Unit I.  Padma Symbols


1.  Creation
2.  Lines of creation
3.  The Buddhist system

Materials needed:  Journal

Imagine you are one of the ancient seers who has been meditating for your entire lifetime, and you now have some valuable insights into how life works and what its meanings are.  How would you convey that information to other people who are only beginning their search for the way to go Home?  And, make no mistake, many people would be coming to you for the teachings.  Well, perhaps you would do what Jesus did and tell stories that carried the essential information without being threatening.  In fact, this is what the seers and rishis did.  Here is the gist of the story:

Once upon a time there was a handsome young man who was all by himself and, when he thought about it, he was very lonely.  So he decided to create a companion.  To do so, he drew out of himself a bright, shining thread and wound it all about a section of his consciousness until he had a gorgeous young woman to keep him company.  But she was still a part of him, and he was still lonely.  However, soon she came to herself; and, when she did, she wanted her own domain and her freedom, so she moved out of his ring of consciousness and set up a mind and a life for herself.  Then she turned around and looked at him, and they fell in love.  Their union was ecstatic.   However, before long, they became aware that their lives lacked something.   She saw, in her mind, that what was needed was a child to complete their love.  So she set her intention to conceive a child.  She dreamed up all the characteristics this child would have, what it would look like and how it would act.  Then one day, she knew she was pregnant.  And before you could turn around, she gave birth to a child.  Her lover's name was Shiva and hers was Shakti.  The child’s name was Creation.  

This is a story everyone can understand, yet the particulars of how the world and all of us were created are embedded in it.

Sahasrara Padma This is my rendition of the Sahasrara Padma apart from the usual head with a thousand petals.  I have constructed it from the detailed description of its contents in Woodroffe’s (1973) book, The Serpent Power.  The multicolored petals around the circumference represent the thousand petals of the other model. Although the descriptions of the inner parts were fairly detailed, it was a challenging task because it felt like the model should be three-dimensional, and I could  not do that properly in such a     diagram.  So what I am going to do is to take each symbol separately and offer you a chart that shows how they should be read in sequence.  There are two charts.  The one in this unit refers to the creative process.  So, reading from the top down, you are looking at the differentiation process.  I am including a few key words to help you later when you refer to it.  Notice that there is an inner set of 12 petals that belongs to the Soma chakra though I have included it in the Candra-mandala.  The Soma chakra is actually not depicted but you can find a picture of it in your Johari (1987) book.  The Kameshvara chakra which is also in the Sahasrara padma can be seen in the Johari book.  These chakras were not focal points in the Woodroffe book which I was using as my pattern guide so are not included here.

Table l.  

  Lines of Creation
Candra Mandala
    Candra Mandala
 The One          

      Supreme Bindu
 Consciousness and
    the Power of
 Mind + Life or Prana
 Shiva and Shakti

 Impulse to create
 1st move to create
Kamakala Triangle
    Kamakala Triangle

 Brahma + Maya
AKaTha Trriangle
      AKaTha Triangle

 Creation of the        physical world
 Creating gunas
 Primary process
 Purusa -    Consciousness
 Prakrti - Matter
            Aim Bija
 Guru Mantra Aim

This table shows the progression of creation.  The One (Candra-mandala) divides Itself into two halves of a “seed” (Samani).  The two in union are blissful (Manipitha/Amakala), and soon we have an expansion of energy and the impulse to create (Mahanada).  This leads to an idea of what will occur or a pattern/archetype (Kamakala triangle) followed by the actual creation (A-Ka-Tha triangle).  The bija (Aim) is the sound which when chanted in focused devotion may create the chakra.  This is a rough concept of the progression.  Laya-krama uses the mythology of Shiva and Shakti to help us understand it in terms of human procreation.

Lines of Creation

First we should notice that we are now dealing with the causal realm of being.  This is as opposed to the physical, energetic or subtle realms.  This arena is beyond the intellectual mind and mental processes.  It is all about consciousness, so is beyond the physical and mental worlds. You could think of it as composed of higher frequency vibrations such that they cannot be expressed in the usual modes of communication.  It contains the faculties and processes that create things or events in the lower realms which may be why it is called the causal realm.  It appears to be orderly and lawful and follows the same patterns we see in manifested form.  In fact, we can consider the forms of this realm to be archetypes which are patterns for manifestation in the mind and in the world.

So let us begin with the Seven Causal Forms (Karana-rupa) from Laya Yoga.

Seven Causal Forms
Unmani.   Unmani is represented by the Candra-mandala, the first picture in your chart.  This would appear to be a full moon though some of the text (Woodroffe, 1978) sounds like it is the smallest crescent of the moon, i.e., the 17th digit. [Note that this tradition transcends logic, so we find lots of paradoxes and ambiguities.  Here the knower, the known and the knowing disappear into the known.  In other words, there is no cognition or distinction being made.  There is no time,  no body,  no deities and no form.  There is no mind.  There are no attachments, no emotions, no feelings, no sensations.  This seems to me to be the Great Void out of which everything arises. Perhaps modern physics is documenting the Void with its concept of the Zero Point Field (McTaggart, 2002) that we will visit later on.

