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Ajit Mookerjee • MadhuKhanna 


The Tantric Way 

Art • Science • Ritual 




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The life-affirming philosophy of tantra and its applica¬ 
tion to everyday life have created wide and enthusiastic 
interest in the West in the past decade. The Tantric Way is 
a practical guide to the creative mystery of this religious 
and mystical system to achieve awareness. 

Derived from the essential tenets of Indian thought, 
tantra was nourished by radically different, even heretical, 
sources. It embraces the fullest acceptance of physical 
desires; it regards man as the embodiment of universal 
forces; it accepts the natural world. Contemplation must 
be active, and includes the use of meditative tools, group 
rituals, rhythmic breathing, and sexual union. Nor does it 
rule out the use of drugs to reach an expanded and 
creative awareness. The sexual component of tantra has 
long been misunderstood, obscured by the distaste of 
nineteenth-century scholars and the secrecy of the 
initiates; The Tantric Way explains the symbolism behind 
the forthright language of the texts and the erotic 
postures of tantric art. 

The book is fully illustrated with paintings, drawings, 
and diagrams. The illustrations serve to explain and 
instruct, but the compelling work produced by tantric 
artists will also have strong visual appeal to the Western 
eye educated by Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Rothko, and 

Ajit Mookerjee, author of Yoga Art (NYGS, 1975), is an 
outstanding expert on tantric art and an important 
collector, and his deep knowledge of the West makes him 
an ideal interpreter. Madhu Khanna is a distinguished 
scholar of Eastern and Western philosophies. 

ON THE COVER: A gouache painting from a series illustrating the rise of Kundalini through 
the psyche: the fish symbolizes its most primitive form, the lotus its most subtle and complex. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 

18 color, 130 black and white illustrations, 
80 line drawings 

New York Graphic Society 

11 Beacon Street, Boston 02108 

Printed in England 



Art * Science • Ritual 




Frontispiece: Manuscript leaf 
illustrating cosmic form of Krishna 
with appropriate symbols. 
Rajasthan, c. 19 th century. Ink 
and colour on paper. 

Copyright © 1977 Thames and Hudson Ltd 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or 
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, 
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and 
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 

International Standard Book Number: 0-8212-0704-0 cloth 
International Standard Book Number: 0-8212-0705-9 paper 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-49738 

First published in England by Thames and Hudson Ltd 

First United States edition 

New York Graphic Society books are published by 
Little, Brown and Company 

Printed in England 

Color plates printed in the Netherlands 





















Dr Manfred Wurr 
on the tantric path 

Archaeological Survey of India, 
New Delhi 10, 37 (right), 77 
(right), 79, 80, 85, 128. 165, 
173, 181, 188, 194, 195 
Achim Bedrich collection, 

Munich 101, 102, 114, 191 
Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras 
collection 42, 52, 58, 160 
Kalyan S. Coll, Barcelona 47 
Michael Cooper, London 139 
S. C. Duggal, New Delhi 88 
Robert Fraser collection, 

London 138,157 
H. Harrer, Kitzbuhel 31 
Dr H. Hunger 178 
Government of India Tourist 
Office, London 145 
Kasrnin Gallery, London 63 

Max Maxwell, London 83, 84, 

Ajit Mookerjee collection. New 
Delhi frontispiece, 8, 12, 16, 17, 
66, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 76, 77 
(left), 89, 90,91,92, 93,96,99, 
104, 106, 107, 113, 115, 116, 
121, 124, 130, 134, 142, 143, 
147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 162, 
164, 169, 171, 176. 182, 186, 
189, 192, 193; photographs 46, 


Priya Mookerjee 158,159 

National Museum collection, 
New Delhi 131 

Hans-Ulrich Rieker collection, 
Hamburg 11 

Thomas Gallery collection, 
Munich 34, 38 

Victoria and Albert Museum, 
London 78 

J.-C. Ciancimino, London 67 
S. L. Vohra, New Delhi 117 
Hans Wichers collection, 
Hamburg 48, 49, 81, 167 
Jan Wichers collection, 
Hamburg 29,71, 82, 103, 108, 
118, 135, 140, 152, 172, 175 
Meggy Wichers collection, 
Hamburg 129 

Dr Manfred Wurr collection, 
Hamburg 184. 187 


In this space age, when so many are striving towards an 
understanding of the man-universe relationship, the study of 
tantric doctrine and its practical application is especially significant. 
Great enthusiasm has, in recent years, developed for tantra, its 
timeliness and universal appeal. In order to meet this growing 
interest and desire for further knowledge of tantra, this book gives 
the reader a glimpse of the phenomenon that is tantra and its 
related manifestations in art, science and ritual. Pre-eminently an 
exposition of a practical method. The Tantric Way outlines an 
expanded concept of man, for a creative awareness of one's psychic 
sources through a comprehensive system of thought and 
experiential techniques. It should not, therefore, be considered a 
doctrine but the beginning of a new outlook. If our readers are 
stimulated to further exploration of tantra and to its assimilation as 
a whole, which always begins by working on one's own self, the 
purpose of this book will be fulfilled. 

We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Manfred Wurr, for providing 
facilities for research and assistance with grants, direction and 
support, without which this work could never have been written; 
to Mr Michael Paula and Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Altmann 
G.m.b.H., Hamburg for co-operation and encouragement; to Mr 
Hans-Ulrich Rieker, who read through the manuscript; and 
finally to Dr Sanjukta Gupta, for many helpful suggestions on 
Sanskrit mantras. 

A. M. 

M. K. 



Tantra is a creative mystery which impels us to transmute our 
actions more and more into inner awareness: not by ceasing to act 
but by transforming our acts into creative evolution. Tantra 
provides a synthesis between spirit and matter to enable man to 
achieve his fullest spiritual and material potential. Renunciation, 
detachment and asceticism - by which one may free oneself from 
the bondage of existence and thereby recall one's original identity 
with the source ofthe universe - are not the way oftantra. Indeed, 
tantra is the opposite: not a withdrawal from life, but the fullest 
possible acceptance of our desires, feelings and situations as human 

Tantra has healed the dichotomy that exists between the 
physical world and its inner reality, for the spiritual, to a tantrika, is 
not in conflict with the organic but rather its fulfilment. His aim is 
not the discovery of the unknown but the realization of the 
known, for 'What is here, is elsewhere. What is not here, is 
nowhere' (Visvasara Tantra); the result is an experience which is 
even more real than the experience of the objective world. 

Tantra is a Sanskrit word derived from the root tan-, to expand. 
From this point of view the tantra means knowledge of a 
systematic and scientific experimental method which offers the 
possibility of expanding man's consciousness and faculties, a 
process through which the individual's inherent spiritual powers 
can be realized. In a looser sense the term tantra is used as a label for 
any form of 'expanded' literature that is remotely, if at all, 
associated with the doctrines of tantra. In such cases, the word is 
used almost as a 'suffix' (like the Sanskrit term 'Sastra') to indicate a 
systematic treatise. Care, therefore, should be taken to differentiate 
between original scriptures and pseudo-tantras; tantras like 
Rakshasi Tantra and many other similar texts, for instance, are not 
part ofthe authoritative doctrine. Because of its interchangeable 
connotations, the term tantra has been subject to a great deal of 
misinterpretation and is sometimes wrongly associated with 
spurious practices, vulgarizing it to the level of a fad. 

Vak-devi. The goddess represents 
the subtle element of sound by 
which the universe of'name' and 
form' comes into existence. 
Rajasthan, c. 17 th century. 
Gouache on paper. 


Asana. This type of terracotta 
figurine represents the earliest 
example of asana. Harappa, 
Punjab , c. 3000 BC. Terracotta. 

It is difficult to determine the exact time when the word tantra 
came to be used; nor is it possible to determine when tantric 
principles and practices were first introduced. Tantric ritual- 
symbols are found in the Harappan Culture (Indus Valley 
Civilization, c. 3000 BC) in the form of yogic postures, and in the 
Mother and the fertility Cult. Tantra's broad base is undoubtedly 
oflndo-Aryan origin and part of the totality of the ancient Indian 
tradition. There is a close affinity between the Tantras and the 
Vedas (c. 2000 BC) and, indeed, some tantric rites are based on 
Vedic practices. In its subsequent development, tantra shows the 
influence of the Upanishads, the Epics and the Puranas, until its full 
development in the early medieval period. 

The tantras are mostly anonymous; their authorship is ascribed 
to divine source. Numerous and profusely varied, they have such 
names as Agama, Nigama, Yamala. Generally, they are cast in the 
form of instructional dialogue. The type of tantra in which Siva 
addresses his consort Parvati, for example, is known as Agama, 
revelation, whereas Nigama indicates texts in which the dialogue is 
addressed by Parvati to Siva. The Agama has four parts: the first 
deals with knowledge or metaphysical questions, and here it 
closely resembles the Upanishads; yoga forms the second part; the 
third part deals with ritual practices and the fourth deals with 
man's social and personal conduct and temperament. The original 
tantras may be grouped into three sections (according to each one's 
patron deity): the Saiva Agamas (Siva), the Vaishnava Agamas 
(Vishnu) (or Pancharatra), and the Sakta Agamas (Sakti), besides the 
later Buddhist Agamas composed in Tibet. 

There are early references to tantrism in Hindu, Buddhist and 
Jain literatures, although tantric practices are older than the texts. 
References to the tantras generally and to their particular rites are 
found in many Puranas, and even tantric works like Linga, Kalika 
and Devi were formed as distinctive Puranas. The earliest codified 
tantric texts date from the beginning of the Christian era, if not 
earlier, and some have been assembled as recently as the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries. Tantra literature took a long period to 
develop and no particular age can be assigned definitely. The 
antiquity of each work has to be determined in relation to available 
evidence. Thus, for example, several tantric texts have been found 
written in Sanskrit Gupta characters, which establishes their date as 
AD 400 - 600; in addition there exist manuscripts of Saiva Agamas 
from South India from the sixth century. Buddhist Tantras are also 
very old and may also be traced back to the beginning of the 
Christian era. Between the seventh and eleventh centuries a 

Seal illustrating a yogi in 
meditation with a trident symbol at 
his back, signifying transcendence of 
the seven phenomenal planes of 
existence. Provenance and date 
unknown. Steatite. 

number oftantric texts were assembled and have come down to us 
from various sources, notably from Kashmir Saiva works of the 
ninth and tenth centuries and the Tamil Saiva poets of the same 
period, as well as from Buddhist and Vaishnava sources. The 
Kulachara sect of tantism is said to have been introduced by the 
tantric Natha saints. Even Sankara (8th century AD) mentions the 
existence of 64 Tantras in his Anandalahari, a part of the 
Saundaryalahari. The exact number of tantric texts is difficult to 
ascertain, though it is generally held to be 108. In addition there is a 


Worship of the trident, emblem of 
Siva. Rajasthan, 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

great number of commentaries and digests which have originated 
in various parts of the country, and testify to the wide popularity of 
the tantras and their rituals. Tantric influence, however, is not 
limited to India alone, and there is evidence that the precepts of 
tantrism travelled to various parts of the world, especially Nepal, 
Tibet, China, Japan and parts of South-East Asia; its influence has 
also been evident in Mediterranean cultures such as those of Egypt 
and Crete. 

Tantrikas are broadly divided into various sects according to the 
deities they worship and their rituals. The principal sects are Saivas 
(worshippers of Siva), Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu), and 

Saktas (worshippers of Sakti, or female energy). These major 
groups are divided into various sub-sects. The most important 
centres where tantric worship is still prevalent are Assam, Bengal, 
Orissa, Maharashtra, Kashmir, the foothills of the north-western 
Himalayas, Rajasthan and parts of South India. 

According to popular legend, tantric sacred places (pithasthanas), 
came into existence when Siva carried away the dead body of his 
consort Sati, or Parvati, which had been dismembered by Vishnu 
into fifty-one parts that fell on different places all over the country. 
These became tantric pilgrim centres. Many of these places are 
strongholds of tantric tradition: the Kamakshya temple of 
Kamrupa in Assam, for example, is believed to be the place where 
Sati's yoni (female organ) fell and is regarded as a living centre of 
her immeasurable power. The worship of Sakti is very popular 
among tantrikas so that tantra is regarded as belonging essentially 
to the Sakta group and perhaps for this reason, tantra has come 
popularly to be understood, generally though mistakably, as Sakti- 

Pre-eminently a practical way of realization, tantra has adopted 
diverse methods to suit the needs of different followers according 
to their condition and abilities. Although they have a common 
goal, each individual has the freedom to follow the path of tantra in 
his own way. Such freedom does not mean a mere negation of 
bondage but a positive realization which brings purejoy so that 
universal knowledge becomes, as it were, self-knowledge. 
Accordingly, the tantras have evolved a framework of theory and 
practice, both spiritual and physical, for achieving the ends and 
values of life. 

One question often asked - whether tantra is a religion or a form 
of mysticism - is best answered in the words ofWoodroffe: 'The 
tantra, in fine, is from its very nature an encyclopaedic science. It is 
practical, and has no concern with wordy warfare. It lights the 
torch and shows the way, step by step, until the sojourner comes to 
the end of his journey.' 1 Although it appears to be a mystic way 
based on metaphysical concept, yet, in the last analysis, tantra 
practice sheds its mysticism and becomes a verifiable experience to 
the one who seeks; in so far as it is based upon human experience in 
the very act of living as a source of the amplification of 
consciousness, the tantric method is a scientific approach. In its 
strictest sense tantra is neither religion nor mysticism but an 
empirical-experiential method which has been absorbed as a 
cultural pattern valid for everyone and not limited to any exclusive 
group or sect. 

Salagram, a cosmic spheroid. 


Though derived from the essential tenets of Indian philosophy 
the fundamental conceptions of tantra are not much concerned 
with abstract speculations but indicate and explain practical ways 
and means to the goal. Tantra evolved out of the same seeds in 
which the traditional system germinated and therefore grew up 
in the mainstream of Indian thought, yet in the course of time it 
received its nourishment from its own sources, which were not 
only radically different from the parent doctrine but often heretical 
and directly opposed to it. In this way tantra developed largely 
outside the establishment, and in the course of a dialectical process 
acquired its own outlook. The tantric approach to life is anti¬ 
ascetic, anti-speculative and entirely without conventional 
perfectionist cliches. 

The fact that tantra paid more attention to the 'experimental' 
dimension of life does not imply that its wide ranging psycho- 
experimental techniques existed in a vacuum. It has highly 
elaborate systems of atomic theory, space-time relationship, 
astronomical observations, cosmology, palmistry, astrology, 
chemistry, alchemy, and the like. Human experience owes to 
tantra the discovery and location of the psychic centres in the 
human body and its various yogic disciplines, which are supported 
by visual and abstract symbols. Tantras are unique in the sense that 
they posit an element of realism in nature and life in their diverse 
manifestations. No phenomenal manifestation is antithetical to 
self-realization. However ephemeral life may be, everything that 
exists has its own positive dimension. Hence, instead of drawing 
away from manifested nature and its obstacles, the tantrika 
confronts them in a face-to-face relationship. Perfect experience 
results in the experience of the whole, i.e., consciousness as being 
and consciousness as the power to become. 

Because of general ignorance regarding their real meaning, 
tantric rituals such as sexo-yogic practices which ought not to be 
confused with yogic postures, virgin worship, etc., have been 
misunderstood and distorted. Some tantric philosophical and 
ritualistic patterns were traditionally the possession of a few 
initiates who formed a close circle and who guarded the system 
with great care, permitting access to none but qualified aspirants. 
As a result, pseudo-orientalists recoiled with a puritanical shudder 
from this 'mysterious cult' and ridiculed it; this attitude was shared 
by their Indian counterparts in the nineteenth century. At the 
beginning of this present century the pioneering works of Sir John 
Woodroffe and other scholars cleared away the misconceptions 
which obscured its profound teachings. 


The basic tenets of tantra can be explained and understood in 
either ascending or descending order. From its summit, one can 
start at the cosmic plane, at tantra's precepts concerning the 
ultimate reality and come down to its notion of creation and the 
constituents of the objective world, and finally arrive at its 
understanding of the human body and its properties, and the 
psychic processes which interlink man and the universe. Con¬ 
versely we may start from the tangible self and ascend in stages 
through man-world-cosmos, culminating in the nature of the 
ultimate reality. These are, in fact, the various grades of tantric 
thought around which its diverse rituals and art forms are 
interwoven. Tantrikas have developed a systematic method 
whereby 'cosmic cross-points' are created in the relative plane, at 
which the individual encounters the universal noumena. These 
cosmic cross-points can be achieved either by working on one's self 
through the human body (Kundalini-yoga), through perfor¬ 
mance of rites and rituals, or visually through such forms and 
figures as yantras, mandalas and deities (which comprise the 
mainstream of tantric art), or verbally by the repetition of seed 
syllables (mantras). Hence tantra's diverse methods which invoke 
the involvement of all senses, at different levels - physical, mental 
or psychic - in concert or singly. All these practices nevertheless are 
directed towards self-enlightenment and a realization of the vision 
of unity. 

Central to tantra's teachings is the concept that Reality is unity, 
an undivisible whole. It is called Siva-Sakti, Cosmic Conscious¬ 
ness. Siva and its creative power, Sakti, are eternally conjoined; the 
one cannot be differentiated from the other, and Cosmic 
Consciousness is endowed with the essential potential of self¬ 
evolution and self-involution. It is only in the relative plane that 
Siva-Sakti are looked upon as separate entities. The individual has 
the potential to realize and equate himself with Cosmic 
Consciousness: to intuit this reality is the purpose of tantra. The 
individual is not isolated but integrated in the entire cosmic 
scheme, and so the process of realization is self-fulfilling. It cannot 
be attained by methods of negation of escape. To achieve 
awareness of the individual/Cosmic Consciousness equation 
requires a close symbiosis of the individual and the Beyond - the 
experience of totality of being and becoming. 

All manifestation, according to tantra, is based upon a 
fundamental dualism, a male principle known as Purusha (Cosmic 
Consciousness) and a female principle known as Prakriti (Cosmic 
Force of Nature). Purusha is identified as Cosmic Consciousness, 

Diagram of the six chakras, psychic 
centres in the human body. 

Diagram of the unity of the two 
principles, male and female. 


Yogini in meditative posture. South 
India, c. 17th century Wood. 

whose nature is static and which is the transcendental plane where 
there is but one undifferentiated unity, Siva, Prakriti, Nature, is 
synonymous with Sakti (female energy); the kinetic energy 
quantum of the cosmos is the prime mover of creation, out of 
which the world is born and into which the world is dissolved. 
Purusha and Prakriti are the cosmicized versions of the earthly, 
phenomenal male and female. Though distinct in their qualities, 
they are inseparable since they are essentially two aspects of one 
principle. In reality, the whole world, the entire manifold of 
experience, is Siva-Sakti, Purusha and Prakriti, Male and Female. 
Tantra's aim is to realize this integrated wholeness of polarities 
through active contemplation: achieving this integration of 
polarity means becoming Siva-Sakti, united as one. At the 
experience of unity, ecstatic joy (ananda), ineffable in human 
terms, is felt. Both the Hindu and Buddhist tantras accept this 
dualism, although there is the fundamental difference between 
them that the latter consider the male principle a kinetic aspect 
(Upaya) and the Female static (Prajna). Both schools stress the 
principle of duality in non-duality and hold that the ultimate goal 
is the perfect state of union of the two. 

Tantrism is a system of 'the rediscovery of the mystery of 
woman'. Apart from certain historical factors which may have 
influenced tantra to adopt practices associated with female 
worship, the chief reason for giving high status to woman and 
elevating her to the level of a cosmic force is that the female 
principle is considered to be essentially the kinetic aspect of 
consciousness. In tantric rituals every woman is seen as a 
counterpart of the feminine principle and becomes a reincarnation 
of cosmic energy, symbolizing the ultimate essence of reality. 
Tantra holds the concept of a composite female principle which, 
though running parallel to male, transcends it. According to this 
concept, Sakti is endowed with all aspects of life, creative to 
dissolutive, sensual to sublime, benign to horrific. Sakti's universal 
power is the prime mover and mother-womb of the recurring 
cycles of the universe, and as such reflects the procreative powers of 
eternal substance. She also symbolizes total life-affirmation and is a 
source of all polarities, differentiation and distinction of elements. 
The tantrikas also identify the power of Sakti with the Absolute or 
One, since she projects the divine bi-unity of male and female 
principles. In the process of self-actualization, the highest goal 
identified with the arousal of the Kundalini is recognized as a 
microcosmic version of the feminine power of Sakti. 

The objective world, with its infinite diversity, evolves out of 


Sakti seated in union with Siva. 
Sakti, the kinetic energy, the prime 
mover of all creation, and Siva, 
inert as a corpse, represent the 
positive-negative dualism whose 
interpenetration gives rise to all 
creation. Orissa, c. 18th century. 

the union of opposites, the male and female principles. There is a 
complementary force similar to a positive and negative charge 
continuously attracting the two. Hence, every conjunction of op¬ 
posites produces bliss and ends in primordial spontaneity. In that 
balanced and integrated state, Prakriti or Nature, composed of 
three forces or gunas in Sanskrit called sattva, rajas, and tamas, is in 
a state of perfect equilibrium. Sattva (essence) is the ascending or 
centripetal tendency, a cohesive force directed towards unity and 
liberation. Rajas (energy) is the revolving tendency, which gives 
impetus to all creative force. Tamas (mass) is the descending or 
contrifugal tendency, the force which causes decomposition and 
annihilation. In their unmanifested state, these gunas are not 
individually distinguishable because they balance each other 
perfectly. The Devibltagavata describes this state thus: 

Before creation this world was devoid of sun, moon, and stars, and 
without day and night. There was no energy and no distinction of 
directions. The Brahmanda [the universe] was then destitute of sound, 
touch, and the like, etc., devoid of other forces, and full of darkness. Then 
but that one eternal Brahman [Cosmic Consciousness] of whom the 
Srutis speak, and the Prakriti [Cosmic Force] who is existence, 
consciousness, and bliss, alone existed. 


When this balance is disturbed there is a loss of equilibrium. This 
is the process of evolution and the world is recreated anew, the 
cycle continuing ceaselessly. Thus, in other terms, tamas is inertia, 
the magnetic force, and rajas is the kinetic force, while sattva is the 
balancing force between the two opposites. When these forces are 
in balance, there is no motion, no manifestation, no flux, only 
perpetual stillness. When this balance is agitated, all the forces 
begin to combine and recombine, evolution takes place and the 
universe is slowly projected in the 'form of waves' till there comes 
a period when everything has a tendency to revert to the primal 
state of equilibrium. 

This phenomenon can be explained by a parallel from modern 
physics, as described by Lincoln Barnett in The Universe and Dr 

The universe is thus progressing toward an ultimate 'heat death' or as it is 
technically defined, a condition of 'maximum entropy'. When the 
universe reaches this state some billions of years from now all the 
processes of nature will cease. All space will be at the same temperature. 
No energy can be used because all of it will be uniformly distributed 
through the cosmos. There will be no light, no life, no warmth - nothing 
but perpetual and irrevocable stagnation. Time itself will come to an end. 
For entropy points the direction of time. Entropy is the measure of 
randomness. When all system and order in the universe have vanished, 
when randomness is at its maximum, an entropy cannot be increased, 
when there no longer is any sequence of cause and effect - in short, when 
the universe has run down - there will be no direction to time, there will 
be no time. And there is no way of avoiding this destiny. 1 

Tantra absorbed and elaborated upon the sum total of 
traditional scientific knowledge in mathematics, astronomy, 
iatrochemistry, alchemy. The invention of the decimal, of 
numeration, including the discovery ofzero in ancient India, is one 
of the greatest contributions to human knowledge. Some other 
discoveries include the heliocentric system of astronomy, the 
concept of lunar mansions, or nakshatras; the precision of 
equinoxes and the determination of their rate; the establishment of 
the luni-solar year; the construction of an astronomical calendar 
on a scientific basis; the rotation of the earth on its axis; the 
knowledge of geometrical principles and a contribution to 
algebraic symbols; the spherical shapes ofthe moon, sun, earth and 
other planets; the mean distances ofthe planets based on the theory 
ofequilinear motion with an elaborate account of various types of 
motion such as rectilinear and curvilinear (vibratory and rotary), 
momentum and impressed motion; the assumption of inter¬ 
planetary attraction in order to explain equilibrium. Tantra's 


Diagram of Jambu-dvipa, the 
island continent. In Puranic and 
Tantric cosmology the Jambu-dvipa 
is the cardinal centre in relation to 
the universe. The symbolic Mount 
Meru in Jambu-dvipa is the axis 
mundi surrounded by a number of 
concentric energy zones. Rajasthan, 
c. 18th century. Ink on paper. 

notions concerning time and space, the nature of light and heat, 
gravity and magnetic attraction, the wave-theory of sound, are 
strikingly similar to the concepts of modern science. It must, 
however, be borne in mind that these scientific generalizations 
were based on intuitive insight, yogic visions and practices, and 
intense observation of natural phenomena, conditioned by an 
ontological viewpoint, and were not determined by experiments 
carried out in accordance with modern methods. These discoveries 
have a direct bearing on tantric thought, its precepts and practices: 
for example, astronomical observations, for tantrikas, have a 
utilitarian value in so far as they are used to determine auspicious 
times for rites and rituals and also are indicators to man's destiny in 
relation to the varying positions of the planets. 

During the sixth or seventh century AD Indian alchemy 
(Rasayana), esoteric in essence, reached its highest development 
among the tantrikas. Mercuric and sulphur preparations and 
chemical substances, but principally mercury, were assumed to 
possess life-prolonging properties. Even today some tantric yogis 
take mercury as a substitute to food to preserve the vital elixir of 


Mf* MM 
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life, for it is believed that only when the body is perfectly attuned 
and strengthened can it experience and sustain the full intensity of 
the cosmic state. 

The forces governing the cosmos on the macro-level govern the 
individual in the micro-level. According to tantra, the individual 
being and universal being are one. All that exists in the universe 
must also exist in the individual body. One of our major 
limitations in discovering the essential unity between the 
microcosm and the macrocosm is that we are accustomed to 
analyse the world into its separate parts, with the result that we lose 
sight of these parts' inter-relationship and their underlying unity. 
The way to fulfilment is through recognition of the wholeness 
linking man and the universe. In recognizing this unity, on the 
other hand, this norm extends our ego-boundaries and liberates us 
from a limited attitude towards the external world. As this feeling 
develops, the external and internal are no longer polarized: they do 
not exclude one another nor are they actually separate, but are 
integrated into a cohesive whole. Thus, the tantrikas see the 
universe as though it were within ourselves, and ourselves as 
though we were within the universe. It is, however, difficult to 
visualize the extent of our latent potentialities because we are 
usually aware of a very small fragment of our being. The outer self 
is only a small projection of the larger inner self. A vast reservoir of 
latent force is waiting to be discovered. The human body, with its 
psychological and biological functions, is a vehicle through which 
the dormant psychic energy, Kundalini Sakti, can be awakened to 
finally unite with the Cosmic Consciousness that is Siva. 

The Kundalini Sakti, the coiled and dormant cosmic power, 
is at the same time the supreme force in the human body. 
According to tantra, this coiled-up energy remains unmanifest 
within us and is said to be a latent reservoir of psychic power. 
The Kundalini Sakti ('coiled-up energy') is the central pivot 
upon which our psychophysical apparatus is based. A trans¬ 
formation and reorientation of this dormant energy is only 
possible through what is called the arousing of the Kundalini 
through the psychic centres in the human body, by activizing its 
ascent it transcends our limitations. When the Kundalini sleeps, 
man is aware of his immediate earthly circumstances only. When 
she awakes to a higher spiritual plane, the individual is not limited 
to his own perception but instead participates in the source of light. 
Thus in her ascent, the Kundalini absorbs within herself all the 
kinetic energy with which the different psychic centres are 
charged. By awakening the Kundalini's dormant force, otherwise 

Purushakara Yantra. Painting 
illustrating the drama of the 
universe in the body of cosmic man. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on cloth. 


Cosmic energy symbolized as the 
serpent power. South India, 18th 
century. Wood. 

absorbed in the unconscious and purely bodily functions, and 
directing it to the higher centres, the energy thus released is 
transformed and sublimated until its perfect unfolding and 
conscious realization is achieved. 

Kundalini's rising, in the language of modern science, means the 
activation of the vast dormant areas of the brain. The neurological 
capacities of the human being are incalculable: according to recent 
findings each individual possesses around 10 billion brain cells; a 


single brain cell may be in relationship to 25,000 others; the 
number of possible associations is astronomical, therefore, being a 
quantity larger than the number of atoms in the universe. At each 
second, the brain receives approximately 100 billion sensations and 
it is estimated that it fires off around 5.000 signals per second. In 
contrast to the vast reservoir of our potentialities, we are aware of 
only one millionth ofour own cortical signalling. And so vast areas 
of the brain, which the neurologists call 'silent areas', remain 
'wasted assets', untapped and unutilized. Once these areas are 
completely active, we have begun to communicate with our own 
higher consciousness. The opening of this centre to its fullest 
capacity enables the Kundalini to ascend to the highest psychic 
centre, Sahasrara, the place of the Cosmic Consciousness, 
symbolized by a thousand petalled lotus located just above the 
head. In the process of Kundalini-yoga, it is said, even the pattern 
of the electrical impulses in the brain is altered. Through tantric 
disciplines, the ascending Kundalini vitalizes the psychic centres in 
the human body, technically called chakras, until it finally reaches 
the Sahasrara where a mystic union takes place. The aspirant thus 
realizes, in a transcendental experience, his union with Siva-Sakti. 

The Kundalini Sakti can be aroused through various meditative 
techniques and processes including the practice of yogic Pran- 
ayama, the control of the vital cosmic life-force. Rhythmical 
breathing makes all the molecules of the body move in the same 
direction in order to gain control ofthe mind. Ifthe air in our lungs 
at any moment contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, atoms, 
we can imagine what current is generated by the movement of all 
the molecules in the system, bringing the restless mind into single¬ 
pointedness. In this state the vibrations of the body become 
perfectly rhythmical and the nerve current is changed into a 
motion similar to electricity, generating a power so tremendous 
that the Kundalini is aroused. 

The attainment of supernatural powers, known as the Siddhis, is 
considered to be the indirect result of this practice. There are 
considered to be eight great Siddhis among which the following 
are best known: Anirna, the power of becoming infinitely small so 
that one can see things ofthe minutest size, even the inner structure 
of the atom; Mahima, the power to become immensely large so 
that one can perceive enormously vast things, the functioning 
of the solar system and that of the universe; Laghima, or 
weightlessness, 'the power to control the earth's attraction on the 
body by developing in each cell the opposite [centripetal] 
tendency'. Others are the power ofleaving the body and entering 


Tantric asana, or sexo-yogic 
posture. Orissa, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

into it at will, mastery over the elements, and supernormal hearing 
so that one can hear 'the grass as it grows'. 

The ascent of Kundalini is accompanied by an experience of a 
mystical light of various colours. The colours of the division of 
Prana do not correspond on what we ordinarily associate with the 
solar spectrum but are the arrangement of colours on a 
supernormal plane. There is a similarity here to Goethe's analysis: 
'Colours have a mystical significance. For every diagram that 
shows the many colours is suggestive of primeval conditions 
which belong equally to man's perceptions as to Nature.' 3 

In recent years physiological scientists have been concerned to 
find out whether restriction of awareness to an unchanging 
stimulus results in a 'turning-off' of consciousness of the external 
world, as it occurs in. say, the practice of meditation. Their 
experiments have shown that when a subject is exposed to a 
continuous visual input or an unchanging stimulus called a 
'ganzfeld' (a patternless visual field) or a 'stabilized image', the 
subject loses complete contact with the external world. This 
phenomenon is, further, attributed to the structure of the central 
nervous system. The results of the tiny electrical potentials 
recorded on the electroencephalograph (EEG) have shown the 
appearance of the alpha rhythm in the brain. Similarly, recent 
studies of yoga also reveal that meditation is a 'high alpha state'. 
Likewise, during the practice of Kundalini-yoga when attention is 
focused in a state of one-pointedness by means of various 
meditative techniques (repetition of mantra, concentration on 
yantra, rhythmic breathing, etc.), the adept loses contact with the 
external world. In consequence, experts conclude that meditation 
is neither 'esoteric nor mysterious' but is a 'practical technique 
which uses an experiential knowledge of the structure of the 
nervous system' and hence is very much within the scope of 
practical applied psychology. 4 

Tantra teaches that the Kundalini Sakti can also be unravelled by 
the practice ofasanas, the sexo-yogic disciplines: 'One must rise by 
that by which one falls.' Those very aspects of human nature which 
bind us can be stepping-stones to liberation. In this discipline, 
sexual impulses become a pathway for opening the realities of the 
cosmos, pointing towards the oneness of the finite and the infinite. 
The ritual of tantra asanas has developed into a formidable series of 
psycho-physical practices to promote the type of discipline 
conducive to meditation. In the act of asana, a man and a woman 
unite, and its fulfilment lies in the realization of one's potential 
with the experience of joy. During sexual union the adepts 


withdraw their minds from their environment. The mind aspires 
to be free. The retention of sexual energy increases inner pressure, 
thus transmitting the sex force into a potency so powerful that the 
psychic current is liberated. 

Tantra asana demonstrates the way by which sexual energy can 
be harnessed for spiritual fulfilment. It teaches us to explore our 
senses rather than to subdue them. The Guhyasamaja Tantra 
categorically affirms; 'No one succeeds in attaining perfection by 
employing difficult and vexing operations; but perfection can be 
gained by satisfying all one's desires.' The tantras are unique in the 
sense of being a synthesis of the opposing dimensions, bhoga 
(enjoyment) and yoga (liberation). Our hedonistic urges based on 
the pleasure principle can be transformed for a spiritual experience. 
To involve oneself in gross pleasure, therefore, can itself be 
regarded as an act of spirituality, provided it is indulged in with a 
right intention and motivation and after adequate initiation. Thus 
sexo-yogic practices become a yoga, or a means for a spiritual 
edification, a vehicle, though conventional wisdom regards sex as 
profane and an obstacle to any form of spiritual progress. 

Sex is regarded as a physical basis of creation and evolution. It is 
the cosmic union of opposites, of the male and female principles, 
and its importance merits fulfilment on the biological plane, 
Tantra, however, makes a distinction between momentary 
pleasure and the joy of union. This joy of union is equated with 
supreme bliss (ananda), obliterating differences between male and 
female in a state of complete union. In this state all impulse and 
function become Siva-Sakti. This ecstasy is experienced as the 
Kundalini rises and unfolds itself. 

A very dynamic role is played by the female aspirant in the 
practice of tantra asana. She is looked upon as an intermediary 
between the transcendent and the imminent, and is regarded as an 
embodiment of Sakti, the active principle. Potentially, she 
embraces within her all the positive attributes with which Sakti is 
endowed. She 'is', in flesh and blood, the goddess. Thus in the 
tantra ritual, woman as the reflection of the female principle, 
becomes the object of worship. She is symbolically transformed 
into a goddess through rituals as in 'Kumari-puja' (virgin worship) 
or ’Sakti-upasana' (female worship). In the ritual the female adept 
is an essential archetypal and monographic image, and is not an 
ordinary woman. 

The extent to which tantra can integrate this archetype into its 
discipline is shown in the life of Chandidas, a high priest rebel-poet 
of 15th-century Bengal, and his love for the washer-maid. Rami. 


The washer-maid represents the primordial Female, a 
personification of its totality. Faced with opposition, Chandidas 
approached his temple deity, the goddess Bashuli, who said to 
him: 'You must love this woman, [as] no god can offer you what 
this woman is able to .' 5 The songs of Chandidas, echoed so often 
by Bengal's Sahaja sect, an offshoot of tantrism, proclaim the 
worship of love: 

One who pervades 
The great Universe 
is seen by none 
unless a man knows 
the unfolding 
of love . 6 

To a Sahajiya (literally, the unconditioned 'spontaneous man') 
the washer-maid, a domni or outcaste woman, is considered to 
be the ideal partner for ritualistic worship. Not conditioned by 
any social and ethical taboos, she enjoys freedom and detachment. 
Tantra's broad-based attitude includes the identity between 'the 
noblest and most precious' and the 'basest and most common'. The 
more common the woman is, the more she is exalted. In old 
Bengali documents there are instances of disputes between the 
adherents of parakiya (asana with another man's wife) and its 
opponents, the champions of conjugal love (svakiya). The latter 
were the losers, which shows the extent of the influence of the 
parakiya ideal. The psychological aspect of parakiya love was 
greatly influenced by the philosophy of eternal love projected in 
the life of Radha, another's wife, the hladini-Sakti or power of bliss, 
which is the very essence ofKrishna. Their inseparable union is a 
divine 'sport' or 'Iila'. This is emphasized in the Sahaja ritual, in 
which a woman participates as if she possessed the nature of Radha 
and a man that of Krishna. Thus, tantric doctrines cut across all 
class stratifications and social barriers, indeed, some ofits sub-sects, 
like the Bauls, go so far as considering that intense awareness ofone 
another can remain constant only when the lovers are not bound to 
one another by the social contract of marriage. 

Tantric rites and rituals are complex and elaborate disciplines 
involving a series of practices. Adept are called sadhaka (male) or 
sadhika (female), and the discipline they follow is known as 
sadhana. It is imperative that the adept should be initiated by a 
qualified guru or spiritual teacher; there is wide variation in the 
mode of instruction. In the primary stages, the adept is given an 
ordinary initiation by means of an elaborate ritual, though a more 


A group of tantrika ascetics. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 

advanced aspirant's initiation is higher and imparted through a 
disciple imbued with deep spiritual experience. 

Three kinds of spiritual aspirants have been distinguished in the 
tantras according to their mental dispositions or stages of spiritual 
consciousness: Pasu, Vira, and Divya. When one is still in bondage 
(pasu) and subject to the common round of conventions, he is led 
along the tantric way by devices suitable to his competency. One 
who is more capable of psycho-spiritual experience of a stronger 
ethical nature (vira) and had the inner strength to 'play with fire', as 
tantra says, is at the middle of the extremes. A man of divya 
disposition is the most developed. His meditative mood is 
spontaneous in him and he is always ready to imbibe spiritual 
experiences, always in ecstasy enjoying the 'inner woman' and 
'wine'. In this state the 'inner woman' is the Kundalini Sakti in the 
body of the worshipper and 'wine' the intoxicating knowledge 
derived from yoga, which renders the worshipper senseless, 'like a 

There are several kinds of tantric practices for the awakening of 
the Kundalini Sakti; among them and most important are 
Dakshinachara or Dakshina Marga, the right-hand path; Va- 
machara or Vama Marga, the left-hand path, in which woman 
(vama) is included; and Kulachara, which is a synthesis of the other 
two. In addition, there are also the mixed practices, such as the 
Vedic, Saiva and Vaishnava. The followers of the left-hand path 
practise the Pancha-Makara rites (five M's), whose name refers to 

the five ingredients beginning with the letter M: Madya, wine; 
Mamsa, meat; Matsya, fish; Mudra, parched cereal; and 
Maithuna, sexual union. The symbolic content of these ingredients 
varies for different classes of aspirants. According to tantra, those 
who are unable to cut the three knots of'shame, hate and fear' are 
not worthy of being initiated into this path. The fundamental 
principle of the left-hand path is that spiritual progress cannot be 
achieved by falsely shunning our desires and passions but by 
sublimating those very aspects which make one fall, as a means of 

During rituals, different rites are performed among which, 
nyasa, the 'ritual projection' of divinities and elements into various 
parts of the body by the adept, is extremely important. While 
practising nyasa, often done with mudras or finger gestures, the 
adept takes the attitude that mantra-sounds or forces are working 
to stimulate the nerve currents for the proper distribution of 
energies through his whole body. He thus projects the power of 
the divinities and at the same time touches the different parts of his 
body in order to symbolically awaken the vital forces lying 

Tantrikas also perform other group-rituals known as Chakra- 
puja or Circle-worship, of which Bhairavi-chakra is the most 
important. In this ritual, the female guru, is worshipped, and the 
practice of the rite is confined to only the highly advanced initiates 
who are generally admitted to the inner circle, which encourages a 
group-mind where each initiate shares a 'psychic blueprint'. 

