Shri Yantra with bija at corners

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See Also
Bālā Sundarī, Bhavanopanisad, Dakshinamurti Samhita, Fifteen Nityas, Gandharva Tantra, Jnanarnava Tantra, Kurukulla, Lalita, Meditation on Lalita, Nityotsava, Paradise,
Philosophy of Tripura Tantra,
Rajarajeshvari Kavacha, Shodhanyasa, Shrichakranyasa, Shrinathanavaratnamalika, Shri Vidya Ratna Sutras, Shripuja, Shoshika, Subhagodaya, Tripura, Varahi, Yakshinis

The Yoginī Hṛdāya

She (Śakti) by whose transformation this creation in the form of objects, words, plexuses, and bodies exists, should of necessity be known by us – Varivasyarahasya, I, 5 (Adyar Edition)

The Yoginī Hṛdāya (Heart of the Yoginī), also known as Nityā Hṛdāya and Sundarī Hṛdāya, is said to be one part of the entire work known as the Nityāṣodaśikārśava (Ocean of the 16 Nityās), the other part being often separately treated as the Vāmakeśvaratantra. The work, which abounds in elliptical terms and code words peculiar to the Śrī Vidyā tradition, is divided into three chapters corresponding to three parts (sanketa) described as cakra (or yantra), mantra and pūjā, or worship.

The Yoginī Hṛdāya belongs to what is known as the Kādi line of Śrī Vidyā. Kādi means “the letter Ka etc”, and refers to the fifteen lettered mantra which starts ka e ī la hrīṃ. The well known Śrī Yantra is considered to be one with the mantra and with the erotic goddess known as Śrī Śrī Mahātripurasundarī.

The edition followed here was published as volume seven in the Sarasvati Bhavana Granthamala, with an English introduction by Gopinath Kaviraj, and which also includes two important commentaries known as the Dīpikā by Amṛtānanda and the Setubhanda of Bhāskarararāya.

There is also an English translation of this work: The Heart of the Yoginī, by André Padoux with Roger-Orphe Jeanty (Oxford University Press, 2013).

The first paṭala opens with Devī addressing Bhairava. In the first verse she says that in this Vāmakeśvaratantra are many concealed things and she wishes to know the rest which has not yet been revealed. There are 86 verses (ślokas) in this chapter.

Bhairava answers by saying he will reveal the Supreme Heart of the Yoginī, which is to be obtained orally, and should not be discriminately revealed. Śakti is fivefold and refers to creation, while Śiva is fourfold and related to dissolution. The union of the five śaktis and the four fires creates the cakra, that is the Śrī Yantra. Śiva and Śakti are fire and moon bindus and the contact of both causes the Hārdhakalā to flow, which becomes the third bindu, sun, and which gives rise to the baindava or first cakra.

It is this first cakra, the bindu at the centre of the yantra, which gives rise to the nine triangles or navayoni, and these, in turn, cause the nine maṇḍalas of the yantra to blossom. This baindava or central bindu, is Śiva and Śakti, also referred to in the texts as the light and its mirror.

The ultimate Śakti, by her own will assumed the form of the universe, first as a pulsating essence, consisting of the vowels of the alphabet. The bindu of the yantra corresponds to dharma, adharma and ātma, which also corresponds to prāmatṛ (subject), meya (object) and pramāśa (knowledge). The bindu is situated on a dense, flowering mass of lotus, and is self-aware consciousness, the citkalā. The quivering union of Śiva and Śakti gradually creates the different maṇḍalas of the Śrī Yantra, which correspond to different letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Kāmakāla subsists in the Mahābindu (great bindu) and is without parts. The text refers to nine different and successively subtle forms of sound which are beyond the vowels and consonants of the 50 (51) letters of the alphabet.

She is every kind of Śakti, including Icchā (will), Jñāna (knowledge) and Kriyā (action), and exists as four pīṭhas or sacred centres, represented by the letters Kā(marūpa), Pū(rnagiri), Jā(landhara) and Oḍ(ḍīya). These seats exist in the microcosm between anus and genitals, at the heart, in the head, and in the bindu above the head, and have the forms of square, hexagon in a circle with a bindu, a crescent moon and a triangle, and are of the colours yellow, purple, white and red.

