One usage popular in the west is as symbols or geometric figures. Traditionally such symbols are used in East...ern mysticism to balance the mind or focus it on spiritual concepts. The act of wearing, depicting, enacting and/or concentrating on a yantra is held to have spiritual or astrological or magical benefits in the Tantric traditions of the Indian religions.
Etymology and meanings
Yantra is a Sanskrit word that is derived from the root yam meaning to control or subdue or "to restrain, curb, check". Meanings for the noun derived from this root include:
- "any instrument or machine" (i.e. that which is controlled or controls. For instance the body is said to be a yantra)
- "any instrument for holding, restraining, or fastening" (for instance a symbol which 'holds' the essence of a concept, or helps the mind to 'fasten' on a particular idea)
- "a mystical or astronomical diagram" (usually a symbol, often inscribed on an amulet) sometimes said to possess mystical or magical powers.
-tra is an indoeuropean suffix meaning ' instrument', found in Latin ' aratrum' and in tantra and mantra. A yantra depicts both macrocosmic and microcosmic forces acting together - the movement towards and away from the centre - "control" and "liberation" within the one device. Mantra plus yantra creates tantra. In some disciplines of Tantra it is said that a focused, controlled gaze upon a particular yantra may lead to liberation.
Symbols employed in yantras
Shapes and patterns commonly employed in yantra include squares, triangles, circles and floral patterns but may also include more complex and detailed symbols, for instance:
- The lotus flower typically represent chakras, with each petal representing a psychic propensity (or vritti) associated with that chakra
- A dot, or bindu, represents the starting point of creation or the infinite, unexpressed cosmos
- The şaţkoņa (Sanskrit name for a symbol identical to the star of David) composed of a balance between:
- An upwards triangle denoting action (or service), extroversion, masculinity or Shiva
- A downwards triangle denoting introversion, meditativeness, goddess energy or Shakti
- A swastika represents good luck, welfare, prosperity or spiritual victory
- Bija mantras (usually represented as characters of Devanāgarī that correspond to the acoustic roots of a particular chakra or vritti)
Geometric element meanings:
- Circle = Energy of the element water
- Square = Energy of the element earth
- Triangle = Energy of the element fire
- Diagonal lines = Energy of the element air
- Horizontal line = Energy of the element water
- Vertical line = Energy of the element fire
- Point = Energy of the element ether