These group rituals are an attempt to tie together experiential 
and cognitive awareness through in-group practices which have 
not only spiritual but therapeutic value for the adepts. Sharing is 
essential to understand one's self deeply. These rituals are a 

Kundalini in its kinetic aspect. 
Rajasthan, c. 19 th century. 
Gouache on paper. 


'microlab', where one can participate in wide-ranging experiences 
which develop one's own potential in a group setting and make the 
aspirant aware of integrated wholeness through interpersonal 
contact. The application of many and diverse ritual practices such 
as gestures (mudras) and touching the various parts of the body 
(nyasa) not only have symbolic significance but a psychological 
basis as well: they are ’empathy building’ methods which deepen 
concentration and expand the awareness of the aspirants. 

The use of such things as incense, flowers, sandalwood paste, 
honey, etc., and eating and drinking together, foster sensory 
awakening and experience through the senses. Likewise the 
frequent outbursts of the joy chorus' are deep moments of group 
interaction binding each adept into a common genre. Periodic 
observance of these rituals acts as reinforcement and contributes to 
the complete cycle of spiritual development as well as adding 
harmony to life. 

During the performance of special rituals tantric aspirants 
sometimes resort to the use of drugs, drinks and chemicals: 
drinking bhang, a drink made of hemp leaves; or smoking 
ganja, an intoxicant; or smearing the naked body with specially 
prepared ashes. These are used not for mystical illumination but to 
counteract the influence of adverse conditions such as extreme cold 
or heat, hunger and thirst, especially when a prolonged ritual is 
performed under the sky at midnight in solitary places or at a high 

In today's psychedelic rituals, many people have recourse to 
conscious-expanding experiences by means of drugs, to feel the 
'isness of things'. According to the findings of a Harvard 
Psilocybin Project, the persons who took drugs reported that 'One 
moment of clock time in an LSD session can be an eternity of 
ecstasy. . . . These reports, interestingly enough, are quite similar 
to the accounts given by the adepts ofKundalini Yoga and certain 
forms of Tantrism.' 7 The resemblance of the LSD experience to 
that of the yogi is only a close approximation to its real nature. 
There are essential differences between the two. A 'chemical 
pilgrimage' is a short-lived experience initiated and prolonged by 
artificial means and exists isolated from life. On the other hand, a 
yogi's experience is the outcome of a discipline, set within a certain 
psychological and spiritual framework. His outer life is controlled 
by his inner, so that even while withdrawing from the outer world 
he is not alienated from life, since he is firmly established within 
A practising tantrika in the himself. Every movement, thought and action is performed for 

Himalayas. the attainment of a prescribed goal. He awakens his inner forces 


but at the same time maintains perfect lucidity and self-control, the 
resulting experience of which is neither hallucinogenic nor 
artificial. His experience is an everlasting one, whereas a 'chemical 
pilgrimage' is principally indulged in spasmodically for momen¬ 
tary thrills invariably bringing depression and in many cases 
ending with drug addiction. 

In tantric rituals, particularly in the twilight (sandhya) rituals 
performed at the conjunction of day and night or at midnight, a 
secret language known as Sahdhya-bhasha or Sahdha-bhasha is 
used by which a state of consciousness is expressed in ambiguous 
terms with erotic meanings. The symbolic contents of these terms 
are not intelligible to non-initiates, thus, for example: 'inserting his 
organ into the mother's womb', 'pressing his sister's breasts', 
'placing his foot upon the guru's head', 'he will be reborn no 
more'. In sandha terminology, the 'organ' is the contemplating 
mind; the 'mother's womb' is the Muladhara chakra, or base 
centre; the 'sister's breasts' are the heart centre (Anahata chakra), 
and the 'guru's head' is the brain centre (Sahasrara). These code 
terms, if translated, mean, to quote Agehananda, 'He practises 
mental penetration through the successive centres, and when he 
reaches the uppermost centre, he will not be [re-] born. According 
to some scholars, Sandhya-bhasha means 'twilight' or 'secret' 
language, though others call it Sandha-bhasha, or 'intentional' 
language, in which many passages of tantric texts are composed. 
Whatever its meaning, it has an equivocal significance, partly to 
conceal the real meaning of the terminology from non-initiates 
but also, as Eliade says, 'Chiefly to project the yogin into the 
"paradoxical situation" indispensable to his training.' 8 The process 
of destroying and reinventing terminology, and even a guru's 
abusive language, recall present-day 'agression rituals' practised in 
group psychotherapy as a form of linguistic catharsis, using 
offensive language as a means to avert psychotic behaviour and to 
live constructively with the collective psyche. In tantrism, 
however, abusive language has a double meaning, 'concrete' and 
'symbolic', mainly to transubstantiate that experience into 

Tantric rites and rituals can be performed either on the mental 
plane or by the use of mantras or sacred words, diagrams, deities, 
ritual ingredients. These accessories are not considered and used 
according to their function in daily life but have deep spiritual 
significances. Mantras are indispensible to tantric discipline. 
Literally translated, the word mantra means 'that which when 
reflected upon gives liberation'. A mantra cannot be enlivened 


until it is repeated and creates a wave pattern (japa), accompanied 
by a clear grasp of its meaning and a proper articulation of its 
letters. Each letter of the mantra is charged with energy and creates 
vibrations in the inner consciousness. Sound vibrations are said to 
be the manifestation of the Sakti and consequently are sound 
equivalents of the deities. Mantras may seem meaningless and 
unintelligible to the non-initiate, but to the adept who has received 
right instruction from a guru, they are seeds of spiritual power. 

The Primal Sound as the monosyllabic mantra Om is the basis of 
cosmic evolution. All the elemental sound-forms of mantras 
emanate from this eternal sound. Sound and form are inter¬ 
dependent, and every form is a vibration of a certain density; 
conversely, every sound has a visual equivalent. Sound is the reflex 
of form and form is the product of sound. All that is animate and 
inanimate are vibrations of a particular frequency. All the mantras 
have their colour forms, and when a mantra is pronounced 
properly its visual correlates begin to manifest. The dynamic 
power-pattern rooted in sound by which it is revealed is called a 

A yantra, which means 'aid' or 'tool', is generally drawn on 
paper or engraved on metal, either to aid meditation or as a 
tangible image of the deity. Just as a mantra is a sound equivalent, 
the yantra is a diagrammatic equivalent of the deity and consists of 
linear and spatial geometrical permutations of the deity. The 
primal abstract shapes, such as the point, line, circle, triangle, 
square, are harmonized in composition to provide a formal 
equilibrium which is both static and dynamic. A common feature 
of the yantra is that it possesses an element of centrality around 
which the whole figure is built up. The centre as point of origin 
and balance evokes the idea of emanation and radiation. 
Enveloped in vertical and horizontal extensions it conveys a sense 
of formal mathematical order and regularity. 

A set of seven paintings illustrating 
various phases of cosmic evolution 
and involution. Rajasthan, 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

Om, the cosmic sound, is a 
combination of three syllables - a, 
u, m - that represent three phases 
of the cosmic cycle - creation, 
preservation and dissolution - 
condensed into a single sound unit. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

Thus, yantra represents an energy pattern whose force increases 
in proportion to the abstraction and precision of the diagram. 
Through these power-diagrams creation and control of ideas are 
said to be possible. The principle behind this tenet is that just as each 
form is the visible product of any energy pattern rooted in sound, 
so, reciprocally, each visible form carries with it its own implicit 
power-diagram. Hence the yantra ought not to be considered a 
schematic sketch of tantric astronomical and astrological maps and 
computations, but a linear image revealed to the adept. All the 
elemental geometrical figures of which a yantra is constructed and 
other forms of meditative diagrams or psycho-cosmic energy 
charts have symbolic values. They can be composed into a 
complex structure to represent forces and qualities of the cosmos in 
elemental forms. For the tantrika, therefore, these diagrams are 
potent in that they are not only conscious entities, but, 
symbolically, consciousness itself. 

As in the yantra one looks for an affinity between the centre 
which represents the focal area of psychic power and the core of 
one's own consciousness, so also in the mandala a similar identity is 
sought and expressed. The mandala, the word means circle, is an 
archetypal image signifying wholeness and totality. It represents 


Shyama (Kali) Yantra. Rajasthan 
18th century. Gouache on paper. 

the cosmos or the potent core of psychic energy, and is a perennial 
balance of foree whose beginning is in its end, whose end is in its 
beginning. Within its perimeter a complexity of visual metaphors 
- square, triangle, labyrinthine patterns - represent the absolute 
and the paradoxical elements of totality. Usually painted on cloth 
or paper, the mandala is widely used in tantric worship and forms 
an essential part of the ritual. The adept is initiated to visualize the 
primal essence of the mandala in its external form and then to 
internalize it through contemplation into a psychic force. Thus the 
circle as a symbol of wholeness functions as a 'paradigm of 
involution and evolution'. 

Like the mandalas and yantras, the egg-shaped Brahmanda, the 
globe-shaped Salagrama, and the Siva-linga, mostly in stone and 
used for ritual, manifest a realization of the wholeness. In the 
Brahmanda, 'Brahma-Anda', the totality is represented in the 
form of an egg. The Brahman (the Absolute) is symbolized as a 
curve which surrounds the universe and forms the egg (Anda), the 
Cosmic Egg (Brahmanda). Siva-linga is a term commonly applied 
to the phallus, though according to the Skcinda Parana, the linga 
means the all-pervading space in which the whole universe is in the 
process of formation and dissolution. Linga stands in the yoni - the 


Brahmanda, cosmic spheroid, a 
symbol ofall-petyasive reality. 
Banaras, contemporary traditional 
form. Stone. 

Lingam with the serpent power, 
Kunclalini, ascending to its apex. 
Banaras, contemporary. Stone. 

womb of Prakriti, symbol of the female principle or the kinetic 
aspect giving rise to all vibration and movement. In a state beyond 
manifestation or a state of repose or balance, the yoni is represented 
by the circle, the central point being the root of the linga. In 
differentiated creation, however, or a state of activity it becomes 
distinct, and the circle is transformed into a triangle - the yoni, the 
source of manifestation. Thus the point, Bindu, in the circle is an 
acceptance of all: it neither posits nor negates but incorporates all 
into its endless form. These are essential figurations in the 
symbolism of tantra, whether expressed in abstract form or 
anthropomorphically, as when the Linga-yoni is revealed in the 
form of Ardhanarisvara, possessing male and female attributes, 
conjoined together, signifying psychic totality. 

Through successive stages of the transformation of matter and 
its reduction to its absolute essence, the tantric artist's first concern 
is to bring out the hidden universality ofbasic forms. He does not 
attempt to absorb something external but releases what he has 
experienced inwardly. Concerned with the realities of life, tantra 
art is firmly rooted in spiritual values. This form of com- 


munication becomes a way oflife and creates concepts and forms 
whereby deepest intuitions are crystallized and conveyed to others, 
thus giving universality to the personal expression of art. 

In tantric imagery, the power-patterns and configurations are 
built up from primal abstract forms to complexity. This form of 
imagery is intuitively apprehended and is based on irreversible 
cosmic principles. There are no variables, but a continuum of 
spatial experiences whose 'essence' precedes its existence: the 
whole meaning is already present before the form is executed. 
These art forms retain their intrinsic character and serve to create 
visual reactions both psychological and spiritual. 

Tantra art, like most other forms of Indian art, is anonymous, 
coming down to us from very ancient times. Some of the art 
objects are dated and their provenance is known; others, like 
Brahmandas, Salagramas, Siva-lingas, are expressions of ageless 
types which have survived due to their extensive use in worship 
and ritual. However, the traditional task of codifying the 
philosophical and scientific norms of tantra is fast disappearing and 
can be found only in isolated areas. 

Ardhanarisvara. The natural 
markings on the egg-shaped 
sculptural form illustrate the divine 
biunity of male and female 
principles in a single unit. Banaras, 
contemporary expression of 
traditional form. Stone. 

Ardhanarisvara. This 
hermaphroditic image of Siva and 
Parvati as half male and half 
female illustrates the dual principles 
in harmonious unity. Brij Nagar 
Museum, Rajasthan, c. 12th 
century. Stone. 


Hari-Hara. Painting illustrating 
Vishnu (Had) on the left fused 
with Siva (Hara) on the right. 

The androgynous deity, widely 
worshipped in South India as 
Aiyanar, symbolizes the creative 
power of preservation and 
dissolution of the eternal cycle of the 
universe. Kangra, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

Combining as it does art, science and ritual, tantra shows the 
way to self-enlightenment. The way to the goal is within, in every 
atom of our being. We learn it by living it. Both external and 
internal practices are necessary. 

Today's artist employs abstract forms of representation to 
express the complexities oflife and nature, an approach which in 
tantra art dates back several centuries. Many of the tantric forms, 
their colour combinations, patterns and structures, bear striking 
resemblance to the works of contemporary artist. The essential 
difference between the two, however, is that the tantric artists 
expose in their art mysteries of the universe and the laws which 
govern them. Tantra art has a deeper significance when compared 
with barren abstraction, which has arisen principally from a search 
for the unconventional. Tantra art owes its origin to a deep 
spiritual faith and vision. Philip Rawson observes: 

The essence of these works is that they are all meant to provide a focus for 
meditation. Their diagrams are meant to open doors in the mind that 
reflects them, and so open for it a new and higher level of consciousness. It 
is not surprising that the current Pop-LSD cult, led by Dr Timothy 
Leary, should have latched on to one or two of these visual images - 
though I am sure few of the devotees realize how far this art goes. They 
may well discover from this book 9 that it could offer them far more than 
a simple breaking-down of conceptual cages. It could give them 
something on which to build a permanent intuition, as inner vision that 
does not need repeated 'trips'. 10 

Equally significant are tantra's views on the expanded concept of 
man which reflects his relationship to the vast-scale cosmos within 


which a single individual has the possibility of extending, his 
awareness into the outer reaches of space. It conceives of the human 
body as the physical substratum to highest awareness, and the raw 
material for further transformation, where even conjugal love and 
sex are considered a means to supreme joy and spiritual edification; 
its unconventional and spontaneous approach to life, with its 
psycho-experimental content, offers a complete reorientation of 
our outlook on the world at large. 

Similarly important are tantra's concepts of the polarity 
principle determining the relationship between man and woman, a 
creative interaction in which the conflict between outward and 
inward, of head and heart, can be resolved. In the tantric method, 
the female force is all-important, since it offers the key to a creative 
life in the act of living it. The preponderance of masculinity, with 
its aggressiveness and relative lack of feminine qualities, has created 
an imbalance in today's society. To experience the basic sensation 
of being T in its totality is to equilibrate the two opposites, 
masculinity and feminity. In tantric terms it means a synthesis, a 
development of feminity within each one of us. The higher our 
spiritual evolution, the more feminine-affirmative will be our level 
of consciousness, in relation to the masculine-negative. 

Thus tantra opens up a new vista in its ideological and spiritual 
concepts, and its spectrum of experiential techniques provides a 
possible psychotherapeutic alternative in the quest of a love and joy 
that unite. 

Jcman ycintra. 



The art which has evolved out of tantrism reveals an abundant 
variety of forms, varied inflections of tone and colours, graphic 
patterns, powerful symbols with personal and universal 
significance. It is specially intended to convey a knowledge 
evoking a higher level of perception, and taps dormant sources of 
our awareness. This form of expression is not pursued like 
detached speculation to achieve aesthetic delight, but has a deeper 
meaning. Apart from aesthetic value, its real significance lies in its 
content, the meaning it conveys, the philosophy of life it unravels, 
the world-view it represents. In this sense tantra art is visual 


The foundations of tantra art are based on the spiritual values 
which surround Indian art in general. Though it projects visual 
imagery in its own special manner, tantra art shares a common 
heritage. According to age-old tradition, the beautiful and the 
spiritual form an inseparable whole. Beauty is a symbol of the 
divine. A striking enunciation of this principle can be found in 
Samyutta Nikaya (V.2): Ananda, the beloved disciple of the 
Buddha said to the Master, 'Half of the holy life, O Lord, is 
friendship with the beautiful, association with the beautiful, 
communion with the beautiful.' 'It is not so, Ananda, it is not so,' 
said the Master; 'It is not half of the holy life; it is the whole of the 
holy life.' Ifbeauty reflects divinity, conversely and by implication 
reality must be made visible in terms no less than the highest ideals 
of beauty conceived by man whatever the nature of the semblance 
- by means of a symbol, a pattern, or an anthropomorphic form. 
Admittedly, this approach aspires to a transcendent vision, arising 
principally from untutored vision of 'closed-eye perception'. An 
act of creation becomes, as it were, a contemplative process, an 
orchestral symphony in which both the seer and the seen become 

Om, the Primal Sound as the 
monosyllabic mantra, is the basis of 
cosmic evolution. On the left the 
tantric Trinity. Brahma, Vishnu 
and Siva, with the Sakti on the 
right. Manuscript page, Rajasthan, 
18th century. Gouache on paper. 


Rama and Sita, conceived as 
Vishnu and Laksmi in the Suriya 
or sun-disc mandala. Rajasthan, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 

one. What follows from this hypothesis is that what merely 
influences the senses and titilates the eye is no longer creative. To 
reduce art, as Coomaraswamy pointed out, and speak of it 
'exclusively in terms of sensation is to do violence to the inner 
man'. 11 The scope of art is limited if it does not emancipate us from 
surface perception. 

That emancipation is precisely what tantra art aims at achieving. 
Through the vocabulary of art, it teaches us to understand the 
world in a way that our experience of it is enriched and deepened. 
It frees our mundane reactions so that our dissipated perceptions - a 
mass of indistinct spatial configurations - are woven into a 
significant idea and, consequently, we do not lose their 
psychological impact. Being essentially a product of the thinking 
eye, equilibrated by reason, tantra art affirms the Kantian dictum, 
if we apply it to the context of art, that 'form without content is 
meaningless, content without form is blind'. From this per- 


spective, tantric imagery is not an arbitrary invention derived 
from the chaos of artistic manipulation because, in the last analysis, 
behind the symbols are the purest abstractions revealed and 
visualized during contemplation. 

In a quest for unity, the tantric artist identifies with the universal 
forces and is driven to find a truer reality beyond appearances by 
which a synthesis can be achieved between the external world and 
the interior model: a macrocosmic vision which allows the artist to 
come into familiar contact with the space-time continuum. The 
world of art and the world of experience, though different in their 
very nature, are not separate entities. Art is not wholly divorced 
from experience; a thread of continuity binds one world with the 
other. The tantric artist is not alienated from nature, but is very 
much in unison with the order which constitutes it. His art is a 
projection of an intrinsic consciousness permeating the outer and 
the inner worlds. In this sense the artist is a link between art and life 
stretched to a point between life and cosmos. 

The art of tantra expresses this unity amidst the diverse physical 
forces which constitute nature, and the many is thus harmonized 
into a whole. The appearance of unity is a reality to the artist and is 
reflected in the images he creates. To break the dimensional limits 
of a work of art in the quest for a psycho-physical unity with the 
essential forces of nature is a universal urge, not subject to the 
limitations of time. The contemporary artist Lucio Fontana 
comments: 'I do not want to make a painting. I want to open up 
space, create a new dimension for art, be one with the cosmos as it 
endlessly expands beyond the confine of the picture.' 12 The 
continuity which effects cohesion and unity illustrates that 
synthesis and gives art a universal significance. In the words of 
Aurobindo, it reveals: 

a fourth dimension of aesthetic sense, 

where all is in ourselves, ourselves in all- 

Most tantric images tend to stress the analogies between the 
individual and the cosmos, and the life forces which govern them, 
and in a way mirror Aurobindo's statement. They are reflections of 
something taking place in real life and constantly reminding us 
through the visions of the yogis what our true nature is. 

In this form of representation, tantric images have a meditative 
resilience expressed mostly in abstract signs and symbols. Vision 
and contemplation serve as a basis for the creation of free abstract 
structures surpassing schematic intention. A geometrical 


Yoni, the emblem ofSakti, the 
creative genetrix of the Universe. 
South India, early 19th century, 

configuration such as a triangle representing Prakriti or female 
energy, for example, is neither a reproduced image nor a confused 
blur of distortion but a primal root-form representing the 
governing principle of life in abstract imagery as a sign. In these 
types of representation which are abstract as opposed to imitative, 
universal as against individualistic, cognitive as opposed to 
emotional, the tantric artist's vision of reality is deeply conditioned 
by tradition and inheritance, subjugating his purely personal 
subjective expression to a generic one. Tantric art embraces and 
reflects the continuity of tradition: once a particular image was 
revealed and accepted, it continued to retain its significance 
through the centuries. Thus tantric forms have acquired a timeless 
quality and a common denominator. They function as signs which 
pre-exist and are conditioned by pre-established codes similar to 
mathematical formulae. They are, therefore, not subject to 
constant metamorphosis. 


Symbolism and Imagery 

Tantric forms are represented in a purely allegorical manner where 
representation of one order of ideas is achieved by an image used as 
a symbol. The forms have acquired meanings through usage and 
cultural conditioning. Many tantric symbols appear to be absorbed 
subliminally and produced spontaneously and unconsciously in 
contemplative vision or creative psychic manifestations; con¬ 
versely, they have a communicative aspect and elicit ideas with 
strong metaphysical undertones. Their real significance lies in their 
function as psychic associations in the conscious mind. 

Symbols seldom appear directly, and their inner meaning ever 
eludes the eye; however enigmatic they may appear, they are 
only the means of knowing reality in images. Hence the wide- 
ranging symbology of tantric art necessitates some acquaintance 
with the tantric texts. Most of the symbols are very old and can be 
traced back to the Vedic period (c. 2000 BC). In the Rig Veda, the 
creative principle of life is conceived of as a 'golden embryo' or 
Hiranya-garbha, the womb of energy from which the universe 
develops. The same symbol is crystallized in the conception of the 
Siva-linga, or Cosmic Egg, in the tantras. Ageless symbols live 
incarnate from one period to the other and continue to survive 

Salagrama, symbol of Lord 
Narayana or Vishnu, in his aspect 
as Sridhara. Banaras, contemporary 
expression of traditional form. 


Brahmanda, the 'Cosmic -Egg', used 
in ritual as manifesting a 
realization of wholeness. The 
entire universe is symbolized in this 
egg-shaped form. From the 
Narmada river-bed, Western India. 


Siva-linga with yoni-pitha, 
beneath a banyan tree. The figure 
of the bull of Siva, Nandi, stands 
between an early iconographic 
image of Siva, on the left, and his 
symbol, linga with yoni, on the 
right. Bastar, Madhya Pradesh, 
c. 13th century. Stone. The brass 
figure of Nandi is a contemporary 
tribal artefact. 

through successive generations. In this respect the varied forms of 
tantra present a living art functioning within the confines of 
defined traditional limits. 

Tantric imagery cannot be understood purely on the level of art 
criticism, analysing it on the basis of style, form, compositional 
elements, colour symbolism, and the like. Its concept overrides the 
percept, for tantra is predominantly a way of knowledge, a way of 
life with its exclusive concern for enlightenment. Its art, therefore, 
is intimately related to living rites. Art and ritual in tantra are 
umbilically dependent. As ritual enfolds the entire multiplicity of 
life, equally it also creates and multiplies art symbols to suit its 
specific context. Art and ritual merge into each other and combine 
their resources in exploring and expressing the meaning of 
existence, affording an experience to the neophyte which leads him 
to inner realization. Art, thus, holds out a new dimension to ritual 
and makes its generic symbols emotionally cogent to the 

Most tantric images, if not all, serve as intermediaries between 
the transcendent and the immanent to a greater or lesser degree, 
forming indissoluble cosmic links through which reality is made 


visible and eventually apprehended. Of necessity, they follow a 
specific semantic code, though there may be a variation in 
technique and medium. This can, perhaps, be demonstrated by a 
parallel. The Mevlevi Dervishes, by their whirling movements, 
induce ecstatic states to dispose the psyche to return to its centre. 
Here, dance ceases to be an exercise of the muscles or mere bodily 
movement and is instead an interpreting medium which brings the 
dancer to transforming self-realization. Similarly, in tantric art 
ritualized symbols are freed of their illusory existence and acquire a 
dynamic potency. They function as a psychic matrix which 
ultimately aids the initiate to illuminate himself. In this interaction, 
therefore, the relationship of art to ritual becomes clearer: these 
forms become vehicles of self-enlightenment. Having arisen from 
ritual they are absorbed back into ritual: ritual becomes the sine qua 
non of art. By combining with ritual, art assumes a social function, 
and it is precisely this aspect which supports the continuity of 
tradition. If ritual vanishes from the scene because of changes in the 
structural pattern of society, art forms will also atrophy and in the 
last analysis will become merely 'history'. 

Art's intimate relationship to ritual is not limited to transcen- 
dentally ideal forms but extends to include real objects found in the 
natural environment of the Sadhaka (spiritual aspirant). In this 

River-bed where the egg-shaped 
Brahmandas, or elliptical stones 
known as Banalingas, are found. 
Their cosmic spheroid shape, 
marked with auspicious signs and 
with a natural polish, result from 
the action of strong water currents. 
Those gathered from the bed of the 
Narmada river in Western India 
are highly prized and are known as 
Narmadesvara. They are the 
Saivite counterparts of Vaishnavite 

Auspicious symbols. All the 
principal divinities are related by 
association to certain traditional 
insignia representing the Universal 
One. Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Ink and gouache on cloth. 

respect as well tantra art illustrates its synthesizing force by 
striking a balance between beauty and functionality. For a tantrika, 
art has a clear-cut purpose within its defined limits, and there is 
little scope for ambiguities, experimentation or individual 

To understand its pictorial range, tantric imagery can be 
broadly grouped into (1) psycho-cosmic forms and diagrams such 
as yantras and mandalas: (2) visual representations of the subtle 
body or its constituents; (3) astronomical and astrological 
computations; (4) iconographic images, asanas and certain 
accessories used in rituals. The purely formal qualities of tantra's 
diverse imagery can be distinguished into abstract and repre¬ 
sentational; as we find in the ovoid form as opposed to its 


figurative representation. The Sukranitisara, a medieval Indian 
treatise, explains this distinction in terms of the qualities the art 
form represents and the corresponding emotive response it evokes. 
These qualities are sattvika (serene and sublime images), rajasika 
(dynamism and kinaesthetics) and tamasika (the terrifying aspects 
ofPrakriti), true to the characteristic antinomianism of the tantras. 

The tree of life. The individual 
soul (the bird at the right), 
symbolic of worldly attachments, 
eats the fruits from the tree of life, 
while the universal soul (the bird 
on the left) looks on with 
detachment. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

Yantras and Mandalas 

In tantric abstraction, the yantras and mandalas exemplify 
dynamic relationships concretized in the rhythmic order elab¬ 
orated out of the multiplicity of primal forms. A yantra is 
conceived and designed, as Heinrich Zimmer points out: 


Yantra. Rajasthan, c. llth century. 
Copper plate. 

As support for meditation and serves as (1) a representation of some 
personification or aspect of the divine, (2) a model for the worship of a 
divinity immediately within the heart, after the paraphernalia of outward 
devotion (idol, perfumes, offerings, audibly uttered formulae) have been 
discarded by the advanced initiate, (3) a kind of chart or schedule for the 
gradual evolution of a vision while identifying the Self with its slowly 
varying contents, that is to say, with the divinity in all its phases of 
transformation. In this case yantra contains dynamic elements. 

We may say, then, that a yantra is an instrument designed to curb the 
psychic forces by concentrating them on a pattern, and in such a way that 
this pattern becomes reproduced by the worshipper's visualizing power. 
It is a machine to stimulate inner visualizations, meditations, and 
experiences. The given pattern may suggest a static vision of the divinity 
to be worshipped, the superhuman presence to be realized, or it may 
develop a series of visualizations growing and unfolding from each other 
as the links or steps of a process.' 13 

As the yantra is constructed step by step, the sign begins to convey 
a lived experience. 

Yantra is a pure geometric configuration without any 
iconographic representation. Some yantras are constructed wholly 
before meditation and are images of the cosmos, while others are 


built up in stages during the entire process of meditation. The first 
sort provides an immediate model to the adept for identification, 
while in the second his concentration progresses gradually, along 
with the construction of the image, until it is completed. 

Yantras are of various kinds, representing deities like Siva, 
Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesa, and various manifestations ofSakti such 
as Kali, Tara, Bagala, Chinnamasta; each has its corresponding 
yantras. In some yantras, the sound equivalents of the deities are 
symbolically represented by the Sanskrit seed syllables inscribed in 
the spaces within the pattern: 'Twofold is the aspect of Divinity, 
one, subtle, represented by the mantra, and the other, gross, 
represented by an image' (Yamala). The mantric syllable 
symbolizes the essence of divinity. Other yantras do not represent 
deities but are emblems of an energy pattern of the cosmos and are 
worshipped for various purposes, mainly for the attainment of 
spiritual enlightenment. It must be emphasized, however, that, of 
whatever type they may be and for whatever purpose they are 
invoked, yantras are usually represented in pure geometrical 
abstraction. The predominant elementary forms of which yantras 
are constituted are the point, line, circle, triangle, square and the 
lotus symbol; all of these forms are juxtaposed, combined, 
intersected and repeated in various ways to produce the desired 

Thus it is clear that the tantrikas dispensed with conventional 
ideas of the dynamics of form, and concentrated instead on another 
aspect. They had recourse to the explanation of primordial forces 
and vibrations in order to understand the hidden logic behind 
phenomena, so that in tantric abstraction, form is seen in the 
context of its origin and genesis, in terms of the basic impulse 
which has shaped it. In this way, for example, tantra regards 
vibration as a primary cosmogenic element which gives rise to all 
structures and movement. If we could penetrate the reality behind 
appearances, ostensibly static structures could be seen as vibrational 
patterns, which are often illustrated in series of tantric paintings. As 
movement increases, form is condensed into a 'whole' which is 
represented as a mathematical point of zero dimension. When the 
movement decreases, currents and eddies are set in motion and 
form becomes more differentiated; the bindu begins to evolve into 
a primary geometrical shape till the multiple spaces interpenetrate, 
overlap, collide and generate energy to form the whole pattern. 
The diagrams of tantra art which reveal expansion and contraction 
of forces in the ongoing process of creation could aptly be termed 
forms where energy is represented as immobilized. 


The goddesses Dhumavati (right) 
and Chinnamasta (left), with 
their appropriate yantras below. 
Dhumavati, one of the important 
goddesses of the tantric mahavidyas, 
is pale in complexion to symbolize 
the upper spheres. Chinnamasta, in 
her creative and destructive aspects, 
signifies apparent dissolution and 
return to the elements. The classical 
imagery of these two icons is 
transformed into a geometrical 
energy-pattern, or yantra. Though 
differing in appearance, the 
representational and abstract 
patterns bear a simultaneous 
likeness in meaning and content. 
From an illuminated manuscript 
page. Nepal, c. 1760. Gouache on 

To the tantrika these abstract terms reveal a significant order of 
nature and resemble what to us, in the twentieth century, would 
seem like the energies of science. Cymatics, a field of research 
which studies the tangible effects of wave and vibrational processes 
in material and in nature, has revealed many richly diverse 
structures: vortices, hexagons, rectangles, overlapping patterns, 
some of which resemble the primary shapes at the basis of tantric 
imagery. The effects ofcymatic phenomena are demonstrated, for 
example, in the fact that when lycopodium powder is excited by 
vibration, a number of circular piles which rotate on their own 
axes are formed. If the vibrations are intensified the piles migrate 
towards the centre. 

Commenting on this process Dr Hans Jenny, exponent of 
cymatic research, states: 

Whether the heaps unite to make larger ones or whether they break up 
into a number of smaller piles, they invariably form whole units. Each of 
them is participative in the whole in regard to both form and process. 

This brings us to a particular feature of vibrational effects: they may be 
said to exemplify the principle of wholeness. They can be regarded as 


The Universe and the terrestrial 
sphere. The sixty-three layers, in 
the upper and nether worlds and 
the central earth zone, merge into 
boundless space. Rajasthan, 
c. 1800. Gouache on paper. 


Diagram illustrating the eternal 
recurrence of the sevenfold division 
of the Universe as a cosmic river of 
time and reality. A manuscript page 
from Rajasthan, c. 19 th century. 

Ink on paper. 

models of the doctrine of holism: each single element is a whole and 
exhibits unitariness whatever the mutations and changes to which it is 
subjected. And always it is the underlying vibrational processes that 
sustain this unity in diversity. In every part, the whole is present or at least 
suggested. 14 

A yantra is very often referred to as an energy pattern or a 
power-diagram. As images of primal energy yantras reveal the 
varying scales ofreality which denote cosmos, infinity, time, space 
or the play of polarities. Since we interpret infinity in finite terms 
we are forced to express the limitless in relative terms by creating 
mathematical patterns of virtual space. The yantras are not only 
based on mathematical form but also on a mathematical method. 
The artist must look beyond appearances and penetrate to 
structure and essence; he must reorganize reality in terms of 
distinctions and relationships of mathematical dimensions. Here 
Cezanne's proposition comes to mind: 'To relate nature to the 
cylinder, the sphere, the cone, all put into perspective so that each 
side ofthe object, ofa plane, moves towards a central point. ,I5 The 
minimal representation of pervading consciousness is the exten¬ 
sionless mathematical point of zero dimension, bindu, placed in the 
centre ofthe yantra. Bindu is the ultimate point of power beyond 
which a thing or energy cannot be contracted or condensed. By 
virtue of its nature, it is the repository of all manifestation in its 
complexity and variety and the basis of all vibration, movement 
and form: ’Transcending the tattvas [elements] is the Bindu' 
(Yamala). As a centre, the point controls everything which is 
projected from it; such a centre is called mahabindu, or Great 


Point, and signifies the starting-point in the unfolding of inner 
space, as well as the last point of its ultimate integration. A point 
also functions as a 'mental point' or 'mano-bindu', serving as the 
vehicle of the mind, an area which is the meeting-ground of 
subject and object. 

Unbroken series of points which have length without breadth, 
moving independently, form a straight line. The straight line 
signifies growth and development and like time, consists of an 
infinite number of points, each discreetly in space. Pure linear 
patterns are drawn lyrically to illustrate sound vibrations, or 
geometrically in criss-cross manner, to form a certain order of the 
divisions of space, measures of time and the base lines of the 
universe. A striking line-form is the Matrika Yantra: on a plane of 
yellow ochre horizontal surface, a sweeping red line evokes tension 
and divides the picture field. The red line denotes Sakti as the 
epitome of energy. 

The circle occurs very frequently in yantras and mandalas and is 
derived principally from the motion of the revolution of planets. It 
symbolizes wholeness or totality and, in a yantra, is normally 
placed within a square pattern with four re-entrant gates. The 
square symbolizes the elemental earth or the material quality of 
nature. The four gates represent the earthly plane which one must 
transcend gradually to identify with the core of the pattern in 
which resides the essence. 

The triangle, on the other hand, or trikona, represents the three 
worlds, the three gunas: the neutral, the positive and the negative - 
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The triangle with its apex downwards 
represents the yoni or female organ, the seat of Sakti, the female 
energy or nature (Prakriti). The triangle pointing upwards is 
identified with the male principle (Purusha). When the two 
triangles penetrate each other in the form of a five-pointed star or a 
pentagon, each of its five points represent the five elements - earth 
(kshiti), water (ap), energy (tejas), air (marut), and space 
(vyoman). During contemplation, when the aspirant brings the 
five elements of his body into harmonious accord with the five 
constituents of which the energy pattern is constructed, he 
becomes 'the perfect man' and 'locks the pentagon within him'. 
The two interlocking triangles in the form of a hexagon, however, 
symbolize the revolving or kinetic tendency (of Rajas) from the 
point of view of genesis. Hence the union of two triangles 
symbolizes the union of Siva-Sakti manifesting in the creation of 
the objective universe. When the two triangles are separated and 
form an hour-glass pattern or the shape of a damaru, the drum of 


Sri Yantra. Rajasthan, 18th 
century. Bronze. 

Bhairava (the destructive aspect of Siva), they represent dissolu¬ 
tion; time and space cease to exist. 

Dynamic colour-form units are created by the spatial in¬ 
tegration of these primal forms. A dot appearing in the centre, a 
line intersecting a plane surface, circles in a square or simply an eye 
full of etherized colour, create soaring trajectories of the spirit. 
Innate simplicity of composition is identified with spiritual 
presence. The projection of the symbol is often direct and bold, so 
that even a small miniature can create a sense of expansiveness. The 
dynamism of tantric imagery's abstraction is not 'gestural' but is 
generated by and strives for a geometric order. It is this quality 
which gives these psychic improvisations a transcendental quality. 

According to Tantraraja Tantra, there are 960 yantras. Sri 
Yantra, the most celebrated one, projects a very important 
philosophical segment of tantric thought. It is difficult to 
determine the exact date of its conception and construction, 
though it must have been conceived very early and has been 
transmitted through centuries. Many tantric texts, such as the 
Kamakalavilasa, have explained the nature, significance, con¬ 
struction and application of Sri Yantra, and description ofits basic 
form can also be found in the Saundaryalahari traditionally ascribed 
to Sankara (8th century AD). 


The Sri Yantra is a configuration of nine interlacing triangles 
centred around the bindu, drawn by the superimposition of five 
downward-pointing triangles, representing Sakti, and four 
upright triangles, representing Siva. Because it is a composition of 
nine (nava) triangles (yoni) it is often called 'Navayoni Chakra'. 

The Sri Yantra is a symbolic pattern of Sakti's own form 
(svarupa), powers and emanations, the form of the universe 
(visvarupa), symbolizing the various stages of Sakti's descent in 
manifestation. It is a pictorial illustration of the cosmic field in 
creation. Like creation itself, the Sri Yantra came into being 
through the force of primordial desire. The impulse of desire 
(Kamakala), born of the inherent nature of Prakriti, creates a throb 
(spanda) which vibrates as sound (nada). This manifestation is 
represented by a point, or bindu. In the first state of manifestation, 
the bindu is called Para Bindu, which is the nucleus of the 
condensed energy, the seed of the ultimate Sound, and the 
dynamic and static aspects of the two (Siva-Sakti) in one. It 
contains all the possibilities ofbecoming; it transforms into Apara 
Bindu when creation begins: 'The essential point in the middle of 

Sri Yantra. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 


Emergence of the universe from the 
cosmic waters. The interlocked 
triangles symbolize the nude and 
female principles evolving from the 
primal chaos of elements into the 
micro-version of the cosmic man. 
From an illustrated manuscript 
(detail). Nepal , c. 1760. Gouache 
on paperboard. 

the Yantra is the Supreme Sakti, when it swells it evolves into the 
form of a triangle' (Kamakalavilasci). The point assumes a radius, 
the polarization of Siva-Sakti takes place, the dynamic and static 
energies interact and two more points emerge to form a triad of 
points - the primary triangle or the Mula-trikona. 

The three points are represented by Sanskrit syllables and the 
three basic vibrations emanate from one primal sound substratum. 
The triangle with its apex down represents the first form pattern of 
primordial desire in the process of creation. It indicates the sign of 
evolution and represents the zone or kinetic principle of creation. 
The static principle predominates in the Para Bindu, so that it 
represents the male principle. All of creation is the outcome of 
these two principles, the point and triangle, and the bliss of their 
union. Hence 'the Sri Yantra is the one body of the Siva couple' 

The primary triangle stands for three aspects of Sakti: Trividha- 
Bala, the young one, Tripura-Sundari, the beautiful one, and 
Tripura-Bhairavi, the terrifying one. It also represents the 
threefold process of creation (sristi), preservation (sthiti) and 
dissolution (samhara). 