These also correspond to four Liṅgāms, which are known as Svayambhu, Bāśa, Itara and Para, which are situated in the pīṭhas and are coloured gold, bhandūka red, and like the autumn moon. The vowels, which are divided into three, are situated in the svayaṃbhū Liṅgām, the letters Ka to Ta are associated with the Bāśa Liṅgām, the letters Tha to Sa are in the kadamba region, while the entire circle of the letters, the mātṛkā, are associated with the para or supreme Liṅgām, which is one with the essence of the bindu of the yantra, and is the root of the tree of supreme bliss.

These different elements of speech, which are the Kulakaula, are also the sections of the mantra. Further, these sections correspond to the waking state, to dream, to deep sleep and to the fourth. Beyond this is the absolute supreme which by its own will emanates the cosmos and is also one with the cosmos, the union of measure, measurer and the measured, that is to say the object, the subject and means of knowledge, the triple peaks, and the very self of Icchā, Jñāna and Kriyā śaktis.

The universe has the appearance of emanating from the unmanifest Kāmeśvara and Kāmeśvarī. The noose which Tripurāsundarī holds is Icchā, the goad is Jñāna, and the bow and arrows are Kriyā Śakti, says Bhairava. By the blending of the refuge (Śiva-Kāmeśvara) and Śrī (Śakti-Kāmeśvarī), the eight other maṇḍalas of the Śrī Yantra come into creation.

The remaining ślokas (verses) of this chapter deal with the creation of the other maṇḍalas of the yantra, and of the types of śaktis occupying them. In the second paṭala, Bhairava tells the Devī he will describe the mantra. Knowing this, a vīra (hero) becomes like Tripurā herself. There are 85 verses in this chapter. The text opens by describing the different nyāsas to be employed in the worship of the goddess.

According to the text, each of the nine maṇḍalas of the Śrī Yantra have a particular form of Tripurāsundarī presiding over them, and a particular vidyā or feminine mantra appropriate to each. According to the text, these forms are Tripurā, Tripureśvarī, Tripurasundarī, Tripuravāsinī, Tripuraśrī, Tripuramālinī, Tripurasiddhī, Tripurāmbikī, and the ninth is Mahātripurasundarī. Verse 12 says that they should be worshipped in this order in the nine cakras (that is maṇḍalas), that is to say from the outside of the yantra to the centre.

The mantra may be understood in six different ways, says verses 25- 26: bhāvārtha, sampradāyā, nigamā, kaulika, sarvarahasyā, and mahātattva. The text then proceeds to outline the significance of these different ways to understand the meanings (artha). The eighteenth century sādhaka, Bhāskararāya, delineates the meaning of these in his work Varivasyārahasya, which is available with the Sanskrit text and an English translation in the Adyar Library series. There are also details of this in his commentary, Setubandha, included in Sanskrit in the Yoginī Hṛdāya.

Varivasyārahasya also includes a detailed chart which shows the threefold divisions of Tripurasundarī as well as the nine subtle forms of speech beyond the letters of the alphabet. Bhāvārtha is related to the fifteen lettered Kādi vidyā mantra. Removing the three mantras, the hrīṃs from the mantra shows the essential nature of Śiva and Śakti. The goddess embodies the 36 tattvas and is identical with this mantra.

This meaning shows the essential sameness of devī, mantra and the cosmos. The sampradāyā meaning shows the identity of the mantra with the five elements of aether, air, fire, water and earth; the fifteen letters of the mantra and the senses of sound, touch, image, taste and smell. Says Bhāskararāya: “As there is no difference between the cause and its effect, between the thing signified (vācya) and the word which signifies the thing (vācaka), and between Brahman and the universe, so also the universe and this Vidyā are identical [in relation to each other].”

The Nigarbha meaning shows the identity of the supreme devatā with the guru, and because of the grace of the guru, one’s own self. The Kaulika meaning is that she, the supreme goddess, rays out her attendant śaktis one with her. So, she is Icchā, Jñāna and Kriyā; the fire, the sun and the moon; and the nine planets and other celestial phenomena, as well as the objects of the senses, the senses, and other constituent parts which are also present in the microcosm.

Again, her śaktis and her are inseparable and this is represented by her inseparability from the Śrī Yantra. The secret (rahasya) meaning of the mantra is the union of the Devī with the 50 letters which represent 16 moon kalās, 12 sun kalās, and 10 fire kalās, corresponding to the Kulakuṇḍalinī, which extends from the base cakra, shoots through the brow cakra and then beyond, causing a flow of amṛta or nectar to drench the body.

