the pujari attunes the being to the intellectual body of the siddha, operating without distraction from extraneous thoughts. In the intellect of such a being, the thoughts emerge from the creative cosmic being deep within. The intellect, or buddhi, when divinized, enables the Buddha consciousness, with exquisite silence and depth of consciousness and an undisturbed field by movements or distractions in the physical, vital, and mental. The pujari is once again reminded that he or she is not the intellect, but the intellect can be used by the divine in advancement of the dharma. The siddhas merge in God consciousness, and assume their dharma in bringing the experience of Cosmic Mind into the human intellect.
Progressing in the yantra puja, we would now approach the bliss body, Here, we may observe, due to the sadhana shakti generated, that we can only taste it momentarily and still follow any external mantras being chanted. Take the plunge, then, and merge into the inner bliss. For those who still hear the mantras, the method of witness consciousness is employed, rejecting all thoughts, energies, and sense impression as unreal and not the true Self.
As we approach the inner yoni triangle, we find the Shaktis of the Gunas. Approaching the inner triangle, mantras continue. The siddhas have said that without Shakti, Shiva is inert, and cannot act, and without Shiva, there is no space for action. Activated by the power of Shiva-Shakti union they emerge from the bindu and through them, all creation is manifested. May the mantras bring honor to these three primordial Shaktis and manifest their energy in our lives. We honor the Iccha Shakti of Babaji, the principle of creative desire, from which all creation begins. We honor Jnana Shakti of Babaji, the wisdom principle, which allows for proper guidance of the creative impulse. We honor Kriya Shakti of Babaji, the action principle, without which change cannot occur.
Arriving at the central bindu, the pujari encounters the inevitable union of the fundamental polarities of the universe. Here, unfettered by duality, Babaji resides in a state of absolute mergence with his beloved Mataji. This is the point where all diversity and difference merges into one-ness. May all beings experience that One-ness of Brahma within.
The Mataji Yantra is shown above. Little is known of the mysterious Mataji that can be revealed, except that Babaji has clearly stated to Yogi Ramaiah and others that she is his cousin-sister. In India, It is quite common to refer to a beloved female as ones sister. She is, in fact, his second cousin. Babaji has referred to her in much more intimate terms. They are partners in their shared galactic mission. There is a developed cave shrine on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi where she did intensive sadhana. She is an Avatar on Babaji’s level who has manifested in recent times as Bhairavi Brahmani, the tantric guru of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. There is a cave near Gangotri where Babaji and Mataji did sadhana together many centuries ago. Her yantra, given to the author by Yogi Ramaiah, is displayed here. Older sadhaks will remember another yantra as well. This one is my favorite and has 18 avaranas, each associated with one of the 18 siddhas. Babaji himself represents the bindu. The implication is that Mataji is the power behind the siddhas and even our great Sathguru.
In the previous pages, we have touched on the vast subject of yantra vidya. We have provided an outline explanation for several important yantras. Some of these images, descriptions, and background information is being released to the public for the first time. It is hoped that it might inspire sincere souls to learn more about this powerful means of personal growth and transformation. When applied with the traditional integration of yantra and mantra, the power of tantra will never fail to manifest, regardless of ones limitations, and is guaranteed to transform the energy of any temple or home alter, and ultimately, ones self. The core secrets of yantra and mantra can never be obtained from a book, even an inspired book. We have found that the high energy-wisdom is attained by following the path (marg) of the favorite Diety (ishta deva) and teacher-disciple lineage (guru-sisha parampara) with faith and devotion, and the heart of the Goddess becomes known. When the heart of the Goddess is known, the mind becomes still and the bliss reality of Self emerges from the very soul essence. Of what need is there then for practices or discipline?
Getting the Initiation and Training in Yantra and Puja