The expansion of space and time, sound and energy, continue in 
the process of creation, and the primary triangle is transformed 
into a series of lines, triangles, circles and squares to form the Sri 
Yantra. The various patterns are the modifications of an original 
primal vibration, and at each stage contain the interplay of the 
static and kinetic energies in varying degree of concentration. 


The Sri Yantra is called 'Nava Chakra' since it is composed of 
nine circuits, counting from the outer plane to the bindu. Through 
contemplation on the Sri Yantra, the adept can rediscover his 
primordial sources. The nine circuits symbolically indicate the 
successive phases in the process of becoming. They rank from the 
earthly plane and rise slowly step by step to the final point, the state 
of supreme joy. By entering into the elan vital of the yantra, the 
adept reintegrates with it. The nine circuits within Sri Yantra 
move from the gross and tangible to the sublime and subtle realms. 

The outermost periphery consists of a square, with four gates, 
coloured white, red and yellow. This is the Bhupura, the ground- 
plan, of the Sri Yantra. 

Inside the square are three concentric circles, girdles (mekhala). 
The space between the square and three girdles is the Trailokya- 
mohana, or the Enchantress of the Triple World, chakra; at this 
stage the adept is infatuated by aspirations and desires. 

Trailokya-mohana chakra. 

Next are two concentric rings of sixteen and eight lotus petals, 
respectively. They are called Sarva-Saparipuraka chakra and Sarva- 
Sahkshobhana chakra, indicating fulfilment of desire. 

Sarvasaparipuraka chakra. 


Sarva-sarikshobhana chakra. 

The fourth chakra, Sarva-saubhagyadayaka, or Giver of 
Auspiciousness, projects the realm of possibilities in spiritual 
ascent; it consists of the fourteen triangles forming the outer rim of 
the complex interlocking of triangles. 

The next two chakras are each constructed of ten triangles. 
Called Sarvartha-sadhaka and Sarvarakshakara, Accomplisher of 
All Purpose and Giver of Protection, they indicate a stage when 
inner realization begins to dawn. 

Sarvartha-sadhaka chakra 
Sarvarakshakara chakra 

v v 



The seventh chakra, consisting of eight triangles, is called Sarva- 
rogahara. Remover of All Desires and Ills, and represents the stage 
when the adept is free from earthly bonds and is at the threshold of 
the inner circle of realization. 



Sarva-rogahara chakra 

An inverted triangle is the eighth chakra. Giver of All 
Accomplishments, of Sarva-siddhiprada; it denotes a stage before 
the consummation of realization. All the triangular chakras are 
coloured red, to represent radiant energy or the dynamic and fiery 
element of the cosmos. 

Sarva-siddhiprada chakra 

The last chakra, the Bindu, is known as Sarva-anandamaya, Full 
of Bliss. It is the sanctum sanctorum, abounding in joy, in which the 
adept participates in union. The point is light itself, beyond all 
colours, and is therefore represented as colourless. 

Bindu: Sarva-anandamaya chakra. 


The nine circuits of the Sri Yantra are also associated with forty- 
three presiding deities, nine classes of yoginis (female yogis), sound 
syllables or mantras, and gestures or mudras, each having a 
distinct characteristic and explicit symbolic function. During 
the performance of rituals, identity is sought between these various 
aspects in order to create a cosmic link through a visual equivalent 
which projects the whole of existence. Most yantras, if not all, have 
a similar symbolic meaning, though some are specifically applied 
to a particular creative force portrayed in a particular deity or 
mantra. The Sri Yantra is distinguished from the rest since it 
projects 'AH'. Its diverse symbolism may be understood con¬ 
ceptually by careful analysis, and its kine-visual aesthetic of 
symmetry and proportion may be experienced at once, but its 
subtle meaning and the power it manifests cannot be grasped 
instantly. Its understanding grows gradually, till one identifies and 
enters into its circumference to grasp the wholeness it enshrines. 
For this reason, perhaps, it has been accurately described as 'the vast 
dense mass of consciousness [leading to] bliss' (Yogini Hridaya). 
Bearing witness to the truth of Andre Malraux's 'every 
masterpiece is a purification of the world', the Sri Yantra, in its 
formal content, is a visual masterpiece of abstraction, and must 
have been created through revelation rather than by human 
ingenuity and craft. 

Whereas a yantra is a linear form, a mandala especially of the 
classical Tibetan tradition, is a composition of complex patterns 
and diverse iconographic images. Though there are countless 
variations and configurations of mandalas, in most of them the 
formal structure, comprising few elemental forms, remains 
constant. The predominant shape is the circle, or concentric circles, 
enclosing a square, which is sometimes divided into four triangles; 
this basic composition is itself contained within a square of four 
gates. Painted in fine brush-strokes between the spaces in hot reds, 
evanescent emeralds, soft terracottas and pearly whites, are 
labyrinthine designs, serene and static images of deities in 
meditative postures or terrific deities spewing out aureoles of 
smoke and flame. Lacy intertwining floral patterns on the outer 
rim of the circle very often encircle celestial palaces, fortresses built 
round the four portals, many-armed deities curled about by 
celestial fires and swirls of clouds, all with symbolic meaning. The 
centre of the mandala projects the cosmic zone; it may be 
represented by a ring of lotus as the seat of the Vajrasattva, 
Mandala diagram. Nepal, c. 1700. embodiment of the supreme wisdom, immersed in union with his 
Gouache on cloth. Sakti in a fathomless ocean of joy. 


The mandala indicates a localization of wholeness and is 
analogous to the cosmos. As a synergic form it reflects the 
cosmogenic process, the cycles of elements, and harmoniously 
integrates within itself the opposites, the earthly and the ethereal, 
the kinetic and the static. The circle also functions as the nuclear 
motif of the self, a vehicle for centering awareness, disciplining 
concentration and arousing a state conducive to mystic exaltation. 
Each of the five component parts of the mandala - the four sides 
and the centre - is psychologically significant; they correspond to 
the five structural elements of the human personality and the five 
Buddhas of the Diamond Vehicle: Vairochana, 'The Brilliant 
One'; Akshobhya, 'The Unshakable'; Ratnasambhava, 'The 
Matrix of the Jewel'; Amitabha, 'The Infinite Light'; and 
Amoghasiddhi, 'The Infallible Realization'. Through con¬ 
templation on the mandala, the adept can tap higher levels of 
integration and realize cosmic communion, a micro-macro unity: 

The five Buddhas do not remain remote divine forms in distant heavens, 
but descend into us. I am the cosmos and the Buddhas are in myself. In me 
is the cosmic light, a mysterious presence, even if it be obscured by error. 
But these five Buddhas are nevertheless in me, they are the five 
constituents of the human personality. 16 

Tucci further observes that 'Pure Consciousness assumes five 
faces of different colours from which derive the five directions 
which correspond to the five "families" of the Buddhist Schools. 
White Sadyojata to the West, Yellow Vamadeva to the North, 
Black Aghora to the South, Red Tatpurusa to the East, all grouped 
around the central face which is that of the Green Isana.' 17 The five 
colours also correspond to the five cosmic elements: white water, 
yellow earth, red fire, green ether and blue space. 

The mandala is a psychic complex which conditions the return 
of the psyche to its potent core. Hence the initiation process is often 
referred to as a 'march towards the centre’ so that the adept can 
interiorize the mandala in its totality, counterbalance the opposing 
dimensions projected in its symbolism and finally be reabsorbed in 
the cosmic space represented symbolically in the inner circle. The 
process of interiorization is a matter of orderly progression, 
wherein each inner circuit marks a phase in spiritual ascent. The 
outer border denotes a 'barrier of fire or metaphysical knowledge 
which burns ignorance'. Next comes the ring of diamonds 
suggesting illumination or the quality of unchangeability, never 
lost once knowledge is attained. In mandalas dedicated to 
terrifying aspects of divinities the iconographic motif of a 
cemetery is drawn within the girdle of diamonds and outside the 


A contemporary ground-plan of a 
temple based on a mandala. 
Gouache on paper. 

inner circle. Symbolizing the 'eight aspects of disintegrated 
consciousness', these are what bind the adept to the common run of 
the world and they must be conquered during one's spiritual 
pilgrimage. The four portals which open up in the middle of each 
side of the mandala are usually flanked by awe-inspiring divinities, 
obstructive forces in the unconscious which must be overcome 
before realization is sought. 

The next stage is usually represented by a girdle of lotus petals, 
leaves or intertwining floral patterns, symbols of'spiritual rebirth'. 
Finally, in the centre, or the 'vimana', is the seat of the deity or the 
cosmic zone, the last stage of spiritual integration. 

Like all tantric activity, the process of drawing the mandala is an 
exercise in contemplation, an act of meditation accomplished by 
following definite aesthetic principles and strict visual formulae. 
To evoke the universe of the mandala with its wide-ranging 
symbology accurately, the artist has to practise visual formulation, 
sometimes beginning from an early age. The image, like a mirror, 
reflects the inner self which ultimately leads to enlightenment and 
deliverance. In Tibet, the actualization of this awareness is known 


as 'liberation through sight'. The act of seeing, which is analogous 
to contemplation, is in itself a liberating experience. In earlier 
times, mineral and vegetable pigments, such as crushed gemstones, 
rock, gold, silver, turquoise, lapis lazuli, etc. were used for 
paintings; contemporary artists use gouaches which give their 
work a brighter appearance but lose the subtle colours and tones of 
earlier works. During festivals and ceremonies in India, popular 
forms of mandalas, drawn and coloured in a variety of decorative 
patterns, are often made on floors and walls. They are also traced in 
miniature, simple forms by women on their palms as auspicious 
signs and for protective purposes. 

In the West, the mandala as an archetype released from the 
primordial collective unconscious is much discussed in the works 
ofC. G.Jung, who studied it as a basic therapeutic art form created 
by patients in their quest for self-realization. In this respect, the 
mandala is a psychological representation of psychic totality and 
suggests a form of stability in the process of individuation, 
unifying opposite forces in the psychic matrix to form the totality 
of an integrated personality. Such individual mandalas contain an 
unlimited variety of symbols and contents, whereas ritual 
mandalas are restricted to defined styles and motifs. Another such 
similarity exists between mandalas and the Navajo sand-paintings 
used for ritual healing. In the latter, the basic structure is quite 
similar: the circle indicates the centre of the cosmos, around which 
at various points are drawn symbols designating elements, the 
seasons and the four directions, the outer periphery and the inner 
motif being mutually inter-dependent. 

By extension, the universality of the holistic concept of the 
mandala can be observed in organic nature and human conscious¬ 
ness alike. From atom to star, each particle's structure represents a 
wholeness in potentiality which becomes manifest in space and 
time relative to its nature. It is possible that the inspiration to 
portray the cosmos in the art form of a mandala came from this 
basic source. 

The Kundalini Sakti, symbol of 
coiled up psychic energy. 
Illuminated manuscript page. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

The Subtle Body and its Representation 

In the symbology of tantric art, the structures of the various 
psychic centres in the subtle body are represented in lotus forms 
known as chakras, and the paths of the energy currents are mapped 
visually in the form of spirals. These are known from both 
miniature paintings and scrolls. Whereas the mandalas and yantras 
are ritual motifs with a utilitarian value to the adept, these 


Chakras, or psychic centres, in the 
etheric body of the yogi. The 
energy centres are points of contact 
between the psychic and the 
physical body. Of the thirty chakras 
mentioned in the texts, the 
principal seven, from bottom 
upwards, are: Muladhara, 
Svadhisthana, Manipura, 

Anahata, Vi'suddha, Ajna and 
finally Sahasrara, conceived as 
lying above the head. Rajasthan, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 

paintings are more like instructional charts which convey, in a 
visual language pregnant with symbols, the inner structure of the 
subtle body as conceived and visualized by the yogi artist. 

The lotus is an archaic symbol: 

When the divine life substance is about to put forth the universe, the 
cosmic waters grow a thousand-petalled lotus of pure gold radiant as the 
sun. This is the door or gate, the opening or mouth, of the womb of the 
universe. It is the first product of the creative principle, gold in token of its 
incorruptible nature. 18 


The creative spiral, Kundalini. 

Potent as it is, in tantric art the lotus is a symbol of the unfolding of 
the self and expanding consciousness, which cuts through psychic 
opacity and ultimately raises the aspirant from the dark depths of 
ignorance to the radiant heights of inner awakening. Just as lotus 
plants grow in the 'darkness of mud' and gradually blossom out to 
the surface of the water, unsullied by the mud and water which 
nourished them, so the inner self transcends and transforms itself 
beyond its corporeal limits uncorrupted and untarnished by 
illusion and ignorance. 

Whereas in yantra patterns a ring of lotus petals generally 
denotes a stage in the actualization of the spiritual process and 
hence reflects a wave of optimism, in the symbolism of the chakras, 
or psychic centres of the human body, lotuses denote experience of 
the upward movement of energy in successive stages, each petal 
signifying the blossoming of a quality or mental attribute until 
finally one reaches the acme of spiritual perception symbolized as 
the thousand-petalled lotus placed above the head, the Sahasrara 
Chakra. Thus the lotus form in the subtle body qualitatively 
indicates a kinesthetic dimension. Its kinevisual nature is further 
strengthened by the fact that the lotus forms in each chakra are 
mostly represented with the symbol of the spiral, signifying the 
flow of energy. Both therefore, are kinetic symbols. Each chakra 
has its equivalent petals and corresponding colours: Muladhara, 
red lotus of four petals; Svadhisthana, vermilion with six petals; 
Visuddha, sixteen petals of smoky purple; Ajna, two white petals 
resembling the shape of the third eye; and finally, the thousand- 
petalled lotus of the light of a thousand suns. 

The lotus also represents the ubiquitous subtle element, space; 
the infinity of space and consciousness are identical. The 
Chandogya Upanishad says: 'Verily what is called Brahman [Pure 
Consciousness] that is what the space outside the person is. . . that 
is what the space within the person is. . . .' When the adept 
becomes conscious of the immensity of space outside himself, he 
simultaneously experiences this through the vast space in his heart, 
symbolized by the lotuses. 

The spiral represents growth or spiritual ascent in the act of 
becoming. The creative coilings of the feminine energy, or 
Kundalini Sakti, and the flow of the energy current symbolically 
assumes the supple, undulating form of a spiral. The unmanifested 
Kundalini is symbolized by a serpent coiled into three and a half 
circles with its tail in its mouth and spiraled around the central axis, 
or Svayarhbhu-linga, ready to ascend upwards and unite with the 
cosmic consciousness. The sinuous movements of the energy 


currents around the Sushumna, the central subtle nerve, and their 
contraction and expansion when the Kundalim awakes, are 
depicted in spiral form. The spiral symbolically projected in the 
inward odyssey is a microcosmic reflection of cosmic rhythms. 

At a cursory glance, most symbolic forms in tantra seem 
hypothetically based images, but it would not be surprising if these 
spontaneous and authentic signs afford clues to the nature of the 
universe. Jung cites the striking example of the 19th-century 
chemist Kekule who owed his scientific discoveries to the sudden 
pictorial revelation of an age-old symbol of a snake with its tail in 
its mouth (symbol of the sleeping Kundalini energy) and 
interpreted it to mean that the structure of benzene was a closed 
carbon ring, which it is. 

The stone forms of the ovoid Brahmandas, or Siva-lingas, and 
spheroid Salagramas symbolize the totality in which the male and 
female principles are eternally united. In the vast expansiveness 
captured in a single curve in an oval or a circle, matter is made to 
yield its intrinsic nature so that the inert becomes alive. There is no 
flamboyance or associative corruption. Its broad universality of 
impersonal form and content, and close relation to nature, 
guarantee to it mass recognition and general acceptance. 

Tantric imagery reaches its highest level of abstraction in the 
expression of Pure Consciousness pervading the nuomenal 
universe. These paintings depict the absolute by a total absence of 
form, whose spiritual presence is indicated by a saturated coloured 
field which induces a resonance of the infinite. The 'a-logical 
immensity' of colour is Sakti's power-field in its pure existence 
when the cosmic process has reverted to entropy. All forms, 
shapes, structures have dissolved; only the primordial essence of 
the exhilarating presence of energy as a reference of the absolute 
remains. Such paintings also embody the highest ideal of 
meditative soliloquy and therefore signify the last stage of spiritual 
realization, often accompanied by an intense perception of the 
experience of light. 

Five-hooded serpent-power 
enclosing Brahmanda. South India, 
c. 19th century. Brass and stone. 


Scattered through the annals of tantra are descriptions of the origin 
of the universe; its various characteristic features have been 
illustrated on a scale from miniatures to murals. Especially 
interesting are cosmological and astrological charts, astronomical 
computations and observations of natural phenomena. These 
representations are philosophical constructs of a world image and 


A cosmographical schema showing 
Jambu-dvipa, the island continent, 
in the centre with its energy fields 
and atmospheric zones. Rajasthan, 
c. 18 th century. Gouache on cloth. 

provide a background to sadhana, concretizing solar and planetary 
visions: a shimmering gold sun emanating primal flames, stellar 
orbs or a waning moon, a small central globe placed in concentric 
atmospheric zones and energy fields. In another series these images 
culminate in the magnificent conception of the cosmic man, of 
Purushakara Yantra, whose body is filled with a checkered pattern 
resembling some of Paul Klee's abstract paintings. Yet more 
enigmatic than these, and throbbing with pictorial symbols, are 
the diagrams of Jambu-dvipa, the innermost of the island 
continents in the system of cosmology. 


Tantric cosmograms are based on intuitive insight rather than 
posterior knowledge, and some of them may not have accurate 
analogies in the phenomenal world. They are in the nature of a 
celestial mirror which reflects the imaged universe. In these 
figurations, the artist's main concern is to give form and structure 
to cosmogonical ideas. The cosmos is order incarnate, and nature's 
diverse manifestations are held together by a mathematical 
framework. Like the world in general, these abstract 
configurations are also based on mathematical relationships. But 
the cosmos of giant stellar galaxies and planetary systems is not 
always depicted as a cold intellectualized mass; some paintings 
include cryptic symbols derived from mythology. Whatever their 
visionary appeal, the treatment of form is devoid of grandilo¬ 
quence or emotional fervour. Thus, for instance, according to 
cosmographic and cosmogonical notions, the universe has three 
zones, or lokas: in ascending order, the subterranean region, the 
earth and the heavenly bodies. Dominating the centre of the 
universe is the mythical Mount Meru around which is the earth, or 
Jambu-dvipa, the island continent with seven concentric circles 
symbolically representing cosmic fields, spheres, atmospheric 
zones. Bordering the outermost circle is the cosmic sphere 
separating the visible world from the non-visible, and finally, 
beyond it, the region of non-universe space, or aloka. The diagram 
of this idea is a circular disc within seven concentric circles or 
vertical currents, all of which have an ascetic simplicity 
indispensable for transmitting the message. For tantra, Philip 
Rawson observes that 'one should gather the outer world into a 
single contemplative act. The Mount Meru at the axis should be 
identified with the centre of the inner body through which runs as 
axis a subtle spinal tube called "Merudanda" or "Sushumna". The 
implication of the diagram is thus that the Possible Universe each 
man knows is a flat "circle" radiating from his own axial centre.' 19 
Many cosmograms have come from Jaina sources, and an 
interesting concept appears in the diagram of Cosmic Purusha 
(Purushakara Yantra) depicting the immense potentiality, no less 
than the size of the cosmos, contained within the body of man. 
From another point of view, it also depicts the man who has 
become the universe or is, metaphorically, the perfected one. The 
cosmic man in his monumentality stands erect. The image contains 
the entire replica of the universe: the categories and substances, 
space, time, motion, rest, matter, its cosmographical schemes and 
the spheres of the dense and subtle realms of the world. The whole 
cosmos is epitomized in the grand micro-macro vision. In the Jaina 

Purushakara, the Cosmic Man 
Yantra. The ascending planes of 
experience are called lokas, and the 
descending planes are known as 
talas. The centre of these planes is 
the 'earth-plane' (bhurloka), shown 
here as a circle. A manuscript page 
from Gujarat, c. 16th century. 
Gouache on paper. 


Cosmogram: an astronomical 
computation. Rajasthan, c. 19th 
century. Ink on paper. 

texts the shape of the universe is depicted analogously as a human 
being standing with feet apart and the arms akimbo. The upper 
region consists of 16 heavens of 63 layers. The middle world, 
which coincides with the earthly plane, contains innumerable 
concentric rings of continents and oceans around the jambu-dvipa. 
The lower realm, in the shape of a half-drum, consists of 7 earths 
and 49 layers of the subterranean regions. Various elements 
combined according to a hierarchy of order assume architectonic 
structure when form and colour introduce rhythms into the 
composition. Thus the homogeneity of the cosmos is expressed in 
the combination of red and ochre squares which chart the body of 
the cosmic man. By means of their monumental size these scrolls 
have a majestic power: the onlooker is drawn into their living 
space to apprehend the hidden totality. In them, the function of 
form is purely analytical and it demonstrates that what is taking 
place within one's own body - persistently implying that man 
alone is the measure of all things. We must sink into our own 
wombs to find ourselves. 

Astronomy, the science of celestial bodies, had a decisive 
influence on tantra. Celestial tides and the movement of planets 
determine the time for various rites. As an inevitable consequence. 


Surya or Sun-mandala. Rajasthan, 
c. 19th century. Ink on paper. 

planetary signs found their way into cosmograms, giving tantric 
diagrams a great diversity of geometric patterns. As astronomical 
charting crystallized, there was a total denunciation of pictorial 
imagery and a shift of emphasis to the delineation of the elements 
of natural phenomena. Space, time, light and motion were 
conceived of against the background of atmospheric phenomena. 
Astrological computations, like most tantric diagrams, are also 
marked by mathematical proportions: grid patterns of flat colours 
have a mosaic-like simultaneity; kinetic curves encircling solar and 
lunar orbs create powerful gestalt sensations. Planetary signs 
abound: the sun as a red solar disc; the moon as an opalescent 
crescent; Mars represented as a vermilion triangle; Mercury as a 
sap-green droplet; a yellow straight line represents Jupiter; a blue 
five-pointed star denotes Venus; and Saturn is represented as 
purple, the densest of all colours. Innumerable other biomorphic 
shapes and voidal spheres resulted as a fusion of primary shapes in 
an attempt to record astronomical concepts. Among the 
observatories, the Jantar Mantar of Jaipur and Dakshina Vritti 
Yantra, engraved in lime plaster on a wall in the Ujjain 
observatory, built in the early 18th century, not only achieve a 
functional beauty, but are remarkable examples of abstract forms. 


Cosmographical scheme showing 
Jambu-dvipa, the island continent, 
at the centre. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on cloth. 

Cosmograms, in contrast to psychograms, are characteristically 
outward-directed. They are more like charts mapping natural 
phenomena, arising from the basic impulse to codify external 
reality. Just as in contemporary art space, time, light and motion 
have been directly influenced by modern scientific discoveries such 
as Einstein's theory of relativity or Minkovsky's non-Euclidean 
ideas, and other discoveries in nuclear physics, so in the same way 
tantric cosmograms are primarily interpretations of a reality 
complex based on scientific norms. On the other hand, a 
psychogram is inward-directed: through it the adept seeks to find a 
unification of the self through a symbolic visual mode (yantra. 


mandala, etc.) until he is completely absorbed in the art symbol. 
The psychogram is 'in here', within; the cosmogram, as a pictorial 
model, is 'out there', external to the adept. The Purushakara 
Yantra, however, and the diagrams of Jambu-dvipa are intimately 
linked with the process of inner realization and are therefore allied 
to the psychograms. 


In contrast with the tranquil renderings of abstract forms, the 
monographic images portraying the terrifying aspects ofPrakriti 
are violent emotional expressions. Tantra's basic philosophy is 
based on a dualism, and the terrifying image projects the negative 
aspect of the creative life-force. In the creative aspect, Sakti appears 
as an enchantress - 'the fairest of the three worlds', exercising her 
benign powers. In her negative aspect she is demystified and 
transformed. The image has a naked intensity, so fierce that the 
incommunicable ceases to be a mystery. Kali, one of the most 
important tantric Dasamahavidyas, in her negative aspect appears 
as a conglomeration of terrifying elements. Though the picture 
field is tilled with awe-inspiring symbols, their real meaning is not 
what it first appears; they have equivocal significance. Kali is the 
symbol of the active cosmic power of eternal time (Kala) and in 
this aspect she signifies annihilation: through death or destruction 
creation, the seed of life, emerges. Just as the destruction of the seed 
leads to the birth of the tree, so disintegration is a normal and 
necessary step of nature moving towards further progress or 
unfolding. Kali is the embodiment of creation, preservation and 
annihilation. She inspires awe and love at the same time. As a 
disintegrating tendency. Kali is represented in black: 'just as all 
colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear into 
her' (Mahanirvana Tantra). The density of blackness is also 
identified with the massive, compact, unmixed. Pure Conscious¬ 
ness. In tantric hymns to the goddess Kali, she is described as 
'digambari', garbed in space in her nakedness, she is free from all 
covering of illusion. She is full-breasted, her motherhood a 
ceaseless creation denoting preservation. Her dishevelled hair, 
'elokeshi', forms a curtain of death which surrounds life with 
mystery. Her garland of fifty human heads, each representing one 
of the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes the 
repository of power and knowledge; the letters are nuclear sound- 
elements symbolizing the power of mantras. She wears the 'girdle 
of human hands': hands are the principal instruments of work and 


so they signify the action of karma or accumulated deeds to be 
enjoyed in subsequent births, constantly reminding one that 
ultimate freedom is conditioned by the fruits of one's actions. Her 
three eyes govern the three forces of creation, preservation and 
destruction. Her white teeth, symbolic of Sattva, the translucent 
intelligence stuff, suppress her lolling tongue which is red, 
indicative of Rajas, a determinate level of existence leading 
downwards to Tamas, inertia. Kali has four hands: one left hand 
holds a severed head, indicating destruction, and the other carries 
the sword of physical extermination, with which she cuts the 
thread ofbondage. Her two right hands dispel fear and exhort to 
spiritual strength. She is the changeless, unlimited primordial 
power (adyasakti) acting in the great drama awakening the 
unmanifested Siva, a passive onlooker. Their inseparable union 
reflects non-duality. 

This conception of Kali compares with the magnificent 
depiction of Siva as Nataraja, resolving and harmonizing the 
opposite attributes of creation and dissolution, the very essence of 
every existence. 

These images of destruction incarnate appear to be composed in 
a surreal reverie. While they blend naturalism and intuition in a 

Kali. Madhubanifolk painting. 
Bihar, contemporary. Gouache on 

Sarvabuddha Dakini. Nepal, 18th 
century. Bronze. 

Siva as Nataraja, Lord of the 
Dance. Siva, engaged in the dance 
of the universe, tramples on the 
dwarf of illusion, while holding the 
drum of creation in his upper right 
hand and the fire of destruction in 
the corresponding left. His lower 
right hand is stretched out in a 
gesture of protection (abhaya), 
while the gesture of the lower left 
symbolizes salvation. The outer 
ring of fire (missing) symbolizes 
the universe. Tiruvelangadu, 

Tamil Nadu, 11th century. 



Kali, represented in her destructive 
aspect as Chamunda, detail from an 
album painting. Kangra, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

single impulse, their wrathful appearance can agitate the eye and 
transport the spectator to a supernatural world. From an aesthetic 
point of view they suggest a flight from reality and an awareness 
of a profoundly different world: the poignant, restless and 
aggressive. These images unveil reality so that it is stripped bare, 
and have the same mind-altering capability to induce extra¬ 
ordinary experience which arouses intense inward states of rich 
spiritual content. Their most characteristic feature is that they are 
images which seem to have sprung from a non-rational source but 
nevertheless have a rational basis within defined limits. For 
example, Chinnamasta, the beheaded goddess, holds her severed 
head; apart from its symbolic meaning, the dismemberment of her 
body ought not to be confused with actual distortion: the image is 
not dissociated from its meaning, which underlies and generates 
the image; where dislocation appears it is to heighten visual 


The terrifying aspects of these images are completely dispelled 
in the tantric asana forms in both sculpture and painting. In the 
reliefs of the temples of Konarak and Khajuraho, the sensuous 
quality is developed to its logical culmination so that it has almost 
completely shattered aesthetic barriers and forced the ultimate 
realization that life is art. What is justified and fundamental in life 
must also be justified and fundamental in art. It is no longer a 
question of that 'provocative indulgence' of the female figure from 
which Roger Fry recoils with a puritanical shudder. Here we are 
confronted with an ecstasy of joy in all its plastic possibilities. These 
united male and female figures are drawn together in creative force 
towards the awakening of the inner spirit, new dynamic asana- 
forrns. Filled with ecstatic conviction, they are no longer torn 
between the contradiction of life and social existence. 

In considering the mithuna sculptures, particularly on the 
Lakshmana Temple at Khajuraho, it is a great mistake to confuse 
the meaning of the figures carved in the horizontal band running 
round the base of the temple with those depicted on the upper 
portion. For instance, the mithuna figures carved at the base of the 
temple depict the whole gamut of mundane life including various 
sexual acts; but as one steps upward one is confronted with the 
interlocking figures representing the antinomic principles; they 
are symbols of transcendent union, which do not in any way 
convey the gross sexual intercourse depicted in the lower portion 
of the temple, which illustrates an earth-bound level of existence. 

Kandariya Mahadeva Temple 
(detail), Khajuraho. The carvings 
on the exterior of this temple to 
Siva are crowded with hundreds of 
figures; the interior, on the other 
hand, is plain and dark - the 
darkness of the womb 
(Garbhagriha). AD 950-1050. 

Figures on the Surya temple in the 
yoni-asana (sexo-yogic pose). 
Konarak, Orissa, AD 1238-64. 

I Cosmogenesis. Detail of a scroll 
painting depicting the evolution of 
the universe from dense matter, 
symbolized here by elephants 
gradually ascending into the 
ethereal spheres of the cosmos. 
Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, 

c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 

II Vishnu-Pad, the imprint of 
Lord Vishnu's feet (upper and 
lower, left) and Hastakara Yantra 
(upper and lower, right) with signs 
and symbols. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

Furthermore, the figures carved on both sides of the upper portion 
of the temple may be symbolically taken from the tantric point of 
view as the path of the two psychic nerve channels, Ida and 
Pingala, on either side of the Sushumna, the central channel, 
leading to the inner chamber of the temple. In true tantric 
tradition, these figures depict the ascendence of sexual energy 
when it leaves its customary seat in the ordinary plane and moves 
to a higher level, changing into sublimated energy which awakens 
the latent Kundalini. So eloquent are these interlocking figures that 
their sinuous curves far surpass mere sensual enjoyment. They 
clearly suggest tantric yoga asanas for attaining realization through 
union with a female partner, Sakti, and that is why, perhaps, the 
poses are so unconventional and intricate. 

The mithuna sculptures of Konarak are equally magnificent, 
their sculptural values in formal aspect, the fullness of their forms, 
the highly rhythmic quality, their feeling and three-dimensional 
quality which perhaps for the first time were shown with complete 
mastery of the material apart from the ritual values. Thus, both the 
beatific and the terrifying imagery of tantra art have given to 
Indian art some of the most dynamic and sublime representations. 

The Indian aesthetic theory of 'rasa' developed by Abhinavag- 
upta in the tenth century AD provides a useful key to the 
understanding of various moods and emotions invoked by tantric 
imagery. 'Rasa', for which there is no precise English equivalent, 
means 'flavour', 'taste', 'mood', or 'emotion'. All works of art, 
however limited, have the ability to evoke certain emotional 
states. The theory of rasa stresses the importance of this 
experiential value of a work of art by stressing the very experience 
itself. When a particular emotion is aroused, a corresponding rasa is 
experienced. All classical images in Indian art, including those of 
tantra, can be broadly grouped under one of the nine principal 
abstract rasa. Terrifying images arouse tamasik, the quality allied 
to the emotion of fury and awesomeness; diametrically opposed to 
these are silence and compassion, associated with sattva, the quality 
of purity. The ovoid and spheroid Brahmandas, considered as 
fragments of spiritualized matter commanding imperishable calm, 
fall into this class. The rasa of love, valour, laughter and wonder 
stem from rajasika tendencies. The asana series, primarily oriented 
to showing the tendency of the dynamic opposites to union, can be 
grouped under rajasika. These divisions, though not absolute, 
emphasize how the wide-ranging aesthetic expressions of tantra 
are perceivable by our senses since they have the quality to strike 
our inner moods. 



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Modern research into the compositional pattern of sculpture of 
the cave temples in western and southern India (6th-9th centuries 
AD) by Alice Boner indicates that they were based on geometrical 
principles similar to those on which the yantras are composed. The 
structural composition ofthese figures is based upon a central point 
towards which all parts converge; the principle of centrality as a 
basis of structural composition is analogous to the tantric concept 
ofBindu. The nerve-lines intersecting the centre and developing in 
concentric organization can be seen as yantras whose lines are 
developed and enlarged into figural compositions. Alice Boner 

The ceiling of Adi Nath Temple, 
Ranakpur, is decorated with 
crystalline patterns symbolizing 
the unfolding of sabda, the sound 
element, in a mandala field. 
Western India, c. 13 th century. 

Ill Kali, annihilation aspect of 
Sakti, standing on Rati and Kama, 
who personify the primordial desire 
which gives rise to all creation. 

The garland of human heads 
symbolizes wisdom and power. Her 
blood-red tongue signifies the power 
of Raja-guna, the kinetic force 
which gives impetus to all 
activities. The sacrificial sword and 
the severed head are the symbols of 
dissolution and annihilation 
directing the Sadhaka to shed his 
'ego sense'. The girdle of severed 
hands signifies one's Karma, action. 
Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, 

c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 

The analysis of the sculptural panels in the ancient Cave-temples has 
revealed geometrical diagrams of analogous concentric construction. 
They have, however, their specific features, different from those of 
devotional yantras, which make them suitable for figural compositions. 
The difference consists in this that the circular area, instead ofbeing filled 
by intersecting geometrical figures, is divided into regular sectors by an 
even number of diameters and further subdivided by chords running 
parallel to the diameters connecting their points of intersection with the 
circle. All forms within the ambit of the circle are placed in 
correspondence with some of the diameters or with their parallels, and 

IV Chinnamasta, representing 
Devi in her destructive and creative 
aspects. She is flanked by her two 
yoginis. Dakini and Varnini. 

Under her Rati and Kama, the 
female and male principles, depict 
the transcendence of the phenomenal 
world and the abolition of the 
experience of duality. Rajasthan, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 


Ground-plan of the temple of 
Sixty-Four Yoginis (Chausatti 
Yogini), Bheraghat, Madhya 
Pradesh, c. 12th century. 

thus they participate, either directly or indirectly, in the concentric lay¬ 
out of the diagram. In this way all parts of a composition are connected 
with the central point.~ (l 

Yantras and mandalas also influenced the ground plans ofHindu 
temples and the lay-out of the cities. As early as the third century 
BC, the shape of the Buddhist stupa, originally a monument over 
the relics of the Buddha, was based on the circle and the square. 
Ground plans of later temples indicate that they were based on a 
regular arrangement of squares on a strict grid plan. The three 
principal geometrical shapes, square, equilateral triangle and circle, 
on account of their symmetry were related to each other as in a 
yantra diagram. In one of the earliest references in the manuals of 
architecture can be found the Vastu-Purusha mandala which 
according to that treatise can be drawn in thirty-two ways. The 
simplest one consists of a square, while all the others can be made 
from the division of the square into four, nine, sixteen, twenty-five 
and so on up to 1.024 small squares. In accordance with tantra's 
original thesis, the spatial orientation of the temples served to 
create a microcosm in the image of the macrocosm and its 
governing laws. While these are few examples of tantric influence 
on Indian art, further research has yet to bring to light all the 
aspects in which the tantric doctrines left a mark in this field. 


In tantric art, the image must correspond to the original canonical 
text; any omission, error or oversight is attributed to imperfect 
absorption or considered a sign of slackening of attention. In such 
an event, the image is discarded and the process of composing is 
deferred. The initial impetus to visualize is invariably provided by 
the dhyana-mantra, or the auditory equivalent which enhances 
concentration and functions as a trance-formula. For example, the 
trance-formula of the goddess Bhuvanesvari, one of the tantric 
dasa-mahavidyas, reads: 

I worship our gentle lady Bhuvanesvari, like the rising sun, lovely, 
victorious, destroying defects in prayer, with a shining crown on her 
head, three-eyed and with swinging earrings adorned with diverse gems, 
as a lotus-lady, abounding in treasure, making the gestures of charity and 
giving assurance. Such is the dhyanam of Bhuvanesvari. 

The artist's visualizations begin with mental construction and there 
is little attempt to find a syn-visibility in external models. For 
example, Shilpi-yogin has resolved the anthropomorphic image of 
Kali into a simple geometrical pattern - a triangle within a circle. 



* v 

'Krim', the bijamantra, almost an equation of this, is a further 
simplification in which the essence of the concept is latent. 

Speaking of the achievement of yoga vision, Sukracharya 
further teaches: 'When the consciousness is brought to rest in the 
form [nama, 'name', 'idea'] and sees only the form, then, inasmuch 
as it rests in the form, aspectual perception is dispensed with and 
only the reference remains; one reaches then the world-without- 
aspectual-perception, and with further practice attains to liberation 
from all hindrances.' This profound discipline led the artist to 
visualize the highest degree of abstraction, exposing it in the 
colour-field abstraction where all images are totally effaced in a 
patternless visual field. 

In this form of discipline, art and worship can only be artificially 
separated. The process of image-making, involving a complex 
series of interior activities, among other methods of yoga 
discipline, provides the psychological condition necessary to 

A young aspirant learning the art 
of carving traditional icon-images 
from his guru, a Sthapati of South 
India. The palm-leaf manuscript 
contains prescriptions and guidance 
regarding technique and spiritual 


Incomplete Durga image being 
prepared by a Kalighat 

achieve spiritual deliverance. The force of this impulse shifts the 
objective of art from being an end in itself to being the means to an 
end. The artist pursues his task as a detached observer free from 
everything that flatters his individual vanity. His path is one of 
selfless action, where there is a total annihilation of his ego, since his 
intention is constantly not to express himselfbut that which ought 
to be expressed; that is to reveal a 'thesis'. Art of this nature, where 
the individual longs to cut through the shackles of egohood in 
order to merge with the universal consciousness for the sake of 
spiritual enlightenment, has always remained anonymous. Rarely 
are the works of Silpi-yogins signed or do they bear any mark of 
individual identity, for any sign of exhibitionism renders the entire 
pursuit futile. The impact of the aesthetic discipline on the 
personality of the artist is itself so strong that many who have 
passed through it finally and inevitably become saints. 

Though separated by centuries, the sign-language of tantra art 
and the works of many modern abstract artists run parallel. Tantra 
seems to have anticipated many forms that only recently have been 
rediscovered in the works of contemporary artists. It is interesting 
to note that what a modern artist struggles to achieve through a 
process of distillation by and expression of his individual 

consciousness, came spontaneously in the aesthetic vision of the 
tantric artist within the defined collective sign-system. 

