This is my article about the Sri Chakra Yantra, and how to draw one for ourselves. It first appeared in “Self Enquiry”, a number of years ago. Readers of The Sacred India Tarot will note, that the back of the cards carries this design, white on ochre gold, the colour of Sannyas on the traveller’s path.
I refer you also to http://aryayogi.wordpress.com – Rohit’s essay on The Symbolism of the Sri Chakra Yantra – you will find it in his May archive.
The Sri Chakra Yantra with its divine flowering of masculine and feminine energy, is a crucial agent in the creative process. The Siva Sakti blend acts rather like Ganesha does, to facilitate beginnings. The Self Enquiry Journal (Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK) carried this Yantra as its logo. The Yantra appears in two of the Sacred India Tarot cards:
Tarot card 3 The Empress – Lakshmi Here, the Yantra as her throne, extends through the landscape, her inter-connected golden net of prosperity.
Tarot card 18 The Moon – Chandra. The Yantra in this enigmatic image appears like a tree section: it is also the Path of Life, which this threshold deity guards. Classic western Tarot decks show a winding path between two towers, to the distant Mountain. The 18th Arcanum conducts an unbroken stream of embodiment, from the earliest forms of life, to Consciousness, through the aeons.
Prefacing “How to Draw the Sri Chakra Yantra” are two of my earlier poems and an article by Krishna Bhikshu, which was published in The Mountain Path in 1965.
TWO POEMS: June 1989
Sometimes my dear
though stepping on golden land
I have still
the sea in my ear.
Come forth, comes answer:
Go into the land, come sea-legs;
mind not the morrow, nor yester
year, O jesters, but
walk in the land of flowers and mountains
feasting your eyes, my dear
two step, like
a teddy bear, remember?
The scale of Ursa Major has
no fear. Up into the place of meeting
and piano in the palm
of your hand, my dear.
And the second poem ...
There is a point of
light in my heart, to rest
in the core of being
the stem, deep beyond measure.
Look only within
to see and be.
The point of the
is drawing "I"in.
My flower face is drawn in the heart
of a body of God,
indivisible the stem
as into a well.
In my green stalk
of the watery world,
the silent star, a point so bright,
pulls me in.
daisy crystal fire
in boundless vibrant
darkness, cannot see;
Introduction to Sri Chakra Yantra
In a 1965 issue of “The Mountain Path”(Ramanasramam journal), Krishna Bickshu wrote:
“Out of the Bindhu or causal state, are manifested light and sound, which appear on a formal plane as form and name. The whole process of manifestation is dependent on and governed by the shakti who is 1) Consciousness, 2) Desire and 3) Action. Action (3) is the combined result of the first two, and is represented as the apex of the triangle of which they form the base.
“Although one says ‘base’ and ‘apex’, the triangle is usually inverted, with its apex pointing downwards. It represents the descent of the Divine into the manifested world. The sadhaka or aspirant is represented by another triangle with its apex pointing upward. The two triangles interpenetrate. In the heart of them is the Bindhu or point.
“All the geometrical figures used in the Sri Chakra are variants of circles and triangles. A Bindhu surrounded by a triangle in a circle can represent the entire Creation. But all the manifestations of power have to be realized in the completed Yantra. The original shakti manifests at each node(crossing-point) of the triangle as three different shaktis, or three primary forms of the Divine Mother. Each of them has various aspects which are then manifested in the larger triangles.
“The powers of the shakti are legion. Cosmically each larger triangle represents a wider and grosser manifestation. The tantric texts give the names of presiding deities at each of the nodes of each of these triangles. In sadhana however, the order is reversed. For the individual, what is in seed form in the first upright triangle has to be expanded by his practice into the larger triangles which represent wider powers latent in him. These finally lead the aspirant back into the amplitude of power, consciousness and peace, which is the essential nature of the Divine Mother. The mind becoming one-pointed, merges into the indescribable Beyond, which is the Mother.
“It is taught that the cosmos is in three stages: causal, subtle and gross. For one of tantric temperament, all this is richly symbolized. For the advaitin (follower of non-duality) this is not necessary. The ultimate result is the same for both.
“Sri Ramana, prescribing Self enquiry, also instituted this type of temple worship for those who are helped by it. The beneficent power he brought into earth is induced into the Sri Chakra sanctified by his touch. Those drawn to the more elaborate path may continue then to receive his grace, as well as those who practise Self enquiry alone.
At the installation in the Mother Temple, Ramana took great interest, personally added details to the forms of the Chakra (etched in a piece of granite two feet square upon a gold plate) and supervised the entire Temple construction. He inspected each stone for the workmen to eliminate defects, and at every stage of the work he was the final authority on form, on the ritual to be adopted, and on the deities to be worshipped. Before the ceremony, he stood for some five or ten minutes with both hands placed on the Sri Chakra in blessing.
