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)

Tantra Art as Psychic Matrix

August 16th, 2008

Four images from Mookerjee’s The Tantric Way (see also these yantras).

“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 of the universe — are not the way of tantra. Indeed, tantra is the opposite: not a withdrawal from life, but the fullest possible acceptance of our desires, feelings, and situations as human beings.

“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 fulfillment. His aim is not the discovery of the unknown but the realization of the known, for ‘What is here, is everywhere. 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” (p9).


Gunas: sattva, rajas, tamas (p95).

Tantra art “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 metaphysics” (p41).

Shyama Yantra

Shyama (Kali) Yantra. Rajasthan, 18th century (p35).

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” (p34).

The Principle of Fire

The Principle of Fire. Rajasthan, 18th century (p189).

“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 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” (p44).

cosmic spheroid

Salagram, a cosmic spheroid (p13).

Raza’s Prakriti

July 6th, 2008

A painting by S. H. Raza, reproduced in Michel Imbert’s Raza: An Introduction to his Painting.


Prakriti, 1999. Click for larger version.

“This canvas, composed of twenty-five squares, contains in each of them an image suggesting the essence of the elements present in nature [i.e., prakriti]… The following is a schematic explanation of the canvas” (p63):

Row 1: The Sun / Surge of Energy / Sunfilled Sky / The 5 Elements / Polarity
Row 2: The 5 Elements / Nature / Tree with Blue Fruits / Woman’s Buttocks / The Sea
Row 3: Meeting of Male & Female Energies / Male + Female Elements / Bindu of Five Elements / Female Elements / Hill, Tree and Sea
Row 4: The Encounter / Male + Female Elements / Female Sex with 2 Bindus / Female Elements / Title of Canvas in Hindi: Female Element
Row 5: The Space / Male/Female Polarity / The Earth / Male Element (Linga standing) / The Time

Raza on his perception of nature:

“Forms emerge from darkness. Their presence is perceptible in obscurity. They become relevant if their energy is oriented through vision into an alive form-orchestration for which certain prerequisites are indispensable.

“The process is akin to germination. The obscure black space is charged with latent forces asking for fulfillment. Like the universal natural order of the ‘earth-seed’ relationship, the original unit, ‘Bindu’, emerges and unfolds itself in the black space. All inherent forces unite. A vertical line intersects a horizontal line, engendering energy and light. Space is charged. Contours appear: white, yellow, red and blue, and along with the original black, they compose the colour spectrum of the visible world.

“The mysteries of form reveal themselves through light colour space perceptions. In a visible energy spectacle, certain fundamental elements are intricately interrelated and determine the nature of form. Their understanding is indispensable in any creative process. Whatever the direction art expression may take, the language of form imposes its own inner logic and reveals infinite variations and mutations. The mind can only partially perceive these mysteries. The highest perception is of an intuitive order, where all human faculties participate, including the intelligence, that is ultimately a minor participant in the creative process. This stage is total bliss and defies analysis” (p66/8).

Yantras and Mental Oblation

September 23rd, 2007

Another yantra from Yantra (see previous post).

“Meditation on the yantra takes the most subtle form of all when it consists of inner illumination, a method of mediation without any yogic, ritual, or visual aids… The sadhaka builds up, in deep concentration, a square yantra enclosed by three concentric circles. In the centre of the square he visualizes the emblem of the yoni (a half-moon and bindu). The square symbolizes the vessel of consciousness (cit-kunda) in which burns the fire of consciousness, and into this symbolic fire the adept ‘surrenders’ all his mental offerings [his impulses, his senses, his selfhood, his acts, his self]. This mental offering of his entire being is the prelude to new birth” (p129).

Cit-kunda yantra

“The essential difference between the outer form of yantra worship (puja) and inward meditation through yantric symbols is that the former produces mental states that are like ‘seeds’ for the future workings of consciousness, while the latter is ‘without seed’ (nirbija) and relies on intuitive apprehension of the real, reveling in the ontological plenitude in which being, knowledge and bliss are inseparable and indistinguishable” (p130).

The Dynamics of Psyche and Symbol

September 22nd, 2007

Four yantras (see earlier post) and a diagram from Madhu Khanna’s Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity.