There is a similarity between the spiritual aspects of tantric art 
and the works of several twentieth-century abstract artists, such as 
Klee, Mondrian, Brancusi. For these artists, art was not merely an 
optical manifestation but a revelation of certain metaphysical 
concepts. Mondrian's chief concern, for example, was to transcend 
the particular in order to express the universal. Throughout his life 
he was interested in Hindu philosophy and was so inspired by 
mystic ideas that he equated 'plastic' expression with the 
'spiritual'. The vertical and horizontal theme in his work reflects 

— -- i' 

Linga-mandala. The lingam as 
symbol of Siva also signifies the 
all-pervading cosmic space. The 
diagram is used for ritual and 
meditation. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

Bala Yantra. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

the interplay of contrasting forces: male and female, active and 
passive, spirit and matter; he expressed it himself as the 'static 
balance' and 'dynamic equilibrium' which constitutes reality. 
Mondrian identified the vertical with the male principle and the 
horizontal with the female. In a similar way, Paul Klee explored 
spatial energy through the concept of polarity: 'A concept is not 
thinkable without its opposite - every concept has its opposite 
more or less in the manner of thesis-antithesis.' To express the 
eternal dialectic of the static and dynamic in its essence, he aligned 
the notion of polarity to geometry, creating an infinitely variable 
harmony of coloured planes. These artists' pictorial affinities to 
tantric art and their metaphysical ideas suggest a link with tantra's 
dualistic philosophy. A striking sculptural similarity is in the 
primordial ovoids of Brancusi and the Brahmandas of tantra. 
Metaphysically, both forms operate on the same level - the 
projection of total unity. Indeed, in 1933 the Maharaja of Indore 
commissioned Brancusi to construct a model for the Temple of 
Deliverance based on this primordial ovoid form. Kandinsky, too, 
recalled the sound-form dialectic in the tantras when he said: 
'Sound, then, is the soul of form, which comes to life only through 
sound from the inside out.' More recently, Delaunay, Rothko, 
Reinhardt, Newman, in the West, and particularly Biren De in 
India, have demonstrated a striking visual relationship between 


tantric art and their own. Like their predecessors, these artists were 
led by the same interior impulse to transform a dream into a vision. 

Can the vision contained in tantra's diverse ideologies help the 
artist to re-create himself? Any quick and easy answer will lead to 
self-deception. Living tantra is a matter of certain cultural 
disciplines, and the creation of its aesthetic forms cannot be 
divorced from their original intention. Just as history repeats itself 
through and in many events - wars, peace, socio-political 
upheavals - from deep within it new patterns evolve, new 
situations arise. In essence, however, they retain a thread of unity 
whose 'genus' is never lost. In this way, a cross-fertilization of 
tantric ideas with the contemporary art world may generate a new 
vision, whose outer structure and rhythms may vary though the 
underlying insight will be the same. Tantra art has opened the 
doors of our perception and given to the world, like all great 
epochs, a vision-inducing-aesthetic-creativity. Some of the art 
forms which have come down as an anonymous legend will 
remain unparalleled in the history of Indian art and in the larger 
context of the art of various cultures. 

Goloka, the world-egg with its nine 
fields. Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 



The scientific concepts of the tantras run parallel to the 
metaphysical. While the latter provide an inherent teleology and 
ontological framework grafted mainly on the Samkhya system 
(c. 500 BC) of Vedic and Vedantic thought (c. 2000-1000 BC), 
within which ritual and art were assimilated, science helped to free 
dogmas and gave tantric rituals an empirico-experiential dimen¬ 
sion. The tantrikas conducted experiments mainly in the field of 
chemical operations, particularly in the preparation of medicines 
consisting mostly of mercury and sulphur. Otherwise, tantra did 
not evolve any system of scientific thought independently, but 
drew freely for its own purposes from the various aspects of 
ancient Indian scientific knowledge. Those aspects of science 
which had a practical ritualistic interest were of utmost impor¬ 
tance. Thus, astronomy and astrology, which revealed the 
movement of the vast spectrum of celestial bodies and their 
interaction on man, mapped out the heavens and determined 
ceremonial periods. Similarly, notions of molecular and atomic 
structure in the Nyaya-Vaiseshika system were useful for the 
preparation of chemical formulae; and the polarity principle of 
tantra was supported by the theory of cosmic evolution derived 
mainly from the Samkhya-Patanjali system. Mathematical and 
geometrical knowledge provided useful keys to the construction 
of various kinds of yantras. This syncretic trend made tantra an 
elastic and assimilative system and a fusion of many disciplines. 

Men's age-old questions about the origin and nature of the 
cosmos are not new; only the contexts and the methods of the 
search for conclusive answers can be unique. Science, by the very 
definition of its pursuit, bases its investigations on observations and 
experimental methods susceptible to verification. It is the realm of 
posterior knowledge based on empirical facts, and in diametrical 
opposition to it is another domain of knowledge which pursues its 
search principally along a priori lines of knowing. Paradoxically, 
the empirical and the intuitive disciplines share a common 
denominator: both transcend the appearances of the phenomenal 
world and go into the realm of the unknown to unravel the 
mysteries ofthe universe. Both these methods were applied by the 

Opposite and above: Creation of 
the universe showing the energy 
circles in the course of evolution 
emanating from a single 
transcendent source. Gujarat, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 


ancient Hindus. Some inferences were drawn on the basis of a 
systematic method: facts were observed, instances were subjected 
to careful analysis and classification, and their results were verified 
by empirical means. This method was particularly the source of the 
Hindu physico-chemical theories and certain astronomical 
generalizations, which reached a remarkable degree of approxi¬ 
mation to the figures of Laplace's table. Their similarity can only 
be justified by the fact that results were obtained by a process of 
verification and correction by comparison of the computed with 
the observed. There were exceptions to this systematic approach, 
especially when quasi-empirical explanations were sought. 

In early times, philosophical doctrines were blended with 
scientific theories: as a consequence, many scientific pronounce¬ 
ments were based on intuitive insight. A sudden impression or a 
fleeting imagery of subliminal experience may emerge into the 
conscious mind; uniquely personal as they may appear, these 
impressions are correlated to objective facts before any systematic 
empirical investigation can take place. Thus, for instance, 
according to Manu (c. 300 BC), 'Trees and plants are conscious and 
feel pleasure and pain' (VII); later this attitude was exemplified by 
Udayana as well as by Gunaratna, in his declaration (c. AD 1350) 
that plant-life, apart from its infancy, youth and age, or regular 
growth, is characterized by various kinds of movement or action 
connected with sleep, waking, expansion and contraction in 
response to touch, special food favourable to its impregnation, and 
so on. These statements were taken as 'occult fantasy' or myth until 
scientifically proved by the physicist, J. C. Bose, in his discovery of 
the sensitive reactions and physiological processes of the living 
plant. Using the crescograph, an instrument devised by him to 
measure the reaction of plants to stimuli, he was able to detect that 
plants have a sensitive nervous system, and that they 'feel' pleasure 
and pain. 

Instances such as this one indicate that there are other ways of 
knowing qualitatively different from the scientific method. Like 
science, the intuitive experiential method postulates certain facts; 
but, unlike science, it relies on spontaneous supernormal 
conditions, the result of which may be applied universally though 
the method be tested in individual cases. Further, discovery may 
also be recognized as a process of inference which is not subject to 
any precise rules. 

From the tantric point of view, the efficacy of scientific norms 
does not rest mainly on empirical verification but on the basis of 
psychological experimentation, by working on one's self. The 


varied hypotheses which are advanced to explain the world with 
the help of scientific investigations are the way-stations along an 
aspirant's spiritual search. They are conceived to be postulates 
which help the entire edifice of ritualistic techniques cohere as a 
theoretical framework. To a tantrika their validity rests on the 
efficacy of the ritual. If the adept attains the core of realization, for 
him the axioms are ipso facto 'true', and there is no longer any need 
for speculation or hair-splitting experimentation under laboratory 
conditions. An adept's experimental field is always himself and his 
body. But even so, opposing attitudes coexist: for instance, the 
Tamil Siddhai tantrikas explain their supernatural power 'as a kind 
of game with anti-matter', a view very similar to contemporary 
scientists' that there may be an entire universe of anti-matter; other 
tantrikas may offer a different explanation for the same feat, seeing 
it as caused by the power of a mantra. These two different frames of 
reference, describing the same event, are to be understood as 
complementary to each other. 


The history of cosmic evolution, according to Samkhya, which 
profoundly influenced the tantras, may be regarded as possessing 
all the characteristics of a scientific hypothesis based on the 
principles of conservation, transformation and dissipation of 
energy. Before examining the theory, however, we must review 
some ofits salient features in simple terms. A broad cosmogonical 
view holds that grosser elements of the tangible world have 
evolved from finer elements; the finer elements in turn are seen as 
having been compounded from still more subtle homogeneous 
substances. Furthermore, this broad view formulates a psycho¬ 
physical parallelism and postulates that matter and mind evolve 
simultaneously. Finally, it lays down the theory of the recurring 
cycles of the universe, according to which destruction amounts to a 
mere reversal of the evolutionary process to its primary sources. 
For instance, the universe evolves in stages 'layer after layer'; the 
first to emanate is a vibratory element of Akasa, which gives rise 
to heat, heat turns into gaseous substance and liquefies, and finally 
the gas is turned into solid matter. When the cycle is complete it 
reverses itself: solid matter disintegrates into liquids, and finally 
dissolves into vibratory state; the cycle of expansion, contraction 
and dissolution starts again. Thus, this view proposes the 
possibility of a steady birth of matter and continuous creation of 
the universe. 


Bindu. The universe in its 
unmanifested form is conceived as 
the most minute point from which 
the expansion of the world takes 
place and into which, completing 
the cosmic cycles, it recedes. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

The cosmos is evolved of an unmanifested ground, called 
Prakriti, which is conceived as a group of three indeterminate 
continua of categories technically known as gunas. Literally, guna 
means quality, but as quality and substance arc identical in 
Samkhya, the gunas are therefore substantive entities. They are 
sattva, the essence or intelligence-stuff, the principle of conscious 
manifestation: rajas, the energy-stuff producing motion, force, 
quantum, extension, and overcoming resistance; and tamas the 
matter-stuff is mass or inertia that offers resistance to opposing 
force. At the commencement of a cosmic cycle the process of 
evolution is at rest. The three gunas exist together in perfect 
equilibrium or uniform diffusion in the infinite continuum, 
Prakriti. They neither interact nor manifest their existence. In that 
state, both the energy and the matter-stuff, according to Samkhya, 
possess the attributes of quantum and continuity, a description 
which is in keeping with modern notions of energy and matter. 

Evolution begins with the disturbance of this primordial 
balance by the transcendental or magnetic influence of Purusha, 
the Universe of Consciousness, on Prakriti which is in a state of 
equipoise or equilibrated trance. Disequilibration breaks up the 
uniform diffusion and impels the aggregation of the gunas to a state 
in which one or more is relatively preponderant over the others, a 
creative transformation accompanied by evolution of motion 

The diversity of phenomena results from the special com¬ 
bination ofthe gunas which constantly unite and separate. Though 


they cooperate to produce the world of effects, they do not 
coalesce. All the gunas are present in any manifestation in a potent 
latent or sublatent form: in the material system, for instance, 
where tamas, or the matter-stuff, predominates mass is potent, 
energy is latent and the intelligence-stuff is sublatent. The totality 
of the gunas, whether actual or potential, always remains constant 
since they can neither be created nor destroyed, which suggests the 
principle of the conservation of the energy-stuff and the matter- 
stuff as well as their transformations. 

Evolution is based on recognition of a natural law whose order 
of succession is 'from a relatively less differentiated, less 
determinate, less coherent to a relatively more differentiated, more 
determinate, more coherent whole'. The implication here is that 
though there are consecutive transformations and developments of 
categories, there is no change in their substance; in other words, 
differentiation of categories is within an integrated whole. This 
stage continues until there is a tendency of the unstable equilibrium 
to reverse the course of events and the order of succession to return 
to the original stable equilibrium of Prakriti, with the equal 
diffusion of all the gunas. This is analogous to a state when there is a 
total dissipation of energy and mass stuff. Thus, then, the process of 
evolution is an incessant manifestation of a twofold process 
according to irreversible cosmic principles. 

The Sarhkhya doctrine postulates that in the process of 
evolution, matter and mind evolved concurrently from the 
original flow of energy. The first evolute is the intelligible essence 
of the cosmos which bifurcates into two coordinated series to make 
the world of appearances. The two divisions are the 'object series', 
which gives rise to material potencies and gross matter, and the 
'subject series', from which emanate all the modes of the mind, 
such as intelligence, volition, sense perception, ego-sense, and the 
like, all of which can be generically termed 'mind-stuff'. In a 
physicalistic attempt to link matter and mind, an eminent 
astronomer, V. A. Firsoff postulates the existence of extremely 
subtle particles of mind stuff, or 'mindons', of a quasi-ethereal 
quality. He suggests that mind is 'a universal entity or interaction 
of the same order as electricity or gravitation, and that there must 
exist a modulus of transformation, analogous to Einstein's famous 
equality E = mc 2 , whereby "mind stuff" could be equated with 
other entities of the physical world'. 21 

After a scries of subtle transformations, there is further 
differentiation and integration which transform the universal 
energy of the cosmos into various classes of infra-atomic potential 


units ofenergy called tanmatras which cannot be seen or measured. 
The tanmatras result from the action of energy on subtle matter, 
bhutadi, which is absolutely homogeneous and inert when the 
original equilibrium comes to an end. The infra-atomic potential 
units of energy possess something more than mass, energy or 
quantum, and they are characterized by powers of pressure, 
radiant heat, cohesive attraction. They are also charged with 
specific energies represented by sound potential - the energy of 
vibration; touch potential - energy of impact on mechanical 
pressures; colour potential - energy of radiant heat and light; taste 
potential - energy ofviscous attraction; smell potential - energy of 
cohesive attraction. These subsequently give rise, by a process of 
'condensation and collocation' from the corresponding tanmatras, 
to the five grosser atoms: space (vyoman), air (marut), fire (tejas), 
water (ap), and earth (kshiti). 

The cornerstone ofthis view is that the universe does not evolve 
out ofatoms but the atoms are the tertiary state in the formation of 
the universe. Each kind of infra-atomic potential becomes charged 
with the grosser element which together with the original action 
of energy over bhutadi in turn generates the next infra-atomic 
potential. For example, the first to emanate is the sound potential, 
which generates the proto-atom of space; then the atom of space 
together with the original action of energy generates the tanmatra 
of touch potential and the atom of air; the atom of air together 
with the original action then generates colour potential, and so on. 
The grosser elements should not be confused with elementary 
substances; they represent abstract principles on the basis of their 

A bird's-eye view of the successive stages of cosmogenesis has 
been provided by Dr B. N. Seal: 

Out of the all-pervasive rudiment-matter (Bhutadi) appeared Akasa 
(ether), first as a Tanmatra (subtle matter) charged with the potential 
energy of sound (vibration potential), and then as an atomic integration 
of mono-Tanmatric structure (the Akasa-atom) also ubiquitous and all- 
enveloping. In the next stage we find a new kind of Tanmatras, systems of 
the infra-atomic vibratory particles, so arranged as to manifest a new 
form of Energy, that of impact or mechanical pressure, and these 
Tanmatras combining with the vibration potentials (Akasa-Tanmatra) 
produced a new kind of atom, the di-Tanmatric Vayu-atom, which by 
aggregation formed a gaseous envelope composed of impinging 
(driving) vibratory particles (Vayu). Next appeared the third class of 
Tanmatras, infra-atomic systems of the impinging vibratory particles, 
which by their collocation developed a new form of Energy - the energy 
of radiant heat-and-light. These Tanmatras, combining with the 
potentials (Tanmatras) of vibration and impact, produced a new kind of 


atom - the tri-Tanmatric Tejas-atom, the light-and-heat corpuscle, 
which by aggregation enveloped the gaseous world in huge flames. In the 
next stage we have the fourth class of Tanmatras, new and complex infra- 
atomic systems of the radiant impinging vibratory particles, which 
evolved the energy of viscous attraction, as well as the potential energy 
concerned in the taste-stimulus. These Tanmatras, combining with the 
three previous ones, gave rise to another class of atoms, the tetra- 
Tanmatric Ap-atom, and the flaming gases were thus precipitated into 
cosmic masses of viscous fluid matters (Ap). Finally appeared the fifth 
class of Tanmatras, infra-atomic systems of the viscous radiant impinging 
vibratory particles which developed new forms of Energy - the energy of 
cohesive attraction, as well as the potential energy concerned in the 
stimulus of smell. These Tanmatras, uniting with the four other kinds of 
infra-atomic subtile particles, formed another class of atoms, the penta- 
Tanmatric Earth-atom. Thus the viscous fluid matters were condensed 
and transformed into the Earth-Bhuta, comprising the majority of the so- 
called elements of chemistry." 2 

> TR 

' TO 

Cosmic plan representing the 
interaction of elemental forces on 
the energy circles surrounding the 
earth. Rajasthan, early 19th 
century. Ink on paper. 


V Astronomical equations, based 
on time units, used to determine the 
mean position of a planet. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

VI Astrogram. This painting 
represents how astronomy blends 
with astrology. The symbols 
depicted on the various parts of the 
body map out the interaction of the 
twenty-eight Nakshatras, or lunar 
mansions, on the micro-self. The 
body, depicted in the shape of a 
bow or Dhanu-asana, represents 
the energized unit of the vast 
macrocosm. Rajasthan, 19th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

The process of evolution of the material universe is always 
conceived in relation to space, time and causality. Time is a 
continuum ofone dimension which distinguishes 'then' and 'now'. 
A moment or an instance is the ultimate irreducible unit of this 
continuum. A moment also represents the ultimate moment of 
change or an instantaneous transit of an atom from one point of 
space to the next. In the time sequence only a single moment is real, 
and the whole universe evolves in that single moment; the rest, 
past and future, are potential or sublatent phenomena. Time is 
relative and has no objective reality, being always conceived in 
relation to its antecedents and sequence. Space, like time, is also 
considered to be only relative, constructed on the basis of relation 
or position. Both these categories are forms of intuition of our 
empirical consciousness and arc real only in finite terms. The 
contradictions and inconsistencies of the old scientific theories 
forced Einstein to ascribe new properties to the space-time 
continuum. According to him, space and time are not absolute 
quantities imposed on the universe but have significance only 
when relations between events and systems are defined. The 
ancient Indian thinkers also stressed this aspect. 

In Samkhya, cause and effect are more or less evolved forms of 
the same ultimate energy. The sum of effects exists potentially in 
the sum of causes. Production of effects only means an internal 
change in the arrangement of atoms already present in potential 
form in the cause. The material universe, which is a product, is 
only a change of appearance of Prakriti and the three gunas. 
According to the physicistloseph Kaplan, the principle involved is 
identical with what is known in Western physics as the principle of 

In our modern description of nature, we proceed as follows: Let us say we 
are describing a molecule of nitrogen. Instead of giving a completely 
detailed account of its structure, as we might do in describing a chair or a 
house, we say that the molecule is adequately described for experimental 
purposes by giving all the possible energy states in which the nitrogen 
molecule can find itself, and then assigning to each such state a number 
which gives its relative weight, that is, the relative number of times that 
state appears compared with other states. Thus the molecule is not 
something which takes on successive states, but it is the states themselves. 
So dice are the sum of possible ways in 'which they can fall. The principle 
is known as the principle of superposition. So the three gunas represent 
the universe, and as the three occur in various relative intensities, so the 
properties of things are determined. 23 





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aa oaiaQfrgsi a5gfwiaRfaflSBzrvrR} ???n 


i ^snmfc 253 X 1 ? 
*«*?•« v **™ 

W « *»1 

vaiqrfvai <l«ita«i.-,i 

U»i;n;i7i ■, „ 



Samkhya's view that it is possible for one element to change into 
another also tallies with modern physics. Kaplan further 

The transmutability of the elements has been shown in many ways. For 
example, it is possible, by bombarding certain elements with extremely 
rapidly-moving electrical particles, to change them into others, and to 
even produce elements which do not occur in nature because they are 
unstable (radioactive). We go even further. It is possible to produce 
matter, such as electrons, from radiation (light). Thus the ultimate 
constituent of the universe of the physicist is energy of radiation - that is, 
light. Thus the Samkhya theory is in absolute agreement with the latest 
results of physics. It is interesting here to make the following comment. 
The atomic theory is the product of the Western mind. In his naive way 
the Western scientist generalizes the experience that one can subdivide 
matter until one meets an ultimate particle into an atomic theory 
assuming many elements. The Hindu philosopher goes much further and 
reduces everything to one element. 24 


The importance of sound and its basic vibrations has been 
investigated and explained with considerable detail in Indian 
thought. The Nyaya-Vaiseshika's hypothetical analysis of sound in 
its physical aspect and the mode of its propagation centres round 
the following: sound is conceived to be the specific quality of 
space. The physical basis of sound is traced to a mechanical impact 
which generates vibrations in the molecules of the object struck, 
which in turn impinge against surrounding molecules of air to 
produce sound. Sound expands in space as waves propagate in an 
ocean, and it is said to increase in successive concentric spherical 
layers of filaments which emanate from one another. Further, it is 
maintained that sound can be distinguished into decreasing orders 
of subtlety: Sphota or transcendental sound; Nada or supersonic 
sound which can be but is not necessarily heard; and Dhvani or 
audible sound. The articulate sound we all experience is Dhvani. 

The basis for this concept of sound is a central doctrine described 
in tantras as Sphotavada, the foundation oftantric mantras which 
form an important aspect of ritual. By repetition of sound 
syllables, vibratory rhythms are created in the body to awaken the 
psychic fields. Everything from the subtlest idea to gross forms 
of matter is a product of the coagulation of simple or complex 
combinations of vibrations. Every object has its norm of sound as 
an accompaniment ofits energy. Vibration, therefore, is one ofthe 
numerous results of sound and not, as it is commonly held, its cause. 

VII Conjunction ofthe sun and 
the moon with zodiacal divisions. 
Rajasthan, c. 19th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

VIII Cosmological charts from an 
illuminated manuscript. Gujarat, 

c. 16th century. Gouache on paper. 


Om. Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

The doctrine of Sphotavada postulates the inexplicable notion 
that there is transcendental sound without vibration of a supersonic 
order which is therefore inaudible to the normal range of the 
physiological ear. This non-vibratory sound is variously de¬ 
signated as 'silent sound', 'static sound', 'unstruck sound' or 
anahata-dhvani. This postulate leads us to the assumption that 
there is no vacuum anywhere. The universe is a continuum of 
unfragmented plena, a stage in the vibratory scale which can be 
equated with the pre-creative stage of Prakriti. The primary sound 
created by a causal stress is known as 'Para-sabda'. The doctrine 
also holds that though the ultimate quality of the sound potential is 
'silence', at the finite level it generates different degrees of vibration 
that create light and dimension. Every vibration has its own 
volume and structure which vary in accordance to the density of 
sound. Sound is said to become more and more differentiated in 
relation to pitch, rhythm, volume, frequency, speed, and 
harmony. Hence, if the right chord of the octave of an object is 
struck, it can be animated, remodelled or destroyed. It is around 
these concepts that techniques and processes of sound syllables and 
their visual equivalents are built up in the mantra and yantra rituals. 



The atomic hypothesis of the Nyaya-Vaiseshika explains the 
properties of matter and the nature of atoms and molecules. The 
atom, in Sanskrit arm, is invisible and intangible, but is called 
paramanu when it assumes a state of tangibility. The 
paramanu, or the smallest possible dimension of an elementary 
particle, is generally calculated as between 1/1,000,000 and 
1/349,525 of an inch. Aggregations of atoms produce the 
molecule, or 'sthula bhutani', which produces the visible universe. 
Four kinds of atom arc distinguished in the Vaiseshika system, each 
possessing certain characteristic properties such as number, 
quantity, individuality, mass, gravity, fluidity, velocity, and 
certain potentials of sense stimuli. The four types correspond to the 
grosser matter of material phenomena: earth, water, fire and air. 
(The other, fifth, element, ether or space, is considered to be non- 
atomic in structure, serving only as a receptacle of sound.) 
Spherical in shape, atoms have a characteristically vibratory or 
rotary motion. Atoms have an inherent impulse to unite to form 
molecules, and as long as they are not subject to the influence of 
corpuscles of heat, atoms of the same elementary substance unite to 
form homogeneous binary molecules. Under the impulse of their 
basic tendency to unite into larger aggregates, binary molecules 
then combine to form ternary and quarternary molecules. In this 
way the variety of substances belonging to the same element class 
results from the molecular combination and configuration of 
atoms of that element. On the other hand, polybhautic compounds 
are formed by the union of atoms of heterogeneous substances 
belonging to the various classes ofbhutas or gross matter. 

The atomic theory of the Jaina system offers an interesting 
hypothesis about the formation of chemical combinations. 
According to this theory (c. AD 40), mere contact between two 
atoms or molecules is not sufficient to produce a compound. Such 
composition is, rather, based on an interlinking which must 
precede the compound's formation. This interlinking can only 
take place between two particles of opposing character, though no 
linking is possible if the opposing qualities are feeble or defective. 
On the other hand, particles of homogeneous quality can only 
unite to form molecules if the strength and intensity of one particle 
is at least twice as great as the other's. This linking forms the basis of 
all qualitative transformations in atoms. This view is very like the 
dualistic hypothesis of chemical combination propounded by the 
Swedish chemist Berzelius. 

Payodhi-jala, the Primordial 
Waters. The force of the manifested 
universe, whether primordial water 
or primordial atoms, is the source of 
all being. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 


Diagram of an astronomical 
computation. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Ink and colour on paper. 

Different systems of Indian thought, then, developed various 
theories of the origin, constitution and structure of matter. This 
diversity contributed significantly to the work of constructing 
scientific concepts which were freely applied to the methods of 
investigation of the material universe and in the development of 
such disciplines as, among others, chemistry, alchemy and 


Alchemy and medicine originated as necessary aids to the 
fulfilment of spiritual objectives. The chief pursuit of alchemy, 
besides transmutations of substances, was to preserve the vital elixir 
of life and thus effect a state of physical balance and immutable 
duration, so that all the energies of the body were unified. In 
addition, the psychic changes following the intake of alchemical 
preparations were not induced for their own sake but for higher 
spiritual goals. 

Hindu alchemy can be traced back to the Vedic period. The Rig 
Veda describes the Soma Rasa, or the juice of the Soma plant, as 
amrita, which is akin to the Greek ambrosia. In spite of the 
divergence of views as to the attributes and properties of Soma, it is 
generally agreed that it must have been an extremely potent 
euphoriant. Authorities agree that it was a milky climbing plant, 
most probably Asclepias Acida or Ephedra or a type of un¬ 
cultivated vine. For the extraction of juice. Soma herbs were 
crushed between two stones or pounded in a mortar; the extracted 
liquid was then filtered through sheep's wool and subsequently 
mixed with milk, butter or honey. The texts describe its reaction 
on the body as no less than a 'roar of a bull'. Soma was an 
inexhaustible source of strength and vitality: it increased sexual 
energy, stimulated speech and possessed healing properties. 

Though alchemical knowledge was widely cultivated in ancient 
India, it reached its zenith in the tantric renaissance period (AD 
700-AD 1300). The tantrikas intimately understood the body and 
its cosmic affinities; they were well aware of the various techniques 
of attuning the body by the use of mercury, medicaments, 
breathing exercises and helio-therapeutic meditation. 

Alchemical experiments were concerned mainly with the 
reduction of elements and their use in their primary forms. There 
is, it was believed, an original stuff, or ultimate substance, out of 
which the whole universe has been formed. This primal element 
could be reduced or precipitated as powder - the ash form of 


matter or the remaining sediment of liquid - and could be made 
manifest by burning or heating the element so that extraneous 
additions could be dispersed. This reduction of substance into 
ashes, therefore, was regarded as a form of purification, and ash is 
the basic cohesive element for the preparation of elixir vitae. For 
further purification, ash has to be dissolved in a still more elemental 
substance called rasa, or liquid. The primeval form of all things was 
linked up with the cosmic sea, or the wet element, and almost all 
forms of fluid - sap, juice, water, blood - were used as medicine. 

The chemical theory of organic and inorganic compounds of 
the prevalent medical schools, particularly of Charaka (AD 
80-180), provided useful knowledge about the combination of 
properties of substances. The physical characteristics of the five 
subtle elements and their isomeric modes were classified as 

Earth-substances: heavy, rough, hard, inert, dense, opaque; 

exciting the sense of smell. 

Water-substances: liquid, viscous, cold, soft, slippery, fluid; 

exciting the sense of taste. 

Fire-substances: hot, penetrative, subtile, light, dry, clear; 

rarefied and luminous. 

Air substances: light, cold, dry, transparent, rarefied; impingent. 

Ether-substances: imponderable (or light), rarefied, elastic; 

capable of sound (vibrations). 

Each of the substances, it was believed, is a fivefold ultra¬ 
compound, and in this sense is penta-bhautic, or a combination of 
the five original subtle elements, each of which can be found in a 
lesser or greater proportion in a particular substance. Thus ether is 
the vehicle of air, heat, light and water; air, the combination of 
water vapour, light and heat, and even five particles of earth, held 
in an indeterminate state. The colour and sensible qualities of a 
substance result from its structure, the arrangement of its atoms 
and its physico-chemical properties resulting from the relative 
preponderance of a specific substance in its composition. 

The most fundamental, and indeed the quintessence, of all 
substances was mercury. In all tantric alchemical treatises the term 
rasa means mercury; their medicinal preparations consist mainly of 
mercury. Although it was considered that mercurial compounds 
should, in theory, be prepared by amalgamating mercury and air, 
mercury and blood, mercury and semen or mercury and various 
ashes, several other ingredients, such as mica, sulphur, orpiament, 
pyrites, cinnabar, calamine, various alkalies, bitumen, and metals 

The five elements, in ascending 


like gold, silver, zinc, copper, arsenic, were also used, as well as 
various acids. 

An important tantric treatise, Rasaratnakara, ascribed to 
Nagarjuna (c. AD 800) is a repository of much chemical 
information and many alchemical recipes. The text provides 
valuable information about the various preparations of mercury, 
including red crystalline sulphide of mercury, and techniques for 
extracting mercury and zinc from zinc ore. It also describes more 
than two dozen apparatuses for experiments in physico-chemical 
processes. Another significant tantric treatise, Rasarnava (AD 1200) 
has important information on chemistry and is a direct precursor 
of iatrochemistry. An elaborate description of the location, 
construction and equipment of chemical laboratories is available in 
Rasaratna-samuccaya, an iatrochemical treatise of the 13 th century. 
A later work, Rasasara (whose name literally means 'sea of 
mercury'), is a purely chemical work and describes eighteen 
mercurial processes. 

Several special operations involving mercury and examples of 
chemical composition and decomposition, by processes of 
calcination, distillation, sublimation, steaming, fixation, and so on, 
were elaborately discussed in the texts devoted to alchemy and 
chemistry, as also were various metallurgical processes - 
extraction, purification, killing, calcination, incineration, powder¬ 
ing, solution, precipitation, rinsing or washing, drying, steaming, 
melting, casting, filling. Here is a typical example ofa recipe, for a 
mercury potion, and the apparatus for reducing it to ashes: 

Mercury is to be rubbed with its equal weight of gold and then [the 
amalgam] further admixed with sulphur, borax, etc. The mixture is then 
to be transferred to a crucible and its lid put on, and then submitted to 
gentle roasting. By partaking of this elixir [i.e., the sublimate] the devotee 
acquires a body not liable to decay. . . . [The apparatus, the Garbha- 
Yantram, is described thus:] Make a clay crucible, 4 digits in length and 3 
digits in width, with the mouth rounded. Take 20 parts of salt and one of 
bedellium and pound them finely, adding water frequently; smear the 
crucible with this mixture. Make a fire of paddy husks and apply gentle 

One text speaks of'killed mercury': 

When the mercury assumes colours after having given up its fluidity, it is 
known as 'swooned'. Killed mercury is that which does not show signs of 
fluidity, mobility or lustre. When the quicksilver, which has acquired the 
colour and the lustre of the rising sun, stands the test of fire [i.e., is not 
readily volatilized], then it to be regarded as fixed. (Rasaratnakara of 


The Siddhayoga of Vrinda is an Ayurvedic-Tantric treatise 
which discusses the external and internal uses of mercury. A 
preparation called parpatitamram, which contains mercury and 
was taken internally, was prepared by pounding sulphur and 
copper pyrites together with mercury and roasting the mixture in 
a closed crucible. The product thus obtained was administered 
with honey. This process probably produced sulphides of copper 
and mercury. Sulphide of mercury was also the main ingredient of 
another preparation called rasamrita-churan. To make it, one part 
of sulphur and half its weight of mercury were rubbed together 
and then administered with honey and clarified butter. Killed 
copper, blue vitriol, rock salt and a few vegetable ingredients 
compounded together formed a collyrium for the eyes. 

Many foreign travellers to India, notably Marco Polo, Al- 
Biruni and Francois Bernier, recorded their observations on the 
remarkable uses of mercury as a restorative and stimulant. Marco 
Polo, describing 'the chugchi [yogis] who live 150 or 200 years', 
wrote: 'These people make use of a very strange beverage, for they 
make a potion of sulphur and quicksilver mixed together and this 
they drink twice every month. They say this gives them long life, 
and it is a potion they are used to take from their early childhood.’ 

Despite the apparent simplicity of these recipes and procedures, 
it should not be assumed that the mere mechanical mixture of 
compounds will yield immediate results. Indeed, the effectiveness 
of these formulae is not the literal interpretation of the alchemical 
texts but lies within a body of closely guarded secret processes and 
considerations. Researches of the contemporary alchemist Armand 
Barbault have met with scepticism based on a simplistic view: 




J V. 


J V 



2 % 






D 0 

3 6 


Suryakalanal chakra. 

Armand Barbault, a contemporary alchemist, achieved after twelve years 
what he calls in his book L' Or du millieme matin (Paris 1969) the 'vegetable 
gold' or Elixir of the first degree. This elixir was thoroughly analysed and 
tested by German and Swiss laboratories and doctors. It proved its great 
value and efficacy, especially in the treatment of very serious heart and 
kidney ailments. But it could not be fully analysed nor, therefore, 
synthesized. Its preparation required such peculiar care, and took so long, 
that eventually all hopes of commercialization were abandoned. The 
scientists who examined it declared that they were in the presence of a 
new state of matter having mysterious and perhaps deeply significant 
qualities. 25 

This is not an isolated case. Dr P. C. Ray, in his History of Hindu 
Chemistry, emphasizes the inscrutability of alchemical preparations 
and records that Nagarjuna, (c. 8th century AD) the father of Indian 
alchemy, had to undergo twelve years of asceticism to know the 
hidden secret. 26 



Like other disciplines of Indian thought, astronomy and its origins 
may be genetically related back to the Vedas. The Vedic Aryans 
were well acquainted with the natural routine cycles of heavenly 
bodies. The vault of the sky, for example, was seen as being 
governed by the eternal ordinances of an inherent universal 
principle, Rita (literally, the course of things), which determines 
the paths and phases of the moon and the planets, the day/night 
cycle and occurrences of eclipses. 

The Jyotisha Vedanga and the Surya Prajnapati (c. 400 BC-AD 200) 
record the earliest Hindu astronomical statements. In early times, 
astronomy developed out of pragmatic speculations which were 
necessary and therefore of paramount importance for the careful 
calculation of appropriate times for rituals and sacrifices. The 
important treatises on Indian astronomy were the Gargi-samhita (c. 
AD 230), the Aryabhattiya of Aryabhata (AD 499), the Siddhanta- 
sekhara of Sripati, and the Siddhanta-Siromani ofBhaskara II (AD 
1114 - 1160 ). 

By the beginning of the Christian era, a great upsurge in the 
astronomical search was formalized in a number of methodical 
studies; many works of great importance, such as the five 
Siddhantcis, of which the Surya Siddhanta is probably the best 
known, were compiled and later summarized by the sixth-century 
astronomer and mathematician Varaha-Mihira in his Pancha- 
siddhantika (The Five Astronomical Systems), written about AD 550. 
In his outstanding work, the Brihat-samhita (The Great Com¬ 
pendium), he describes the motions and conjunctions of celestial 
bodies and their significance as omens. 

The classical period of ancient Indian astronomy is considered 
to have ended with Brahmagupta who wrote the Brahma- 
siddhanta, in AD 628, and the Khandakhadyaka, a practical treatise on 
astronomical calculations, in AD 664. Aryabhata's new epicyclic 
theory, and his postulates regarding the sphericity of the earth, its 
rotation upon its axis and revolution around the sun, as well as his 
formulae for the determination of the physical parameters of 
various celestial bodies (such as the diameters of the earth and the 
moon), and the prediction of eclipses and the correct length of the 
year by means of mathematical calculation, were significant 
achievements which anticipated and agree with the modern ideas. 
Aryabhata also gave the first fundamental definition of tri¬ 
gonometric functions and was responsible for pointing out the 
importance of zero. 

1 12 

Astronomical computation, based 
on the Sarvatabhadra Yantra, com¬ 
posed of nine fields, each of which 
represents an aspect of the universe. 
Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, 
c. 18th century. Ink and gouache 
on paper. 

The science of mathematics was closely allied to astronomy. To 
ensure accurate predictions, astronomical data had to be compiled 
on the basis of sophisticated mathematical calculations, and the 
ancient Indians devised an efficient system of computing so that 
they could deal with highly complex astronomical calculations. 
Modern numerical script and methods of computing originated 
primarily from Indian sources and were based on the combination 
of two fundamental factors, the place-value given to the digits and 
the zero-sign. Ancient Hindu mathematicians recognized number 
as both abstract and concrete, and were, consequently, well 
acquainted with the numerical quantity of objects and spatial 
extension, necessary to develop algebra. They posited the notions 
of 'possession' and 'debt' quantitatively to discriminate positive 
from negative in order to concretize the existence of opposite 
quantities. They also developed a wide application of word 
numerals as well as symbols and arithmetical signs. In this system, 
astronomical tables were condensed in verse and numerals were 
expressed by means of objects, concepts, and so on. Thus, the 
number one could be denoted by the moon or earth; two by any 


pair (eyes, hands, etc.); zero by the sky, void, etc. This method was 
predominantly used to connote large numbers in astronomical 
works. For greater concision, the use of chronograms was later 
replaced by an alphabetical system of notation which was 
sometimes applied to descriptive astronomy. 

Indian mathematicians have long worked with number of the 
order ofbillions, even conceiving ofinfinity as a unit. The smallest 
measure of time mentioned by the Indian astronomers is the truti, 
1/33750 second. The unit of time required for the passage of the sun 
over an atomic object is mathematically calculated in the 
Siddhdnta-'siromani to be 17,496,000,000 paramanus; paramanus. 


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Astronomical diagram used to 
ascertain the mean position of a 
planet. Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Ink and colour on paper. 


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So/ar orb. An astronomical chart 
used to determine the sun's altitude, 
zenith, distance and declination, 
principally for ascertaining correct 
hours for rituals. Rajasthan, 
c. iSrt century. Ink and colour on 


Astrolabes. The two discs or tablets 
are engraved with azimuth circles, 
hour circles for various latitudes, 
etc. Jaipur. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Brass. 

'extreme atoms', are generally measured as being between 
1/1,000,000 to 1/349525 inch. 

Mathematical units of time were considered an integrated 
category for recording observations of a constellation correct to 
one second. There were three ranks of time. The first, cosmic or 
epochal time, is referred to the eternally recurring cosmic ages. 
The four ages, or yugas, are calculated to be in the order of ratio of 
4: 3:2:1, each of which precedes the other until the universal 
cataclysm. The first cosmic age, called Krita or Satya-yuga, is 
1,728,000 solar years, the second, Treta-yuga, is 1,296,000 solar 
years long, the third, Dvapara-yuga, is 864,000 years long, and the 
last, Kali-yuga, the present age of mankind, is 432,000 solar years 
long. We are passing through the sixth millennium of the Kali- 
yuga, and so there are still about 427,000 years for it to run, after 
which the cycle will be renewed and the four ages will commence 
once again. The second range of time is the solar or lunar calendar 
which determines the days, weeks, months and seasons. The third 
rank, the smallest unit of duration, is horologic time. To achieve 
accuracy in calculation, the span of a day was converted into 
smallest atoms of time. Thus, a day is conceived of as lasting for 
86,400 seconds and is further divided into 46,656,000,000 
moments, a number arrived by the following time-scale: 1 
day = 60 Ghatika (or 24 hours comprising 60 units of time); 1 
Ghatika = 60 Vig-Ghatika; 1 Vig-Ghatika = 6o Lipta, 1 Lipta = 60 
Vilipta; 1 Vilipta = 6o Para; 1 Para = 60 Tatpara; therefore, 1 
day = 46,656,000,000 Tatpara or moments. 

