picture30 Jan 2002 @ 01:31, by Mahendra Bardiya

The term yantra, which literally means an instrument for holding or restraining, may be used to denote a variety of linear diagrams which play a significant role in the meditative practices of Tantric Hinduism.

"The Sanskrit word 'yantra' derives from the root 'yam' meaning to sustain, hold or support the energy inherent in a particular element, object or concept. In its first meaning, 'yantra' may refer to any kind of mechanical contrivance which is harnessed to aid an enterprise. A yantra in this sense, therefore, is any sort of machine or instrument such as is used in architecture, astronomy, alchemy, chemistry, warfare or recreation. A Sanskrit text of the eleventh century AD, Samaranganasutradhara, on the science of architecture, gives vivid descriptions of the making and operating of such mechanical yantras as a wooden flying bird, wooden aeroplanes meant to fly with hot mercury as fuel, male and female robot figures, etc. The vast observatories built in Delhi and Jaipur under the patronage of Jai Singh (1686-1734) are called Jantar-Mantar, as their massive structures are astronomical 'instruments' (yantras) for recording heavenly phenomena.

Yantras may be simple designs such as the cross, triangle, square, circle or lotus pattern, symbolizing basic concepts, or may be more complex combinations of such elements in figures representing in abstract form the particular creative forces in the cosmos which are called divinities. they are closely related to the mandalas used by both Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism, in which geometric design is supplemented by elaborate symbolic images of the deities which by their various forms and attributes indicate different aspects of the hidden order of reality. As Mircea Eliade says, the yantra is 'the linear paradigm of the mandala', expressing the same principles in geometric form. Like mandalas, yantras are used in the context of meditation and worship as visual-aids to concentration of the mind leading to realization of abstract principle which is the inner meaning of the visible representation.

The meaning of the term yantra has been expanded to refer to religious enterprises, and has acquired a special theological significance. Mystic yantras are aids to and the chief instruments of meditative discipline. Basically a yantra used in this context and for this purpose is an abstract geometrical design intended as a 'tool' for meditation and increased awareness."...

"In our ordinary perceptions we view space as an amorphous entity which is related to us in units of measurment. For us space is essentially quantitative; we understand it in terms of dimension, volume and distance. For the adept who uses yantras in yogic meditation, on the other hand, space enclosed within the bounded figure is purely qualitative; space is absolute void and unity is a 'sacrament' by means of which he communicates with a force that stands for life itself.

The yantra is an archetypal unity, and in the making of every new yantra the archetypal activity and the divine revelations repeat themselves. Each yantra's consecrated place acts as a dwelling for the gods, a space where movement from the level of profane existence to the level of profound realities is made possible. Symbol and meaning blend so closely that they are one reality, indistinguishable from one another."...

"Every yantra creates a power-field, a cosmicized circuit (kshetra) in which the powers of the sacred are invoked. The lines and planes localized within the yantra, though distinct from all the spaces that surround its outer circuit, are an expression of a transcendental reality. Stretching from star to star the ultimate substratum of all forms is space. Empty space is in itself a primordial substance and shares in the nature of divinity. Without it, the primordial substance whose abode is the whole universe would remain without support. Absolute void is defined by Indian philosophers as a
limitless sea of undifferentiated continuum which is an ever present entity not detachable from the relative, thus making all division of space illusory. So the spaces within a yantra, however minute, can be symbolically brought to 'presence' and expressed as being as immense as the spaces within the solar system. Although in the abstract this is the immutable principle on which the space concept of yantras functions, on the level of human experience we are led to locate the sacred by creating spatial divisions. The act of bounding the figure, 'fencing' its four quarters, defining its spatial orientations, delimiting the sacred territory of the yantra, is an act of asserting where sacred space begins to manifest."...

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