Yoga, the meditation on paintings of deities and yantras
of deities is an essential part of Tantric
worship. It enables one to get in contact with the energy patterns
associated with the deity. The deity image or the deity yantra is
the form or body of the deity, wheras the mantra of the deity is
the mind, spirit, consciousness or name.
Using the faculties of hearing and sight together
One subtly receives information from the forms, colors and sounds.
Tantra enables a type of learning that goes beyond rational understanding
to really feeling and knowing truth. Meditation on paintings of
deities and on yantras works through the visual hemisphere of our
On a very basic level, the meditation on paintings
of deities is simply easier than the meditation on abstract concepts.
By concentrating on Ganesha
and the spiritual attitude that he symbolises, one strengthens that
attitude within one self. Daily concentration on the courage and
selffless service of Hanuman
will make it that much easier to follow his example in time of need,
with both the mental image of the deity and the related mantra acting
as carriers of that attitude. The same goes for all gods and goddesses,
such as Durga
being a great help in overcoming our internal demons.
One might say that in this way meditation on the painting
of a deity helps one to awaken that deity within oneself. When a
yantra or other painted representation of a deity is adopted for
worship and the energy is invoked in it, it becomes a symbolic representative
of the deity - and actually it is the deity himself when the sadhak
abandons his analytical, critical nature - and the energy circulates
in the higher centers. Every such painting becomes the dwelling
place of the deity by whose name it is known.
That process obviously starts with the meditative
creation of the painting by the artist himself. The act of painting
is an act of worship, especially if also accompagnied by meditation
on the particular nature and energy of the deity and by the recitation
Pranapratishtha, the invoking of prana (vital life force) of the
deity is essential for a yantra or an idol, and this is done with
the help of mantras.
Through meditative painting and through further worship,
paintings of deities may thus gather particular energies and become
objects of power. This is similar to the relics of saints
being powerful or temples and other places of worship that have
become places of power. The particular nature and concentration
of energy depends on the nature and concentration of the worship
performed and on the deity that is respresented. Such energy "stored"
in a painting might for example facilitate meditation.
is of two types : saguna, with form (sa - with, guna - attribute)
and nirguna (nit - without, guna - attribute) . In
Tantra Yoga, meditation on the chakras
and their deities is with form until Kundalini
pierces the sixth chakra. Then it becomes meditation on the formless
supreme truth (nirguna dhyana). This is the final stage of dhyana,
the concentration on the supreme truth having no shape, form or
Although meditating on the formless, nameless, supreme
truth is the summum bonum of dhyana, it can only be achieved by
prolonged practice of concentration on the deities with form. It
is the journey of the I-consciousness from precept to concept. It
is said that a precept without a concept is empty and a concept
without a precept is blind.
The process of transcending from form to formless
is like learning the initially abstract characters of the alphabet
through the use of examples. Then after one has learned the alphabet,
the apple for "A", ball for "B" and cat for
"C" disappear. One can then make words and communicate
by combining the letters of the alphabet into words, sentences and
paragraphs. Just as symbols of the alphabet are helpful in learning
a language, the deities of the chakras are helpful in spiritualisation
of the cognitive, conative and affective aspects of consciousness.
Then, just as the symbols and also the characters themselves disappear,
the divities with form also vanish when the formless divinity is
Yoga, the meditation on and the visualisation of the chakras
is done in gradual progression, beginning with the first chakra
and moving step by step towards the seventh. The center of concentration
should be the chakras and not the gross organs of the body. Yoga
schools that provide no images of chakras can only suggest that
the sadhaka should meditate on the heart or between the eyebrows.
However, this keeps the focus on the body, whereas the goal in Kundalini
Yoga is to go beyond body consciousness. In Kundalini meditation,
one gets absorbed in the abstract yantras, mantras, deities of the
chakras, which spiritualises the consciousness. Thus tantric visualisation
aided by coloring the images of the chakras is a much more effacious
To help prepare for meditation on the chakras, the
sadhaka should first color the images of the chakras to establish
them in the mind's eye. Then once one has colored the images, they
are retained in the mind and internal visualisation becomes easy.
working with the first chakras also includes working with Brahma
and Ganesha. The second chakra is related to Vishnu
and the Rakini Shakti.