Among various methods to ascertain the mean position of a 
particular planet in its revolution, one of the most frequent of the 
Hindu calculations, known as the equation of the centre, is perhaps 
the most illuminating. The calculation entails considerable skill, 
but can be explained simply as being determined on the basis of 
assuming epicycles. The mean position of the planet is calculated in 
relation to the number of revolutions during a yuga, or age. In 
order to find the 'true place' of a planet certain epicyclic motions 
were assumed, that is, the planet was hypothesized as moving in a 
second circle whose centre is carried round the circumference of 
the mean circle. Errors were further corrected by obtaining results 
from combining two equations arrived at from two separate 
epicycles. They were the equation of conjunction (when two 
bodies have the same celestial longitude) and the equation of'apsis' 
(the point of greatest or least distance from the central body). In 
this way the average is obtained by combining the results of these 
two equations and correction could compensate for discrepancy. 


Jaiprakdsh Yantra, the crest jewel 
of all yantras. The sun's position 
can be calculated by the shadow of 
the intersecting wires on its concave 
sides falling on its surface, Jaipur 
observatory, Rajasthan, 1728. 

Extant astronomical charts were used to ascertain the sun's 
altitude and zenith distance and its declination; to find the 
declination of a planet or star; to find the degree of azimuth of a 
planet or star; to determine celestial latitudes and longitudes; to 
calculate position during eclipse. For the same purposes, as¬ 
tronomical observatories, or Yantras, were also built, at a 
comparatively later date, by Jai Singh II (AD 1699-1744). Their 
equipment included the mural quadrant, a meridional wall set in 
the plane of the meridian, sloping up to point to the North Pole, 
charts of the celestial sphere and a huge gnomon. 

Astronomical findings greatly influence the whole gamut of 
tantric ritual. All practices, including the preparations of 
alchemical products, are preconditioned by time, planetary 
positions and the observance of the calendar. Astronomy also laid 
the theoretical foundation for the practical application of 
astrology, the science of the influence of the stars on human and 
terrestrial phenomena, which flourished in logical sequence to other 


Hindu astrology is predominantly an extension of astronomy, to 
such an extent that many ancient treatises on astronomy 
incorporate a section to astrology. The Surya-Siddhanta devotes 
a chapter to astrology, but two major works, Brihad-jatakci 
and Laghu-jataka, which are ascribed to Varaha-Mihira, deal 


Hastakara Yantra, with auspicious 
signs on the palms. Rajasthan, 
c. 18 th century. Gouache on paper. 

exclusively with astrology. Many significant notions, such as the 
twelve signs of the zodiac, the seven days of the week, the division 
of the day, show a remarkable affinity to modern Western 
concepts; it is generally considered that a number of these topics 
are based on the Greek system. 

The celestial sphere, with its infinite constellations, has always 
been a principal life-force in the Indian way of life in general and 
the tantric way in particular. Recourse is had to astrology for every 
conceivable operation, however trivial, from drawing a birth chart 
and making prognostications to setting out propitious months, 
days, hours and moments. The same method was used for a great 
enterprise or for casting a personal horoscope. It usually involves 
computation of time by mathematical calculation, from which the 
results of complex planetary combinations are drawn. In operation, 
it is so closely related to horometry that astrology became a system 
for the measurement of time in relation to the stellar and galactic 
rhythms and their interaction on behavioural patterns. 

The practice of astrology was not concerned so much with 
esotericism as with the pragmatic aim of determining the fruitful 
results of any event. Every operation, it was believed, must have a 
favourable outcome, and one of the most powerful means of 
ensuring it is not to isolate the event but to integrate it with every 
mode and rhythm of life including those of the distant asterisms, or 
lunar mansions. This belief was based partly on the notion of 
micro-macro correspondence and partly on the persuasion that 
every object in nature, thought, matter, or action, radiates a certain 
degree of cosmic force; various cosmic forces must be combined in 
harmony and at the right moment if they are to interact 
favourably. A typical example is the tradition of pilgrimages, or 
yatras, which are an important astrological subject and event in 
that it is desirable to commence such a journey at an auspicious 
hour. The Yoga Yatra texts provide many astrological conjunctions 
which supply the proper and useful knowledge to make 
pilgrimage a success. A yatra was recommended at specific 
positions of the 9 Nakshatras (lunar mansions), viz., Asvini, 
Punarvasu, Anuradha, Mrigasiras, Pushya, Revati, Hasta, Sravana 
and Dhanistha. In his Brihat-Samhita, Varaha-Mihira devoted 
1,100 verses to the subject and also composed important 
independent works, such as Brihad Yoga Yatra, Yoga Yatra and 
Tikkanika, which deal exclusively with the same topic. 

In calculating the precise 'time', many factors are taken into 
consideration, among which the most important ones are the 
conjunction of the planets, the lunar mansion, the fortnight 


(beginning with the new and full moon), the season, the day ofthe 
month and the exact time, or auspicious moment, known as 
muhurta. (There are thirty propitious muhurtas in a day and 
10,800 in a year.) All these calculations are derived from the Indian 
almanac which lays out methodical combinations of days, months 
and years for registering astronomical and astrological pheno¬ 
mena. In India there are numerous calendars in use based on the 
data of ancient manuals, and much of the numerical data they 
provide has been corrected, made uniform and adapted in relation 
to up-to-date information based on observed facts. 

The most significant hypothesis of astrology is that in the course 
of their natural rotation the planets release their magnetic force, 
which impinges upon the animate and inanimate world. We, in 
our human terms, describe these effects as the 'influence of the 
stars'. The range of influence, according to Hindu belief, is never 
caused by a single planet but is invariably the result ofthe effects of 
various planetary conjunctions including those ofthe twenty-eight 
lunar mansions or asterisms, called nakshastras, in the zodiacal belt. 
Each of the planets is in relationship with the zodiacal signs in 
septenarious, novenarious, duodenarious order. Their relative 
influence is understood as beneficent when they are in harmony 
and malific when in disharmony. Furthermore, Hindus, like the 
Greeks, have also assigned certain characteristics to each planet 
and fixed the maximum period of any particular planetary 
influence. Benjamin Walker summarizes these notions as follows: 

The maximum span of a planet's influence is also rigidly determined 
according to astrological laws. The full extent of all planetary influences 
over a man is said to last 108 years. Out of this any man may be influenced 

by each planet for not more than a fixed number of years. 

Surya, the Sun, for wealth, fame, success 6 years 

Chandra, the Moon, for religion, philosophy, mysticism, 
writing, asceticism, madness 15 years 

Mangala, Mars, for warfare, strife, litigation, quarrels 8 years 

Budha, Mercury, for travels, business, agriculture, wealth 17 years 

Sani, Saturn, for worries, troubles, death, mourning, 
tragedy 10 years 

Brihaspati, Jupiter, for domination, power, authority, rule, 
justice 19 years 

Rahu and Ketu, the ascending and descending nodes of 
the moon, for greed, anger, jealousy, defeat, setbacks 12 years 

Sukra, Venus, for pleasure, love, women, lust, and 
voluptuary delights 21 years 

In theory, the maximum bad luck period possible for a man to have 
would be a succession ofthe worst aspects of Mars, Saturn and Rahu, i.e., 
30 years. 27 


A planet's strength is determined in relation to its place, direction, 
activity and time, and a planet in transit is spoken of as affected in 
nine ways: 'blazing' when it is in exaltation, 'at ease' when in its 
house, 'glad' when it is in its friend's house, 'quiet' in its auspicious 
position, 'powerful' when it is shining brightly, 'oppressed' when 
overwhelmed by another planet, 'frightened' when in depression, 
'impaired' when its light is lost in sun's light, and 'malefic' when in 
the midst of negative force. 

Indian astrology's main concerns are the range and influences of 
the twelve zodiac signs, the planets and the twelve astrological 
houses, of which the last is an important doctrine in the Indian 
system of casting horoscopes. Horoscopes are drawn in a square or 
a circle of twelve divisions, and are based on the lagna, or the sign 
rising on the horizon at the time of birth. Each of these houses 
indicates a specific function. A horoscope, however, is not an exact 
blueprint of an individual's future, but only forecasts the direction 
in which the events of his or her life might evolve. 

Astrological principles were also used in gem therapy. Gems are 
regarded as reservoirs of the energy concentrated from cosmic 
rays. As crystallized products of invisible rays, gems have the 
magnetic power to transmit cosmic rays through space and, in this 
way, they are on a par with the planets. However the planets may 
influence the human body, gems also exert such power; as 
condensations of energy, they constitute benefic forces to 
counteract the effect ofbadly aspected planetary conjunctions, and 
thus each of the planets is assigned its corresponding gem. It is said 
that by wearing certain gems the negative influence of planets can 
be substantially reduced or abated. 

Running parallel to astrology many different methods of 
divination, such as palmistry, different body signs, prognostication 
by observing the oneness in nature's phenomena, and others, were 
also practised, but astrology alone has withstood the weakening of 
time and is beginning to be considered as a science. 

If we are to comprehend scientifically the relationship between 
extra-terrestrial radiations and environs and biological and human 
life, it is essential that we have a complete picture of the invisible 
forces at work. Science has only very recently discovered the 
electro-magnetic spectrum to which our naked eye is sensitive in a 
very limited way. The discovery of the earth's magnetosphere, 
with its various layers which act as a screen against solar and cosmic 
vibrations, is also recent. The 'Van Allen Zone' placed between 
3,000 to 10,000 miles above the earth was discovered in 1958. 
Similarly, intense bursts of radio radiation from Jupiter were 


Hastakara Yantra. The auspicious 
signs on the palms indicate the 
integral relation between 
interplanetary rhythms and the 
human organism. Rajasthan, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 

recorded in 1954. Though science has made tremendous progress 
towards a clear-cut view of the vast panorama of cosmic 
vibrations, the unknown still eludes us. Nevertheless, evidence is 
increasing that shows that solar and lunar progressions influence 
many vital physiological functions, such as breathing and 
reproduction, in the human and animal species. A Czech scientist 
has established with statistical evidence that fertility periods of 
women can be determined on the basis of the sun and the moon's 
position in their birth charts. Solar clocks have been found to deter 
the migratory pattern of the birds, and lunar rhythms influence the 
movement of oysters. It has recently been proposed that 
astrological effects are based on wave patterns: 

The universe, whether at cosmic, biological, or molecular level, is a 
complex of wave forms whose periodicity may range from nanoseconds 
to millions of years, and objects, events, people, nations and even 
planetary systems may be linked together in ways incomprehensible in 
terms of traditional astrology and physics, but explicitly discoverable 
through astrology. 28 

Such findings have gone a long way to give astrology an empirical 


The One 

Of all the varied formulations, one of the central concepts of 
Hindu thought which influenced the tantras considerably is the 
notion of a universal energy known as Prana, the source of all the 
manifestation of various forces. All forces in the universe, all 
motion, attraction, even thought, are only different manifestations 
of Prana. In the human body, its gross manifestation is the life- 
breath, and though Prana is often misinterpreted as breath or air, it 
is something more. Breath is only one effect ofPrana; similarly, if 
Prana were caused by air 'it would be possible for the dead man to 
breathe'. Prana acts upon the air. not the air upon it. Prana, then, is 
a vital bio-motor force which governs and manipulates the 
functions ofthe body. While this vital principle exists in the human 
organism, life continues; with Prana's departure, life ceases in that 
human body. All living organisms, from a speck of protoplasm to 
plants to animals, are animated by the combined activity of 
Prana, the life-force, and matter. Though all systems of Hindu 
thought recognized the potency of Prana, the adepts of tantra- 
yoga elaborated the whole science of metamorphosis ofPrana and 
applied it as an instrument to arouse the latent psychic force in the 
human body. Prof. C. F. von Weizsacker, the eminent physicist, 

The concept of prana is not necessarily incompatible with our physics. 
Prana is spatially extended and vitalizing. Hence above all it is moving 
potency. The quantum theory designates something not entirely remote 
from this with the term 'probability amplitude'. The relationship may 
become clearer when we consider the possibility as a strictly futuristic 
concept, that is as the quantified expression of that toward which the flow 
of time is pressing to evolve." 9 

In the cosmic hierarchy, however, Prana is neither the ultimate 
nor is it a radical construct; it is a derivative of an ultimate reality. 
The fundamental thesis of tantrism is that though the universe 
evolves out of the interacting forces of two principles, in the 
ultimate analysis both these emanate from the One. Behind the 
entire phenomenal world, matter and thought, there is the Eternal 
One, without a second. This monistic principle is all-pervasive: all 
things, physical and biological, are finite versions ofthe One. The 
nature of that reality is described in voluminous terminology, 
negating all attributes and relations, yet its real nature eludes 

The One, therefore, should not be confused with any theistic 
expression, like the notion of a benign father or a super-earthly 


Being residing in heaven. The real nature of the One is that it is 
attributeless, undefinable yet omnipresent, and at best it admits 
only of approximate explanations. It can be summarized as an 
eternal continuum of extremely ultra-subtle cosmic reality which 
gives rise to the grosser elements in nature. In tantra, it is termed as 
Para-Prakriti. The quasi-monistic form of Prakriti, or Sakti, 
appears in rich ritualistic imagery, but its real nature is more than 
empiric existence: though it embraces everything, it transcends all. 
Into this primordial reality which bridges the cleavages of dualism, 
all things return. 

As this century approaches its end, contemporary physical 
researches tend more and more to demonstrate that what we term 
gross matter in the world at large is simply an appearance of a more 
refined substance. In its quest for unity, science is drifting towards a 
monistic explanation of the universe. Classical physics regarded 
mass and energy as two independent realities. The theory of 
relativity resolved the dualism and demonstrated that mass and 
energy are proportional and interchangeable. The diversity of 
phenomena is attributed to the mere rearrangement of a single 
common 'essence' which scientists have called energy. Although 
modern science has dematerialized the atom and shown that it is 
divisible, still the smallest conceivable ultimate entity, the neutron 
with zero mass and no electric charge or magnetic field, cannot be 
divided further. Heisenberg's comments allude to the paradoxical 
notions of the illusoriness of the basic particle (atom) when he states 
that any attempt to explain it in visual terms is to 'misinterpret' it: 
'All qualities of the atom of modern physics are derived; it has no 
immediate and direct physical properties at all, i.e., every type of 
visual conception we might wish to design is eo ipso faulty.' 3 " Thus 
we find that on the cosmic and sub-atomic level, the property 
called 'mass' turns out to be an illusion. Matter is reduced to 
energy, energy to swarms of wavicles and vibrations in multi¬ 
dimensional space. Indeed, atoms, stars, comets, meteors, the 
moving galaxies, the vast universe of waves are shifting 
configurations of the same underlying reality. Yet one question 
remains: what is the essence of this mass-energy substance which 
vibrates? The scientist's answer is no less puzzling that the 
metaphysician's, for the fundamental substance is the 'unknown'. 
The unknown has been described by the scientists as the 'psi-field', 
an abstract non-material field which defies definition. While not 
calling it Para-Prakriti, scientists have found that only one 
substance, or a single unified principle whose nature is equally 
elusive, is the causa sui of the world. 



In the preceding discussion, all the factors related to the basic 
doctrine of tantra, its metaphysics, art and science, are sup¬ 
plemental to this central feature - ritual, or the spiritual science of 
self-culture. Metaphysics, art and science are the edifice of 
knowledge which provide the origin and goal of tantric sadhana; 
ritual provides the corpus of means. Ritual is based on two basic 
and interdependent presuppositions: first, that the self is poten¬ 
tially divine and can be developed inimitably; second, and 
following as a corollary from the first, that reality or the Absolute 
(Siva-Sakti), whose inherent nature is joy (ananda), is the most 
fundamental and desirable goal to seek. At one pole is the self or 
individual aspiring to be free or enlightened; at the other pole is the 
goal. Between the poles is the intermediate state ofreaching for the 
goal by means of effective techniques - this is ritual. Thus ritual 
here can be defined as a 'link' connecting the individual psyche 
with the universal noumena. Tantra offers an operational model 
for psychic liberation and outlines an effective modus operandi 
within its defined conspectus, and tantric ritual, therefore, should 
be considered a key factor of psychic evolution. 

In a theoretical exposition such as this, the purpose is to expound 
the practical psycho-physical prescriptions of ritual and their 
significance. This means we are obliged to discuss in terms of 
concepts and abstractions what in reality is a dynamic translogical 
unitary experience. It should, therefore, be borne in mind that 
tools oflanguage cannot do fulljustice to the actual experience of 
living in the ritual. The real search begins when language ends and 
logic-oriented positivism is dispensed with: 'Darkness is not 
dispensed with by mentioning the word "lamp"' (Kularnava 
Tantra). Just so, words are impotent to dispel the darkness of the 
ego. Self-realization springs from an inner experience - a feeling- 

sense of something which can never be articulated in words. „ ,, , ,, . , 

The supreme Goddess as the void, 

Tantric ritual is thus both an aid and a psychological experiment with projection-space for Her 
which sensitizes and revitalizes the inner experience for higher image. Andhra Pradesh, 19th 
spiritual awakening. Dr A. V. Gerasimov, a tantric scholar of the century. Bronze. 


Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, aptly observes: 'But what 
explains its persistence in Indian life is its greater awareness of 
human psychology.' 

Tantra's exclusive concern with practical techniques of self¬ 
enlightenment over theory and speculation has given sadhana 
(spiritual discipline) a unique place of importance in the whole 
system. A vast body of tantric literature concerns itself with the 
systematic attuning of the body and psychic forces for a gradual 
unfolding, so that the tantras are often considered a way of action, a 
way of life, a way of joy for the attainment of desired ends. Tantric 
rituals are an internally consistent code of practices which follow 
logically from its belief system. They have definite symbolic 
meanings: though all rituals are performed as symbolic acts, they 
have the power to bring about alterations in consciousness and 
therefore when they are efficient they become sources of 
manifestation of that power. In tantra, ritual assumes the status of 
much more than mere obeisance to the deity; it calls for 
unification, an internalization of the personal and specific towards 
the timeless, abstract and universal. In this way, rituals in tantra 
become an operational concept uniting theory and practice. Its 
merit depends upon its correct application, for only then can it 
become a verifiable experience of a definite state of consciousness. 

The various rituals generally practised are basically 
consciousness-amplifying techniques in so far as they represent 
psycho-physical experiences touching every aspect of our senses; 
but when they are practised mechanically for material gains or 
results, the rites may not necessarily lead to higher results. 

A distinction can be made between a single ritual act and a 
sadhana. A ritual technique performed in daily life may be 
artificially separated from the whole discipline and the entire 
process may remain value-free without being bounded by any 
specific code, whereas sadhana implies a total spiritual discipline 
comprising many concurrent practices of which a particular ritual 
forms an integral part of the whole belief system. 

If tantra is freed from its cult-oriented associations, that is, if not 
pursued for its wider goals of sadhana but for its own sake as a 
device of expansion of consciousness, it can become a key to 
modern needs. 

There is a multiplicity of techniques employed in tantric rituals 
through the medium of sound (mantra), form (yantra), psycho¬ 
physical postures and gestures (nyasas and mudras), offerings of 
flowers, incense and ritual ingredients, breath-control (prana- 
yama), sexo-yogic practice (asana), concentration (dhyana). 


These various forms of inner illumination are not mutually 
exclusive but interpenetrate one another. They are always 
performed in concert so that, for instance, a single ritual act may 
include the use of mantra, mudra, asana, pranayama, dhyana, 
drawing all senses into participation. 

Ritual forms can be external as well as internal. External media 
are stimulus-bound, that is, their mediation is only possible 
through externally symbolic objects such as yantra, nyasa, mudra, 
or offerings. Contrariwise, the internal orientation is stimulus- 
free; it does not have recourse to any external symbols but requires 
an active participation of the aspirant so that he is receptive to a 
programmed spontaneity achieved through formless media such as 
the recitation of mantras and concentration. 

Tantric sadhana varies in relation to the end to be achieved, but 
the prime aim of its major ritual practices is to accelerate the latent 
forces already in the human organism for a peak experience of joy 
and unity. The final stage cannot be achieved without the practice 
of several categories of technique, each of which serves an 
intermediate end of sadhana. They form a group of ritual 
composites which bring together a number of inputs, each of them 
serving a definite purpose. The sadhaka should not deliberately 
omit even a single one of these techniques, as they constitute the 
necessary preliminaries for the final goal. They are: 

(1) Purification and sanctification: The first step of deconditioning 
a heavily imprinted and programmed attitude towards one's 
body consists ofa hypothetical transformation ofthe gross body 
into the subtle body, so that the obstacles besetting it are lifted. 
The body is mobilized by physical training and the use ofbodily 
postures in order that it may consciously emerge from the inert 
state and become 'cosmicized', 'purified' and 'sanctified' in the 
image of the divinity. The purification may operate on the 
mental level when the impurities obstructing the subtle bodies 
are removed by rituals such as nyasa, asana-suddhi, bhuta- 
suddhi with the help of proper intonation of mantras. 

(2) Identification and internalization: This step consists of the 
experience of integration, a condition in which, by an intimate 
unconscious relationship, the initiate becomes the 'thing'. 
Identification consists in an introjective process as a consequence 
of which the object of worship is treated as a part ofthe self. The 
rituals which promote identification are mudras, meditation, 
visualization, mantric concentration, pranayama, etc. 

(3) Harmony and equilibrium: In harmony lies the precondition 

Tantric yogi, Lakshmana Temple, 
Khajuraho. Meditation is perfect 
concentration of mind. An 
appropriate asana, or yogic posture, 
creates physical and mental 
equilibrium, AD 1059-87. Stone. 


of realization. Harmony is the intermediate equalizing point 
between two extremes, a bridge between opposites. It is to be 
sought between the higher and lower energy centres, between 
the positively-charged solar and the negatively-charged lunar 
currents, between the plus and minus forces manifesting as male 
and female, conscious and unconscious, in the body. One might 
say that a balance is to be attained at several levels and planes of 
human consciousness. On the physical plane the gross body 
should be regulated by physical postures; on the mental and 
psychological levels, the internal vital processes are harmonized 
by the regulation of breath, the cerebral centre by the repetition 
of mantric sound, and the variously directed mental operations 
by the practice of concentration, meditation. The greater the 
synergistic fusion of polarized energies within us, the greater the 
experiences of unity. 

(4) Unity-merging: By balancing polarized interaction, a third 
quality is born: unity. Unity can also be described as 
indivisibility, or becoming a whole after the process of self- 
actualization has been completed. With the experiential 
awareness of the peak state and of the complementary interplay 
of the plus and minus forces in the body, the adept achieves his 
summum bonum. 


The Guru 

An essential prerequisite to the world of tantric sadhana is the 
guidance of a competent spiritual preceptor, the guru, who can 
initiate the aspirant into the correct application of methods 
commensurate with his temperament and competence. Just as an 
unknown journey becomes easier with the help of a competent 
guide, in the same manner the best way to commence the spiritual 
journey is with the help of a guru. As cosmonauts undergo severe 
physical and mental disciplines under strict observation before 
theirjourney into the unknown depths of space, similarly an adept 
has to undergo a long and arduous process of training and guidance 
for the gradual unfolding of his potentialities. 

A guru is one who has already lived through the discipline and 
has experience of various stages of spiritual development in his 
own life. In ascending order, the first step in initiation is the mantra 
given by a guru, Pasyacara (ordinary); this is followed by, second, 
Viracara (rajasik); third, Mahavidyas (higher knowledge); and 
finally, Brahmayoga - the highest, knowledge of the Absolute. All 


Brahma, reverently begging his 
spiritual vehicle, Hamsa, the goose 
or swan, to bestow upon him 
supreme knowledge. Rajasthan, 
c. 19th century. Gouache on paper. 

these degrees of initiation may be imparted by different gums each 
competent for one degree only. It may, however, happen that a 
single guru of high order is competent to impart the secret 
knowledge to all levels of sadhana. 

The guru sometimes indicates the ways and means along the 
path by his silence or casual words; the aspirant must discover for 
himself what he needs. Many meditative and ritual techniques are 
difficult and often dangerous, and require extensive orientation 
under experienced guidance. The guru's aim is always to observe 


Symbolic marks painted on wooden the aspirant and the effect of the 'how' and 'what' of techniques on 
manuscript cover. Orissa, c. 19 th him and to identify when the effects of the training are beginning 

century. to be felt. On the other hand, it is imperative that an aspirant 

should not turn into a blind follower of a guru but have an open 
mind, a fact testified to by many instances of the guru-disciple 
relationship throughout Indian spiritual tradition. An old proverb 
says that the guru will appear when the sadhaka is ready. No guru, 
however, can help a sadhaka unless he helps himself by his own 
efforts and willingness. Having learnt what he can learn, the 
sadhaka should be prepared to question and if necessary introduce 
experimental verifications by working on himself. In this context 
the role of a guru may be compared to a 'therapeutic alliance' or a 
task-oriented collaboration between patient and therapist in an 
emotionally involving relationship. In this case, however, the 
adept is not 'sick' but has the mental preparedness to go beyond the 
defined modalities of his being. He is searching for an experiential 
realization of his innermost subconscious self, in which he has had a 
glimpse of a wider and truer reality. The task of the initiate is not 
merely to grasp the mechanics of various techniques involved in 
rituals but 'how to be'. It is precisely when the adept moves beyond 
the arena of utility that he is said to have the correct mental 

A seeker remains a disciple as long as he has not achieved his 
spiritual goal. Once he has attained what he has been seeking, he is 
'born anew'. The proverbial relationship to the guru as initiary 
master ceases, since there is no need for further instruction of 


Kundalini-yoga. A painting 
illustrating various practices of 
Kundalini-yoga around the central 
Female Principle, Sakti. Kangra, 
c. 18th century. Gouache on paper. 


Before the adept can participate in the whole gamut of tantric 
ritual, it is essential that a consecration, in a ceremony known as 
diksha, or spiritual initiation, take place. The word diksha comes 
from the Sanskrit root do- (dyati), meaning to cut or destroy; in 
the initiation all negative forces are destroyed in order to gain the 
supreme state of existence. Diksha involves one-to-one in¬ 
terpersonal contact between a guru and a disciple. The most 
popular form of this ritual is initiation with the guru giving the 
aspirant a personal mantra, known as mantra-diksha. The desired 


guru selects an auspicious day and hour, and in certain instances the 
horoscope of the prospective aspirant is matched with that of the 
guru to determine precisely the time when the mantra should be 
imparted. The guru also ascertains the aspirant's 'ishta-devata', the 
chosen deity or the divine aspect which is in consonance with his 
personality, so that by concentrating on it the aspirant will be in 
rhythm with that deity while attaining unity. The guru normally 
sits facing the east and the disciple sits in the lotus posture close to 
him. In order to purify the process of initiation the guru first recites 
his basic mantra and invokes his own 'chosen deity' and then three 
times whispers the diksha-mantra into the disciple's right ear. The 
mantra must be kept secret and it should not be divulged; indeed, it 
is considered that even a written mantra loses its impact. Once the 
mantra has been given, the basic stage of mantra initiation ends. 



The oldest and perhaps most widely used concentrative technique 
is the mantric sound. Mantra is primarily a concentrated 'thought 
form' composed of nuclear syllables based on the esoteric 
properties believed to be inherent in sound vibrations. Tantra has 
developed a system of sound equations which may vary from 
simple to complex, exerting its power not so much through 
expressing meaning as we normally understand it but more 
deeply, through its emphasis on a 'phonic element'. For example: 
the vocables Hrim, Srim, Krim, Phat, which are found through¬ 
out the tantric texts, may seem meaningless, unintelligible and 
irrelevant to the non-initiate, but to the initiate they have positive 
symbolic connotations. Whether recited audibly or inaudibly they 
run through most of the rituals like an uninterrupted symphony. 
The recitation of the mantra without understanding its proper 
meaning or the mantra technique is an exercise, and it is said to be 

According to Saradatilaka, mantras may be divided into male, 
female and neuter; masculine mantras end in 'hum' and 'phat', the 
female in 'svaha', and neuter mantras end with 'namah'. The 
power of a particular mantra lies in a set of inter-connected factors: 
its pattern of sound waves and the mode of its proper intoning. 
Generally, it is considered that the mantra is efficacious only when 
it is 'received' from the mouth of the guru by his disciple. A mantra 
thus 'awakened' activates vibration channels and produces certain 
superconscious feeling states which aid the disciple in his sadhana. 


The very sound of a mantra or a combination of them has the 
capacity to arouse the divine forms or their energies. Each divinity 
possesses a bija mantra, or seed syllable, which is its equivalent. 
Thus the bija mantra is the root vibration or atomized form of 
sound representing the essential nature of divinity. 

The monosyllabic bija mantra is to tantric sadhana what a seed is 
to a tree: just as the seed possesses the potential of the tree, in the 
same way a single sound can contain the sum-total of divinity in its 
vibration. The term bijakshara, 'seed syllable', consists of two 
words: bija, meaning seed or germ, and akshara, which connotes 
both 'syllable' and 'imperishable'. The true bijakshara ends within 
an anusvara, or upturned semicircle with a dot in its centre, and in 
romanized transliteration the anusvara is indicated with a dot 
above or below the letter m. The anusvara is described as a 
continuous nasal sound without any modification and is an 
adaptation of an 'unpronounceable vibration'. The dot in the 
anusvara represents the bindu, and is the visible form of Siva-Sakti. 
Hans-Ulrich Rieker has made an illuminating observation: 

Period (dot). It does not stand like a tombstone at the end of a Sanskrit 
sentence, but is the sign for vocal vivification. The dot above the 
consonant (which is always connected with a vowel) changes a dull ka 
into a rich kam or kang, a ta into tarn or tang, pa into pam, and so on, 
through all the consonants. It adds vibration to the dull sound. It is 
especially significant that it raises O from the chest vibration to the Om 
sound in the head, the higher sphere. Thus it raises the physical sound to 
the chakra of consciousness, the ajna chakra between the eyebrows, and 
gives it meaning. In this way, the dot becomes the symbol for sense. 31 

The seed mantra is considered to contain the entire potentiality of 
full significance of a doctrine. A treatise running to several 
thousand verses, for instance, may be condensed into few stanzas, 
and then summarized into a few lines, and finally abbreviated to a 
bija mantra which, though the smallest sound unit, will still retain 
the full power of the doctrine. The manifested bija mantra creates 
cerebral vibration, and it is believed that even after the repetition of 
a seed mantra has ceased, its effect continues. It is further held that 
the power a particular bija mantra generates can be stored up in the 
cerebral centre and activated at will. 

Om, the most powerful of all sounds, is the source of all mantras 
and a key to realization. It is made up of three sounds, a, u, m, 
which symbolically represent the three ultimate tendencies or 
gunas - creation, preservation, dissolution - and encompass all the 
knowledge ofthe different planes ofthe universe. It is referred to as 
the 'quintessence of the entire cosmos', 'monarch of all sounded 

The seed-syllable Om. 


Chakras in the etheric body. 
Rajasthan, 18th century. Ink on 
paper. Running parallel to the 
organic body of the yogi is the 
cosmocized etheric body with its 
astral and vital currents. This 
invincible and intangible body 
sen’es to provide cosmic cross-points 
at several junctures through the 
body's seven psychic centres and 
two main ner\<e channels, Ida on 
the left side and Pingala on the 
right. The yogi can terminate their 
separate functions by reconciling 
them into the centred channel, 

things', 'mother of vibrations' and 'key to eternal wisdom and 
power'. These are a few examples of seed mantras and their 

Hrim: bija mantra of the goddess Bhuvanesvari, the female 
energy of the spheres. According to Varada Tantra, H = Siva, 
R = Sakti, I = transcendental illusion; the nasal sound 
m = progenitor of the universe. 

Krim: Kali-blja representing the power over creation and 
dissolution; recited mainly for the conquest of limitations. 
K = Kali, R= absolute, I = transcendent power of illusion; 
m = primal sound ( Varada Tantra). 

Sum : Lakshmi-bija; represents the female energy of abundance 
and multiplicity; recited for the attainment of worldly joys and 
gains. S = transcendent divinity of abundance, R = wealth, 
I = fulfilment; m = limitlessness. 

Klim: bija mantra of the procreative desire of Siva as Kama; 
represents joy, bliss, pleasure. K = transcendental desire, L = lord 
of space, I = satisfaction; m = pleasure and pain. 

In a similar way, Krom stands for Siva, Aim for Sarasvati, Em 
for yoni, Phat for dissolution, and so on. 

The bija mantras are primarily intended forjapa, or repetition. 
They are repeated and counted on the beads of a rosary which 
consists of 12, 18, 28, 32, 64, 108 or more seeds. The technique of 
japa involves the synchronization of a sound, the number of 
rhythmic repetitions and the sound's symbolic meaning. Mantras 
which are not audibly repeated but are internal are called ajapa- 
japa; they generate ceaseless vibrations of a monosyllabic sound. 
The mantric sound of ajapa-japa is assimilated in such a way that 
with constant practice it is produced effortlessly with the 
individual's breathing in and out. Incessant repetition of the 
mantra gathers so powerful a momentum that repetition of a 
phonic sound like ham-sa can make the sound vibrate in an 
inverted form, i.e.. 'sa-ham' or 'so-ham', 'this am I', or 'I am He.' It 
is only when all these factors are in accord that a favourable 
concomitance is achieved. 

The main function of the mantra is identification with or 
internalization of the divine form or its energy. The bija mantra, 
when repeated in accordance with the rules of the doctrine, serves 
as a means of anchoring or centering auditory perception and is a 


Painting representing yogic asanas. 
Asanas, divided into two principal 
groups, either facilitate 
concentration or are performed for 
physical well-being. The one 
represented here is Pasanimudra, 
with the legs wrapped around the 
hack of the head (pasha), used 
mainly as a physical posture. 
Rajasthan, c. 19th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

tangible 'support' to concentration that helps to attain continuity 
in awareness. The practice ofjapa, or silent repetition of the 
mantra, brings outwardly-directed and diffuse mental currents 
together in a point or centre. With the condensation of the power- 
field the sought divine form is, as it were, drawn towards the 
aspirant until it is totally internalized. 

Body consciousness and body language 

Tantrikas regard the body as the basis of individual identity: 'He 
who realizes the truth of the body can then come to know the truth 


IX A practising Tantrikafrom 
northern India with the Saiva's 
symbol on his forehead. 

X Chakras or psychic centres in 
the etheric body of the yogi. The 
energy centres are points of contact 
between the psychic and the 
physical body. Of the thirty chakras 
mentioned in the texts, the 
principal seven from bottom 
upwards are: Mulddhara, 
Svadishthana, Manipura, 

Andhata, Visuddha. Ajna and 
finally Sahasrara, conceived to be 

above the head. 

XI A Tantrika aspirant in the 
foothills of the Himalayas. 

XII Hanuman Yantra. Diagram 
of Hanuman, the great devotee of 
Lord Rama in all his magnificence 
and power, with inscriptions and 
symbols. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Ink and colour on paper. 


of the universe' (Ratnasara). When the adept accepts his 
subjectivity as a thinking, feeling, willing individual, he does not 
limit himself to mental concepts but lives in an existential 
awareness of his concrete physical entity which is animated in 
concert with the psychic forces moving it. 

In tantras, the body is considered an assemblage of five kosas, or 
'sheaths', in order of decreasing density. They are, first, the 
tangible physical body (Annamaya); the second is life breath, the 
sheath of vital air (Pranamaya); the third and the fourth sheaths, 
still more subtle, are the cognitive processes (Manomaya and 
Vijnanamaya); finally, the sheath of bliss (Anandamaya), the 
subtlest of all, is identified with the eternal element of joy in man. 
Thus, the psychic and physical are interdependent since each makes 
the other more possible. 

It is possible to be alienated from the body - to be unaware of its 
potencies, to reject and negate it completely - but its fullest 
appreciation will call for an awareness of it as a fact of nature. Since 
the body is the link between the terrestrial and cosmic, it is as it 
were a 'theatre', in which the psycho-cosmic drama is enacted. A 
positive and receptive attitude towards the body is a precondition 
to sadhana. The adept must identify with his body and transform 
it, for his body is the concrete expression of his psyche 
characterized by its own rhythm and structure. As a material 
extension of psychic expression the body glows, radiates and 
animates in the joy of being itself. It is not surprising, therefore, 
that the tantrikas evolved a system of psycho-physical culture, 
comprising various kinds of physical posture and gestural body 
techniques, a body language to render the body obedient to the 
will in order to animate ritual. 


In the ritual known as nyasa, parts of the body are sensitized by 
placing the fingertips and palms of the right hand on various 
sensory awareness zones. A common practice is to accompany each 
placing of the fingers on the body with a mantra, so that with the 
mantra's powerful resonance the adept may gradually project the 
power of divinity into his own body. The tantrikas believe that the 
flesh must be 'awakened' from its dormancy, and this rite 
symbolically 'puts' the power of the vast pantheon of divinities 
into the various organs of the body. The most popular form of 
nyasa, known as sadanga-nyasa, is performed by touching various 
parts of the body in the following manner: 


a :,uj f.i^.; ;:oj f 

l’ i.rt 

mli ujj^in.u. 
t, i \iii .nfr» *' * 

touching the heart centre with the palm while reciting: 
aim hridayaya namah 

touching the forehead with four fingers: 

om klim sirasi svaha 

touching the top of the head with the tip of thumb while the 
fingers are closed into a fist: 

om sahuh sikhayai va sat 

clasping the upper part of the arms just beneath the shoulders with 
hands crossed on the chest: 

om sahuh kavacaya hum 

touching the closed eyes with fore- and middle-fingers: 
om bhuvah netratroyaiya vausat 

placing those two fingers on the left palm: 
om bhur bhuvah phat. 


Another non-verbal mode of communication and self-expression 
consists ofrepetitive gestures and finger postures known as mudras 
which are connected with nyasa in tantric ritual. Ritual postures of 
the hand provoke a subjective reaction in the mind of the adept. 
Mudras are symbolic archetypal signs, based on gestural finger 
patterns, taking the place, but retaining the efficacy, of the spoken 
word. They are used to evoke in the mind ideas symbolizing divine 
powers or deities themselves in order to intensify the adept's 
concentration. The composition of the mudras is based on certain 
movements of the fingers which are highly stylized forms of 
gestural communication. The yoni mudra, for example, represent¬ 
ing Sakti's yantra, is performed with the sole object of invoking 
the divinity to bestow her energy and infuse it into the sadhaka. A 
vivid description of the composition of the yoni mudra is given by 
the goddess herself in the Laksmi Tantra: 

Learn how the yoni-mudra of myself who occupies the place of the gross. 
Stretching out the hands firmly [and] well pressed together in front [of 
the body], one should reverse each ring-fmger over the back of the other. 
From their middle and base the [two] index fingers, [each] touching its 
base, should be nestled in front of them [the ring-fingers]. The two little 
fingers are first placed in front of the remaining two middle [fingers], 
touching each other's surface, while the palms are concaved in the 
middle. The two thumbs should be placed in the direction of the first part 
of the middle fingers. 32 

Tattva mudra. 

Matsya mudra. 

Sankha mudra. 

Padma mudra. 

Giidii mudra. 

Yoni mudra. 


