Yoni & Lingam

Sacred Symbols of the Feminine and Masculine

Yoni—Sacred Source

The word yoni means “holder,” “vagina,” “source,” or “womb.” According to Tantra Yoga, the yoni is the origin of life, the source of the Universe. It is associated with prakriti (the Universal Substance). In Hinduism, the yoni is a symbol of Shakti (the creative force that moves the Universe). The graphic symbol of the yoni is an inverted triangle—the three sides of which represent the gunas (the basic modalities of Nature).

The adoration of the yoni is part of left-hand Tantric sadhana (spiritual practice). For example, the Kaula text Yoni Tantra (3) associates different parts of the yoni with the Dasha Maha Vidya (Ten Great Wisdoms). The sense of adoration inspired by the yoni as a symbol of the feminine brings Tantric practitioners a profound reverence for women, ‘‘Women are divinity, women are life, women are truly jewels.’’ (Yoni Tantra, 7)

Yoni & Lingam—Creation and Regeneration

The masculine counterpart of the yoni is the lingam (phallus). Lingam and yoni are often represented together, symbolizing the eternal process of creation and regeneration as well as the indivisibility of masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti, Consciousness and action, immanence and transcendence. In Tantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga, yoni sthana (the perineal place) represents the pericarp of muladhara chakra, the womb in which kundalini shakti slumbers, entwined around a inward-facing lingam of light.

The Three Lingams

The root meaning of linga or lingam is “that in which all beings are absorbed.” The yogic tradition speaks of three lingams in the human being. Such lingams are not only subtle energy structures (important areas where kundalini energy can be triggered), but also places where Shiva Consciousness manifests. Here, yogis naturally transcend the identification with the body and mind.

The Three Lingams Are:

  1. Svayambhu Lingam: The “self-existent lingam,” “self-manifested lingam,” or “the lingam which is created by its own accord.” Svayambhu lingam is located at the level of muladhara chakra (in the area of the perineum). The kundalini serpent is wrapped around it three-and-a-half times.
  2. Bana Lingam: The “arrow lingam.” Bana lingam is located at the level of anahata chakra (the chest area). Bana lingam represents the inner guru, that lucid awareness or inner compass that inspires us in every step along the spiritual path. The presence of bana lingam in the fourth chakra reaffirms the truth expressed by Ramana Maharshi, “Bhakti leads to jnana and jnana leads to bhakti.” In anahata chakra, bana lingam, the symbol of consciousness, witnesses kundalini shakti, which here represents the power of devotion. Therefore, aspirants can reveal their essence-consciousness through ardent devotion.
  3. Itara Lingam: “Going beyond lingam.” Itara lingam is located at the level of ajna chakra (the middle of the forehead). This lingam is shining white. Ardhanarishvara, the presiding deity of ajna chakra, is represented standing in itara lingam. This lingam is the entrance to the para lingam, the supreme lingam of sahasrara.