She sleeps, she wakes, and she sleeps again, and once more, is identical with mantra, yantra, guru and the shining own self. The supreme absolute is one with Śiva and Śakti. The tattva meaning is that she is one with the 36 tattvas, also with the letters of the alphabet and the forms they take. Breath, as well as time, is the form of the Devī Tripurasundarī.

The practical application of these concepts is to be learned at the feet of the guru, himself or herself one with the goddess.

The third chapter is called the pūja sanketa, or section relating to worship in three ways described as parā, aparā, and parāparā. This, much longer chapter, has 206 verses. Parā first consists of identity with the supreme absolute, the second of imaginative meditation (bhāvana), while the third is related to ritual worship.

This chapter mostly deals with elaborate nyāsa, and starts with the sixfold nyāsa related to (50) Gaṇeśas, (nine) grahas (planets), the 27 nakṣatras, the six yoginīs of the bodily dhātus, the rāśis or 12 sidereal constellations and the (50) pīṭhas or seats of the goddess through greater India. These six components are all associated with different parts of the body and with different letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.

The nyāsa consists of visualising the appropriate forms while touching the appropriate places in the body. The forms of Gaṇeśa6 start to be enumerated in verse 13. According to the commentary called Dīpikā by Amṛtānanda, quoting “other works”, each of the forms of Gaṇeśa is associated with his own Śakti.

In the Nityotsava, prepared by a student of Bhāskararāya, the collective meditation image for these is as follows: “Resembling the newly risen sun, with an elephant’s face, soft eyes, holding goad, noose, and granting boons, with Śakti, of vermilion lustre, decorated with all manner of gems. One of (her) hands holds a lotus, the other touches (Gaṇeśa’s) liṅgam. His trunk is coiled to the left. When meditating, the noose comes first. The Śakti holds a lotus in her left hand, and her right hand embraces (Gaṇeśa’s liṅgam).”

The nine planets are Sūrya (sun), Candra (moon), Bhauma (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), Śukra (Venus), Śani (Saturn), Rāhu (moon’s ascending node), and Ketu (moon’s descending node). These are described as looking like Kāmarūpa, adorned with celestial gems, with their left hand resting on their left thighs, and the right hand showing the mudrā giving boons.

Each also has a Śakti, with each of them having two hands which dispel fear and granting boons. The planets are of different colours as red, white, red, dusky, yellow, pale yellow, black, purple and smoky, with their positions in the body being just below the heart, centre of brow, eyes, ears, throat, heart, navel, mouth and genitals.

The 27 lunar asterisms or nakṣatras start to be described in verse 30. They are visualised as being flame coloured, ornamented with jewels, like the fire of time which destroys all, with each having two hands, one dispelling fear and the other granting boons. They are associated with one, two, three and sometimes four of the letters of the alphabet and different parts of the body.

The nakṣatras start with Aśvini. Verse 33 starts to describe the six Yoginīs of the bodily dhātus, identified with the six cakras in the order and named Viśuddha, Hṛdaya, Nābha, Svādiṣṭhāna, Mūla and Ājña. These are identified with the six cakras in the body and each dhātunāthā has her own meditation image, number of petals with associated śaktis and ayurvedik phase.

So Ḍākinī dwells in the Viśuddha. She is three-eyed, armed with club, sword, trident and shield, with one face, striking the ignorant with terror, always fond of milk food, presiding over the skin, whose form is surrounded by very beautiful Amṛtā &c. Rākiṇī has two faces, is fanged, black in colour, holding rosary, trident, skull cup and ḍamaru, three eyed, presides over blood, and likes a fry up, or greasy food.

The twelve rāśis, or sidereal constellations, are described in verse 35. These are Meṣa (Aries), Vṛṣabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Karka (Cancer), Siṃha (Leo), Kanyā (Virgo), Tulā (Libra), Vṛścika (Scorpio), Dhanuṣ (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Mīna (Pisces). Their colours are red, white, yellowish white, variegated, black, orange, brown, russet, purple, black and smoky and they are associated with the right foot, right of penis, right of belly, right of heart, right shoulder joint, right of the head, left of the head, left shoulder joint, left of the heart, left of the belly, left of the penis and left foot.

Hindu astrology aligns the rāśi (constellations) with areas of the ecliptic which do not match similar positions in western astrology. They vary in longitude by around 24 degrees, with Aries 0 degrees being identified in the west with the vernal equinox. This is a burning matter of debate amongst astrologers. The discrepancy is accounted for in a number of ways.