Both mudras and nyasas are external expressions of 'inner 
resolve', suggesting that such non-verbal communications are 
more powerful than the spoken word. In recent years there has 
been a growing awareness of the efficacy of such non-verbal 
communication. A group of scientists studying this form of 
communication has established that there appears to be an 
'alphabet' of gestures, postures, body movements which express 
much more than words can convey. A recent study by the 
psychologist Albert Mehrabian based on extensive laboratory 
measurement of the communication between two persons, 
concluded that 'only 7% of the message's effect is carried by 
words, while 93% of the total impact reaches the "listener" 
through non-verbal means. . . . Feelings are conveyed mainly by 
non-verbal behaviour.' 33 


Like nyasa and mudra, the ritual of bhuta-suddhi, the 'purification 
of the elements', is a great aid to the mental process of 
identification. Performed prior to all tantric worship, the ritual 
consists of a gradual dissolution of each of the five grosser elements 
of which the body is composed into ultra-subtle primordial 
sources. The ritual is carried out by reciting appropriate mantras: 
'Om hrim prthivyai [earth element] hum phat'; 'Om hrim 
adbhyah [water element] hum phat'; 'Om hrim tejase [fire 
element] hum phat'; 'Om hrim vayave [air element] hum phat'; 
'Om hrim akasaya [ether element] hum phat.' These mantras act 
on the mind of the adept until the material body is purified, 
dissolving it mentally step by step. In the various parts of the 
adept's body exist all the elements and cosmic principles. 
According to the Laksmi Tantra: 

The place of the earth [element] is considered to be up to the waist; the 
place of the fire [element] is up to the heart. The place of the ether 
[element] is up to the ears. The place of ahamkara is up to the hole [the 
cavity of the mouth or the fontanelle, the hole on the crown of the head]. 
The place of mahat is up to the brows, and in the space [above the head] is 
said to be the place of the absolute. 34 

The earth element of the body is dissolved by that of water, 
water by fire, fire by air, air by ether. Ether, finally, is absorbed 
into the subtle principles until the source of all is reached. By the 
dissolution ofthe five gross elements (maha-bhutas), together with 
the subtle principles (tanmatras) and all the organs of senses and 


Opposite: Scroll illustrating 
various tantra-yoga asanas assumed 
before concentration and meditation. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

Diagram of the chakras in the body 
of the yogi. Tamil Nadu, 19th 
century. Ink and colour on paper. 

intelligence-stuff (mahat), into Prakriti, a gradual mental process 
of involution takes place. After having thus recreated his own 
body, the sadhaka acquires the capacity for proper ritual worship. 

Pranayama, concentration and meditation 

A significant contribution of yoga discipline to tantric ritual is the 
control of psychosomatic mechanisms by the regulation of 
breathing. Breath, a constant factor of personality, is a vital point 
of contact between the self and the body. Pranayama (the yoga of 
controlling Prana, or elan vital) is perhaps one of the oldest and 
most important consciousness-amplifying techniques for control¬ 
ling the bio-motor force in the human body which manifests itself 
as Prana. Controlling the breath, and thereby the 'vital airs' in the 
body, is employed to purify the nerve circuits and to give vitality 


Schematic representation of how a 
yoga posture forms a circuit, the 
crossed legs protecting against loss 
ofPranic current. 

Yogi meditating on the bank of the 

to the subtle centres of the body; its major aim is to stimulate the 
centre of paranormal consciousness in the brain centre for the 
arousal of the Kundalini. To achieve this aim yogic discipline has 
developed a systematic technique, with special emphasis on 
location, duration, speed, depth and rhythm of breathing. In 
normal circumstances our breathing is very irregular; not only are 
the inhalation and exhalation unequal but they lack harmony. 
Though every individual's respiratory cycle reacts dynamically 
upon the latent Kundalini, this reaction takes place about 21,600 
times a day, that is, at a frequency more or less equal to the 
individual's number of breaths. However, for the majority of 
people these breaths are both shallow and fast, filling the lungs to 
only a fraction of their capacity. Under those circumstances, the 
current of energy flowing downwards to strike the Kundalini is 
inadequate to awaken her. 

The first step in Pranayama is concerned with regulating the 
breath in a measured way and letting the breath flow in and out 
rhythmically. Rhythmic control prevents dissipation of energy, 
and its practice supports concentration and harnesses the impulses 
of the autonomic nervous system, thereby improving the whole 
tonus of our body and harmonizing the inner relationships of our 
psycho-physical organism. 

Pranayama is used in conjunction with other disciplines of yoga 
practice such as asana, mudra, mantra, bandha or internal muscular 
contraction, and so on. Many variations and combinations have 
been developed to regulate Prima for purposive and directive 
movements. The practice of Pranayama consists of several phases. 
Its first and most important goal is to be sensitive and alert to the 
act of respiration, to be aware of breathing. If we begin to ’feel’ the 
flow ofPranic current, we can also begin to control it. Next is 
bodily posture: Pranayama, to be effective, should be practised in a 
special position best suited to promote the desired result. An easy 
position is either Padmasana, the lotus posture, when one sits cross- 
legged with the right foot resting on the left thigh and the left 
crossed over the right leg, or in Siddhasana, the posture of 
accomplishment, with the left heel pressed firmly on the perineum 
and the heel of the right leg on the left thigh and touching the 
abdomen. In both these positions one is required to sit upright with 
the head, neck and spinal column in a straight line in order to lessen 
the possibility of drowsiness. The eyes are directed towards the tip 
of the nose and the hands are laid on the knees. 

Yogis explain that sitting crosslegged in either of these postures 
lessens the possibility that the Pranic energy will escape. It provides 


Asana schematically analysed to 
indicate circuits ofPranic and 
psychic energy. 

Asana-mandala. Diagram of the 
five elements, Panehabhuta. 

a stable triangular base on which the whole body makes a 'closed 
circuit' of the energy field so that the currents do not flow out from 
the tips of the hands and feet but are continually retained or 
'locked' within the body circuit while the position is held. After 
mastery over the posture of the body, the next step is to build 
energy within the system by taking deeper breaths in order to fill 
the lungs from apex to base, so as to absorb a maximum quantity of 
Prana current. 

Next, and of equal importance, is achieving rhythmical 
respiration by striking a correct ratio between the different phases 
of a breath unit. A breath unit consists of three parts: inhalation 
(shallow or deep), retention of the breath at any point of 
inhalation, and exhalation. Rhythm in breathing is a balance, a 
correct ratio, between these three. The correct timing of inhalation 
(puraka), retention (kumbhaka) and exhalation (rechaka) is 1 : 4 :2. 
Thus the duration of the breath control in degrees enumerated in 
seconds will be: 



Inner chalice 






16 1/2 














The air is breathed in slowly through the left nostril, connected 
with the lunar channel, Ida, while the other is closed with the 
thumb. The breath is held and exhaled according to a specific 
rhythm. The exercise is repeated in the same rhythm and timing 
with the right nostril, which is connected with the solar channel, 
Pingala. During the exercise the syllable Om or a bija mantra is 
repeated to measure the relative duration of inhalation and 
exhalation; at the same time it is also essential to concentrate on the 
two nerve currents (Ida and Pingala) by their repeated and 
rhythmic filling and emptying; one feels, as it were, that one is 
sending the current impulses to strike at the root impulses of 

After completing a round of Pranayama, it is necessary to lie flat 
on the back, like a corpse (known as Savasana), to relax and calm 
the mind. The number of exercises should be increased gradually. 
When the breath is retained over a longer period more energy is 


absorbed within the system and a greater voluntary control of 
Prana is evident. With perfection of this practice the first sign of its 
effect begins to appear. The body slowly becomes more relaxed, 
calm, rhythmical and in harmony with inner elements; the face 
'glows like the sun'. It is only when the adept has reached absolute 
perfection that Prana will be felt rising through Sushumna (the 
central channel of the subtle body) by arresting the flow of currents 
in the solar and lunar channels on either side of Sushumna. 

Pranayama is also used extensively to achieve meditative states 
by concentrating on the inner movements of breath. A common 
practice is to concentrate on or be aware of that fraction of a 
moment between breathing in and breating out, that split second 
when there is no breathing. Emphasis may be put on the turning or 
'breath curves', the various regions of chakras through which 
Prana ascends or, more simply, the sustained awareness of 
breathing and not the time-gap between breathing in and out. 

Concentration and meditation 

In tantric ritual the yogic techniques of concentration and 
meditation play a central role. All identifications, the in- 
teriorizations to which tantrism attaches such importance, can be 
attained by systematically focusing awareness on a stimulus. To 
identify oneself with the divinity, to merge in the object of 
contemplation, to have a unitive experience, presupposes several 
categories or techniques of physiological and spiritual exercise 
transforming our ordinary consciousness into a qualitatively 
different realm of experience, in order to dispel terrestrial impulses 
and open new mental doors to the awareness of union. 

The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, in its second aphorism, describes 
yoga as the 'inhibition of the modification of the mind'. 
Concentration implies 'one-pointedness' (ekagrata) of the atten¬ 
tion, fixing the attention on a single stimulus in order to achieve 
perfect autonomy over 'variously directed, discontinuous, diffused 
attention' (sarvarthata). In the daily round of life our attention is 
constantly diverted by a variety of external stimuli. Subconscious 
forces disperse our consciousness and introduce a myriad of mental 
associations, words, images, sensations; thus our minds are 
continuously at the mercy of these inner forces. Meditation calls 
for a complete censorship of this mental flux by focusing one's 
awareness on a specific end or stimulus: 'As soon as the waves have 
stopped and the lake has become quiet, we see its bottom. So with 

Yoni, the female organ as a matrix 
of generation. In tantric worship it 
acquires special significance as it 
represents the Ultimate Reality 
manifesting itself in its female 
principle, as Prakriti. Andhra 
Pradesh, c. 19th century. Wood. 


A manuscript page ofSalagramas 
for meditation, indicating the 
auspicious results obtained from 
their worship. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Ink and colour on paper. 


-UfolrbliUl-lH fcfrll 

rnyuiAiww h&NtfiwM ii 

* * 

the mind: when it is calm, we see what our own nature is; we do 
not mix ourselves with the modification of the mind; but remain 
our own selves.' 35 

Meditation presupposes a subject, an object and an experiential 
process. Though these three combine to form a unit, the emphasis 
is on the process, which transforms and is the medium of 
'awareness' and ultimate realization. Pranayama, dharana or 
concentration, and meditation itself are phases ofthe same process. 
Each successive phase is a subtle refinement of the former. If a 
single act of attention is focusing one's mind on a particular object, 
idea or feeling, then concentration is an intensification ofthe same 
process by blocking offour awareness ofevery distraction from the 


object of concentration. Meditation is a more intensified form, 
characterized by voluntary control of the mind leading to a 
condensed experience of a modality of being beyond our ordinary 
state of mind. 

Traditional symbols are aids to recollection and serve as 
reminders of reality momentarily forgotten in the humdrum of 
worldly distractions. There are several which are used as supports 
to concentration, ranging from the frequently used concentrative, 
absorbing visual objects such as simple graphic signs, dots and 
concentric circles, to complex structural power-diagrams like the 
yantras and mandalas. Others are sculptural forms such as the 
Siva-linga and Salagrama, used as foci of concentration. Classical 
yoga also describes focusing concentration on the exterior surface 
of the body. A traditional method is to fix one's attention, with the 
eyes half-closed, on the tip of the nose ('nasal gaze') or towards the 
space between the eyebrows. Another simple method is to stare at a 
candle flame. An object-centred meditation is simply an 'eye- 
alogue'. The adept maintains a steady gaze on the object. With the 
control of concentration stray thoughts are eliminated and the 
external world is temporarily shut out. This exercise is more 
difficult than it first appears, and beginners find it very difficult to 
concentrate on an object for a prolonged period of time; they are 
distracted from the meditative object and invariably find their 
attention shifting hither and thither. Each time it happens the 
beginner must return his concentration to the meditative object 
and start afresh. 

Another common aid to meditation is to concentrate one's 
attention on various sensory modalities such as the repetitive 
mantras, or internally generated sounds. The sounds may be 
natural, such as that of a waterfall, the roaring of the sea, the 

Jagannath, the Lord of the 
Universe. Midnapur, West 
Bengal, contemporary. Lacquer 
on sunbaked clay. 

Necklace of Rudraksa beads for 
japa, repetition of mantras. South 
India, 19th century. Dried seeds. 


Siva-linga in yoni-pedestal, the 
union of male and female organs 
symbolizing cosmic totality. 
Banaras, 19th century. Stone. 

humming of bees, or the sound of a flute, or the adept may sit in a 
natural environment and concentrate on an imagined sound. 

An inner meditative experience through visualization of a 
divine image is another method practised by the tantrikas. The 
technique of visualization normally involves withdrawing the 
energy flowing through the conscious function and directing it 
inwards. When this happens our inner vision projects an image on 
a mental screen, and we see and experience that form on the surface 
of the mind. Such visions are neither pathological fantasies nor 
dreams. In a dream one sees several images arising from the 
unconscious mind; visualization differs from a dream in that it is 
self-induced, even though it uses a picture-language similar to a 
dream's; it is nearer to consciousness. Visualization is performed in 
a meditative or solitary place, and the adept, with eyes closed, 
mentally constructs an image of the chosen deity. What is 
projected by deliberate effort on the inner screen of the mind is not 
a personal construct but an iconographic imprint, based on 
elaborate descriptions found in the traditional texts. The 
visualization is strictly pursued, following the canonical imagery, 
and each part of the deity's body and its symbols are highly 
dramatized to regulate the creative imagination of the adept. The 
adept is like a craftsman weaving together the threads of a 
canonical archetype, or a sculptor building a minutely-detailed 
mental image. The created mental image should not be disturbed 
by inner restlessness or thought since visualization is followed by 
identification. The adept concentrates very deeply on each aspect 
of the divinity, imagining that he is slowly being transformed into 
it. This exercise demands an active play of creative imagination. 

The common thread uniting all meditative techniques is that 
meditation takes the adept to a centre of his own psychic forces by 
gathering up his variously directed energy into a nucleus. In this 
way the aids become 'bridges’ along the path of sadhana. There are 
two major effects of meditation: 'centering' and, the other which 
follows as a consequence of it, the experience of an altered state 
is necessarily arational and intuitive in experience and content. 

The basic function of all techniques is to heighten the influx of 
intuitive insight, and that is why these techniques have recourse to 
mediums which involve each of our senses: sound through 
mantra; touch through mudras, nyasas, asanas; smell and breath 
through pranayama; the mind through meditation, concentration, 
visualization. Each of these involves a basic sensitivity, and in 
combination they trigger an altered state so that the intuitive side 
of our consciousness finds its fullest play. 


Kundalini as the emblem of 
microcosmic energy. Rajasthan, 

19th century. Gouache on paper. 

Yogi with chakras, Sahasrara (the 
'Lotus of a Thousand Petals') is 
the place of union between 
Kundalini and Pure Consciousness. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

After such a survey of various techniques, we must return to the 
most fundamental of all questions: What is the evolutionary 
mechanism in the human body which generates the illimitable 
power to transform? What is the basis of the concept of the subtle 
energies operating in the human organism? The tantrikas describe 
it as the mysterious Kundalini Sakti. In verse 3 of the Satchakra- 
Nirupana, the Kundalini is described thus: 'She is beautiful like a 
chain of lightning and fine like a [lotus] fibre, and shines in the 
minds of the sages. She is extremely subtle, the awakener of pure 
knowledge, the embodiment of all bliss, whose true nature is pure 
consciousness.' At first glance it is not at all clear what the 
Kundalini is. The verse describes the Kundalini as an extremely 
subtle force which has the potency to transform. Can we then say 
that Kundalini is the force that impels, a power that transforms, a 
feeling that unites? - No, it is something more. 

The Kundalini is the microcosmic form of universal energy or, 
more simply, the vast storehouse of static, potential psychic energy 
which exists in latent form in every being. It is the most powerful 
manifestation of creative force in the human body. The concept of 
Kundalini is not peculiar to tantras but forms the basis of all yogic 
practices, and every genuine spiritual experience is considered to 
be an ascent of this power. The Kundalini is described as lying 
'coiled', 'inactive' or in 'trance sleep' at the base of the spine, 
technically called the Muladhara Chakra or root centre, blocking 
the opening of the passage that leads to the cosmic consciousness in 


A manuscript page illustrating the brain centre. In most cases the Kundalini may lie dormant all 

Sakti with Kundalini. Rajasthan, through one's life time, and an individual may be unaware of its 
c. 19th century. Gouache on paper. existence. The closest parallel to this concept in modern terms is 

what contemporary behavioural scientists term the gap between 
our potential and actual self. According to their findings, the 
average individual uses only 10% of his capacities while the greater 
part of his potentialities, talents and abilities remain unrealized. 
The Kundalini Sakti, however, should not be confused merely 
with an individual's creative capacities but should be conceived as a 
force which has the potency to awaken an undeniable psychic 
power inherent in all of us. No tangible description of the 
Kundalini in symbolic or physiological terms will suffice, for it is a 
highly potential ultra-subtle vibration which eludes the 'surgeon's 
knife'. However elusive its nature, its efficacy can bejudged only 
by experiencing it and the effect its arousal produces in the human 

It is believed that man, within his corporeal frame, embraces all 
the subtle planes of the universe; beyond his physical existence 
there is a parallel 'etheric-double' which constitutes his subtle 
body. The subtle envelopes are related to the gross body at several 
psychic points. The numerous etheric channels are known as nadis 


(from the root nad meaning motion, vibration), and of them the 
most important ones are the lunar nadi, Ida, the solar nadi, Pingala, 
and the central subtle channel, Sushumna. Though attempts have 
been made to identify these subtle nerves with various parts of the 
human anatomy, they arc untraceable by direct physical means. It 
is mainly through the mechanism of this etheric structure that the 
vital current of Kundalini is awakened. 

The Muladhara (mula-root) centre at the base of the spinal 
column between the anal orifice and the genital organs (sacral 
plexus) is the starting place of all the main nadis. The Sushumna, 
situated at the perineum, runs through the central channel of the 
spinal column and extends up to the crown of the head. On either 
side, and running parallel to it, are Ida on the left and Pingala on the 
right. Though Ida and Pingala separate from the Sushumna at the 
Muladhara Chakra, they meet the Sushumna again in the region of 
Ajna Chakra, situated between the eyebrows (cavernous plexus), 
and again they divide and separate into the left and right nostrils. 
Along the Sushumna channel there are the six major psychic 
centres also known as chakras, and one above the head and lying 
outside the body; together they make the seven major psychic 
vortices in the subtle body. These chakras are revealed to practising 
adepts only, through yoga. 

Attempts are sometimes made to identify the chakras with 
several parts of the body. Rieker, however, correctly observes: 

It the system of chakras were identical with the central nervous system 
(CNS), then either all our academic knowledge would be wrong, or the 
yoga teachings would be empty fantasies. But neither is the case. Our 
knowledge about the CNS applies to the material aspect only, while 
chakra theory goes to the deepest sources of all dynamic processes in man, 
down to the deepest cosmic functions, to which we are undeniably 
bound. 16 

The chakras are figuratively referred to as lotuses, and each of 
them is related to a colour; each lotus's number of petals indicates 
the rate of vibrations of that particular chakra. Thus, only four 
frequencies are attributed to the root centre, where energy is at its 
lowest and resistance is highest, but as one ascends the scale, the 
frequencies increase considerably. The letters inscribed on the 
petals of the chakra lotuses should not be regarded as mere parts of 
the alphabet: they indicate sound vibrations and the varying 
degrees of energies working in the different centres. Similarly, the 
colours which the chakras reflect are related to their frequencies. 
Of the several interpretations offered for the symbolic use of 
lotuses the one which explains their function is that when the veils 


obstructing the chakras are lifted they open up more like flowers 
from within. 

The seven chakras and their symbolic interrelation with sound, 
colour, form, significance and function have been described 
extensively in the tantras: 

(1) Muladhara Chakra, a major root centre of physical 
experience, is conceived of as having four red petals on which 
are inscribed in gold v, sh, s, s within a yellow square 
representing the earth element with the bija mantra Lam. An 
inverted triangle is placed in the centre of the square, enclosing 
the unawakened and mysterious Kundalini, in trance-sleep and 
lying in three and a half coils around the Svyambhu-linga. This 
represents the unmanifested or quiescent form of the Kundalini. 
This chakra is associated with the cohesive power of gross 
matter and the element of inertia, the sense of smell, etc. The 
presiding deity of the chakra is Brahma with the Sakti, Dakini. 
The four letters represent the root variations and are related to 
the power of speech. 

(2) Svadishthana (pleasant) Chakra, the second centre in the 
ascending order of the Kundalini, is situated at the base of the 
genital organ with six vermilion petals bearing the letters b, bh, 
m, y, r, and i. In the pericarp is represented the water element, 
stainless and luminously white, in the shape of a half-moon with 
the bija mantra Vam. On top of the bija mantra sits the presiding 
deity Vishnu flanked by the Sakti, Rakini or Chakini. This 
chakra governs the sense of taste. 

* ■ 

: > ®*" • 

t • . v 'I . ■ « 


<r * 

(3) Manipura (gem-site) Chakra, near the navel (lumbar or 
epigastric plexus), is a blue lotus with ten petals inscribed with 
the letters d, dh, n, t, th, d, dh, n, p, ph. In the centre of the lotus. 


a red triangle 'radiant like the rising sun' is related to the element 
of fire. Its bija mantra is Ram. The presiding deity of this chakra 
is Rudra with the Sakti Lakini. This chakra is related generally to 
the sense of sight. 

(4) Anahata (unstruck) Chakra, in the region of the heart (cardiac 
plexus), has twelve letters -k, kh, g, gh, n, eh, chhj, jh, h, t, th- 
inscribed on golden petals. In the middle are two interpenetrat¬ 
ing triangles of a smoky colour enclosing another golden 
triangle 'lustrous as ten million flashes of lightning', with a 
Bana-linga inside the triangle. This chakra is associated with the 
element air, and above the two triangles is its presiding deity, the 
three-eyed Isa with Kakini Sakti (red in colour). Its bija mantra 
is Yam and it is principally associated with the sense of touch. 

(5) Visuddha (pure) Chakra is located at the juncture of the spinal 
column and medula oblongata, behind the throat (laryngeal or 
pharyngeal plexus). It has sixteen petals of smoky purple 
inscribed with the letters of sixteen vowel sounds - a, a, i, 1, u, u, 
ri, ri, li, li, e, ai, o, ou, m, h - and within its white pericarp is a 
white circle enclosing a triangle that is inscribed with the bija 
mantra Ham. The presiding deity is Sadasiva in his 
Ardhanarisvara (androgynous) aspect, and the chakra is 
associated with the element ether and controls the sense of 

. »* * 

V 9 

« t^> 

t \#f v / 

V * 

■f, * 

*1 * 


(6) Ajna (command) Chakra, situated between the eyebrows, 
commands the various states of concentration realized through 
meditation. It is a two-petalled white lotus with the letters h and 
ksh. In its centre is an inverted white triangle with the white 
Itara-linga and the bija mantra Om. The tutelary Sakti is Hakini, 
and it is associated with the various cognitive faculties of the 

* \ \ m « 

(7) Sahasrara (thousand) is the 'Lotus of the Thousand Petals' 
located about four finger-breadths above the crown of the head; 
it is also called Brahmarandhra and is the meeting-place of the 
Kundalini Sakti with Pure Consciousness. Its petals are inscribed 
with all sound potentials, represented by all the letters of the 
Sanskrit alphabet. The tantrika Satyananda Giri explains that 
Kundalini has to cross further, through eighteen mahavidyas, 
i.e., eighteen energized subtle centres encircling the Sahasrara 
region, finally to unite with Siva, in an act known as maithuna- 

XIII Enlightened Sadhaka. The 
opening of the Sahasrara chakra 
above the head indicates that the 
yogi has attained the peak state of 
enlightenment. Maharashtra, 

c. 19th century. Gouache on paper. 

XIV Priest performing nyasa 
with ritual ingredients during the 
Kali-puja on Divali, the darkest 
night of the year, when the festival 
of lights' takes place all over India. 

The Sahasrara is the centre of quintessential consciousness where 
the integration of all polarities is experienced. It is a centre which 
neutralizes all sounds and all colours, integrates all cognitive and 
conative functions and embraces the static and dynamic energies of 
the various centres into an all-pervasive unity. It is here that the 
Kundalini terminates her journey after having traversed the six 
chakras: 'It is in this centre that the rupture of plane occurs, that the 
paradoxical act of transcendence in passing beyond samsara, 
"emerging from time", is accomplished.' A man cannot stay in this 
state more than twenty-one days unless the Kundalini reverses her 
course and comes down to the relative plane. But this experience 
retains its spontaneity and remains an unforgettable event in one's 


S^aHHwwLi^ ^ -j 


Jung states that in the process of what he terms individuation, 
the psyche becomes 'whole' when balance among the four 
'functions', thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting, is achieved. If 
we draw a parallel between Jung's ideas and the system of chakras 
we find that at each energy vortex a new element is encountered in 
ascending order, earth, water, fire, air, ether. The five vortices each 
manifest a new sense which is a limitation and possibility of the 
others. Thus, at the root centre, associated with the element earth, 
the attributed quality is cohesiveness and inertia, a level in which 
one may remain content without having any desire to change or 
expand into any other state. At the same time, just as the root of a 
tree implies the possibility of its growth, the earth centre also 
denotes an opportunity to expand awareness. Likewise the energy 
of the second chakra, associated with water, like its corresponding 
element, tends to flow downward in order to contract. The third 
chakra, which is associated with fire, like its flames implies an 
upward movement in order to consume. The fourth chakra is 
associated with air, and like its element is characterized by a 
tendency to revolve into different directions in order to relate itself 
with other possibilities. Finally, the fifth chakra, corresponding 
with the element of ether, is like a receptacle within which all 
elements operate. 

The process of becoming is not unilinear, moving in one 
direction either up or down, but it is dialectical, with pulls and 
pushes at every level. The Kundalini does not shoot up in a straight 
line, but at each stage of its unfolding it must undo the knots of 
different energies. With each successive untying a specific 
transformation occurs. The element-symbols associated with the 
vortices convey something about the positive and negative 
polarities functioning within the personality of an individual. 
When the Kundalini ascends through the psychic centres it 
assimilates the different energies released from the centres, and the 
sadhaka experiences manifold interplay of visionary experiences 
and sensations of sound, light, colour, etc. At the etheric level of 
Ajna Chakra, the centre between the eyebrows, the lower half of 
the dialectical functioning of the personality can be perceived and 
controlled. At this level, one sense predominates, the experience of 
awareness or the power to command, which can harmonize the 

In Jung's patients the process of individuation transcends the 
barriers of polarities interacting within their personality with the 
help of a therapist; similarly, the tantric initiate, through a long 
process of apprenticeship under the strict guidance of a guru, learns 

XV Kali as visualized by a 
Sadhika, Sudha Ma, while in 
trance. Calcutta, contemporary, 
based on traditional form. Gouache 
on paper. 

XVI The psychic centres and 
their related symbols, detail from an 
illuminated manuscript page. 

Nepal, c. 1761. Gouache on paper. 


I I *•»•* • V cl 

q <s^a© si& -s^j 6 lSS3 -' 

to balance the dialectical process of the lower chakras with the aid 
of his will. Just as in Jung's subjects once a balance is attained 
psychic individuation results in a uniquely new awareness, so also 
with the adept, such awareness awakens when all functions are 

Asana or ritual of union: individual 

Tantra asana is a mode of transcending the human condition; 
through it the gross sexual energy of man and woman can be 
transformed into superpotency by total integration of opposing 
polarities. Through planned meditative practices of sexo-yogic 
asanas, Kundalini, the psychic force lying dormant in the human 
body, is roused towards its upward move from Muladhara Chakra 
to the brain centre, Sahasrara, to unite with cosmic consciousness. 
The tantrikas believe that by manipulating this energy inherent in 
gross sex one can find creative powers to ascend to the spiritual 
plane, a plane of transcendental union for the realization of pure 
joy (ananda). The tantrikas have experienced and tasted the power 
of sex in order to return in full awareness of the primal state of 

Through the ages, the sex act has been generally associated with 
procreation or physical gratification. The tantrikas, however, were 
among the first to free sex from its limited orientation and 
recognize its spiritual values and capacities. The spiritualization of 
sex, its revitalization, its sublimation and its acceptance as a valid 
mode in the domain of ritual practices are to a certain extent due to 
the tantrikas' practical exploration. The sexual attitude of a 
practising tantrika is unconditional: sex is seen neither in the 
context of morality nor as an ascetically inhibiting act, nor as 
indulgent or permissive. The asana ritual is free from emotion and 
sentimental impulses. It is sustained by the technical possibility of 
using sex as a medium of realization. Sex is neither immoral nor 
moral. It is amoral. The tantrika differs from sex-phobics in that he 
considers that the neglect of the psycho-physiological factors 
which touch the roots of our instincts as a certain cause of 
remaining in bondage. Liberation is a change of perspective, and 
realization can only dawn if the physical body can be transcended 
by using it in the quest for transformation. The body is a mere 
instrument, a yantra, and no code of social ethics can hold it 
prisoner. It is seen as divine in itself, a vital energy capable of acting 
with tremendous force on the mental state, which in turn reacts on 
the spiritual plane. 

Asana in which a couple embrace as 
a 'creeper enfolds a. tree', called 
'lata-sadhana'. Orissa, c. 18th 
century. Line and colour on paper. 


Linga-yoni with puja (worship) 
offerings laid on it. Kangra, 
Himachal Pradesh, 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

Tantra is perfectly in agreement with the notion that sex or the 
blending of the polarities into one is the universal basis of all 
phenomena irrespective of dimension and magnitude. The 
universality of this concept on the physical plane from the 
subcellular to human level is demonstrated by the fact that 

Micro-sex (small sex) is the biological foundation of macro-sex (big sex). 
About this there can be no argument whatever. All sexual phenomena in 
nature are designed to produce a result, a blending of the genetic codes of 
two members of the same species. The glow and sparkle of sex as we 
humans experience it, the cuddling, kissing, tumescence, copulating, 
orgasm, all serve one purpose only. They set the stage for a cellular drama 


that involves the sperm's odyssey through the tunnels and portals of the 
female genital tract, its quest for the waiting egg, its union with this 

egg- 37 

But what is said about the desire for union on the biological level 
applies to the whole cosmic system. The complete drama of the 
universe is repeated in this human body. The individual and 
universal, according to the tantra, are built on the same plane. The 
intensity ofjoy derived from sexual gratification, whether it is 
dissipated in a gross form or revitalized in a subtle form for a 
spiritual pursuit, differs only in degree. In its existential content, 
the ritual of union is functionally detachable from the conceptual. 
Here the male and female are both playing roles. They do not wish 
to 'explain', but to act in order to 'feel'. In all respects the ritual is 
confined to being an expressive encounter in visible and intelligible 
forms, in a relationship which yields satiety through a series of 
personifications, transformations, visualizations, identity and 
transference rituals. As the ritual gathers momentum the play of 
creative imagination and feeling are brought into focus by 
empathy; through this apprehension, both the male and the female 
partners are seen 'anew' by each other and they move together 
towards the fulfilment of unity. Thus in essence the ritual of union 
remains a 'felt-experience' - a product of the Dionysan nature 
rather then the Apollonian, or analytic in content. 

The ritual is performed with a partner who is considered the 
reflection of Sakti, and unless the adept has the attitude of complete 
surrender to the object of his worship, in this case the female 
participant who plays the role of the divine energy, the practice of 
asana cannot be successful. The 'devout woman' epitomizes the 
entire nature of femaleness, the essence of all the Saktis in their 
various aspects. She becomes a perennial source ofjoy. From 
whatever stratum of society she comes she must bear certain 
auspicious signs in appearance and physical condition in order to be 
an ideal participant: she must be in good health, have lotus eyes, 
full breasts, soft skin, slender waist 'swelled into jewelled hips' 
(Lalaita Vistara). Similarly, the male adept also has to meet specific 
physical requirements. 

The methods of tantric asana incorporate three main controls 
and mark out five subdivisions in the entire course of the 

Early stone carving of'lata- 
sadhana". Khajuraho, Madhya 
Pradesh, c. 12th century. 

(1) Control of mind or autonomy of thought: The adept has to 
develop the ability to concentrate and consciously learn to 
exercise control over the mind. On the physical plane, asana is 


'ekagrata' or concentration on a single point. Just as con¬ 
centration on one object puts an end to the digressions of the 
mind, so asana ends physical mobility by reducing a number of 
positions to a single archetype - it is the first concrete step taken 
for the purpose of abolishing the diversities of human intimacy. 

(2) Control of breath through mastering the technique ofpranayama: 
We have seen earlier how these techniques, apart from 
meditative exercises, play a basic part in forcing prana to strike 
the latent Kundalini. It is upon this that the tantras lay the 
highest emphasis. 

(3) Control of semen and ova in the human body: Contrary to 
common belief the practice of asana involves the retention of 
sexual energy, and herein lies the acid test of tantric sadhana. The 
accumulated orgasmic energy increases inner pressure, trans¬ 
muting the sex force into a potency so great that the psychic 
current is liberated. The transubstantiation of sexual potency 
confirms that the brief period of carnal joy, though it may 
become a visionary moment, remains shortlived, whereas the 
bliss derived from the spiritual union through the practice of 
asana is an everlasting experience of ecstasy. 

From the triple control over mind, breath and sexual ejaculation 
which constitutes the main techniques of asana, the whole force of 
esoteric practice of preparation, purification, worship, meditation, 
unification is directed towards synthesis. 

Prior to the commencement of the ritual, a choice of 
environment, and determination of the propitious time and hour, 
are made with the help of the guru. Tradition recognizes only one 
day each month to be the most auspicious: the eighth or fifteenth 
day of the dark fortnight; otherwise, a Tuesday on the eighth or 
fifteenth day of the full moon is prescribed. 

Equally important is the place of worship. The tantrikas 
repeatedly stress the need to perform rituals in solitary places in an 
atmosphere free from noise and pollution. Our mental state of 
being is inextricably linked with the quality of the environment. 
We are at our best when our feelings and actions are synchronized 
into a perfect state of harmony. In congenial surroundings our 
efficiency is at its best and internal frictions are reduced. On the 
other hand, an uncongenial atmosphere leads to a fossilization of 
thoughts and feelings. The environment helps to co-ordinate the 
outer and the inner to make life more coherent and rewarding. It is 
therefore necessary that the place of worship should inspire our 


inner spiritual urges to flow naturally within us. Rieker explains 
the importance of a favourable atmosphere for meditative 
purposes: 'Man without environment, let us assume this possibility 
theoretically, could neither create nor change his inner self, for he 
would lack an outer measure of his inner relationships. And thus 
the inner self of Man is not, a priori, decisive, but only in his 
momentary relationship to his environment.' 38 

The acts of bathing (ablution), dressing, sitting for worship, 
offering of ritual ingredients, along with others like nyasa and 
bhuta-suddhi (purification of body and elements) are performed to 
tune the environment, body and mind. 


After both partners have bathed, sakti (the female partner) is 
liberally and gently massaged with scented oils: jasmine for her 
hands, keora for her neck and cheeks, champa and hina for her 
breasts, spikenard for her hair, musk for her abdomen, sandal paste 
for her thighs, and khus for her feet. The primary aim of using 

Radha, the beloved of Lord 
Krishna, encircled by sixteen 
female energies. Rajasthan, c. 18th 
century. Gouache with gold on 


Auspicious symbol representing a 
devi (female divinity) drawn with 
vermilion paste on a libation jar. 

certain scents is to stimulate the Muladhara Chakra region which, 
being on the earth plane, is directly related to the sense of smell. A 
vermilion dot is drawn between Sakti's eyebrows to mark the place 
of the opening of the third eye. Dressed in red raw wool or silk 
cloth sadhaka sits cross-legged while his sakti sits opposite him. 
The ritual ingredients are aesthetically arranged at the place where 
the rite is to begin. A tray holding flowers, including hibiscus, 
blades of green grass, grains of rice, tulsi leaves (a sacred plant), 
flower garlands, all thoroughly washed with water, vermilion and 
red sandalwood paste, is on the right side of the sadhaka along with 
an oil lamp, incense burner, and cooked foods. In front of the 
sadhaka are ritual water containers, and a libation jar (for a 
tantrika, 'a pot shows the universe'), with five green mango leaves 
across its top, symbolizing the five elements, and resting on a lump 
of kneaded clay, are kept, along with the Sri-patra, or sacred wine 
cup. Each ritual article has a symbolic meaning and helps the 
preparatory training for both the ritual partners. 


After completing the initial discipline, sadhaka commences the 
purification ritual by reciting the achamana (sipping) mantra: Om 
atmatattvaya svaha ('The self in the worshipper is no other than the 
consciousness within him'), or Om Sivatattvya svaha, Om 
Saktitattvaya svaha, realizing that all his activities, both physical 
and mental, proceed from this consciousness, Siva-Sakti, in order 
to have a full grasp of the successive stages through which he is to 
proceed during the communion. He draws a triangle on the 
ground with fingertips dipped in vermilion or sandal paste, 
representing Prakriti, and says the mantra: 

Om. asane upavesanamantrasya 
meruprstharsi sutalam chandah 
kurmo devata asanopavesane viniyogah 
om prithivi tvyi dhrita lokah 
devi tvam visriura dhrita 
Warn ca dharaya mam devi 
pavitram kurucasanam 

Sadhaka thus purifies the surrounding atmosphere and sanctifies 
the seat (asana represents the earth) which is a mat, deerskin or raw 
wool. Touching his mouth with his right hand he purifies it with 
the mantra 'Om tadvisnorparamam padam', his nose with the 
mantra 'sada pasyanti surayah', his eyes with the mantra 'dlbiba 


chaksuratatam'. He then salutes his guru while reciting the 
following mantras: 

touching his mouth: 

om gurubhyo namah 

touching the middle of his forehead: 

om paramagurubhyo namah 

touching the top of his head: 

om paraparagurubhyo namah 

touching the right side of his body: 

om Ganesaya namah 

With palms together touching the top of his head the sadhaka 

om Hum Hrim Siva-Saktibhyam svaha 


Now follows the ritual of protective measures. The power of the 
divinity is ritualized into each part of the body (anga-nyasa) in 
order to form a protective circuit and activize the energy centres of 
sadhaka’s body. In the following mantra different parts of the body 
are associated with various aspects of energy so that the entire 
physical field of the adept is protected and revitalized. Mantras 
uttered during the rite are so designed as to create appropriate 
vibrations within the psychic field. The adept utters each mantra 
three times, touching respective parts of his body with the thumb, 
ring and middle fingers: 

Hrim, may Adya (Primordial Energy) protect my head. 

Srim, may Kali protect my face. 

Krim, may the Supreme Sakti protect my heart. 

May she who is the supreme of the supreme protect my throat. 

May Jagaddhatri protect my two eyes. 

May Sankari protect my two ears. 

May Mahamaya protect my power of smell. 

May Sarvamangala protect my power of taste. 

May Kaumari protect the power of my teeth. 

May Kamalalaya protect my cheeks. 

May Ksma protect my upper and lower lips. 

May Malini protect my chin. 

May Kulesvan protect my throat. 

Stamps for making auspicious signs 
on the body before ritual worship. 
South India, 19th century. Brass. 


May Krpamayi protect my neck. 

May Vasudha protect my two arms. 

May Kaivalyaddyini protect my two hands. 

May Kapardihi protect my shoulders. 

May Trailokyatarini protect my back. 

May Aparna protect my two sides. 

May Kamathesvari protect my hips. 

May Visalaksi protect my navel. 

May Prabhavati protect my organ. 

May Kalyani protect my thighs. 

May Parvati protect my feet. 

May Jayadurga protect my vital breaths. 

