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Yantra and Prāṇapratiṣṭha

The complex nature of yantra syntax corrects the views of some scholars who have wrongly labelled all yantras ‘magic’ diagrams. Diagrams used for occult purposes form a separate category which has evolved within the tradition, and the role of such yantras is peripheral in comparison with that of yantras for meditation – Yantra, Madhu Khanna

The suffix ‘tra’ in Sanskrit means instrument or instrumental. Yantras are the geometrical form of a divinity in the tāntrik tradition. Images (mūrtis) and mantras are other, more gross and subtle, representations. Yantras can be drawn, engraved or painted on a variety of substances. The classical eight tāntrik surfaces are gold, silver, copper, crystal, birch, bone, hide (which can include any type of paper), and Viṣṇu stones (śālagrāma ).

The yantra shown above, left can be used to illustrate the basic geometrical concepts used. The point or bindu at the centre, generally represents the deity, or sometimes Śiva and Śaktī united. The triangle normally represents the three guṇas, or in the case of the tāntrik tradition, the three bindus. Akarshana Yantra Triangles usually face downwards in the case of female yantras and upwards in male yantras. There are exceptions – the Śrī Yantra is one. Triangles are often surrounded by enclosing circles and a group or groups of petals, in which are the attendants of the Devīs or Devas.

See the Mahāmṛtyunja yantra for a complete example. Finally, the whole is often enclosed in a bhūpura, a word which means earth-city. These are the enclosing walls, fenced by the guardians of the directions and the intermediate directions (dikpālas). Some traditions use the yantra in pūjā from the outside inward, and others from the inside outward, depending on the nature of the deity. There are many other yantras which have their own individual shapes, often used in magic (prayoga). One such shown here is an ākarṣaṇa (attraction) yantra from the magical Kāmaratnatantra.

A yantra is only truly vitalised when it is engraved with the bīja and other mantras and surrounded with the mātṝkās, or letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Before use, it must be installed with life, a rite called Prāṇapratiṣṭa (establishing breath). The following is an example.

Installation of Life in a Śrī Yantra

Before any yantra is a suitable object for pūjā, it must be given life (prāṇapratiṣṭa). The following, from Nityotsava, describes the process. This, process, incidentally, also holds true for initiation of a “candidate” into Śrī Vidyā. The rite installs the 35 tattvas into the yantra. It also gives the yantra the full set of senses and the Antaḥkaraṇa, or subtle body. It is said that engraving a Śrī Yantra on gold is said to hold good for life, on silver for seven years. The process also imbues the yantra with the mātṝkās, the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which are the goddess as sound.

The Yantra Gāyatrī is Yantrarājaya Vidmahe Mahāyantraya Dhīmahi Tanno Yantrah Prachodayāt.
Brahma-Viṣṇu-Maheśvara are the Ṛṣis of this great mantra installing life into the Śrī Yantra; Ṛg, Yajur, Sam and Atharva are the Metres; Consciousness is the Devatā; Am is the Bīja, Hrīṃ the Śaktī, Kroṃ the Kilaka. The application is installation of life into the Śrī Cakra.

Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Am Kam Khaṃ Gam Gham Nam to Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Aether, Am to the thumbs Namah.
3 Im Cham Ccham Jam Jham Nam to Sound, Touch, Sight, Taste, Smell Im to the index fingers Namah.
3 Um Tam Tham Dam Dham Nam to Hearing, Touch, Eyes, Tongue, Nose Um to the middle fingers Namah.
3 Um Tam Tham Dam Dham Nam to Speech, Hands, Feet, Genitals, Anus Aiṃ to the ring fingers Namah.
3 Oṃ Pam Pham Bam Bham Mam to Talking, Giving, Moving, Enjoying, Excreting Aum to the little fingers Namah.
3 Am Yaṃ Raṃ Laṃ Vaṃ Śaṃ Ṣaṃ Saṃ Ham Lam Ksham to Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Ahamkara(ego), Thought, Inner Cause, Ah to the palm and back of the hands Namah.
(Thus Heart &c. Nyasa)
Aiṃ Hrīṃ Śrīṃ Oṃ Am Hrīṃ Kroṃ Yaṃ Raṃ Laṃ Vaṃ Śaṃ Ṣaṃ Saṃ Ham Ham Sah may Life exist here in the Śrī cakra!
3 Oṃ Am Hrīṃ Kroṃ Yaṃ Raṃ Laṃ Vaṃ Śaṃ Ṣaṃ Saṃ Ham Ham Sah my individual existence be here in the Śrī cakra!
3 Oṃ Am Hrīṃ Kroṃ Yaṃ Raṃ Laṃ Vaṃ Śaṃ Ṣaṃ Saṃ Ham Ham Sah may all the senses be here in the Śrī cakra!
3 Oṃ Am Hrīṃ Kroṃ Yaṃ Raṃ Laṃ Vaṃ Śaṃ Ṣaṃ Saṃ Haum Ham Sah, may Speech, Mind, Eyes, Ears, Tongue, Nose, Breath come inside this Śrī cakra! May Happiness stay long here! Svāhā.

