Yantra

This word in its most general sense means an instrument, or that by which anything is accomplished. In worship it is that by which the mind is fixed on its object. The Yogini-Tantra says that the Devi should be worshipped either in pratima (image), mandala, (1) or yantra.(2) At a certain stage of spiritual progress the sadhaka is qualified to worship yantra. The siddha-yogi In inward worship (antar-puja) commences with the worship of yantra which is the sign (samketa) of brahma-vijnana as the mantra is the samketa of the Devata, It is also said that yantra is so called because it subdues (niyantrana) lust, anger, and the other sins of jiva and the sufferings caused thereby.(3)

The yantra is a diagram engraved or drawn on metal, paper, or other substances,(4) which is worshipped in the same manner as an image (pratima). As different mantras are prescribed for different worships, so are different yantras. The yantras are therefore of various designs, according to the objects of worship.(5)

The one on the next page is a Gayatri yantra belonging to the author. In the centre triangle are engraved in the middle the words, Sri Sri Gayatri sva-prasada siddhim kuru (“Sri S’ri Oayatrt Devi: grant me success”), and at each inner corner there are the bijas, Hrim and Hrah. In the spaces formed by the intersections of the outer ovoid circles is the bija “Hrim”. The outside circular band contains the bija “Tha” which indicates “Svaha”, commonly employed to terminate the feminine mantra or vidya.

gayatri mantra

The eight lotus petals which spring from the band are inscribed with the bija, “Hrim, Im, Hrah”. The outermost band contains all the matrkas, or letters of the alphabet, from akara to ksa.(6) The whole is enclosed in the way common to all yantras by a bhupura, by which as it were, the yantra is enclosed from the outer world.(7) The yantra when inscribed with mantra, serves (so far as these are concerned) the purpose of a mnemonic chart of that mantra appropriate to the particular Devata whose presence is to be invoked into the yantra.

Certain preliminaries precede, as in the case of a pratima, the worship of a yantra. The worshipper first meditates upon the Devata, and then arouses Him or Her in himself. He then communicates the divine presence thus aroused to the yantra. When the Devata has by the appropriate mantra been invoked into the yantra, the vital airs (prana) of the Devata are infused therein by the prana-pratistha ceremony, mantra, and mudra. The Devata is thereby installed in the yantra,(8) which is no longer mere gross matter veiling the spirit which has been always there, but instinct with its aroused presence, which the sadhaka first welcomes and then worships. Mantra in itself is Devata and yantra is mantra in that it is the body of the Devata who is mantra.(9)

1. A figure frequently drawn or made with various colours. The difference between a mandala and a yantra is that the former is used in the case of any Devata, whereas, a yantra is appropriate to a specific Devata only.
2. Or where these are not available then in other substances, such as water, the flowers aparujita, jaba, karavira, drona, etc. (Kaulavaliya-Tantra)
3. “Principles of Tanta”, (Sadharana-upasana-tattva).
4. Thus the magical treatises speak of yantra designed on leopard’s and donkey’s skin, human bones, etc.
5. A considerable number are figured in the Tantrasara.
6. In this and other metal yantras no figures of Devata are shown. These not uncommonly appear in yantras drawn or printed on paper, such as the eight Bhairava S’akti, etc.
7. In painted yantra serpents are commonly shown crawling outside the bhu-pura.
8. See,eg., Maha-nirvana-Tantra, chap.vi.verses 63 et seq. The process is the same as that employed in the case of images (pratima).
9. Yantrarn mantram-rnayam proktam mantratma devataiva hi.
Dehatmanor-yatha bhedo, yantra-devatayostatha (Kaulavaliya Tantra).