May Sarvasiddhidata protect all parts of my body. 

As to those parts which are not mentioned and are 
unprotected, may the eternal Primeval Kali protect all such. 

At this stage nyasa is introduced into the ritual. Nyasa is a great 
help in creating a favourable mood in the adept aspiring for the 
divine nature to permeate his body. After the purification and 
protection of the gross body, follows the bhuta-suddhi or 
purification of the elements of which the body is composed. It 
starts with the mantra: 

Om bhutasringatasirah susumnapathena jiva-sivam 
paramasivapade yojayami svaha 
om yam lingasariram sosaya sosaya svaha 
om ram sankocasariram daha daha svaha 
om paramasivasusumnapathenamulasrngatakam 
om hrim durgaraksanyai svaha. 

In the above mantra, known as paranyasa, the sadhaka, the 
individual being, is identified with Parama-Siva, the Universal 
Being. By this mantra the aspirant symbolically envisages that the 
impurities ofhis material body are burned away. He then becomes 
all-luminous and divine. 


Having purified the element ofhis own body the sadhaka proceeds 
gradually to purify the body ofhis sakti with an appropriate ritual 
known as Vijaya-sodhana. Through the goddess, one gains the 
vision of reality. The woman who becomes the personified 
goddess opens a doorway to a deeper transpersonal experience. 


Only when she is seen through divine eyes does the sadhaka 
apprehend the innate divine qualities of the physical woman. 

Sadhaka now draws the Vijaya-mandala around the libationjar 
which is placed on the ground. Ritual ingredients and five 
spoonfuls of wine (karana) are sprinkled over it. Through the 
finger gestures of the yoni mudra and nyasa the sadhaka 
symbolically transforms his partner into the radiance of Sakti's 
body with the following mantra which is the dhyana or rnula 
(root) mantra ofthe goddess Samvit who is also called Bhairavi, an 
aspect of Sakti: 

Aim samvida asya mantrasya 

daksinamurti rsisandulankritamchcmdah sadasiva devata 
samvit sanniuopane viniyogah. 


Om siddhyadyam samvitsri sivabodhinim karalasat 
pasankusam bhairavim 
bhaktabhistavarapradam sukusalam 

piyusambudhimanthanodbhava rasam sambitbilas- 
aspadam virajarelta padukam 
suvijayam dhyayet jagatmohinim. 

In order to create an appropriate vibration around his sakti, the 
adept recites this mantra: 


Om samvide brahma-sambhiite brahmaputri sadanaghe 
bhairavdndnca trptyartham 
pabitrobhava sarx’ada 
om brahmanyaih namah svaha. 

For the protection of Sakti, the adept claps three times and utters 
the bija, Phat, simultaneously thumping the ground three times 
with his left heel. Then follows the sublimation of senses by 
invocation to the ten Saktis with the mantra: 

Sumitra suniti devi vijaya carcita para 
amrita tulsi tunga tejomayi suresvari 
etani dasanamani kare krh>a pathedbudhah 
duhkha daridryandsyet paramjnanam avapnuyat. 

The sadhaka begs a blessing from sakti, identifying her with 
chidrupa-mahasakti (supreme Sakti), with the following prayer: 

Birth as an image of creation. 
South India, 18th century. Wood. 


yascakrakramabhumika vasatayoh nadisu ya samisthita 
yd kayadruinaromakupanilaya yah samsthita dhatusu 
uchvasormi marutlaringa nilya nihsvasavasasca yasta 
devoh ripu bhksyabhaksana para stripyantu kaularcita 
ya divyakamapalika ksitigata ya devatastoyaga 
ya nityam prathitah prabhah sikhigata yd mdtarisva sryah 
yd vyomamrita mandatamritamaya yassarvagah sarvada 
ta satyah kulamarga palanaparah santim prayacchuntu me. 

This prayer is followed by a salutation to his own sakti with the 

Om samviddevi gariyasim gunanidhim 

mahamohamadandhakdra samanim tapa- 

vande viramukhambuja vilasinim 
sambodhinim dipikam 
brahmamayi vivekavijaya 
vidya murtaye namah. 


At this stage, the sadhaka invokes the symbolic presence of the 
guru. He places two seats on the ground to represent the guru and 
his Sakti, and mentally visualizes that the guru and his sakti have 
occupied the seats. Then begins the mental worship of the guru 
with various ritual ingredients. With thumb and ring-fingers of 
both hands he offers scent with the following mantra: 

Lam prithvystmakam gandham sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah 

he offers red flowers with the mantra: 


Ham akasatmakam puspan sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah. 

In the same way he makes offering of incense, light and food with 
the mantra: 


Vam vayavyatmakam dhupam sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah. 



Ram vanhyatmakam dipam sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah. 


Vam amritatmakam naivedyam sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah. 


Aim sam sarvatmakam tambulam sasaktika- 
sri gurave samarpayami namah. 

Joining the middle and ring-fingers and thumb of his right hand, 
and placing it above his head on the Sahasrara chakra, the adept 
makes a mental offering to the guru: 

Sasaktikasri gurum tarpayami svaha 
hrim hrim hrim 

sasaktikasri gurupddukam tarpayami svaha 
Sasaktikasri paramagurum paraparagurum 
paramesthi gurum tarpayami svaha 
hrim hrim hrim. 

(3 times) Sasaktika divyaugha sidhayuga 

martavaugha gurupanktibhyam 
tarpayami svaha 
haum hrim hrim 

(3 times) Sasaktika divyaugha sidhaugha manavaugha 

garupanktinam sripddukam 
tarpayami svaha. 

The yoni at the feet of the Devi 
(goddess), one of the images in the 
Sixty-Four Yogini Temple, 
representing adya-sakti, the primal 
energy. Bheraghat, Madhya 
Pradesh, c. 12th century. Stone. 


(12 times: the guru's Gayatri mantra) 

Om aim guru devaya vidmahe 
caitanyarupaya dhimahi 
tanno guru prachodayat om. 

He visualizes the guru as identified with his (the sadhaka's) ishta- 
devata (chosen deity) by concentrating on the guru's ideal image 

Sudhasphatikasankasam virajitam 
gandhdnulepanam nijagurumkarunyenav alokitam 
vamorusaktisamyuktam suklambarabhusitam 
sasaktim daksahastena dhrtam carukalevaram 
vame dhrtotpalansca suraktim susobhanam 
ananda rasollasa lochandvya pankajamdhyayet. 

He repeats five times the bija mantra Haum, Hrirn at the 
imagined feet ofthe guru. At this point, it is believed, the power of 
the guru and his sakti are projected on to the adepts, and they 
themselves become guru and his sakti. The adepts visualize 
themselves as identified with the pervading reality, Siva-Sakti, 
and, having gone through the ritual ofthe control ofthe senses by 
invocation and purifying rites, they submerge themselves into the 
immensity and appear to be space-clad or naked. 

The sadhaka then places before him two bowls in the name of 
the guru and his sakti and pours wine into them: 

Om jaya jaya vijaya vijaya 
parabrahma svarupini 
sarvajanam me vasanaya 
Hum Phat svaha 

He gives one bowl ofwine to his own Sakti who drinks half and the 
rest is taken by the sadhaka. 

Sadhaka imagines that he is sitting on the guru's right lap and his 
Sakti on the imagined guru's left lap and they embrace each other 
and utter the following mantra 12 times: 

Lam - Muladhara 
Vam - Svadishthana 
Ram - Manipura 
Yam - Andhata 
Ham - Visuddha 

Sadhaka and his sakti then enjoy the ritual of divine nectar. He 
sucks in a single breath at each of Sakti's breasts to awaken in 
himselfthe sensation known as amrta-pan ('taking ofnectar'). This 
ends the ritual of the guru. 


Sakti worship 

It is not physiological sight but psychologically seeing her as a 
mental screen onto which is projected a series of personifications, 
that changes the adept's ordinary perception of a woman into a 
special kind of perception - Sakti. The transference of divinity is 
not something which is detached from the real but is within the 
reach of experience. The man and the woman both are parts of a 
drama to which they conform in perfect lucidity. Their interplay is 
a complementary movement of thought and feeling; there is no 
place for abstraction here, but only constant reference to a tangible 
human condition. Hence the experience of the transubstantiation 
of a woman into a goddess is viewed as a very special revelation of 
reality which can be seen, felt, and apprehended in no other way 
than what it is. 

The man and woman encounter themselves in one another; in 
doing so more completely does one relate to one's inner self. This 
continuous activity of 'seeing' into one another through the 
various ritual acts climaxing in sexo-yogic asana plunges the group 
into an anonymity in which personal ego-sense is dissolved for the 
acceptance of the common goal. By the process of ritual 
projection, the adepts are imbued with divinity until both the male 
and female, who represent the dialectical principles, achieve an 
existential awareness of unity similar to the symbol of the circle: 
'So 'ham: I am He' or 'Sa 'ham: I am she', for 'There is no 
difference between Me and Thee.' 

Sublimation techniques are based on regulating seminal 
ejaculation, which is achieved by combined thought and breath 
control, along with certain asanas such as Padmasana, Siddhasana, 
Savasana, Yoniasana, Janujugmasana, Chakrasana, Puhapaka- 
asana, Ratiasana, Bhagasana, and certain mudras, prominent 
among which are Vajroli, Sahajoli, Yoni, Khechari and Maha- 

Sexual energy is also controlled through Hatha-yoga. The 
proper practice of these mudras, bandhas or asanas, pranayama, 
etc., ensures retention of sexual energy in both partners. If, by 
chance, orgasm occurs, the fluids can be withdrawn into the body 
by Vajrolimudra. Through bandhas and asanas, expansion and 
contraction of the pelvic region are also possible, the most effective 
being the Uddiyana-bandha, Mula-bandha and Mahavedha. True 
maithuna is the consummation of a difficult apprenticeship. 

The next stage of the ritual consists of its higher level, Sakti 
worship. The adept visualizes the essence of his Sakti as an abstract 

Devi. Kulu Valley, Himachal 
Pradesh, c. 18th century. Bronze. 


Kali Yantra. Rajasthan, 18th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

yantra of the Devi - a bindu in the triangle with its apex upwards at 
Sahasrara, the top of the head. He shares food and other ritual 
objects with his Sakti and draws an inverted triangle with a bindu 
inside it, within a circle on the ground at Sakti's right side; he 
worships the yantra, the abstract symbol of Sakti, with an offering 
of red flowers, preferably j aba (hibiscus), and the mantra: 

Om mandukyaya namah 
om kalagnirudraya namah 
om anantaya namah 
om varahaya namah 
om prithvyai namah 
om nalaya namah 
om kesaraya namah 
om padmaya namah 
om kamikaya namah 
om mandalaya namah 
om dharmaya namah 
om vairagyaya namah 
om aisvaryaya namah 
om jnanaya namah 


om anaisvaryaya namah 
om avairagyaya namah 
om adharmaya namah 
om ajnanaya namah 
om jnanatmane namah 
om kriyatmane namah 
om paramatmane namah , 39 

After the recitation of the mantra, the sadhaka places a libation 
bowl on the yantra and sprinkles wine with the red flower. He then 
worships his Sakti with the mantra: 

Om aim kandarpaya namah 
om hrim kamarajaya namah 
om klim manmathaya namah 
om blum makardhvajaya namah 
om strim monobhavaya namah. 

and says the following mantra on four sides ofhis sakti: 

Om batukaya namah 
om bhairavaya namah 
om durgayai namah 
om ksetrapalaya namah 

He then uses vermilion paste to draw an upward-pointed 
triangle with a bindu in its centre on the forehead ofhis Sakti and 
begins to worship her from the Ajna chakra region downwards 
with the following mantra, in which he personifies her as the three 
aspects ofDevi as Durga, Laksmi and Sarasvati: 

Om hsauh sadasiva mahapreto padmasanaya namah 

om aim klim strim blum adharasaktisri padukam pujayami namah 

om Durgayai namah 

om Laksmyai namah 

om Sarasvatyai namah. 

Finally he worships Ganesa, bestower of attainment. 

Body worship 

This stage of the ritual implies a sensuous and aesthetic experience 
which takes into account the ever-present interphysical re¬ 
lationship between man and woman. However transitory its 
nature, the physical communion is a limitation of the absolutely 
real. The sadhaka worships his Sakti's hair and face as representing 


the essence of the sun and the moon, and then begins the elaborate 
ritual ofKama-kala, touching all the parts of her body, from her 
right toe to her head, while reciting the mantra: 

A female figure marked to indicate 
the Amritakala, which are 
energized on auspicious days of the 
white and dark halves of the month. 
Rajasthan, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

Om am sraddhayai namah 

om am kirtyai namah 

om im rataye namah 

om im bhutayae namah 

om um kantaye namah 

om um monobhavaya namah 

om rm monoharaye namah 

om rm monoharinyai namah 


om 1m madanaye namah 

om bn utpadinyai namah 

om em mohinyai namah 

om aim dipinyai namah 

om awn vasankaraye namah 

om am rajanyai namah 

om ah priyadarsanaye namah 



Then, from the top of her head to her left toe, the sadhaka 
touches his Sakti's body, accompanying his gestures with this 

Om am pusaye namah 

om am basaye namah 

om im samanaye namah 

om im rataye namah 

om um pritaye namah 

om um dhritaye namah 

om rm sudhaye namah 

om rm somaye namah 

om Im marichaye namah 

om Im amsumalinai namah 

om aim angiraye namah 

om aim vasinyai namah 

om aum chayaye namah 

om aum sampumamandalaye namah 

om am tustaye namah 

om ah amrtaye namah 

Yoni worship 

The sadhaka then proceeds to worship his Sakti's yoni with the 
following mantra, offering water, flower and karana (wine): 

Om aim candraya namah (water) 
om aim sauryaya namah (flower) 
om aim agnaye namah (wine) 

He then places as an offering red sandal paste and flowers on her 
yoni with this mantra: 

Hum strim hum namah 

om bhagamalinyai namah 

om aim hrim srim aim yam blum 

klinne sarvani bhagani vasamanaya me 

om strim hrim klim blum bhagamalinyai namah 

aim hrim srim sasaktika namah 

This mantra is recited in the name of Bhagamalini, the third 
goddess of the three very closely associated deities of Devi 
Tripurasundari. They are the first three predominant goddesses of 
the fifteen nitya-kala. In the trikona-yantra (triangular yantra) of 
Sahasrara, Devi Tripurasundari is surrounded by the goddess 
Kamesvari, Vajresvari and Bhagamalini. Since the name 
Bhagamalini is erotically suggestive because of the pun on the word 


Adya-Sakti, the Ultimate Ground, 
genetrix of All Things. Alampur 
Museum, Andhra Pradesh, c. nth 
century. Stone. 

bhaga, which means both female organ and divine power, she is 
often referred to in the ritual. 

Sadhaka then begins worshipping his own ishta-devata, or 
chosen deity (here, the goddess Kali), with the following mantra: 

Om krim padyam samarpayami namah (feet) 

orn krim arghyam samarpayami namah (offering the water) 

om krim acamaniyam samarpayami namah (sipping) 

orn krim snaniyam samarpayami namah (bath) 

orn krim gandham samarpayami namah (perfume) 

om krim puspam bilvanca samarpayami namah (flowers and bilva leaves) 

om krim naivedyam samarpayami namah (food) 

om krim panayam samarpayami namah (water) 

om krim tambulam samarpayami namah (betel leaves) 

orn krim dakshinam samarpayami namah (sacrificial fee) 

Sakti as goddess 

Touching the feet ofhis Sakti. now a goddess, the sadhaka recites 
the hymns to the Devi as if she has now become the goddess Kali: 

Om ya devi sarvabhutesu saktirupena samsthita 
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namah 

and he recites: 

That power who is defined as Consciousness in all beings, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 


Kali. Kalighat, Calcutta, c. \9th 
century. Gouache on paper. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Peace, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Faith, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence 

That Power who is known as Reason in all beings, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Sleep, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Hunger, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Shadow, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Energy, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Thirst, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverettce. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Forgiveness, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Species, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Bashfulness, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Loveliness, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Fortune, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverettce. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Vocation, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 


That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Memory, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Compassion, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Fulfilment, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings as Mother, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. 

That Power who exists in all beings in the form of Illusion, 
reverence to Her, reverence to Her, reverence to Her, 
reverence, reverence. (Chandi, v. 16-80) 

After this, the sadhaka's internal worship of sakti starts with his 
visualizing a floating circle ofrays oflight as though reflected from 
snow, with red light mixed in it, and there appears Sakti sitting in 
Padmasana with Siva. In the final act of surrender sadhaka 
mentally extinguishes those aspects of himself such as ego-sense, 
pride, greed, illusion, and lust, which are hindrances to his goal by 
offering different kinds of flowers, each symbolically representing 
these aspects. 

Linga worship 

After this the linga is worshipped by reciting the following mantra 
ten times: 

Om aum isanaya namah 
om aum aghoraya namah 
om aum vamadevaya namah 
om aum sadyojataya namah 
om aum tatpurusaya namah 
om nivrttyai namah 
om pratisthayai namah 
om vidyayai namah 
om santatitayai namah 
om ayutesvaraya namah 
om kubjayai namah 
om kamakalayai namah 


Janujugma-asana. Orissa, c. 19th 
century. Ivory. 

Viparit-rati , sexual union with 
Sakti on top of the sadhaka. 
Orissa, 18th century. Ivory. 

om samayayai namah 
om cakresvaryai namah 
om kalikayai namah 
om dikkalavasinyai namah 
om mahacakresvrayai namah 
om tarayai namah. 

Fulfilment and union 

The adept then contemplates mental sexual intercourse. Dissolving 
in the fire of Sakti's yoni all the actions of the sense organs, 
regulating the vital breath so as to make it enter the Sushumna, he 
recites the mantra Hrim 108 more times, touching the breast ofthe 
Sakti with his right hand, and then Hrim 108 times while touching 
her yoni. 

Sakti places her hands over the sadhaka's head and recites thrice: 

Uttisthata: Get up. 

Jagrata: Wake up. 

Virobhava: Be strong. 

Nityamukta svabhavanubhava: 

Realization of the everlasting and free original self. 

Now I am giving you the command to immerse yourself within me. I am 
your guru, and enjoy yourself now with the full bliss within me. I am 
your Sakti and you are mine. According to the command of my Kaula 
Avdhut, I as visva-yoni [universal-yoni] am asking you to implant your 
cosmic linga in my field. My Sat-guru is here to protect you from your 
negative desires. 

Think that at this moment you are not my husband; you are Siva in the 
form of my Sat-guru and I am nothing but Sakti. 

May my divine self bless you and lead you to the eternal joy of bliss. 

Sadhaka is by this time no longer an adept but has been 
transformed as Bhairava, and as Siva he worships his Sakti with 
nine symbolic flowers: (1) holding, (2) embracing, (3) kissing, (4) 
touching, (5) visualizing, (6) seeing, (7) sucking, (8) penetrating, 
(9) meditating, while uttering the mantra, 'Sivo 'ham: I am Siva', 
'Sivo 'ham: I am Siva', ’Sivo 'ham: I am Siva'. 

If Sakti desires she may enact the opposite role, known as 
Viparit-rati, that is the role ofthe sadhaka. In that case the union is 
effected by Sakti on top of the sadhaka, who lies like a corpse, or 
Savasana, and does not move at all. Sakti is now the male and the 
guru, herself acting in the great drama and transfusing the 
potentially charged energy ofthe ritual. After a prolonged stay in 


either position, both the adepts end the ritual with the mantra AIM 
KLIM HRIM SR1M and finally recite HAUM HRIM as long as 

In the initial stages of sadhana, if the aspirants cannot prolong the 
union, they may change the asana positions, for instance from 
Padmasana to lanjugmasana and to Savasana for relaxation. The 
period of retention of energy may also be gradually increased. 
Sometimes herbal preparations are taken orally to increase its 
duration, such as bhang seeds (cannabis indica) with the seeds of 
the tulsi plant; the Indian basil (ocymum sanctum) chewed with betel 
leaves also produces the desired result. 

During sexual union, the minds of the adepts are withdrawn 
from their physical environment as they identify themselves 
completely with one another. After prolonged practice, the sexual 
energy can be retained and sublimated until the psychic current is 
liberated. This experience of bi-unity is termed samarasa in tantric 
texts and is a state parallel to samadhi. 

Collective asana or ritual of union 

The ritual of union is also performed collectively. The rite is 
designated as Pancha-makara, or five M's, and is practised by both 
the Vamacharis, or left-hand tantrikas, and Dakshinacharis, or 
right-hand tantrikas. When performed in a circle, it is known as 
Chakra-puja. In every instance it is a planned, intensive, emotional 
group-experience, and in no case may either a single couple or too 
many participate. Generally eight males and eight females form a 
chakra or circle. 

A careful screening of the participants is undertaken by the guru 
over a specific period of time, usually a year, before actual 
initiation into a group takes place. A participant's competence, 
apart from his physical condition, is tested, with special regard to 
his mental disposition. Kularnava Tantra lays down eight negative 
criteria - hatred, doubt, fear, shame, backbiting, conformity, 
arrogance and status consciousness - and so long as these tendencies 
are prevalent a participant is not fit to practise this esoteric ritual. 

The aim of the chakra-puja is to expand consciousness by the 
five categories which are the objects of human desires, hence the 
use of these tattavas, the five M's: madya (wine), mamsa (meat), 
matsya (fish), mudra (fried cereals), maithuna (sexual union). 
Conventionally regarded as barriers they are accepted in this ritual 
by the left-hand tantrikas as steps on the ladder of perfection. The 
tantrikas point out that the main principle of this ritual is not to 

Sexo-yogic pose, from an 
illuminated manuscript page. 
Orissa, c. 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 


Bhairavi-chakra illustrating the five 
M's, ingredients of the tantric 
Pancha-makara rite. Rajasthan, 
c. 19 th century. Gouache on paper. 

shrink from the senses but to conquer them through experience: 
'Perfection can be attained easily by satisfying all desires' (Guhva- 
Samaj Tantra), a statement which is echoed so vividly in Aldous 
Huxley's letter to Timothy Leary: 

Tantra teaches a yoga of sex, a yoga of eating (even eating forbidden 
foods and drinking forbidden drinks). The sacramentalizing of common 
life, so that every event may become a means whereby enlightenment can 
be realized, is achieved, essentially, through constant awareness. This is 
the ultimate yoga - being aware, conscious even of the unconscious - on 
every level from the physiological to the spiritual. 40 

The five ritual ingredients beginning with M, apart from their 
literal meanings, are reminders of yogic processes. If they are 
hypostatized into mental configurations, the ritual becomes a 
right-hand tantric practice, or Dakshinachara. Thus madya (wine) 
becomes the symbol of'intoxicating knowledge'; mamsa (meat) 
implies the control of speech (from the word ma, meaning 
tongue); matsya (fish) represents the two vital currents moving in 


the Ida and Pingala subtle channels on each side of the central 
subtle channel Sushumna; mudra (parched cereal) symbolizes the 
yogic state of concentration; maithuna (sexual union) symbolizes 
meditation upon the primal act of creation. Those right-hand 
practitioners who follow rajasik sadhana use material substitutes 
for the five M's. Wine is substituted for by coconutjuice, meat by 
ginger, radish or paniphala (the fruit of a water plant), mudra by 
rice, wheat or grain, and maithuna by two types of flowers, karavi 
resembling the linga and aparajita representing the yoni. It is 
believed that some of these rites were introduced by the Indian 
tantrika master Vasishtha, who brought to India various 
antinomian practices known as chinachara from Mahachina 
('Greater China'), which is identified with China or Tibet. 

The place where the Panchamakara rite is to be performed must 
have a pleasant aroma, with incense burning, and a serene 
atmosphere. The ideal time for the rite is midnight. The actual 
performance should take place fifty-four minutes past three 
o'clock in the morning and continue for one hour and thirty-six 
minutes, a time considered auspicious for final sexual union. No 
less important is the arrangement of light to enhance the ritual. 
Castor oil lamps, which produce a violet light, are considered an 
ideal stimulant. 

The Panchamakara rite begins with the initiation of the 
participants by the guru or the Chakresvara, the leader of the 
chakra, who remains the directing centre of the group throughout 
the rite. The adepts pay reverence to the guru and to the circle with 
folded hands; each adept sits with his sakti on his left, while the 

Adharachumbana Asana. Basohli 
Jammu and Kashmir, c. I8th 
century. Gouache on paper. 


Rati-asana. Khajuraho, Madhya 
Pradesh, c. 12th century. Stone. 

guru sits in the centre of the chakra. Thereafter the whole ritual 
unfolds like the individual asana, with the same mantras, nyasas, 
pranayama, purification, identification, concentration, etc. The 
rite progresses by transforming the ordinary woman into Sakti, 
while the sadhaka, viewing her as an incarnation of the goddess 
Devi, recites: 'Om srim bale bale tripurasundari yonirupe mama 
sarvasiddhing dehi yonimukting kuru kuru svaha.' 

In Panchamakara, after the consecration of the wine kept in the 
Sri-patra, the cooked meat, fish and cereals are generally placed on 
a silver tray, and the wine cup is held between the thumb and third 
finger of the left hand by guru's Sakti, who sips the wine and passes 
the cup to the adepts until all the participants drink the wine in 
turn, holding the cup in the same fashion. The meat is taken with 
the first cup of wine, the fish with the second, cereals with the 
third; in this way, once the first four M's are consumed, the fifth, 
maithuna, takes place. 

In all phases of the ritual of union the emphasis is laid on 
knowledge and unity through personal encounter, which in turn is 
responsible for changing the individuals through face-to-face 
contact of feeling, indulging, acting, being aware in a complex 
relationship of body, mind, senses, man and woman become a 
unity. Sex tears away the differences of the ego. But like all human 
activity, sexuality is also of equivocal significance. It can lead an 
adept to the shore of inner realization or doom his humanity. To 
the extent the partners participate in the harmonious com¬ 
plementary whole with an intense awareness of their spiritual 
affinities, their actions serve to lead them to the deepest possible 
experience. On the other hand, if the adepts of the group are 
alienated from one another and indulge in self-defeating ego- 
games they will merely perpetuate a situation contrary to 
liberation. For this reason tantras such as the Kularnava emphasize 
that those who indulge in this ritual mainly for the sexual acts, or 
for hedonistic purposes with no reference to spiritual ends, are only 
defeating themselves. This ritual has become suspect through gross 
misinterpretation of the original texts; the fault, however, is not in 
the tantras, but in us. 


The notion that the spiritual life is a soft, flowing, uninterrupted 
stream is given the lie by facts. Periods of storm and stress and of 
panic-stricken tension are created in rituals in order to reduce 
conflict and lead the adept to an impasse point so that he can 


outgrow the merry-go-round of self-defeating ego-games and 
accept the contradictions and polarities of his own personality 
structure. Buddha's life is a reminder ofsuch instances, when in his 
search for enlightenment he had to encounter fear-inspiring threats 
from Mara and his host of evil demons. The advanced tantrikas 
practise a type of asana known as Savasana at cremation grounds. 
Such a place stresses the truth of transience and the aspirant's heart 
itself becomes a cremation ground - pride and selfishness, status 
and role, name and fame are all burnt to ashes. Meditation on 
certain types of corpses at midnight are considered best for 
overcoming fears and temptations that confront the adepts. It takes 
courage not to shrink from such emotionally disintegrating 
panoramas, which are not directly part of our conscious attention 
in our normal day-to-day life. 

Recognition of the fierce aspects of life carries shock-effects of 
varying degrees, depending upon the strength of the adept's 
conviction, before tranquility can be established. However, it is 
not at all necessary that all sadhakas should go to such terror- 
inspiring sites; the same result may be achieved by introspection. 
Perhaps because of their strong associations with the mysterious. 

Saptamundi-asana. Mandi, 
Himachal Pradesh, 18th century. 
Gouache on paper. 

The Principle of Fire. Rajasthan, 
18th century. Gouache on paper. 


terrifying situations and atmospheres charged with powers that 
can frighten the aspirant, such as midnight and cremation grounds, 
were considered suitable for an explosion of psychic potential. 
Another meditative occult practice is carried out with the aid of 
five, or nine, human skulls and is called Pancha-mundi, or Nava- 
mundi, asana. The adept sits in Padmasana (the lotus position) on 
human skulls, a discipline necessary to help him confront and 
purge from consciousness his own terror. 

These confrontations are a source of renewal, and a doorway to 
a new productive impulse which comes to the adept's aid with a 
constructive view of the situation. They help to obliterate 
distinctions between the objects of attraction and revulsion and 
stress that all extremes, the individual's conscious and unconscious 
self with its contradictions, the ostensibly positive and negative 
aspects of existence, form an inseparable unity. 

The views advanced by modern psychologists such asjung, who 
recognized the importance of a shock experience in order to face 
the 'shadow self or the 'dark' side ofthe personality structure for a 
total integration of the psyche, are in no way different in essence 
from what the tantric adept aspires to achieve from these awe¬ 
inspiring rituals. In The Symbolic Quest Edward C. Whitmont 
explains thejungian concept ofthe significance of confronting the 

The confrontation of one's own evil can be a mortifying death-like 
experience; but like death it points beyond the personal meaning of 
existence. ... It [the shadow] represents the first stage toward meeting the 
Self. There is, in fact, no access to the unconscious and to our own reality 
but through the shadow. Only when we realize that part of ourselves 
which we have not hitherto seen or preferred not to see can we proceed to 
question and find the sources from which it feeds and the basis on which it 
rests. Hence no progress or growth in analysis is possible until the shadow 
is adequately confronted - and confronting means more than merely 
knowing about it. It is not until we have truly been shocked into seeing 
ourselves as we really are, instead of as we wish or hopefully assume we 
are, that we can take the first step toward individual reality. 41 

In the abstruse symbolism of tantras, the ten aspects or energies 
of the Primal Sakti, or the ten objects of transcendental 
knowledge, dasa-maha-vidyas, signifying the various degrees and 
stages of existence, have a similar transformative function. The ten 
Mahavidyas are (1) Kali, the power oftime; (2) Tara, the potential 
of re-creation; (3) Sodasi. the embodiment of the sixteen 
modifications of desire; (4) Bhuvanesvari, substantial forces ofthe 
material world; (5) Bhairavi, who multiplies herselfin an infinity 


Mahavidyas, the Sakti- 
transformations representing 
transcendental knowledge. Ten 
aspects ofSakti - Kali, Tara, 
Sodashi, Bhuvanesvari, Bhairavi, 
Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagala, 
Matangi and Kamala - embody all 
levels of knowledge. Jaipur, late 
19th century. Gouache on paper. 

ofbeings and forms; (6) Chinnamasta, distributing the life energy 
into the universe; (7) Dhumabati, associated with unsatisfied 
desires; (8) Bagala, destroyer of negative forces; (9) Matangi, the 
power of domination; (10) Kamala, the state of reconstituted 
unity. Philip Rawson summarizes these transformations thus: 
'These Sakti-transformations may be worshipped separately, in 
series, or even in combined images symbolic of transitional stages. 
Each one of them represents a limitation of the total persona of Kali 
herself, but is an inevitable part of that whole. Without the drastic 
experience of disintegration, no search for integration means 

i • t42 



Jaina icon of the Jina as released 
spirit. Rajasthan, c. 19 th century. 

Stages of psychic growth 

The pilgrimage of the ego from its incipient potential state to self- 
actualization- an unwinding of the inner energies to expand, to be, 
to become - is a slow gradual process which begins at the very 
advent of spiritual life. The ultimate goal of the human ego 
treading the tantric path is liberation or enlightenment through the 
experience of ecstasy: to become a total being through the 
awareness of one's psychic potencies. Psychic ascent can be viewed 
in terms of sharply defined phases which can be subdivided into 
various categories: first, preparation and incubation; second, self- 
actualization and realization. 

The psyche, as a condensed nucleus of energy with the 
possibility to expand, first begins to be aware of its unbounded 
potentiality and concurrently accepts the belief system, in this case 
tantra, in which it is going to be actualized. Then begins the quest 
for a spiritual preceptor who can direct and point out the signposts 
on the path. When the sadhana begins and under the guidance of 
the guru various techniques are adopted, the neophyte, by 
following a continuous, uninterrupted physical and mental 
discipline, allows these disciplines to infiltrate into his life and 
actions. He absorbs the technique in a process analogous to 
incubation, until their daily performance and observance becomes 
as natural to him as breathing. 

The special states of consciousness conducive to psychic ascent 
consist mainly in narrowing down the field of concentration by 
becoming more centralized, and gathering into a nucleus one's 
own energies through the use of various concentrative and 
absorptive methods in relation to one's temperament and 
potencies. Prescribed techniques may include the recitation of 
mantra, use of yantra, mudra, nyasa, pranayama, daily puja, 
meditation, etc. By daily practice, the sadhaka enhances his 
possibilities of entering into unusual states of mind, albeit such 
awareness in the preliminary stages is only one aspect of the whole 
manifestation. Once a balance is struck between external aids and 
the sadhaka's inner rhythm, the next step of sadhana which follows 
simultaneously as a consequence of outer worship is the inner 
control of the mind by a total 'disintegration of the ego'. This stage 
consists of facing and confronting the shadow self, the unconscious 
forces, and the perception of the creative, destructive continuum 
of the polarity principles manifesting as one. At this stage, either 
one advances towards total liberation or returns to material 
conditions. Many who cannot bear the forcefulness or arduous task 


of the discipline may even abandon the search. The next stage is 
one of reintegration, a harbinger of a new creative birth - a state 
before psychic actualization slowly begins to dawn. 

The second stage, which is anticipatory to the final stage, may be 
called self-actualization. It is a stage when the aspirant begins to 
apprehend that awareness is not inseparable from other aspects of 
experience: he is a part of the totality of which he is a centre. This is 
a state of equanimity of samayana, the state of emptiness, of mental 
tranquility, serenity, imperturbability, self-restraint, accompanied 
by a cessation of cognitive, cognative and volitional function. At 
this level, the sadhaka is 'centred' or 'balanced', always at ease. 
Nothing in life is too great or final to move him, since he is no 
longer at the mercy of opposing sense-reactions. 

Self-actualization may also be manifested in the attainment of 
supernatural powers, or siddhis, such as duplicating one's body at 
will, walking on water, etc. The lives of some of the famous tantric 
Natha saints give glowing descriptions of their superhuman occult 
powers. In all cases the attainment of siddhi is considered to be a 
lesser grade of enlightenment. Ramakrishna always used to warn 
his disciples not to become siddhai and deprecated and implicitly 
decried it: 'If asceticism can teach you after twenty years only to 
walk on water better pay the boatman and save your time.' 

The physiological symptoms of self-actualization may be 
perceptible in the adepts of Kundalini-yoga. The ascent of the 
Kundalini as it pierces through the chakras is manifested by certain 
physical and psychical planes of awareness. In the preliminary 
stages the body trembles and the yogi can feel the explosion of 
psychic heat passing like a current through the Sushumna. 
Ramakrishna describes his own experience of the leaps and bounds 
of this phenomenon as 'hopping', 'pushing up', 'moving', 'zig¬ 
zag'. As the Kundalini ascends further other signs of awakening 
begin to appear. The yogis describe how, at first, a number of 
auditory experiences of inner sounds are had, in which the sounds 
heard interiorly resemble some of the sounds of the external 
environment such as the sound of a waterfall, the humming of 
bees, the sound of a bell, a flute, the tinkling of ornaments, etc. In 
such experiences, the head may become giddy and the mouth fill 
with saliva, but the aspiring yogi must go further till he can hear 
the innermost, unstruck subtle sound or nad identified with inner 
silence. Along with these there may be many sensory reactions of a 
visual nature. The yogi may, in his closed-eye-perception, 
visualize a variety of forms such as dots of light, flames, 
geometrical shapes till all of these in the final state of illumination 

Vaishnava symbol of Lord 
Chaitanya. Bengal, c. 18th 
century. Brass. 


Siva-Sakti, illustrating Siva and 
Sakti as the embodiment of 
universal energy, Kundalini, in the 
centre of his body. Himachal 
Pradesh, c. 18?/z century. Gouache 
on paper. 

dissolve into an inner radiance of intensely bright pure light in 
which the yogi has the sense of being immersed into a blaze of 
dazzling flame. 

An altered state of consciousness differs from our ordinary 
perception of reality. First, the illumined yogi has a holistic 
perception of reality which he directly apprehends through the 
inherent harmony in unity of all things, together with various 
sensory reactions. Second, his ascent from one level of conscious¬ 
ness to another alters a normal dimension of linear time-experience 
as a constant flow ofevents sequentially organized as past, present 
and future into an experience which transcends time and in which 
all events simultaneously exist in the 'infinite present'. 

The last stage of psychic ascent culminates in illumination or 
unity-mergence. The psyche, having traversed a long and winding 
road, now enters a new domain. The aspirant becomes totally 
integrated within himself, having cast aside all illusions and 
delusions. There is no ambiguity in his life. He is merged with the 
object ofhis worship, slowly dissolving all the grosser elements of 
his personality into a subtle constancy for final abandonment. This 
stage is characterized by an experiential realization of what the 
classical Hindu tradition (including tantra) calls Sat (Being), Chit 
(Consciousness), Ananda (Bliss), the triad of substances of Siva- 
Sakti in union. If we take a mundane view of these concepts, these 
three may appear as separate substances. But in an 'altered' or 
'metamorphosed' state of consciousness, such as that lived by one 
who has realized, they form a tri-unity, each submerging into one 
single unified experience. In our ordinary experience we dissociate 
the object of pleasure from the person who experiences it. Thus a 
painting is different from the painter, a poem is distinct from the 
poet, music is separated from the musician; but in altered states 
these distinctions are abolished - the painter becomes the painting, 
the poet the poem, the musician the music, the sadhaka the very 
essence of the bliss of union characterized by Sat-Chit-Ananda. 

One who has attained these transformations has no more desires. 
All external aids become symbols ofphases and forces. They are no 
more than 'links' in different parts of the whole, and all the means 
that we require to reach the ultimate goal, however high, lie 
within us: 'What need have I ofan outer woman? I have an inner 
woman within myself When roused, she (Kundalini, the 'inner 
woman') shines like 'millions oflightning flashes' in the centre of 
the sadhaka's body. He then thinks that he himself is shining like 
everything that is reflected. He looks upon the entire objective 
world that is reflected as surging within him. He then neither 


chants mantras, nor performs mudras or pranayama, nor worships 
gods and goddesses. For he looks upon all that is in himself. 

Pattinattar, the Tamil tantrika siddhai poet, expresses the joy of 
realization thus: 

The eightfold yoga 
The six regions of the body 
The five states 
They all have left and gone 
Totally erased 
And in the open 
lam left 

There is but a red rounded Moon 
Afountain of white milk 
For delight 

The unobtainable Bliss 
Has engulfed me 
A precipice 
Of light. 43 

The origin and goal meet in a single focal point: UNION. 
The knower and the known become ONE. 


1 Woodroffe, Principles of 

Tantra, II, p. 39 

2 Barnett, The Universe and Dr 
Einstein, p. 90 

3 Schindler, Goethe's Theory of 
Colour, p. 205 

4 Naranjo and Ornstein, On the 
Psychology of Meditation, II 

5 D. Bhattacharya, Love Songs 
of Chandidas, p. 18 

6 Ibid., p. 153 

7 Solomon, LSD, p. 69 

8 Eliade, Yoga, Immortality and 
Freedom, p. 250 

9 Mookerjee, Tantra Art 

10 Rawson: review of Tantra 
Art in Oriental Art XIII, 4, 

11 Coomaraswamy, The Trans¬ 
formation of Nature in Art, 

p. 67 

12 Lucio Fontana's statement, 

13 Zimmer, Myths and Symbols 
in Indian Art and Civilization, 
pp. 141-2 


ADHIKARA, a disciple's com¬ 
petency to practise spiritual 

ADYA SAKTI, the Primal Energy. 
AGAMAS, sacred tantric scriptures. 
AJAPA MANTRA, the involuntary 
repetition of a sacred formula. 
AJNA CHAKRA, centre between 
eyebrows in the subtle body. 
AKASA, generally, ether, a kind of 
matter subtler than air. 
ANAHATA CHAKRA, the heart 
centre in the subtle body. 
ANAHATA SABDA, unstruck sound. 
ANANDA, essential principle of 
joy, bliss, spiritual ecstasy. 
ANIMA, power to become small as 
an atom through yoga. 

