Purushkara Yantra: in the deepest layers of the psyche the world itself is speaking

Purushkara Yantra with Sanskrit syllables, Rajasthan, 18th century. India. Gouache, opaque watercolor paint, on silk. 18th century. Public Domin in India via wikimedia.
Purushkara Yantra with Sanskrit syllables, Rajasthan, 18th century. India. Gouache, opaque watercolor paint, on silk. 18th century. Public Domin in India via wikimedia.

The image above is of the Purushkara Yantra. This is a cosmic man figure from the 18th Century.  The cosmic body contains the different levels of being.

Yantras such as this one offer a means of Self-realization in the Hindu tradition. They are used in meditation along with a mantra for Self-realization. The yantra represents the relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Through meditation on the yantra, one turns within to discover he cosmos within. The Mundaka Upanishad (8:1) speaks of the cosmic man:

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Kali Yantra: mandala

Guhyakali (Secret Kali) Yantra ,Madhubani Painting By Dhirendera Jha and Vidya Devi- 2008, Image from Exotic Indian Art with permission.

The yantra above is the Secret Kālī Yantra. Kālī is a Hindu goddess. Kali is the force of time. She holds the power of creation and destruction.  In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Kāli in the form of sakti is praised by Shiva. The tantra says:

“At the dissolution of things, it is Kāla [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahākāla [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahākāla Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kālika. Because Thou devourest Kāla, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.”

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The Egg as an Image of God and Self

 Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516) The Garden of Earthly, Museo del Prado, US Public Domain Delights,
Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516) The Garden of Earthly Delights, Museo del Prado, US Public Domain Wikimedia

In the above image by Hieronymus Bosch, we see human beings crawling out of the water into an egg. This is a wonderful image. One could say it depicts the primal creation, but backwards. The egg is an archetypal motif of the first-born. In the Vedas, the primordial egg is called Hiraṇyagarbha or Prajāpati, meaning the ‘golden egg’. The golden egg is the seed of creation, the first-born, or first cause in the act of creating the cosmos. The Ṛgveda, speaks of Hiraṇyagarbha:

yo deveṣv ādhi devā eka āsīt
He is the God of gods, and none beside him.

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Vajravarahi Mandala: integrating the world of opposites

Vajravarahi Mandala, Tibet, 19th century. US public domain via wikimedia.
Vajravarahi Mandala, Tibet, 19th century. US public domain via wikimedia.

In the image above we see the mandala of Vajravarahi. Vajravarahi is a goddess invoked in Tantric meditation. Her name means ‘Diamond-like Sow’. According to the Met: “The goddess represents the triumph over ignorance (symbolized by the sow).” In archetypal terms, Vajravarahi is an image of the Self.

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Mandala as integration of the conscious and unconscious

Mandala of Vishnu, from Nepal From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection. US public domain via wikimedia.
Mandala of Vishnu, from Nepal From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection. US public domain via wikimedia.

In the image above we see a Vishnu mandala. In his commentary on the Kena Upanishad, 8th century CE philosopher Adi Shankara makes it clear that Vishnu is an image or form of the supreme Self (Brahman) [1]. The Vishnu mandala above is also an expression of the supreme Self.

In his essay on the Mandala, in the The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung speaks of the mandala motif. Jung says that the mandala is “the psychological expression of the totality of the self” (CW 9, para 542). In other words, the mandala is a representation of the Self.

With this, Jung realized the Self as a wholeness that extends beyond the ego.

“This centre is not felt or thought of as the ego but, if one may so express it, as the self” (ibid)

Yet, for Jung the Self is simply the totality of psychic life. It is as if Jung took the cosmic nature of the Self and made it fit into the bounds of the personality. Nonetheless, Jung speaks to the Self as “a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy.” Jung is on point here.

The Self is a central point, in which everything is related, from which everything emerges. This central point is the source of all. Yet, the Vedic realization is that the Self is cosmic, expanding beyond the personality, beyond even the collective to encompass all. This is the cosmic meaning of ‘wholeness.’

Jung uses the term energy, and in other places he calls it ‘libido’, the ‘vital force’, or even the ‘creative force.’ (see CW 5, para 425).  In the Vedic realization, the vital force is Prana or Agni, a living force beyond the personality. Jung understood that this energy expresses as “almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is.” Jung says:

“The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances”(ibid).

Jung is speaking of an instinct to reach our potential, to Self-actualize: to “become a self.” (Cw 12, para 105). Jung’s use of the Self always has a psychological flavor; everything happens in psychic life, making up the “total personality.” Jung continues:

“Although the centre is represented by an innermost point. It is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self-the paired opposites that make up the total personality” (ibid).

It is within psychic life, within the personality that the paired opposites emerge. It is within the personality that the conscious and unconscious forces (collective forces) make themselves known. Jung continues:

“This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind” (ibid).

Jung calls the unconscious a the “field of experience of unlimited extent”. Jung (CW 7) says that the unconscious has at its disposal “all the subliminal psychic contents, all those things which have been forgotten and overlooked, as well as all the experience of uncounted centuries laid down in its archetypal organs” (p.196).

For Jung, Self-realization is a process of tuning into and integrating the conscious and the unconscious. This is Carl Jung’s way of understanding the mandala motif and the Self, as representing an integration of the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the personality. Of course, the ‘true nature of the Self’ in a cosmic sense is much more.

 

Footnote:

  1. Shankara says: “somebody other than the Atman, such as Vishnu, Ishvara, Indra or Prana is entitled to be worshiped”…. “So says the Sruti [most authoritative, ancient religious texts], know this Atman to be the Brahman, unsurpassed.” (comment on Verse 4 of the Keno Upanishad)
  2. If we are to center the supreme Self within the ego, then we have not realized the truth nature of the Self. We are likely to end up with what Jung called ‘ego inflation’ (CW 8, para 176).

Reference:

  1. Two essays on analytical psychology  (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 7)
  2. Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works of C. G. Jung Volume 5)
  3. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)
  4. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche
    (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 8)