Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Shri Yantra Meditation
Masters of Yoga and Tantra are fond of saying that the human mind is like a monkey who got drunk, fell out of a tree and after hitting its head on a stone was bitten by a snake. The Buddhist are no less sanguine when they state that it's easier to conquer seven cities than to conquer the human mind. Though the mind may be difficult to control, Yoga, Tantra and Buddhism agree that the mind must be controlled in order to achieve self realization. Pantanjali acknowledged this when he wrote, "Yoga, (which means union), is stilling the waves of the mind."
Yoga teaches that three steps must be mastered in order to control the mind. The first step is dharana, concentration or single-mindedness. In dharana the adept learns to focus or fix the the mind (citta) on one point or one particular quality and/or object. The second step is dhyana, meditation. In dhyana the adept learns to detach himself from the ego and lower mind (lower manas) so that s-he can experience the essential quality and/or qualities of the object or quality on which the mind has been focused. In dhyana the mind flows in an unbroken current to the object and/or quality. The third step is samadhi. In samadhi, the adept abandons attachment to the ego and lower mind completely and comes into union with the object and/or quality on which the mind is focused.
For someone brought up and living in a twenty-first century technological urban environment, with all its distractions mastering dharana can seem like an insurmountable task. And going beyond dharana to discern the subtle variations of energy that differentiate one quality from another, which is essential in dhyana and Samadhi can seem like an insurmountable task.
Don't Abandon the Ship
Though it may appear that your spiritual ship is sinking under the combined weight of internal and external distractions and that mastering dharana is impossible, don't give up the ship-at least not yet. The ancient masters of Tantra were well aware of how difficult it could be to master, the "monkey of the mind." And in what might be considered a Yogic end run they developed a system of techniques to trick the mind by simply going around it. One of the most useful and accessible tools they developed for concentrating the mind, meditating and achieving Samadhi, is the Shri Yantra Meditation.
The word yantra comes from the Sanskrit root, yam which means to sustain or to support. And from the suffix "tra" which means instrument. Its original meaning quickly expanded to mean, any sort of machine or instrument used in architecture, astronomy, alchemy, chemistry, warfare or recreation.
The use of Shri Yantra as a spiritual instrument goes back to the 10th century and continues today in South India. Its origins lie in the advaitic, non-dualistic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, and is closely associated with Shankara, the famous Advaitic master. We are told that the great Vedantin master had Shri Yantra established in temples throughout India so that no one, "...should face the dearth of vibrations harmonizing both material and spiritual wealth." According to the Tantraraja Tantra there are 960 Yantras. The Shri Yantra is considered the most highly esteemed.
Structure of Shri Yantra
The Shri Yantra is constructed of nine intersecting triangles, each representing various aspects of the goddess, Shakti and her consort Shiva. Four of the triangles are pointing upward and five downward. The four pointing upward are associated with Shiva, Universal Consciousness and the five pointing downward with Shakti, who represents dynamic energy and change. The interplay of these triangles creates an imbalance which makes this particular yantra, the most dynamic of all yantras and therefore the most powerful. Its power goes beyond its effect on the senses and/or the physical-material world and the brain. Its power manifests itself in the psychic centers, by focusing the mind, and allowing the chakras to function more efficiently which in turn enhances the flow of prana (subtle energy). With an increase in the flow of prana, the higher mind is able to emerge into conscious awareness, overcome the lower mind and ego at least temporarily and experience the truth of a thing by coming into union with its qualities.
An important aspect of the Shri Yantra is that the absolute itself is not depicted symbolically...nor can it be depicted, since it is beyond qualities and is not an object of knowledge. It is represented by the Bindu, the receding point at the center which leads the adept inward to the unique experience of the absolute.
"Like the Shiva-Shakti images in Tantric iconography, the Shri Yantra symbolizes life, both universal life and individual, as an incessant interaction of cooperating opposites. The five female triangles expanding from above and the four male emerging from below, signify the continuous process of creation. Like an uninterrupted series of lightning flashes they delve into each other and mirror the eternal procreative moment-a dynamism nevertheless exhibited in a static pattern of geometrical repose. This is the archetypal Hieros Gamos, or 'Mystical Marriage', represented in an abstract diagram-a key to the secret of the phenomenal mirage of the world." ("Consciousness", by C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack p.72)
"Tantric tradition suggests that Shri Yantra can be used in two ways. In the inward approach the adept begins at the center by contemplating the bindu and lets the mind focus on that point. Once the mind is fixed on the bindu and meditation begins the adept allows his-her conscious awareness expand to take in the smallest triangle in which it is enclosed, then the next two triangles, and so on, slowly expanding outwards through a sequence of triangles to the outer shapes in which the whole object is contained. This outward contemplation is associates with an evolutionary view of the of the universe where, starting with primordial matter represented by the dot, the meditator concentrates on increasingly complex organisms, as indicated by increasingly complex shapes, until reaching the very boundaries of the universe from where escape is possible only through one of the four doors into chaos. The inward approach to meditation, which starts from a circle and then moves inwards, is known in Tantric literature as the process of destruction." (ibid. p. 72) In this approach more complex shapes give way to simply shapes and the more complex qualities associated with the manifest universe give way to the the ultimate simplicity of the Singularity at the root of the phenomenal universe represented by the bindu at the center.
Meditating With Shri Yantra
To begin your meditation, Place Shri Yantra at eye level at a comfortable distance in front of you. Then close your eyes or unfocus them by looking up at about a 30 degree angle. Next count backward from five to one repeating and visualizing each number three times. When you are relaxed you can activate the back of your heart chakra by mentally affirming, "It is my intent to activate the back of my heart chakra." You will know the chakra is active when you will feel a subtle shift in your consciousness, along with a vibration that begins at the back of the heart chakra and moves forward through the chakra to the the female pole at the front of body space. Once the chakra is active center yourself in the back of your heart chakra by mentally affirming, "It is my intent to center myself in the back of my heart chakra." You will know you are centered in the back of your heart chakra because your awareness will emerge from that point rather than from your ego located in your aura about eight centimeters in front of your chest. You will also notice that your level of energy increases as more prana radiates through your energy system. The internal dialogue may cease altogether or at least cease to disturb you. At this time open your eyes and/or refocus them on either the outer edge of the Shri Yantra or the bindu at the center. Resist the temptation to busy the mind with visualization and imagination. Just let your inner awareness experience the Shri Yantra, while you detach yourself from the movie of the mind and become the observer.
You can begin by practicing either the inward or outward approach for about twenty minutes a day. When you feel comfortable you can expand the length of time you put aside for this remarkable meditation. In either case Shri Yantra will become a trusted and valuable tool enabling you to fix your mind and go to deeper and healthier levels of consciousness.