14 Jenny, UNESCO Courier, 
December, 1969, pp. 16, 18 

15 Abstract Art Since 1945, p. 289 

16 Tucci, The Theory and Practice 
of the Mandala, p. 51 

17 Ibid., p. 50 

18 Zimmer, Ibid., p. 90 

19 Rawson, The Art of Tantra, 
P. 139 

20 Boner, Principles of Com¬ 
position in Hindu Sculpture, 
p. 25 

21 Quoted by Koestler in The 
Roots of Coincidence, p. 63 

22 Seal, The Positive Science of the 
Ancient Hindus, pp. 40-1 

23 Prabhavananda, The Spiritual 
Heritage of India, pp. 213-14 

24 Ibid. 

25 Rola, Alchemy, pp. 20-1 

26 Ray, History of Chemistry in 
Ancient and Medieval India, 
p. 132 

27 Walker, Hindu World, I, 
p. 286 

28 Parker, The Compleat Astro¬ 
loger, p. 50 

29 Krishna, The Biological Basis 

ANJALI, the mudra in which the 
two hands extended upwards 
are held palm to palm. 

AP, the material element of water. 

APANA, one of the energies that 
goes downwards, controlling 
the vital air in the abdominal 

gynous form of Siva. 

ASANA, steady posture, yogic 
pose, a condition of balance 
and poise. 

ASRAMA, a hermitage or dwelling 
place dedicated to spiritual 

AUM, the three sounds which 
compose the root mantra, Om 

AVADHUTA, a rebel renunciate. 

AVATARA, a divine Incarnation. 

of Religion and Genius, 

PP. 42-3 

30 Quoted by Reyna in The 

Philosophy of Matter in the 
Atomic Era, p. 96 

31 Rieker, The Yoga of Light, 
P. 157 

32 Gupta, Laksmi Tantra, p. 189 

33 Quoted by Fabun, Dimen¬ 

sions of Change, pp. 199-200 

34 Gupta, op. cit., p. 206 

35 Vivekananda, The Yogas and 

Other Works, p. 627 

36 Rieker, op. cit., p. 36 

37 De Ropp, Sex Energy, p. 4 

38 Rieker, The Secret of Med¬ 
itation, p. 52 

39 Documentation of a number 
of mantras by Kalyan S. Coll 
has been of great help 

40 Letter of Aldous Huxley to 
Timothy Leary, 11 February 

41 Whitmont, The Symbolic 
Quest, pp. 164-5 

42 Rawson, op. cit., pp. 133-4 

43 Kamil V. Zvelebil, The Poets 
of the Powers, pp. 101-2 

AYURVEDA, ancient Indian medi¬ 
cal system based on the Vedas. 

BANDHA, muscular flexion, yogic 
practice in which certain or¬ 
gans ofthe body are 'locked' in 
a position. 

BHAGASANA, 'vulva pose', a secret 
sexo-yogic posture in which 
the male member is 'locked', in 
prolonged erection inside the 
yoni of a female partner, while 
certain internal esoteric acts are 

BHAIRAVA, destructive aspect of 

BHAVA, emotion: aesthetic state 
or feeling which enlivens the 
senses, the vehicle of rasa 


BHOGA, enjoyment. 


BHUTA, any of the five elemental 
conditions of matter. 

BHUTADI, rudimentary matter 
devoid of any physical sub¬ 

BIJA MANTRA, a seed sound for¬ 
mula corresponding to a parti¬ 
cular psychic potentiality. 
Tantra texts state that the 
universe has evolved out of the 
fifty original bija mantras 
which correspond to the fifty 
letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. 

BINDU, dot: a sacred symbol of 
the universe in its un¬ 
manifested form, in tantra 
also equated with semen. 

BRAHMA, the first god of the 
Hindu trinity, the creator. 

BRAHMAN, the Absolute Reality, 
transcendental or pure con¬ 
sciousness, not to be confused 
with Brahma. 

BRAHMARANDHRA, crown of the 

BUDDHI, the principle of in¬ 
telligence; that intelligence- 
stuff which reveals knowledge 
of the cosmic unity. 

CHAITANYA, pure consciousness. 

CHAKRASANA, a sexo-yogic circle 

CHAKRAS, literally 'wheel' or 
'circle'; technically, the 
psychic centres of energy situ¬ 
ated along Sushumna in the 
subtle human body, also 
known as padmas (lotuses). 

CHAKRESVARA, leader of the 
chakra-puja, the communal 
ritual of union. 

CHINNAMASTA, one of the Mah- 
avidyas, Devi in her de¬ 
structive and creative aspect, 
signifying apparent dissolution 
and return to the First Cause. 

CIT, the Absolute, the pure con¬ 
sciousness attributed to the 
knowledge of the one reality. 

CIT-SAKTI, consciousness as 

power, the supreme energy. 

CITTA, basic mental awareness. 

CHITTAKASA, mental or physical 
inner space. 

DAKINI. the presiding Sakti of the 
muladhara chakra. 

DAKSHINA-MARGA, 'right-hand' 
path of the tantra. 

DAMARU, an hour-glass shaped 
drum used by the Saivites. 

DEVATA, a form of divinity, gen¬ 
erally male. 

DEVI, a form of female divinity, 
goddess, sakti. 

DHARANA, concentration. 

DHYANA, meditation, sustained 
inner concentration beginning 
with concrete and ending with 
abstract awareness. 

DIKSHA, initiation by a guru. 

DIPA, a sacred oil lamp. 

DURGA, closely related to Kali, 
and generally identified with 

EKAGRATA, one-pointed. 

GAYATRI MANTRA, a sacred for¬ 
mula, one of the most impor¬ 
tant of all mantras. 

GHANTA, bell. 

GHATA, a pot or sacred vessel. 

GORAKHNATH, a great tantrika 
siddhai (c. AD 1120) of the 
Nathas, founder of the order of 
the Kanphata Yogis. 

GUNA, attribute, quality; the 
three gunas are the substantive 
qualities of Nature - sattva, 
rajas and tamas - of which the 
world is composed. 

GURU, spiritual preceptor. 

HAKINI, the sakti who presides 
over the ajna chakra. 

HAMSA, literally a swan, used to 
indicate spiritual unfolding. 

HATHA-YOGA, a yoga system in¬ 
corporating bodily disciplines 
leading to psychic develop¬ 

IDA, the left subtle nadi, or 
psychic channel, coiling round 
the Sushumna and ending at 
the left nostril. 

INDRIYAS, the ten faculties of 
sensation and perception in the 
human body: five 'knowing' 
agents, jnanendriyas - hearing, 
touching, seeing, tasting and 
smelling; five 'action' agents, 
karmendriyas - walking, 
handling, speaking, pro¬ 
creation and evacuation. 

ISTA-DEVATA, an individual’s 
chosen deity. 

IAGADGURU, the world teacher. 

IAGRAT, waking consciousness. 

JAMBU-DVIPA, the earth seen as 
the gigantic jarnbu (rose- 
apple) tree of Mount Meru 
casting its protective shadow 
over the island which is the 

IAPA, constant repetition, either 
silently or audibly, of a 

IIVAN-MUKTA, liberated in this 
life; spiritually free but still 
manifest in human form. 

JIVATMAN, the individual self. 

INANA, self-knowledge, know¬ 
ledge of the absolute through 

JYOTI, spiritual light, Kundalini 

KAIVALYA, realization of one's self 
as being identical with Reality. 

KAKINI, the sakti of the anahata 

KALA, time: the power that con¬ 
ditions or limits the existence 
of unchangeable elements in 

KALAGNI, the lowest plane (bhuv- 
ana) of existence. 

KALI, the Divine Sakti, represent¬ 
ing the creative and destructive 
aspects of nature. 

KALPA, aeon; a 'day' of Brahma 
the creator. 


KAMA, enjoyment, especially in 
love; desire as cosmic power. 

KARANA, cause, source; wine, in 
tantric chakra-puja, ritual of 

KARMA, action; the law of uni¬ 
versal cause and effect. 

KAULA, 'left-hand' sect of tant- 

KHECHARI-MUDRA, a yogic pose in 
which the tongue is thrust up 
to close the nasal orifice. 

KLIM, a bija mantra often used in 
tantric rituals. 

KOSA, sheath; an individual 
human being is conceived of 
having five sheaths or kosas. 

KRISHNA, incarnation of Vishnu; 
the Divine Lover. 

KSITI, the earth element. 

tant tantra of AD 1150. 

KUMBHAKA, retention of breath 
during the practice of pran- 

KUNDALINI, dormant psychic 
power lying coiled up like a 
serpent at the base of the spine. 

LAGHIMA, power to attain 
weightlessness through yogic 

LAKINI, the sakti of the manipura 

LAKSHANA, auspicious sign; fea¬ 
ture of self-expression; at¬ 

LATA-SADHANA, tantric discipline 
requiring a female partner, 
lata, literally 'a creeper'; tant¬ 
ric term for a woman embrac¬ 
ing a man as the creeper en¬ 
folds a tree. 

LAYA, merging, cessation, total 

LAYA-YOGA, the awakening of 

LILA, the divine play. 

LINGA, phallus; generative force 
in its creative aspect; according 
to Skanda Purana, the linga is 

the name for space, in which 
the whole universe is in the 
process of formation and disso¬ 

LINGA-SARIRA, totality of the 
subtle or psychic body. 

LOKA, world, plane of existence. 

LOTUS, symbol of purity, unfold¬ 

MADHU, honey, sacred wine. 

MAHAKALA, an aspect of Siva, 
personification of the disinteg¬ 
rative forces of the cosmos. 

MAHAMUDRA, sexo-yogic asana 
known as 'great posture' in 
which the practitioner sits with 
the left heel pressed against the 
perineum (yoni-place) with 
the right leg stretched out¬ 
ward, and holding the right 
foot with both hands. The nine 
orifices of the body are con¬ 
tracted and the chin is pressed 
closely into the chest (jaland- 
hara) for the control of the 

MAHAVIDYA, transcendental 
knowledge of the Nature. 

MAITHUNA, sexual union. 

MALA, rosary. 

MAMSA, meat, one of the five M's 
in the tantric ritual of union. 

MANAS, mind, the mental facul¬ 
ties of coordination, reasoning, 

MANDALAS, a mystic diagram of 
squares and circles, symbolic of 
cosmic forces, used as support 
for concentration. 

MANIPURA CHAKRA, navel centre 
in the subtle body. 

MANTRA, sacred formula based on 
the principle that sound has a 
spiritual significance and 
power; incantation. 

MARGA, path. 

MAYA, creative power, the limit¬ 
ing principle, illusion of the 
real nature of the world- 

MERU, the mythical mountain 
supporting the world, mer- 
udanda; symbolically, the 

MITHUNA. paired. 

MOKSHA, liberation. 

MUDRA. seal, finger gesture; 
yogic control of certain organs 
as an aid to concentration 
which produces psychic re¬ 

MUKTI, liberation from the wheel 
of life and bondage of exis¬ 

chakra at the base of the spinal 
column in the subtle body. 

MULA-PRAKRITI, primordial root 

NADA, motion; vibrational en¬ 
ergy manifesting as sound; 
primeval and inner sound. 

NADA-BINDU, primal vibration; 
the seed sound out which the 
universe emanates. 

NADI, psychic or astral nerve 
channel in the physical body. 

NAMAH, salutation. 

NAMA-RUPA, name and form. 

NARAYANA, an aspect of Vishnu. 

NIRVANA, final emancipation. 

NIYAMA, control, yogic discipline 
of the mind and body. 

NYASA, projection of divine en¬ 
tities into various parts of the 

OJAS, vital energy. 

OM, seed mantra compounded of 
three sounds, aum, embracing 
all the secrets of the cosmos 
which are, as it were, gathered 
to a point within it. 

PADMA, lotus; symbolic name of 
the chakras. 

PANCHABHUTAS, five gross ele¬ 
ments; earth, water, fire, air, 
ether or space. 

PANCHARATRA, the Vaishnava 


PARA, last stage of consciousness. 

PARAM, the supreme. 

PARAMANU, a gross atom. 

PARATPARA, supreme of the sup¬ 

PARA VAK, the unmanifest vib¬ 
ratory movement of cosmic 

PASHYANTI, literally, 'seeing'; 
sound emerging towards the 

PASU, one who is bound, the 
individual soul. 

PATANJALI, author of the systema¬ 
tized treatise on Yoga-Sutra (c. 
100 BC-AD 300). 

PRAJNA, wisdom. First Principle. 

PRAKRITI, counterpart of Pu- 
rusha; creative energy the 
source of objectivity referred 
to as the primeval female or 

PRALAYA, the end or dissolution 
of a cycle of aeons. 

PRANA, life-force, the vital energy 
of the cosmos. 

PRANAVA, the primal sound. 

PRANAYAMA, yogic breath- 

PREMA, love, wherein there is no 
longer a distinction between 
the lover and the beloved. 

PRITHVI, earth principle. 

PUJA, ritual worship. 

PURANAS, ’old'; 'ancient' Hindu 
scriptures expounding in 
legendary form the powers 
and deeds of gods and 

PURUSHA, Pure Consciousness, 
counterpart of Nature or 

ness in its relation to Nature, 
male-female, static-kinetic. 

RAJAS, the principle of motion, a 
constituent of Prakriti. 

RAJAS, female seed, menstrual 

RAJASIKA, active quality of the 

RAKINI, the sakti dominating the 
svadhishthana chakra, at the 
base of the genitals. 

RASA, essence of a thing, aesthetic 
delight, the substance of 
aesthetic experience, pleasure 
in the pure source of feeling. 

RECHAKA, exhalation. 

RETAS, physical substance. 

RISHI, an inspired seer or sage. 

RUDRA, originally a Vedic deity 
of many aspects; later 
mythology associates Rudra 
with Siva. 

RUDRAGRANTHI, one of the knots 
that Kundalini has to pierce in 
its ascent. 

SABDA, sound, cosmic sound. 

SABDABRAHMAN, the Brahman as 
the primal sound energy. 

SABDA-TANMATRA, infra-atomic 
sound potential. 

SAD-GURU, a teacher of spiritual 

SADHAKA. seeker; one who is 

SADHANA, spiritual discipline. 

SADHU, holy man. 

SAHAJA, spontaneous, inborn, 
innate; a minor sect influenced 
by tantrism. 

SAHAJOLI, one of the mudras by 
which to reverse the down¬ 
ward tendency of seminal 

SAHASRARA CHAKRA, the psychic 
centre above the head, 
symbolized by the thousand- 
petalled lotus above the head 
where the Kundalini Sakti 
unites with Siva. 

SAIVA, votary of Siva. 

SAKINI, the sakti presiding over 
the visuddha chakra located in 
the subtle body. 

SAKTI, kinetic aspect of the 
Ultimate Principle; the power 
that permeates all creation; 

also the divine consort of Siva. 

SAMADHI, the deep meditation, 
trance, superconscious state in 
which identification is re¬ 
alized; the final goal of yoga. 

SAMKHYA, one of the major 
systems of Indian philosophy 
founded by the sage Kapila (c. 
500 BC), which influenced 

SAMYAVASTHA, state of equilib¬ 
rium, undifferentiated con¬ 

SANKALPA, personal de¬ 
termination, resolution or will 
to achieve the desired goal. 

SANDHABHASA, esoteric termi¬ 
nology of tantrism. 

SANNYASA, the final stage in the 
pilgrimage of life which cuts 
the thread of all bondage. 

SANSKARA, an imprinted im¬ 
pression or memory-trace, 
fruit of karmic action. 

SANTI, spiritual peace. 

SARIRA, the material body, sub¬ 

SASTRAS, sacred books of divine 
authority, scriptures. 

SAT, Being, Pure Existence. 

sciousness, Bliss, as a unity; the 
peak stage of realization. 

SATTVA, the highest of the gunas, 
principle of equilibrium, truth, 

SAVASANA, the 'corpse' - like yogic 
posture for complete re¬ 

S1DDHASANA, one of the most 
important yogic postures. 

SIDDHI, acquisition of paranormal 
powers, fruits of yogic prac¬ 
tices but not their ultimate 

SIVA, the third god of the Hindu 
Trinity, the Destroyer; in tant¬ 
rism, Pure Consciousness 
manifesting in creative union 
with Sakti or Prakriti. 

SOMA, a certain type of vine front 


which wine was made; an 
intoxicating drink known in 
Vedic times. 

SPHOTAVADA, concept of sound. 

SRISHTI, creation. 

STHULA, gross. 

SUDHA, nectar. 

SUKRA, male seed. 

SUKSHMA, subtle. 

SUNYA, void. 

SUSHUMNA, the subtle channel in 
the centre of the spinal column 
through which the Kundalini 

SVAHA the terminal word of 
some mantras. 

chakra at the base of the genital 
organ in the subtle body. 

TAMAS, power of inertia; the 
lowest of the three gunas. 

TANMATRAS, infra-atomic energy 

TANTRA, one of a series of scrip¬ 
tures that emphasize practical 
ways of self-enlightenment, 
especially relating to the 
power of Sakti. 

TANTRIKA, one who follows the 
discipline of tantra. 

TAPA, self-discipline. 

TARPANA, libation of water al¬ 
lowed to fall from the palm of 
the hand. 

TATTVA, ’thatness'. 

TATTVAJNANA, knowledge of 
Nature, of all powers and 

TEJAS, fire, heat, energy. 

TRATAKA, to look at the space 
between the eyebrows, or to 
gaze without any blinking, 
concentrating the vision on a 
single point or object. 

TRIKONA, a triangle. 

UDANA, the upward movement 
of vital life-force in pran- 

UPANISHADS, spiritual doctrines 
of ancient Indian philosophies 
composed in their present 
form between (c. 1000 BC and 
800 BC). The fundamental con¬ 
cept of the Upanishads is the 
identity of the individual soul 
with the Universal Soul, and is 
essentially an inquiry into the 
nature of the ultimate Reality. 

UPASANA, worship. 

VAIKHARI, the fourth stage of the 
gross physical sound or vib¬ 
ration manifesting as 'word. 

VAISESHIKA, one of the six systems 
oflndian philosophy; its foun¬ 
der, the author of Vaiseshika- 
sutra, was Kanada (c. 250 

BC-AD 100). 

VAJROLI-MUDRA, one of the 
mudras by which sexual en¬ 
ergy is controlled and re¬ 
absorbed into the body. The 
adept is expected to draw in 
the female seed through the 
member into his body during 
the union, in a process called 
sahajoli. Care is to be taken 
during the act that emission of 
the semen does not occur. If his 
semen is released into the 
female body, both the male 
and female fluids are sub¬ 
sequently drawn back into his 
body through amaroli. 

VAMA-MARGA, 'left-hand' path of 
the tantras. 

VAYU. vital air. 

VEDAS, the original source-books 
of India, revealed knowledge 
of the Aryans, consisted of 
100,000 verses and are in four 
divisions, the Rig-Veda (c. 
2000-1500 BC), the earliest 
literature of the world; the 
Yajur-Veda; the Sama-Veda; 
the Atharva-Veda. 

VIBHUTI, examples or expression 
of supernatural powers. 

VIRA, an initiate in tantric rites is 
called vira or hero, as distin¬ 
guished from the pasu, the 
uninitiated, one in bondage. 

VISHNU, the second god of the 
Hindu Trinity, the Preserver. 

VISUDDHA CHAKRA, the throat 
centre in the subtle body. 

VISVARUPA, the universal form of 
the absolute. 

VYANA, one of the five vital airs 
(vayu) distributed in the body. 

YANTRA, a form symbol, aid to 
contemplation, geometrical 
representation of a deity. 

YOGA, union; a system of philo¬ 
sophy; the path on which the 
individual self is united with 
the Universal Self; teaching 
about that path of realization. 

YOGI, one who seeks to attain 
essential identity with the 

YOGIN, a student of yoga; fem¬ 
inine, yogini. 

YONI, the primal root of the 
source of objectiviation; a tri¬ 
angle pointing downwards 
symbolizes the yoni, the 
female sex organ, symbol of 
cosmic mysteries. 

YONI-MUDRA, sexo-yogic asana 
known as 'vulva-posture'. In 
this the adept is required to sit 
in siddhasana and contract the 
perenium (yoni-place) bet¬ 
ween testes and anus. 

YONISTHANA. 'yoni-place', or 
perineum, corresponding to 
the position of the female 

YUGA, aeon, the four yugas are 
Satya or Krita-yuga, Treta- 
yuga, Dvapara-yuga, and 
Kali-yuga, the present age of 

ZERO, void; the dot. 



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Abhinavagupta, 80 
Absolute, 16, 35, 128 
Adyasakti, 77 
Agama, 10 
Agehananda, 32 
Aghora, 64 
Ajapa-japa, 134 

Ajna, 68, 133, 153, 156, 161, 177 
Akshobhya, 64 
Al-Biruni, 111 
Alchemy, 14, 19, 108 
Almanac, 119 
Amitabha, 64 
Amoghasiddhi, 64 
Amrta-pan, 174 
Anahata Chakra, 32, 155, 174 
Ananda (bliss), 26, 125, 163 
Ananda (disciple of the 
Buddha), 41 
Anandalahari, 11 
Anandamaya, 136 
Anda, 35 

Anga-nyasa, 169-71 
Anima, 23 
Annamaya, 136 
Apollonian, 165 
Ardhanarisvara, 36, 155 
Aryabhata, 112 
Aryabhattiya, 112 
Aryans, 112 

Asana, 24, 48, 79, 150, 163, 165, 
166, 175 

Asana-suddhi, 127 
Aselepias Acida, 108 
Assam, 13 

Astrology, 14, 34, 48, 69, 73, 93, 

Astronomical observations, 19, 

Astronomical charts, 117; 

computation, 48 
Astronomy, 14, 18, 34, 48, 69, 
72.73,93,94, 113, 117 
Atoms, 98, 99, 107, 109, 116 
Aurobindo, 43 
Ayurvedic-Tantric, 111 

Bagala, 51, 191 
Bana-lmga, 155 

Barbault, Armand, 111 
Barnett, Lincoln, 18 
Bashuli, 27 
Bauls, 27 
Bengal, 13, 26, 27 
Bernier, Francois, 111 
Berzelius, 107 
Bhagamalini, 180 
Bhagasana, 175 
Bhairava, 56, 184 
Bhairavi, 171, 190 
Bhairavi-chakra, 29 
Bhang, 30 
Bhoga, 26 
Bhupura, 59 
Bhutadi, 98 

Bhuta-suddhi, 127, 142, 167, 


Bhuvanesvari, 86, 134, 190 
Bijakshara, 133 

Bija mantra, 133, 134, 146. 154, 
155, 156, 174 

Bindu, 36, 51, 54, 57, 61, 85, 


Body consciousness, 135 
Body language, 135 
Boner, Alice, 85 
Bose, J. C, 94 
Brahma, 154 
Brahman, 35, 68 
Brahma-Anda, 35 
Brahmanda, 17, 35, 37, 69, 80, 

Brahma-siddhanta, 112 
Brahmayoga, 128 
Brancusi, 89, 90 
Brihad-jataka, 117 
Brihad Yoga Yatra, 118 
Brihat-samhita, 112, 118 
Buddha, 41, 64, 86 
Buddhist, 10, 16, 64, 86 

Cannabis Indica, 185 
Cezanne, 54 
Chakini, 154 
Chakra-puja, 29, 185 
Chakras, 68, 153, 154, 155, 156, 

Chakrasana, 175 
Chakresvara, 187 
Chandidas, 26, 27 

Chandogya Upanishad, 68 
Charaka, 109 
Chemistry, 14, 108 
Chidrupa-mahasakti, 171 
China, 12, 187 
Chinachara, 187 
Chinnamasta, 51, 78, 191 
Circle-worship, 29 
Cosmic Age, 116 
Cosmic consciousness, 15, 17, 

23 , 151 

Cosmic Egg, 35, 45 
Cosmic Force, 15-17, 118 
Cosmic reality, 123 
Cosmic zone, 62, 65 
Cosmogonical, 71, 95 
Cosmograms, 69, 71, 73, 74 
Cosmographic, 71 
Cosmology, 14, 70 
Cosmos, 35, 38, 43, 50, 54, 64, 71, 
Crete, 12 
Cymatics, 52 

Dakini, 154 

Dakshinachara, 28, 185, 186 

or Dakshina Marga, 28 

Dakshina Vritti Yantra, 73 

Dasa-mahavidyas, 75, 86, 190 

De, Biren, 90 

Delaunay, 90 

Devi, 176, 177, 181, 188 

Devibhagavata, 17 

Dharana, 148 

Dhumabati, 191 

Dhvani, 105 

Dhyana, 126, 127 

Dhyana-mantra, 86 

Digambari, 75 

Diksha, 131, 132 

Dionysan, 165 

Divya, 28 

Durga, 177 

Dvapara-yuga. 116 

Egypt, 12 

Einstein, 18, 74, 97, 100 
Ekagrata, 147, 166 
Eliade, 32 
Elokeshi, 75 


Ephedra, 108 
Epics, 10 
Euclidean, 74 

Female energy, 13, 44; principle, 
15, 16; worship, 16 
Fertility cult, 10 
Firsoff, V. A„ 97 
Five M's, 185, 186 
Fontana, Lucio, 43 
Fry, Roger, 79 

Ganesa, 51, 177 
Ganja, 30 

Garbha Yantram, 110 
Gargi-Samhita, 112 
Gerasimov, A. V., 125 
Ghatika, 116 
Goethe, 24 
Greek, 118, 119 
Guhyasamaja Tantra, 26, 186 
Gunaratna, 94 
Gunas, 17, 96, 97, 133 
Gupta, 10 

Guru, 27, 32, 33, 128-30, 132, 
161, 166, 169, 172-4, 184, 187, 

Hakini, 156 
Harappan Culture, 10 
Harvard Psilocybin Project, 30 
Hatha Yoga, 175 
Heisenberg, 123 
Himalayas, 13 

Hindu, 10, 16, 94. 105, 113, 116, 
119, 122, 194 
Hiranya-garbha, 45 
Hladini-sakti, 27 
Horological time, 116 
Horoscope, 118, 120, 132 
Huxley, Aldous, 186 

Iatrochemistry, 18 
Iconographic images, 48, 75 
Ida, 80, 146, 153, 187 
Identification, 127 
India, 12, 18 

Indian art, 37, 41, 86, 91; al¬ 
chemy, 19; almanac, 114, 119 
-philosophy, 14; thought, 108; 
tradition, 10 

Indo-Aryan, 10 
Indus Valley Civilization, 10 
Initiation, 28, 131 
Isana, 64 

Ishta-devata, 132, 181 
Itara-linga, 156 

Jain, 10, 71 

Jaipuri, 73 

Jai Singh II, 117 

Jambu-dvipa, 70, 71, 72, 75 

Janujugmasana, 175, 185 

Jantar Mantar, 73 

Japa, 33, 134, 135 

Japan, 12 

Jenny, Hans, 52 

Jung, C. G„ 66, 69, 161, 163, 190 
Jupiter, 73 

Jyotisha Vedanga, 112 
Kakini, 155 

Kali, 51, 75, 77, 86, 134, 170, 190, 

- hymns to, 181-3 

Kali-yuga, 116 

Kama, 134 

Kama Kala, 1 

Kamakalavilasa, 56, 58 

Kamakshya, 13 

Kamala, 191 

Kamesvari, 180 

Kamrupa, 13 

Karana, 171 

Kashmir, 13 

Kashmir Saiva, II, 13 

Kandinsky, 90 

Kaplan, 100 

Kaula Avadhut, 184 

Kekule, 69 

Khajuraho, 79 

Khandakhadyaka, 112 

Khechari Mudra, 175 

Klee, 89, 90 

Konarak, 79 

Kosas, 136 

Krishna, 27, 51 

Krita, 116 

Kulachara, II, 28 

Kularnava Tantra, 125, 185, 188 

Kumari-puja, 26 

Kumbhaka, 146 

Kundalini, 16, 21-4, 26, 69, 80, 
144, 146, 151, 152, 154, 156, 
161, 166, 193, 194 
-yoga, 15, 23, 24, 30, 193 

- sakti, 21, 23, 28, 68, 151, 152 

Faghima, 23 
Laghu-jataka, 117 
Lakini, 155 

Lakshmana Temple, 79 
Lakshmi, 177 
-bija, 134 

- Tantra, 141, 142 
Lalitavistara, 165 
Lila, 27 

Finga, 35, 36, 187 
Linga worship, 183 
Lipta, 116 
Lokas, 71 

Lotus symbol, 67, 68, 153 
LSD, 30 

Macrocosmic, 43 
Madya, 29 
Mahamudra, 175 
Mahanirvana Tantra, 75 
Maharastra, 13 
Mahaveda, 175 
Mahavidyas, 128 
Mahima, 23 
Maithuna, 29, 187, 188 
Mamsa, 29 

Mandala, 15, 34, 35, 48, 49, 62, 

64, 66, 86. 149 
Manipura chakra, 154, 174 
Manomaya, 136 

Mantras, 15,24,29,32,33,51,62, 

65, 106, 126, 127, 131, 132-4, 
136, 149, 150, 188, 195 

- of sexual ritual, 168-74. 
Manu, 94 
Mars, 73 
Matangi, 191 
Matrika Yantra, 55 
Matsya, 29 

Meditation, 127, 128, 147-50, 

Mediterranean, 12 
Mehrabian, Albert, 142 
Mercuric, 19, 93, 109, 110, 111 


Mercury, 19, 73 
Mevlevi Dervishes, 47 
Micro-Macrocosm, 164, 64 
Microcosm-Macrocosm, 21, 71, 
118, 151 
Minkovsky, 74 
Mondrian, 94 
Mother cult, 10 
Mount Meru, 71 
Mudra, 29, 30, 62, 126, 127, 141, 
142, 150, 175, 192, 195 
Muhurtas, 119 
Mula-bandha, 175 
Muladhara chakra, 32, 68, 151, 
153, 154, 163, 168, 174 
Mula-trikona, 58 

Nada, 57, 105 
Nagarjuna, 110, 111 
Nakshatras, 18, 118 
Natha, 11 
Nataraja, 77 

Nature, 16, 17, 24, 43, 50, 136 

Nava chakra, 59 

Navajo sand-paintings, 66 

Navamundi-asana, 190 

Navayoni chakra, 57 

Nepal, 12 

Newman, 90 

Nigama, 10 

North Pole, 117 

Nyasa, 29, 30, 126, 127, 142, 150, 
167, 170, 188, 192 

- anga, 169 

- sadanga, 136 

Nyaya-Vaiseshika, 93, 105, 107 

Om, 33, 133, 146, 156 
One, 122 
Orissa, 13 

Padmasana, 144, 175, 183, 185 
Palmistry, 14, 120 
Pancha-Makaras (five M's), 28, 

Pancha-mundi asana, 190 
Pancharatra, 10 
Pancha-Siddhantika, 112 
Para-Bindu, 58 

- Prakriti, 123 

- Sabda, 106 

Parakiya, 27 
Parama-siva, 170 
Parpatitamram, III 
Parvati, 10, 13 
Pasu, 28 
Pasyacara, 128 
Patanjali, 147 
Pattinattair, 195 
Physico-chemical, 94 
Pilgrimage, 65, 118 
Pingala, 80, 146, 153, 187 
Pithasthanas, 13 
Planetary influences, 169 
Polo, Marco, 111 
Pop, 38 
Prajna, 16 

Prakriti, 15-17, 36, 44, 49, 55, 57, 
75, 96, 97, 106, 123, 143, 168 
Prana, 24. 122, 143. 144. 146. 147 
Pranayama, 126. 127, 136, 143, 
144, 146, 147, 148, 166, 175, 
188, 192, 194 
Psi-field, 123 
Psycograms, 74. 75 
Puhapaka-asana, 175 
Puraka, 144 
Puranas, 10 

- Linga. Kalika, Devi, 10 

- Skanda, 35 

Pure Consciousness, 69, 156 
Purusha, 15. 16, 55 
Purushakara yantra, 70, 71, 75 

Radha, 27 

Rajas. 17, 18, 55, 77, 96 
Rajasika, 49, 80, 128 

- sadhana, 187 
Rajasthan, 13 
Rakini, 154 
Rakshasi Tantra, 9 
Ramakrishna, 193 
Rami, 26 

Rasa Theory, 80 
Rasamrita-churan, 1 11 
Rasaratnakara, 110 
Rasaratna-Samuccay a, 110 
Rasarnava, 1 10 
Rasasara, 110 
Rasayana, 19 
Rati-asana, 175 
Ratnasambhava, 64 

Ratnasara, 136 
Rawson, Philip, 38, 71, 199 
Ray, P. C , 111 
Rechaka, 144 
Reinhardt, 90 

Rieker, Hans-Ulrich, 133, 153, 

Rig Veda, 45, 108 
Rita, 112 
Rothko, 90 
Rudra, 155 

Sadasiva, 155 

Sadhaka, 27, 47, 130, 141, 143, 
161. 168, 169, 171, 174, 177, 
Sadhana, 27, 70, 125-9, 131-3, 
136, 150, 166, 192 
Sadhika, 27 
Sadyojata, 64 
Sahaja, 27 

Sahajoli-mudra, 175 
Sahasrara, 23, 32, 68, 156, 161, 
173, 176, 180 
Saiva, 10, 12, 28 
Sakta, 10, 123 

Sakti, 10. 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33, 
51, 55, 57, 58, 62, 69, 75, 80, 
123, 134, 141, 165, 167, 168, 
171, 172, 175, 176, 179-81, 
183, 187. 188, 191 
Sakti-Upasana, 26 
Sakti-worship, 13, 175 
-yoni, 184 

Salagrama, 35, 37, 69, 149 
Samadhi, 185 
Samarasa, 185 
Samayana, 193 
Samhara, 58 
Samkhya, 93, 95-7, 100 
Samkhya-Patanjali, 93, 105 
Samyutta Nikaya, 41 
Samvit, 171 
Sandha-bhasa, 32 
Sandhya-bhasa, 32 
Satikara, 11, 56 
Saradatilaka, 132 
Sarasvati, 177 
-bija, 134 

Sarva-anandamaya chakra, 61 
Sarvarakshakara chakra, 60 


Sarva-rogahara chakra, 61 
Sarvartha-sadhaka chakra, 60 
Sarvasankshobhana chakra, 59 
Sarvasaparipuraka chakra, 59 
Sarva-saubhagyadayaka chakra, 

Sarvasiddhiprada chakra, 61 
Satchakra Nirupana, 151 
Sat-chit-Ananda, 194 
Sat-guru, 184 
Sati, 13 
Saturn, 73 

Sattva, 17, 18, 55, 77, 80, 96 
Sattvika, 48, 49 

Savasana, 146, 175, 184, 185, 189 
Satyananda Giri, 156 
Satya Yuga, 116 
Saundaryalahari, 11, 56 
Seal, B. N„ 98 

Sexo-yogic, 14, 24, 26, 126, 163, 

Shilpi-yogin, 86, 88 
Siddhai, 193 
-Tamil, 95, 193, 195 
Siddhantas, 112 
Siddhasana, 114, 175 
Siddhantasekhara of Sripati, 112 
Siddhanta-siromani of 
Bhaskara 11, 112, 114 
Siddhayoga ofVrinda, 111 
Siddhis, 23 

Siva, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16,23,26,51, 
57, 58, 77, 134, 156, 183, 184 
Siva-linga, 35, 37, 45, 69, 149 
Siva-sakti, 15, 23, 26, 55 - 8, 125, 
133, 134, 168, 174, 194 
Sodasi, 190 
Solar clocks, 12 
Soma-rasa, 108 
South-East Asia, 12 
South India, 10, 13 
Spanda, 57 
Sphota, 105 
Sphotavada, 106 
Sripatra, 168, 188 
Sristi, 58 

Sri Yantra, 56-9, 62 
Srutis, 17 
Sthiti, 58 

Subtle body, 48, 66, 68, 127 
Subtle elements, 109 

Sukracharya, 87 
Sukranitisara, 48 
Surya-Prajnapati, 112 
Surya-Siddhanta, 112, 117 
Sushumna, 68, 71, 80, 147, 153, 
187, 193 

Svadhisthana, 68, 154, 174 
Svakiya, 27 

Svayarhbhu-lihga, 68, 154 

Tamas, 17, 18, 55, 77, 96 
Tamasika, 49, 80 
Tamil, 195 
Tamil Saiva, 11 
Tanmatras, 98, 99, 141 
Tantra art, 41, 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 
51, 66, 88, 91 

Tantric art, 15, 37, 38, 66, 86, 89 
-artist, 43, 44 

-imagery, 37, 43, 46, 48, 52, 56 
-Natha saints, 11, 193 
-pilgrim centres, 13 
- renaissance, 108 
Tantraraja Tantra, 56 
Tara, 51, 190 
Tatpara, 116 
Tatpurusa, 64 
Tikkanika, 118 
Trailokya-mohana chakra, 59 
Trikona Yantra, 180 
Trividha-Bala, 58 
Tripura-Bhairavi, 58 
Tripura-Sundari, 58, 180 

Udayana, 94 
Uddiyana-Bandha, 175 
Ujjain, 73 
Upanishads, 10 
Upaya, 16 

Unity-mergence, 128, 194 
Universe of Consciousness, 96 

Vairochana, 64 
Vaishnava, 10-12, 28 
Vajrasattva, 62 
Vajresvari. 180 
Vajroli mudra, 175 
Vamachara or Varna Marga, 28 
Vamadeva, 64 
Van Allen Zone, 120 
Varada Tantra, 134 

Varaha-Mihira, 112, 117, 118 

Vasishtha, 187 

Vastu-Purusha mandala, 86 

Vedas, Vedic, 10,28,45, 108, 112 

Venus, 73 

Vig-Ghatika, 116 

Vijaya-mandala, 171 

Vijaya-sodhana, 170 

Vijnanamaya, 136 

Vilipta, 116 

Vimana, 65 

Viparit-rati, 184 

Vira, 28 

Viracara, 128 

Virgin worship (see kumari- 
puja), 14, 26 

Vishnu, 10, 12, 13, 51, 154 
Visualisation, 51, 127. 150 
Visuddha, 68, 155, 174 
Visvarupa, 57 
Visvasara Tantra, 9 
Visva-yoni. 184 

Walker, Benjamin, 119 
Weizsacker, C. F. von, 122 
Whitmont, Edward C., 190 
Wine, 17, 168, 171, 177, 180, 185 
Woodroffe, SirJohn, 13, 14 
Worship, 166 

Yamala, 10, 51, 54, 58 
Yantra, 15, 24, 33-5, 48, 49, 50, 
51, 54, 56, 66, 68, 85, 86. 106, 
117, 126, 127, 141, 149, 163, 
176, 177, 180, 192 
Yoga, 10, 24, 26, 28, 87, 143, 149, 

Yoga-yatra, 118 

Yoga-Sutra, 147 

Yogi, 19, 30, 144 

Yogic, 19, 23 

Yoginis, 62 

Yogini Hridaya, 62 

Yoni, 13, 36, 55, 134, 141, 171, 

175, 184 
Yoni asana, 175 
Yoni-mudra, 175 
Yoni-worship, 180 

Zero, 18, 51, 54, 112-14, 123 
Zimmer, Heinrich, 49 
Zodiac, 118, 119, 120