Laura Amazzone, M.A.

A  yantra is a meditative ritual device used in South Asian Tantric traditions. It is a blueprint of energy of a specific field of consciousness. Although yantras are sometimes described as representing a deity, each yantra is more than a symbol.  A yantra is not a representation of a deity or principle, but is understood and experienced as the deity Itself.  Yantras are an expression of consciousness in an abstract form that follows precise mathematical equations and ritual procedures in its design and construction.  

There are certain features commonly found in yantras although all may not be employed in every yantra. Specific shapes and lines are utilized and constructed into geometric forms made of different colors and materials for various ritual and spiritual purposes. These shapes, lines, forms, and colors are not arbitrary.  They emit specific frequencies of energy and create distinct energetic patterns. The shapes also can amplify, transform, or diminish certain powers. Common shapes and designs include: the  i (dot or point), squares, circles, diagonal lines, triangles, lotus petals, crescent moon, pentagram, and other shapes from nature.  

A yantra is a matrix of divine consciousness.  Although Eastern philosophical traditions have ascribed countless names to express absolute consciousness (eg. Brahman, Kali, Paramashiva, Tripurasundari), this formless undifferentiated state ultimately cannot be defined or described outside of our direct experience. A yantra gives access to the deity or consciousness on the relative plane.  Yantras serve as a bridge between relative and absolute planes of reality. A yantra is a kind of mesocosm between the microcosmic and macrocosmic  planes.  A yantra can both represent and express stages of involution, evolution, and preservation on subtle and gross planes. It also displays cycles of creation, maintenance, and destruction.

Yantras that embody specific deities contain the full realm of the deity within its structure: all of the deity’s attendants also appear in the yantra. Through visualization, meditation, mantra recitation (chanting) techniques, and puja (ritual) one can access and harness the energies in a yantra.  Focusing one’s attention on a yantra syncs our individual consciousness to a larger field of consciousness. Just as certain seed syllables in a mantra serve as a portal to greater fields of energy, states of consciousness, and planes of existence, a yantra is a portal and a means to access these different realms and states. 

One does not need to consciously focus on the yantra, however, to benefit from its effects. Placing specific yantras in the home or workplace can promote harmony, peace, abundance, or any desired effect that is congruent with the properties of that field of consciousness. Placed in a classroom, for example, certain yantras can increase memory and concentration. Other yantras give healing benefits, while others bring protection and ward off negative energies. Wearing a yantra as an amulet will benefit not only the one who is wearing it, but also can have an affect on anyone who sees it.  This will be even more powerful if the yantra has been enlivened through a Tantric technique called pranapratishta, where the energetic essence of the deity is ritually invoked into the object.

Yantras speak the language of the unconscious. The conscious mind associates and attributes specific meanings and signs to our experiences. The unconscious understands and communicates with these same symbols and associations, and it also communicates and understands an even deeper language and level of relatedness through forms the mind may not have associations for.  Samskaras that are rooted in the unconscious respond to the display of patterns and energies within yantras. Therefore, even seeing a yantra without knowing what it is or what energies it carries, can have profound spiritual and psychological effects. 

In the classical Shri Vidya text, “The Saundarya Lahari,” Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati describes the importance and potency of yantras in traditional practice. He says, “Just as the radio receives sound waves, the yantra and mandala are efficient receptacles to attract and hold the energy that is gathered in the vicinity where mantras are chanted for any length of time.” p. 9 Saundarya Lahari


Yantras are made out of different materials depending on their function or ritual purpose.  Yantras that are drawn on the ground are created with colored powders, flowers, herbs and other natural materials. They are worshiped in a puja or for the duration of a specific ritual period then are destroyed at the end of the ritual.

Specific metals are prescribed to hold the energy that is being worshiped for longer periods of time.  Different metals hold certain properties that allow the energies in the yantra to remain active. Gold is said to hold the energies the longest. Silver and copper are the most traditional materials used.  Next to gold, silver, and copper are the two most highly recommended metals for their ability to hold the energy. Bronze and sometimes combinations of different metals are also used. However, metals like aluminum and iron are not recommended as the chemical properties of the metals are not congruent with the energies of the field and can have limiting and obstructive effects. Yantras are also drawn or painted on paper and natural materials such as bark or leaves, used in a ritual and then disposed of, usually by submerging the yantra in water or by burning it once the ritual is complete. 

Techniques and Functions

Tantric Practitioners use different techniques to fulfill different functions in working with yantras. The goals differ depending on lineage and purpose. However, at the highest level, one is to identify fully and thereby merge with consciousness as it presents itself in this geometric form. 

Working with yantras inevitably includes mantra and meditation practices. The recitation of mantra involves specific sounds that have their own mathematical precision and direct influence on consciousness. Sometimes the bijas of the mantra are inscribed on different places within the yantra, others the mantra is silently or verbally invoked into the device to enliven the yantra. When a practitioner works with yantra it can arouse certain energetic processes in their own energy field.  It can also help with the awakening and rising of kundalini. 

Yantras express the world that is created, sustained and/or dissolved by the play and relationship of light and sound. 

“The focal point of a yantra is always the bindu, which is the nucleus, representing the seed from which creation has sprung and into which it will return. In the scheme of evolution, according to Tantra and Samkhya, the interplay of nada, bindu, and kala gives rise to all creation. Bindu is the point from which a spandan or vibration. In the center of the Yantra, is the bindu, a condensed point of Consciousness out of which the universe evolves and into which it dissolves. Bindu is the point from which a spandan or vibration gives rise to nāda, sound, and kala, waves and particles of light. Just as nada gives rise to mantras, kala, which emanates as rays of light, gives rise to yantra.” (Saundarya Lahari) 

Construction of Yantras

How a yantra is constructed is important for its ritual use. When created from the bindu out, most often it is expressing a process of creation from the formless into form. When created from the outside in, it displays a dissolution of form to formless. Similarly, yantras are created from the central bindu point outward for purposes of manifestation, and from the outside in, for purposes of dissolution and destruction.  Some yantras function to sustain and maintain different states and frequencies. 


There are thousands of different types of yantras. Perhaps one of the most known is the Shri Yantra, with 9 interlocking upward and downward pointing triangles. An entire spiritual philosophical tradition is constructed around this powerful yantra that expresses absolute and relative reality as the divine Mother Tripurasundari.


Bunce, Frederick W. The Yantras of Deities and Their Numerological Functions: An Iconographic Consideration. New Delhi: DK Printworld, 2001.

Jones, Constance A. & James D. Ryan. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. “Yantra.” New York: Facts on File, 2007.

Khanna, Madgu. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity.  London, Thames and Hudson, 1979.Saraswati, Swami Satyasanganda.

Sri Saundarya Lahari: The Descent.  Bihar, India: Yoga Publications, 2008.