Internal meditations

Yantras may also be visualised internally. That, for example, is the case with the Śrī Yantra, with the different maṇḍalas starting at the base of the spine and going to the top and above the head.

Different rituals exist for the purification of a yantra for the eight materials mentioned above. This which follows is drawn from the Devirahasya. Śiva is the Seer, Triṣṭubh the Metre, Parashaktī the Devatā, Śrīṃ the Bīja, Hrīṃ the Śaktī and Klīṃ the Peg. The application is the purification of the given yantra.

After doing hand and limb nyāsa, one should meditate on the throne of the given Devi as being in one’s heart. One should draw, engrave, or paint the yantra, and place it on a gold colour pedestal, installing breath into it.

It can be smeared with Kuṇḍa, Gola or Udbhava flowers or with the eight scents. The mantra differs for each material:

Gold: Aiṃ Sauh Aiṃ Sauh Chakreshvari Yantram Sauvarnam Shodhaya Shodhaya Svāhā. (Aiṃ Sauh Aiṃ Sauh, O Lady of the cakra, Purify! Purify the gold yantra! Svāhā)

Silver: Oṃ Rum Oṃ Rajatam Yantram Shodhaya Shodhaya. (Oṃ Rum Oṃ Purify! purify the silver yantra)

Copper: Oṃ Kroṃ Oṃ Strim Oṃ Kroṃ Tamreshvari Yantram Me Shodhaya. (Oṃ Kroṃ Oṃ Strim Oṃ Kroṃ, O Lady of Copper, purify the copper yantra for me!)

Crystal: Oṃ Śrīṃ Hrīṃ Oṃ Kulambike Shodhaya Shodhaya.

Birch bark: Oṃ Hūṃ Śrīṃ Hrīṃ Prim Ruddhesvari Parayantram Shodhaya. (Oṃ Hūṃ Śrīṃ Hrīṃ Prim O Lady of Trees, purify the yantra!)

Bone: Oṃ Aiṃ Klīṃ Sauh Kapalamalini Yantram Shodhaya Svāhā. (Oṃ Aiṃ Klīṃ Sauh O Thou garlanded with skulls, purify the yantra! Svāhā)

Hide: Oṃ Śrīṃ Oṃ Aiṃ Klīṃ Citasane Yantram Shodhaya Svāhā. (Oṃ Śrīṃ Oṃ Aiṃ Klīṃ O Thou Whose seat is the Pyre, purify the yantra! Svāhā)

Viṣṇu Stone (Śālagrāma ): Oṃ Hsau Aiṃ Sauh Klīṃ Śrīṃ Śrīṃ Nitye Viṣṇu Shila Yantram Shodhaya. (Oṃ Hsau Aiṃ Sauh Klīṃ Śrīṃ Śrīṃ, O Eternal One, purify the Viṣṇu Stone Yantra )

After using the appropriate mantra, the yantra should be placed on a pedestal (pitha), and bathed with the substances previously described, whilst the appropriate root mantra is recited. One should then offer scent and flowers, and should worship the appropriate Devi in the usual form within the yantra. This all should be done at night.

Carrying a Yantra. This is considered to be a highly potent way of concentrating magical power. The time to do this is during an auspicious astrological period. The yantra should be drawn using the eight Kaula perfumes. Outside the yantra the root mantra should be written.

On the outside of this the armour (kavaca) and 1,000 names should be written. The Devi should be invoked into the yantra in due form. All good substances are to be used. The yantra is then entwined with gold and silver thread, and placed into a metal holder and may be worn on the person.

Yantras should always be used on the level. If drawn on paper the colours preferable are red, orange, yellow or a combination of these. A yantra without bīja mantras is dead. They can be drawn to whatever size is required.

The two main types of yantra are Bhū and Meru. The former is flat, two dimensional, the latter is of pyramidal form. When not in use they should be stored carefully. Metal ones should be regularly cleaned to prevent corrosion &c. In worship they should be placed level on a pedestal or pīṭha . This may be as ornate or as simple as required.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to mike.magee@btinternet.com

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