Tantra - The Art of Philosophy
Tantra has developed a system of thought which makes us see the universe as if it were within ourselves, and ourselves as if we were within the universe. Further the forces governing the cosmos on the macro-level are believed to govern the individual in the micro-level. According to tantra, the individual being and universal being are one. Thus all that exists in the universe must also exist in the individual body.
One of our major limitations in discovering this essential unity between the microcosm and the macrocosm is that we are accustomed to analyze the world into its separate parts, with the result that we lose sight of those parts' inter-relationship and their underlying unity. The way to fulfillment is through recognition of our wholeness linking man and the universe. This hence is the broad aim of Tantra art, achieved through visual symbols and metaphors.
Encompassing its whole pictorial range, Tantric imagery can be broadly grouped under three heads:
Geometrical representation of deities as Yantras
Representation of the Human Body as a Symbol of the Universe
The Sanskrit word 'yantra' derives from the root 'yam' meaning to sustain, or hold. Hence in metaphysical terms a yantra is visualized as receptacle of the highest spiritual essence.
A Yantra is a pure geometric configuration, composed of basic primal shapes. These shapes are psychological symbols corresponding to inner states of human consciousness. This innate simplicity of composition is identified with spiritual presence. The use of such elementary shapes is not simplistic but represents the highest conception in visual terms, because the projection of the symbol is then direct and bold, so that even a small miniature can create a sense of expansiveness.
The dynamism of tantric imagery is generated by a quest for geometric order. A yantra represents a particular configuration whose power increases in proportion to the abstraction and precision of the diagram. A yantra gradually grows away from its center, in stages, until its expansion is complete. Around the center are several concentric figures which take part in this expansion. This concentric architecture defines the volume of the yantra and creates a rhythmic unity.
The predominant elementary forms of which yantras are constituted are the point, line, circle, triangle, square and the lotus symbol. All of these forms are juxtaposed, combined, intersected and repeated in various ways to produce the desired objective.
The Point or Bindu
In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad there is the metaphor of a spider sitting at the center of its web, issuing and reabsorbing its threads in concentric circles, all held at one point. The spider's threads symmetrically expand into a visible circumference, but they can all be traced back to the central point of the web.
Like the spider in its web, the center of the yantra is the power-point from which the entire diagram expands, the radiating source of energy that generates all forms. It is the divine essence out of which proceeds the polarized world. It is called Bindu, the first drop, which spreads unfolds, and expands into the tangible realm of the universe. Indeed the optical focus of the yantra is always its center, from which the force lines radiate outwards in concentric circles and dissolve in the outer circumference. On a metaphysical level the Bindu represents the unity of the static (male, Shiva) and the kinetic (female, Shakti) cosmic principles, which expand to create the infinite universe of matter and spirit. A meeting-ground of subject and object, this is exactly the kind of spiritual oneness that the tantra artist strives for. A region where art and artist, creator and viewer merge into a single identity, becoming one with the cosmos as a whole. In the final meditation on the yantra, the Bindu is the region where the ultimate union of the aspirant with the divine takes place.
For the successful creation of a ythe artist must look beyond appearances and penetrate to the essence. The center, by virtue of being a dot of zero dimensions, is visualized as the ultimate entity beyond which a thing or energy cannot be contracted or condensed. This infinite reservoir of collective energy is the supremely creative nucleus, and therefore is the repository of all manifestation. As a center, it controls everything which is projected from it; hence it is also called MahaBindu, or the Great Point. It is indeed the starting point of the mental quest for salvation and also the ultimate point in this journey.
According to another school of logic, when a non-manifest stage of existence becomes manifest, its manifestation must begin somewhere, in some point of space, at some point of time. There must be an instant when it has not yet any extension but has begun to have location. According to this interpretation, the first instant when a thing does not yet exist and yet has already begun is adequately represented by the dimensionless point.
The Bindu thus contains within itself the two poles' (zero and infinity) and all that lies between. Its inherent energy contains all potentialities and all polarities. In the actual creative process, the Bindu evolves with the help of straight lines into the trikona (triangle).
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