The Colors of Asana

October 25th, 2009

A painting collected in Ajit Mookerjee’s 1971 Tantra Asana (also see previous post).

Gunatraya Chakrasana,  from a ca. 17th century Nepali manuscript (plate 95). Click for full version.

Tantra asana is a “yogic practice of transcending the human condition. Tantra itself is unique for being a synthesis of bhoga and yoga, enjoyment and liberation. There is no place for renunciation or denial in Tantra. Instead, we must involve ourselves in all the life processes which surround us. The spiritual is not something that descends from above, rather it is an illumination that is to be discovered within.

“Also fundamental in Tantrism is the notion of identity of the human body (anda), the microcosm, with the universe or macrocosm (brahmanda). Tantra holds that the body is the abode of truth, the epitome of the universe; and so man contains within himself, the truth of the whole cosmos. Therefore, the body, with its physiological and physical processes, becomes the perfect medium (yantra) to attain truth. ‘He who realizes the truth of the body can then come to know the truth of the universe’, says Ratnasara” (p15-16).

“Asana is visualized [in the painting above] as the pattern of forces sattva, rajas, and tamas [the three gunas], symbolized by the colours yellow, red and black along with the colourless white of cosmic consciousness — that principle which stays forever motionless, yet acts through its own radiation —, generates all forms of manifestation. The squares complete the suggestion that all this is ‘within'” (p136).

Compare with the coloration of the Classical four elemental processes (see previous post):

Color Classical Tantric
yellow water, liquefaction, movement, “the functional principle of the earth planet and all its creatures” (Benson, p33) sattva, essence, purity, calmness, creativity, “…the illuminating force which releases consciousness” (p17)
red air, rarefaction, animation, life force rajas, activity, atmosphere, motion, energy, dynamicism, passion, “…the activity of attraction and repulsion” (p17)
black earth, condensation, stability, corporeality tamas, inertia, inactivity, darkness, obscurity, “…the condensation of energy in matter” (p17)
white fire, combustion, illumination, invisible connective, the goal of nous “The trilogy becomes energized for the sake of creation. Dynamic forces are released strirring all latent existence in Brahmanda, the embryonic state of the universe.” (p17)

4 Responses to “The Colors of Asana”

  1. Mika White Says:

    Thanks Greg. Kinda forgot tantra was something I’m supposed to research. For now I’ll slowly absorb your thoughts. A decade ago I hosted ten Tibetan monks who told me tantra was taught to them in their ninth year of study. They believed the western world tried to understand tantra without foundation.

  2. mat Says:

    Your site is really nice and interesting. Congratulations from Argentina.

  3. yvonne Says:

    It is a pity that Tanta and the meaning of is so misunderstood in the west.

  4. Susan Johnson Says:

    Perhaps you can help. I am practicing gentle Hatha yoga. I am trying to make/create a table for my teacher. I wanted to know what colors are associated with Hatha Yoga and their meaning.

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