“Yantras function as revelatory symbols of cosmic truths and as instructional charts of the spiritual aspect of human experience. All the primal shapes of a yantra are psychological symbols corresponding to inner states of human consciousness, through which control and expansion of psychic forces are possible.” (p12).


Nepal, c. 18th century (p52).

“Each graphic shape can be seen as a psychological schema: the outer gates are the gates of one’s consciousness; the lotus petal, spiritual enfoldment; the inner geometrical figures, the stages of spiritual ascent; and the bindu, one’s innermost self” (p150).

“Every symbol in a yantra is ambivalently resonant in inner-outer synthesis, and is associated with the subtle body and aspects of human consciousness. Thus, for instance, the bindu in a yantra is cosmic when viewed as the emblem of the Absolute Principle but psychological when it is related to the adept’s spiritual centre. By aligning these two planes of awareness, the yantra translates psychic realities into cosmic terms and the cosmos into psychic planes” (p22).

Sri yantra

Sri Yantra, formed by the interpenetration of two sets of triangles, four, apex upward, representing the male principle and five, apex-downward, representing the female principle. Rajasthan, c. 1700 (p112).

“Yantra meditation should should not be understood superficially, as though attention were merely pegged on to a symbol, as for instance when we focus on any symmetrical figure to control our mental flux. On the contrary, genuine yantra meditation produces an active mental state and induces receptivity to symbolic revelations” (p107).

Smar-hara yantra

Smar-hara Yantra, the ‘remover of desire’. The circle is the latent Kundalini Sakti, which when aroused can penetrate beyond the successive planes of inwardness illustrated by the five male and female triangles which correspond to the five psychic sheaths that envelop the innermost self (p142).

“One of the most important rituals of yantra worship is the infusing of vital force (prana) into the geometrical pattern of the yantra, called pranapratistha. The goal is to cause the spiritual universe underlying myth and iconography to ‘descend’ into the yantra so that it becomes a radiant emblem and receptacle of cosmic power (sakti-rupa), and consciousness (chaitanya), transforming into sacred archetypal space what is phenomenally no more than a mere design. The transfer of power from the sadhaka to the yantra changes the nature of the diagram, and the consecrration of profane space conversely elevates the sadhaka to realizing the inherent energy of the theophany, so that the yantra becomes a powerful means of contact between the sadhaka and the cosmos” (p98).

Sakti yantra

Sakti Yantra. The three sides of the yoni, the primordial triangle, creative matrix of the cosmos, stand for the three qualities composing material nature: sattva, the ascending quality, seen as white; rajas, the kinetic quality, seen as red; tamas, the descending quality or inertia, seen as black. Rajasthan, c. 17th century (p113).

“What is counselled is not withdrawal from existence or a cold ascetism which teaches us to sever our links with life, but a gathering up of existence into our own being. This gathering up is effected by cosmicizing the body, and treating it as a ‘tool’ for inner awareness by taming it with yogic rituals, awaking zones of consciousness and activating its latent subtle energies” (p119).

The Dynamics of Psyche and Symbol

The dynamics of psyche and symbol. This process should be seen in relation to the dynamics of cosmic evolution and involution. Click to view larger version with labels (p75).

“When [the adept] has internalized all the symbols of the cosmos and his body ‘becomes the yantra’, [he] is no longer alienated from the truth that the symbol illustrates, but is transformed into the truth he seeks” (p80).

Yantras in Tantra Art

February 3rd, 2007

Two yantras from Rajasthan in Tantra Art by Ajit Mookerjee (1971 edition, plates 43 and 45).

“The dynamic graph of the diagram of forces by which anything can be represented—the picture of its functional constitution—is called the yantra of that thing. It is not an arbitrary invention but a revealed image of an aspect of cosmic structure” (p20).

Kali Yantra

The yantra below “tries to express primordial vibrations, or spandas, the ‘cosmic drum of sound’, which by their lines of sound-energy create a dual ‘magnetic field’. Here vibrations are slowed down at laya (absorption) points” (p80).

Damaru Yantra

“And just as the musical string must be plucked in a particular fashion to sound a certain note, so must the yantra line be mastered and mentally plucked to bring forth its image or power” (p21).