“After the installation, Major Chadwick who had stood at his side throughout, said “How magnificent this is: such pujas should be performed regularly.” Ramana replied, “Yes, but who will see to it?” So Major Chadwick undertook to establish the Sri Chakra pujas six times a month. He remarks, “The explanation for this unusual show of interest by Bhagavan is probably to be found in the necessity for the Shakti always to accompany Siva. It is not enough to have Siva alone.”
On the Method: The Ocean of Beauty
On 19 April 1937, a respectable gentleman asked Ramana about the Sri Chakra.
Ramana replied, “It has a deep significance. There are 43 corners with sacred syllables in them. Its worship is a method for concentration of mind. The mind is wont to move externally. It must be checked and turned within. Its habit is to dwell on names and forms, for all external objects possess name and form. Such names and forms are therefore made symbolic mental conceptions so as to divert the mind from external objects and make it dwell within itself. The idols, mantras and yantras are all meant to give food to the mind in its introvert state so that it may later become capable of concentration, after which the superb state is attained automatically.”
(Talks with Ramana Maharshi, p.380)
Shankara wrote a long love-poem on the Sri Chakra, entitled Saundarya Lahari – “the Ocean of Beauty”. To receive the full benefit of a sacred symbol or yantra, it can be helpful to draw it, and earth its components into one’s being.
What follows is an initial exploration along these lines.
The Sri Chakra Yantra seems to have been given through a celestial comprehension beyond any mathematical agent of the human understanding. Contemplation discovers an exquisitely asymmetric equilibrium of movement and stillness – a musical note being tuned. No manifestation in the universe quite accords with our logic or the bound laws of arithmetic. Everything is a movement towards and into perfection.
In the Sri Chakra, nine interwoven triangles come to meet each other in a dance which is not symmetrical, but wondrously balanced. This dance is an expression, or shakti, of the central point: the Bindhu, the formless focus –purusha – of being. The point is primordially Siva. The flaring outward from the point to form a triangle is the projected universe or shakti power: his consort Parvati. From each point in the triangle, a movement flows out to meet its self.
In tantric scripture, the triangle – particularly with the apex pointing downward – symbolizes the female, the womb. The Sri Chakra is worshipped as a manifestation of the Mother who both proceeds from and gives birth to, the formless source. However, the Sri Chakra is constructed from a dual movement or marriage of ascending and descending triangles. For general purposes, the ascending or realizing power can be regarded as masculine, and the descending or manifesting power as feminine. Likewise, we see the ascent of our spiritual practice, through the descent of grace: its fruits.
The Inner Circle of the Sri Chakra, to draw it, consists of :
One Vertical Diameter, divided into 48 equal parts
(2 millimetres each, seems to be a good measurement to use.)
Nine Cords, or horizontal divisions of this vertical line, marked at 6, 12, 17, 20, 23, 27, 30, 36, 42 parts, working from the top down. Number these 1 – 9 inside the Circle, and let them, as a grid of pencil lines, cross the vertical diameter at an exact right angle.
Five shakti triangles pointing downward, their inverted “baselines” at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of the nine. (This is the female yoni).
One Bindhu point at the Circle’s centre.
This is purusha, the unborn, undying source.
Four Siva triangles pointing upward, their baselines at 6, 7, 8, 9 (This is the male linga).
In this construction, it helps to draw first the Triangles upon baselines 3 and 7.
These – the one descending, the other ascending – are the largest pair. Encompassing the whole universe, they are the only ones to touch circumference. They provide the framework for the remaining seven triangles to intersect one another accurately. These are constructed on baselines 1, 8, 2, 4, 5, 9, in that order, referring to the illustration for the apexes, and adjusting the intersections by using one’s eyes. These points or nodes, intersecting three lines, are called marmans.
It is interesting in this context, to note that each key of a piano is tuned to resonate three strings. There is a natural correspondence with the law of three in all cosmologies, including the play of three gunas in Advaita Vedanta. It seems that sattva – as purity of sound – emerges from the attunement in relation to each other, of rajas and tamas. Rajas expands, is fiery and whirls: tamas contracts and is dark and dense. Tamas is the inertia momentum inherent in any creative process. Without tamas, rajas could never come to form. Excess to either side becomes toxic: but their dynamic equilibrium is harmony. The same principle, applied to Yin and Yang, is Tao.
To continue the musical analogy: the keyboard of a piano is tuned not to mechanically exact intervals – which would produce an actual dissonance – but centrifugally: from each octave, to its higher and lower registers, in mutual relationship and approximation. In fact, an exact physical symmetry is discordant in subtle plane harmony. The earthly expression of the subtle plane is a Tao – a dance towards unity. So the Sri Chakra is a living organism on strings which are tuned and pulled taut, to resonate.
