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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 tantrik 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 tantrik 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 is for Kālī, and 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 tantrik tradition, the three bindus. 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 pūja 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 pūja, 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 Gayatri is Yantrarajaya Vidmahe Mahayantraya Dhimahi Tanno Yantrah Prachodayat.
Yantras may also be visualised internally. That, for example, is the case with the Śrī Yantra, with the different mandalas starting at the base of the spine and going to the top of 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, Parashakti the Devata, Śrīṃ the Bija, 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: Aim Sauh Aim Sauh Chakreshvari Yantram Sauvarnam Shodhaya Shodhaya Svāhā. (Aim Sauh Aim 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 Aim Klīṃ Sauh Kapalamalini Yantram Shodhaya Svāhā. (Oṃ Aim Klīṃ Sauh O Thou garlanded with skulls, purify the yantra! Svāhā)
Hide: Oṃ Śrīṃ Oṃ Aim Klīṃ Citasane Yantram Shodhaya Svāhā. (Oṃ Śrīṃ Oṃ Aim Klīṃ O Thou Whose seat is the Pyre, purify the yantra! Svāhā)
Viṣṇu Stone (Śālagrāma ): Oṃ Hsau Aim Sauh Klīṃ Śrīṃ Śrīṃ Nitye Viṣṇu Shila Yantram Shodhaya. (Oṃ Hsau Aim 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 (kavacha) and 1000 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 bija mantras is dead. They can be drawn to whatever size is required.
The two main types of yantra are Bhu 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 pitha. This may be as ornate or as simple as required.
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org