Scholars believe that the father of Hindu astrology, Varāhamihira, in his work Horāśāstram, relied on Greek astrology, introduced with Alexander’s invasions. A Hindu astrologer, a daivajña, will have none of that. According to A.N. Srinivasa Raghava Aiyangar, in an English introduction to the 1951 Adyar Library edition of the Horāśāstram, “The subtle earth in the spiritual body of a Yogin is stationary at the Mulādhāra, about which the subtle grahas and nakṣatras revolve.”

Varāhamira, the “father” of Hindu astrology lived around the start of the sixth century, CE. The English introduction to the Horāśāstram said that the solstitial points at the time Varāhamira wrote the Horāśāstram were at the nakṣatras Dhāniṣṭhā and Āśleṣā, implying that the first point of Aries at his time was at the beginning of Aśvini.

But the English introduction claims that the beginning of Makara (Capricorn) was the standard starting point. David Pingree, in his translation of the Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja, (Harvard University Press, 1978) makes a convincing case that this early work, of undoubtedly Greek origin, lent many terms to Indian astrology, such as kendra and kona, notwithstanding the fact that there may already have existed Hindu methods, which over a long period of time became inextricably mixed up.

There is also a possibility that both Greek and Hindu astrology were influenced by Babylonian astrology – it was only at the end of the 19th century that scholars unearthed tablets which revealed their computations – on base 60, so much like the magic number 21,600 – exceeded the skills of Victorian astronomers, and was based on centuries of observation rather than slide rules or computers. Or even log tables. See here for more details of the differences between the two zodiacs.

Verse 36 of the Yoginī Hṛdāya starts to describe the piṭhās, or sacred seats of Devī related to the Matṛkā or letters of the alphabet. In the text, these are enumerated as Kāmarūpa, Vārāśasī, Nepāla, Pauṇḍra, Vardhana, Carasthira, Kānyakubja, Pūrśaśaila, Arbuda, Āmrātakeśvara, Ekāmra, Triśrota, Kāmakoṭa, Kailāsa, Bhṛgunagar, Kedāra, Pūrśacandraka, Śrīpīṭha, Oṅkārapīṭha, Jālandhara, Mālavotkala, Kulānta, Devikoṭa, Gokarśa, Māruteśvara, Aṭṭahāsa, Viraja, Rājageha, Mahāpatha, Kolāpura, Melāpura, Oṅkāranta, Jayantikā, Uñjayinya, Citrā, Kṣīraka, Hastināpura, Oḍḍīśa, Prayāga, Māyāpura, Jaleśa, Malaya, Śaila, Merugirivara, Mahendra, Vāmana, Hiraśyapura, Mahālakṣmīpura, Oḍyāśa, and Chāyāchatra – 50 in total.

The names of these somewhat vary in commentaries on the text, including the Nityotsava. Forming a complement to the Gaṇeśa section of the six fold nyāsa, these piṭhās are to be meditated on as white, black, red, dusky, green and yellow, in sequence.

In A Journey in the World of the Tantras, Mark Dyczkowski makes an interesting comparison between the pīṭhas as counted in the Yoginīhṛdaya and older texts such as the Manthānabhairavatantra and the Ambāmatasaṃhitā.

“By the 10th century when, I believe, the earliest Kubjikā Tantra was redacted, the sacred geography of these places had assumed the form of the regular and recurrent pattern of an ideal scheme… The list appears, as we have noted, in the Yoginīhṛdaya, where it is already formalized. And it continued to be a popular list long past the days when it could have reflected an objective situation.”

This, he says, is a period when followers of Bhairava and Kaula tantras moved from the life of solitary ascetics to householders – so the locations of the pīṭhas no longer had the same significance as before.

Verse 44 of the Yoginī Hṛdāya begins to describe a very lengthy and complex nyāsa called Śrī Cakra nyāsa. This relates the nine maṇḍalas of the yantra to the presiding devatās who are forms of Lalitā, and in the process includes their surrounding deities. This is performed from the outer enclosing square to the bindu in the centre, and includes the weapons of Tripurasundarī. Other nyāsas, including hand nyāsa are outlined, along with the daily pūjā of Tripurasundarī and descriptions of the attendants (āvarana devatās) to be found in the nine maṇḍalas of the yantra.

Verse 199 of the Yoginī Hṛdāya describes the receivers of the offerings at the end of pūja, which are the Yoginīs, Baṭuka, and the Kṣetrapāla. The chapter closes with an admonition that the details of this tantra should be concealed and not revealed to anyone who is not initiated.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to

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