Do not strive to draw exact intersections or marmans at baseline 5, for it is actually off-centre. The inmost shakti (or womb) triangle on it, pointing downwards, embraces the central mystery of the Bindhu point. You will also find you need to pull and tug your lines a bit, through the three-way intersections to get them all in place; it is like weaving a rug with uneven threads to pull tight. This is not a mechanical process: but you will if you have measured carefully, get a good approximation, which ‘sings’ as a unified structure. When the Yantra is completed and inked in, erase the 9 working pencilled divisions across the Circle.
Notice also, from the centre outwards, a radiating movement. This is revealed in: 43 small triangles (or ‘corners’). Their outward-pointing apexes make four concentric circles around the first triangle in the centre (apex 6, below the Bindhu, and baseline 5, just above it.) The inner circuit around this has 8 triangles. The second and third circles each contain 10. The fourth which is outermost, contains 14.
These four circles correspond to the Four Worlds of Kabbalah in the western tradition.
Upon the horizontal frame of the Yantra are strung nine “cords”.
They form a vertical movement – the interpenetrating triangles, shakti (downward pointing) with Siva (upward). The coming-to-meet motion, or love-knot of the Yantra, through its nine horizontal strands, suggests the Unseen Weaver’s warp and weft: the universal play of the three gunas – Rajas, tamas and satvic – through the Divine tapestry.
The Bindhu at the heart of the marriage, is clear, formless source. The Bindhu point is the potency of all energy, the essence of any movement of mind before it begins to sing. From it, is generated the prakrti (primal world-stuff). This radiating or concentric movement, pervades all atoms of time and space simultaneously. Upon it, the fabric is projected into existence like a standwave; a pattern or vibrancy.
The radiant movement echoes, if seen cross-sectionally, the rings of a cut tree – the sun’s action over the years. But osmosis – the tree’s “invisible” realization – is root and shoot, the growth, seasons, branches and foliage upstanding, and lifts away from the world’s flat plane. It crosses the orbital rings. It encompasses what was, is now and is to be.
The world whose surfaces we perceive with our sensory spectrum, cross-sections Reality, like a slice across the tree. The radiant movement of Sri Chakra should be sensed not only as a mandala or wheel, but as encompassing and extending all directions: a hologram.
The marriage of 9 interwoven triangles is consummated over a horizontal web.
The concentric movement of the 43 “corners” suggests a dimension perpendicular to the triple depth of our world – being at once horizontal as vertical, inward as outward, immanent, all-Present.
If the interwoven triangles suggest the dual nature of Ishvara (the transcendent Divinity), the irradiating triangles through the tapestry imply the immanent Brahman, embraced in all beings as their One Self. The “Ishvara” triangles descend as grace. The upward movement is an illumined aspirant’s readiness.
If followed sequentially, the downward and upward movement in the Sri Chakra leads the aspirant inward to his or her core, to contemplate infinite peace in “Brahman”. At this point the aspirant attunes to the “spirit-level” of the human soul, which is mostly obscured, but here and there awakened; for the meditative focus touches universal verities. The upward and downward triads dive into one another. The Bindhu glows.
An exact harmonic in the subtle plane marks an inexact resonance in the world of our senses – rather as the perfect orbital Circle of platonic philosophy translates to ellipses in our physical solar system. Through molecular stresses in the biosphere, there is a gap. Within the gap we discover love. The love-necessity is the Mother; the cosmos flowing out to be reabsorbed in and as the Son. Gravity is this cosmic connectivity.
This paradox – accessible to contemplation, but beyond the powers of ordinary thinking – occurs in all revealed cosmologies. Physical science is able to perceive the expansion of the galaxies from an initial point: Vedic, Buddhist and Kabbalist sources speak in their own ways of the kalpas – the breathing in and out, of God, over inconceivable spaces of time.
The Sri Chakra, whose installation in the Mother Temple was meticulously supervised and blessed by Ramana Maharshi (who was not otherwise interested in religious trappings) delicately evokes the mysterious “interval” which out-stretches the aspirant in life, and awakens a path of enquiry, surrender and grace.
Two concentric circles surround the Yantra. The inner, consisting of eight lotus petals, represents centrifugal force. The outer circle is centripetal formation, containing and defining the force; it has sixteen petals.
Outside these, and outside the three concentric rings which circumscribe them, is formed, as in all classical Mandala construction, the Square with four gates – the world of the senses and of nature – which surrounds the abode of the Divine.
This essay on the Sri Chakra Yantra was first drafted in about 1994. The method to construct and draw it, was found in Shankara’s “Saundarya Lahari – The Ocean of Beauty”
Article & Illustrations copyright(c)Jane Adams 1994-2012