What I love the most about exploring mandalas is that there is so much to learn, explore, and discover. This week I asked Irina Artamonova to share with us an introduction to Yantras. This post is Part 1 where Irina provides us with some background about what a yantra is and how they are used. Part 2 in the next blog post, Irina provides us with step-by-step instructions on how to draw a “Torus,” one of many patterns found in sacred geometry.
What is Yantra?
Yantras, as well as mandalas, are often used in meditation practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Vedic tradition. The word “yantra” comes from the Sanskrit roots yan-, yantr-, yantram- , and has the following meanings:
- Instrument, tool, support, prop
- Something that keeps, retains, controls
Initially, yantras were created by ancient mystics and were used only within a narrow circle of the selected few introduced to secret knowledge. The science of yantras was kept in sacred scriptures and was passed from gurus to their followers.
First yantras served to encode the sacred knowledge of the Universe and cosmic laws, to represent energy aspects of various deities, planets and chakras, as blueprints to build temples, etc. Later on some yantras were also used as amulets to attract wealth, to protect from enemies, to gain love, etc.
All yantras are united by their role as ‘energy storage,’ and are said to contain “the uncontrollable divine energy in a controlled form”. In general, the main purpose of any yantra is to get your mind concentrated on it and to connect you to the specific energy held within this yantra, thus leading you to increased self-realization, awareness and harmony. Yantras are believed to have the power to influence one’s body, energy and consciousness. Yantras are often called ‘psychograms’ and ‘matrix of the Universe’.
Typically, yantras are made of geometric figures and can be either very simple (e.g. a cross, a triangle, a circle, etc.), or quite complex and consist of various geometric forms, numerals, bindu* and a relevant mantra**. Unlike mandalas, which could be very colorful, decorative and feature images of deities, flora and fauna, majority of yantras look rather abstract, mostly pure geometric, monochrome and decoration-free.
*Bindu – dot in the center of yantra. Symbolizes the point at which creation begins and may become unity. Sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state.
** Mantra – a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, group of words believed to have psychological and spiritual power.
Examples of some yantras:
Usually yantras are carved on metal plates or painted on silk, as these materials are believed to preserve the energy best; but they can also be carved in wood or stone, painted or drawn on paper, wood or sand, etc. By the way, human body is also considered to be a yantra.
How to draw a Yantra?
Here comes the difference between yantras and mandalas. Apart from religious mandalas, one may say that there are no strict rules how to draw a mandala. Actually, anybody can create one without any specific preparation or knowledge. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ elements that you can use. You can draw it free-hand, using any color, shape or text you like, just as a means of self-expression, revealing your own condition, vibrations and energy in a mandala, connecting to yourself though this practice, and becoming more whole and balanced as a result.
Yantras, on the contrary, are created following strict rules, and usually by people on a high level of spiritual development and awareness, with advanced concentration and meditation abilities. Majority of existing yantras are drawn with a ruler and a compass, carefully observing all required geometry (e.g. proportions, angles, number of elements, etc.), numeric and text symbols. Why so? Every yantra is aimed to connect you to a specific energy, therefore, any element used to draw it (line, shape, color, number, word, etc.) should contribute to this purpose, as each element has its own vibration and meaning. And if you draw a yantra ‘incorrectly’, it will simply not serve its purpose.
Does it mean that people like you and me cannot draw a yantra? Of course, we can! For example, if you want to help balance your root chakra, you can draw its classic yantra copying the image from a relevant book / site, meditate on it and connect to its energy. Or, for instance, you want to be able to see the truth clearly no matter how painful this could be, so you can draw and connect to the yantra of Kali – the Vedic goddess known ‘to destroy the darkness of ignorance and revealing the truth’…
Does it mean there is no place for creativity here? Well, there is! This is how it works:
- Choose any yantra you want to draw (better look for it in a relevant literature, or attend Sacred Geometry classes)
- Draw all necessary geometry, numeric and text symbols, and other elements as per the rules1; do not add any color yet
- Meditate on the yantra, trying to connect to the energy within it
- When finished, fill it in with color and any additional elements you feel appropriate right now
- Analyze these additional elements you’ve drawn, how you feel about this yantra, and how your emotional / mental / physical state has changed
1 Some yantras have variations in their look to better reflect a particular energy aspect.
This practice would be close to art-therapy; the result of your drawing will show you how this particular energy flows through you at the moment, how balanced you are now in this particular aspect. If you feel your yantra is dis-balanced, you may want to repeat its drawing later on and see how it’s changing, and how you’re changing together with it
How one can connect to the energy of a yantra?
Here are some simple rules:
- Do not pursue any other goals except the meditation itself, devote your practice to God / Universe / etc
- Put your yantra against the wall / vertically with its center on your eye level
- Sit comfortably, your back should be straight
- Breathe freely, inhaling through the nose, exhaling through your mouth
- Look at bindu / yantra center, do not examine the details, just focus at the center, while grasping the whole yantra; blink as rarely as possible
- Try to feel the energy contained within the yantra, and feel one with it; do not push yourself, be gentle and smooth
- If you know the mantra of this yantra, you can repeat it in your mind during meditation
- If you have thoughts coming to your mind, do not examine them, or push them away, just let them smoothly fade away
- Meditate on the yantra for 15-30 min /day during at least a week
- After the meditation, examine your physical / mental / emotional state, do you notice any differences? What are they?
Learn more about yantras:
- Neapolitansky S.M., Matveev S.A. “Encyclopedia of Yantras”
- Neapolitansky S.M., Matveev S.A. “Sacred Geometry”
- Drunvalo Melchizedek “The Ancient Secrets of the Flower of Life”
- Robert Lawlor “Sacred Geometry. Philosophy and Practice”
- L.R.Chawdhri “Practicals of Yantras”
NB: If there is any interest from community members, I can explain and show how to draw the following Yantras:
- Universal yantras:
- Sri-Yantra – the Queen of all Vedic yantras, the one that represents the whole Universe structure
- Flower of Life and its derivatives (Seed of Life, Tree of Life, etc) – symbolizes the first 6 days of creation and the first stages of cell division
- Torus (doughnut-shaped surface) – considered as the first shape emerged out of the genesis pattern
- Antahkarana – considered as a bridge between the Divine and the Human
- Mer-Ka-Ba (Light-Spirit-Body) – union of spirit and body, surrounded by light
- Yantras of planets: Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury
- Yantras of Vedic goddesses: Kali (Goddess of Time, Change, Power and Destruction), Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge, Wisdom, Arts, Music and Learning), Laksmi (Goddess of Wealth, Love, Prosperity, Fortune and Beauty), Gayatri (Goddess of Love; Gayatri mantra is considered to the one of the most powerful and famous mantras), Durga (the fierce aspect of Kali, wife of Shiva), TriPuraSundari (The beautiful goddess of Three Cities/Worlds)
- Yantras of 7 chakras: muladhara, svadhishthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddha, ajna and sahasrara.