Mandalas of the Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati - Given at the Yoga Teachers Seminar in Collbato, Spain on August 23rd

Mind is a homogeneous substance. It is deeper, wider and greater than anything. In modern psychology the mind has been classified in three states: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. In Samkhya philosophy they are known as sthula, sukshma and karana, which mean gross, subtle and causal. From this we understand that the mind has various dimensions and ranges of perceptions. Our normal perception is just one manifestation of the mind.

When the mind depends on the five senses for perception, it is known as the gross mind. For example, you are able to listen through the ears or see through the eyes. At this level, the mind is not independent. If you have no eyes, you cannot see; if you are deaf, you cannot hear. This is a great limitation. The perception of the mind is confined to the capacity of the senses. The knowledge of the gross mind does not take place if the senses do not provide the information.

In order to transcend this limitation, the yogis and rishis discovered how to expand the capacities of the mind independently of the sense experiences. This means that the mind can see without eyes, taste without tongue, hear without ears, smell without nose, and move without limbs. The mind has within it the capacity of perception and cognition, but most people are not able to develop it.

If there are clouds in the sky, the mind perceives that it is going to rain. But the intuitive mind somehow knows it is going to rain even if there are no clouds in the sky. Here the knowledge of the mind is not dependent on outside sources. When the knowledge is drawn without any evidence, basis or hypotheses, that is intuitive knowledge.

For the purpose of developing this innate capacity, the science of tantra evolved a unique system utilising mental conceptions or mandalas by which we can learn to cognise and perceive without the use of the sensory organs. In modern psychology mandalas are also known' as pictorial conception. Although there are many mandalas for training the mind, the most important are the yantra - mandala of form, and mantra - mandala of sound.

Geometrical forms

Yantras are geometrical formations such as the' triangles seen in the chakras. There are many yantras like Kali yantra and Tara yantra, but the greatest is Sri yantra. The purpose of the yantra is to create a specific formation in the mind. Just as a child has to be trained in school to learn the alphabet, so the mind also has to be trained to perceive the versatility and variety of the yantras.

First the mind should be trained to see a point. In tantra it is said that the point is bindu, the source of all perceptions. From bindu, the entire cosmos has come into existence. The manifestation starts in bindu and is again reversed back to bindu. Bindu is your own mind, and when you can visualise it, you will know that your mind has assumed the power of manifestation.

Once you are able to see the bindu, you should be able to perceive a triangle. This triangle should be visualised in two positions, one pointing upward and the other inverted. If you are able to visualise the two triangles separately, then try to visualise both of them intersecting each other. When you are able to visualise any one triangle or both intersecting each other, this means that your mind has become capable of greater manifestations.

The bindu is the mind in manifestation. The triangle is the mind in further manifestation. The independent, formless mind is capable of assuming perceptions and cognitions. Then it is called the intuitive mind. Through the practice of perception of yantra, the mind assumes the capacity to manifest. The mind becomes a force, a creator.

Silent sound

There is another formation commonly used in tantra, known as mantra - the mandala of sound. In the beginning when you practise the mantra, you chant Om, Om, Om, aloud and you hear your sound. Later, you do not produce the sound audibly, but you feel it. Finally you hear Om internally with your eyes and lips closed. You listen to the sound manifesting in your mind, and it is as real as any external sound. You hear the mantra as clearly as if a tape recorder were playing it inside you. Sometimes the sound is very feeble, yet sometimes it is terribly strong. This is said to be the divine sound, but I prefer to call it the intuitive sound. When a sound is produced without any base, source or evidence, it is called an intuitive sound.

Psychic smells

These two mandalas of form and sound are considered to be the main pillars of tantra, but there are other mandalas which are also used. One of these is the smell. If there is jasmine here, you can smell it, but if there is no jasmine, can you still smell it? If you have a creative mind, you can smell it as though the jasmine were here.