Third chakra meditation involves Rudra (a form of Shiva)
and Lakini Devi, a compassionate form of Kali.
Fourth is related to Ishana Rudra Shiva, a symbol of detached happiness.
The doorkeeper of this chakra is Kakini Shakti and it is also here
that the Kundalini Shakti appears for the first time. In the fifth
chakra, the deity is Panchavakta Shiva, a combination of all Shiva
energies. The doorkeeper is Shakini, the embodiment of purity. In
the sixth chakra, Shiva and Shakti merge into Ardhanarishvara, half
male, half female. The doorkeeper is the goddess Hakini, an aspect
of the Kundalini Shakti. In the seventh chakra Kameshvari and Kameshvara
should be meditated upon, Shiva and Shakti, the Lord and goddess
of desires, seated upon a lotus in eternal embrace.
As an example of excellence, meditating on Kameshvari
and Kameshvara stops the natural downward flow of nectar (amrit).
Thus the upward flow of energy is enhanced, enabling the yogi to
stay in the Brahma Randhra or Shunya Mandala (void center), the
hollow space between the twin hemispheres. He or she who thus stops
the downward flow of nectar becomes immortal in the phsyical body.
He or she thus remains forever young, enjoying eternal bliss through
the union of Shiva and Shakti, the ultimate goal of Kundalini Yoga.
Using paintings in tantric worship
and sculptures of deities are an essential part of the Hindu worship
known as Puja (or Pooja). In temples or home shrines, one finds
images of many gods and goddesses that are worshipped on a daily
basis. Many different kinds of tantric worship and puja exist, in
which meditation on the yantra, painting or sculpture of the deity
is just a part.
Many kinds of worship are prescribed according to
the nature of the aspirant and the objectives of the worship. The
sadhak is free to choose a deity or yantra, whichever triggers him
or her emotionally. He or she has a multitude of gods and goddesses
to choose from. Each represents an aspect of the divine or of the
Worship of Lord Ganesha
is one of the unique features of tantric sadhana. The external image
of Ganesha is charming and attractive, although not acceptable to
the rational mind. Worshiping Ganesha quiets the left hemisphere
and enables worship to be performed without obstacles. The greatest
of all obstacles is our own doubt, which weakens faith and blocks
worship as the path of spiritual evolution. Removing that doubt
is the purpose of worshipping Ganesha at the start of any tantric
The worship should begin with purification. Visualisation
should be practiced only when one's breathing does not interrupt
ones' concentration, so breath controll excercises (pranayama) should
be done before visualisation.
For many, visualisation is not easy. Painting deities
and yantras and then using those paintings in visualisation is the
easiest way to develop the practice of more abstract visualisation,
which in time will lead to deep meditation.
Effects of paintings without meditation
Even if paintings of deities are not directly used
in meditation, they can be usefull far beyond the purely decorative
effect. Having them around subtle affects one's mind and keeps one
in a more spiritual mood. Especially if one knows the stories that
explain their symbolised energies, these paintings become real friends.
They can lift ones' mood in the blink of an eye. Subtle effects
can be very powerful triggers to changing how one feels. As symbols
of perfection, deities usually make a better case than most mortals.
Paintings of deities should preferable be hanged into
relatively clean and pure places. Giving these paintings proper
respect, keeping them clean and clear, is act of worship already.
Small offerings of flowers, insense, etc... contribute to creating
a spiritual athmosphere around the painting and deepening our relationship
with the divine within and without. Inviting paintings of deities
in ones home, means subtly inviting their energies as well.
Text extracted and added to by Peter Marchand,
on the basis of the books "Tools
for Tantra" and "Chakras"
by Harish Johari.