In tantra there are many practices which develop what we call the intuitive smell. One of the kriyas used specifically for this purpose is manduki. In this practice you stimulate mooladhara chakra, the centre of smell, by gazing at the nose tip.

The air we take in has a smell which changes with each breath. The smell of the breath outside in the fresh air, is different to the smell inside your room. But your mind is not keen, creative or discerning, therefore, you don't notice the difference in smell.

The different centres in the nose are insensitive, so we need to practise neti - not only jala neti, the water neti, but sometimes sutra neti also. As the smell goes in, it touches the hairs at the opening of the nostrils and they immediately discern the type of smell, the knowledge of which is conveyed to the brain. So when you are practising manduki, the concentration on the nose tip and the ingoing breath has to be absolute and total. All the diverse smells can be conceived and cognised. It is not necessary that you smell only sandal or jasmine. You may smell a burning body, a dead animal or a toilet; it does not matter. When you are able to discern and cognise a smell, it means that your mind has assumed the capacity of creator.

The bitter and the sweet

There is another mandala, the taste, which we often use but seldom consider as a means of transcendence. Practise khechari mudra which entails folding the tongue against the upper palate. In the course of time, the tip of the tongue enters the nasal pharyngeal opening. This is not possible for most people unless the tongue is very long and flexible. In khechari mudra, concentration should be on the tip of the tongue or on lalana chakra, a small gland at the back of the throat which stores the nectar that constantly drips down from bindu to vishuddhi.

When khechari mudra is perfected, you will have the knowledge of taste, without the necessity of food. You can taste anything. Sometimes the taste is very bitter, but it does not matter. When you can taste the bitter and the sweet, the pungent and the bland, then it means that your mind has become capable of manifestation.


When mind is functioning in association with the senses, it is insensitive and incapable. Conversely, when the mind is independent of the senses and it is developed through the mandalas such as yantra and mantra, it becomes objective, a greater force, capable of movement and manifestation outside the body.

Experiments have shown, and there is ample evidence for us to believe, that mind is a force which can be transmitted. Mind is not merely subjective, it is as objective as any material energy. The mind can be manifested in the form of subtle waves and transmitted through the atmosphere.

Several years ago an experiment was conducted on a controlled basis with two individuals, one transmitting and the other receiving. At first, the distance between these two was not even one meter. When the transmission and reception was affected, the distance was increased. Eventually, the two individuals were at a distance of 1,600 miles and still in communication. This means that the transmitter was able to create a force, frequency and velocity in his mental area, and the receiver was able to create the fineness of mind to receive like a transistor. Finally, these two individuals were put in the sea in a Faraday cage, which even the radio and electromagnetic waves cannot penetrate. Surprisingly, the transmission and reception still took place.

This means that there is no barrier whatever through which the waves of the mind cannot travel. If we are able to train our minds, we are able to create amazing things. But for that, we have to do a very cruel thing. We have to break the friendship between the mind and the senses. The mind has five wives. Only by divorcing all five can it become powerful.

Creator of objects

This is the way you have to train the mind, and in the course of time, it becomes capable of versatile manifestations. The mind of the yogi is able to create a form, feel a touch, experience a sound, a taste, a smell, or move without the limbs. And that is why Patanjali says very explicitly that the mind of the yogi is a creator of objects. It is precisely for this reason that even in gyana yoga a form or a mantra is indispensable.

When the yoga practitioner has perfected the various mandalas, he is able to direct the energies of the mind in multiple manifestations. In the course of time, this yogi can become a very clear thinker, a good musician, artist or painter.

This is the tantric way of attainment. In tantra you create things in the mind, through the mind, by the mind. Tantrics consider the mind to be the basic stuff of creation and manifestation. In the tantric scriptures it is written that in the beginning the mind was formless. It had no name and form, no dimension; it was homogeneous and infinite. Suddenly a bindu emerged, then name and form, and thus the whole of creation came into existence. Therefore, the tantric philosophers say that the whole of creation is a miracle of the mind.