If we imagine that everything in this line of creation is the power of consciousness (Shakti), then at this level, she would be dissolved in the One.  Unmani is the One and only one being.  We assume it is awake.

Note:  In Yoga, all of creation is said to be carried out by the power of consciousness as represented by Shakti, or Prakrti which is one of her other names.  She has the power to move and to create.  Shiva or Purusa is potential energy, but cannot move.  He represents the stable, static pole of “electromagnetism” that enables the vibrations or polarities of creation to manifest.  Positive and negative particles allow for duality, you will remember.  So, in what follows, you can imagine each new development to be a further manifestation of Shakti’s conscious, creative power.
                                                                                                                 Supreme Bindu
Samani.  The small unadorned circle is the cause of all causes.  It is the first division into two parts, the intermediate aspect of Shakti.  It appears to be only one, doesn’t it?  Well, it is space contained by a circumference.  We cannot apprehend space unless it is contained in some way.  So this figure, called the Supreme Bindu, represents Sada-siva (a combined form of Shiva and Shakti) as space and Shakti as the circumference that contrains him/her.  Remember: all form is represented by Shakti.

Here we have the seed of creation.  It is likened to a gram, a grain of wheat that has two inner sections.  In procreation, there is always a male form and a female form in union.  So this level of consciousness is said to be the union of Cit (consciousness) and Ananda (bliss).  This would be the first appearance of consciousness, and lo! it is associated with bliss.  The parallels to human experience are obvious.  It is probably the point at which life appears since another connection made here is between Mind and Prana (life force).  In our experience, this might be like the soft, sweet awareness of just awakening in the morning before the mind clicks in to inform us about the coming day.  Awake and aware, but not yet focused.
Vyapika Shakti.   Vyapi means “one who pervades.” So here we have the power of consciousness only briefly described as diffusive energy.  The word “diffusive” indicates that the energy is not yet focused.  We do not yet have vibration.  It is still all potential. In our chart, we find a slim, red, crescent moon within the Manipitha circle (Fig.7-4).  The crescent moon represents Nirvana-Shakti who is now self-conscious (the Being and conciousness
aspect of Satcitananda).  It is upside down and drips amrita or the nectar of bliss. 
As Nirvana-Shakti she appears in the Manipitha/-Amakalā circle on your chart. Ama means “free of” or “mindless,” and kalā  means “a part of.” So we have a being that is unfocused and mindless, a proper description of one who is in a state of ecstasy or samadhi.  Nirvana-Shakti is, then, a being who is deep in blissful meditation.  At this point, we now have Sat (Being) + Cit (consciousness) + Ananda (bliss), or Satcitananda.  This word is used throughout to mean “wholeness.”
Maha-nadaNada means “mystic sound,” and Maha means “Great.”  This is an energy expansion in consciousness.  It creates the first  vibration, the primal sound from which all creation emanates (like Logos).  It is the mystic sound of the Eternal, the first manifestation of the unmanifested Absolute, the first movement
to create.  It is also called Sabda Brahman or Omkara.  It can be heard internally as the Anahata sound.
                                                                                                                     Kamakala Triangle
Nada.  This is the next level of creation in the form of an internal image, called “seeing.”  The energy that has been building begins to vibrate consciousness, so it continues the action that started in Maha-nada.  It would correspond to the Kāma-kalā triangle in your chart.  Kama means “desire.” and kalā means a part or a ray.  So here we have Shakti seeing an image of the future and feeling a strong desire for its fruition.  It is rather like a woman who wishes to conceive a child or who is carrying one.  She both sees it in her mind and feels love for it though it is yet unborn.  This is still all going on in conscious-ness, not in actual form.

Shakti-Bodhini.  This is called a Supreme Tattva.  A tattva is an element or the essence of a thing.  Bodhi means “wisdom” and the -ini ending indicates it is feminine.  So we have the essence of wisdom.  It is attributeless (nirguna) meaning it is still not in physical form.  Here we find  nama-rupa, name and form, in their imaginal form.  Also time.  This is said to be Brahma + Maya.  Brahma is another name for the creator and maya means an illusion of separation or the form of the Formless.  It is called the illusive power of Brahman; the veiling and the projecting  power of the universe.  So, here we have the power to project an idea into reality.  This is not depicted on your chart but would be an intermediate process between the Kama-kalā triangle and the A-Ka-Tha triangle.

Second Bindu.  We have met this bindu before, in the sixth chakra.  It is the gate into the causal realm.  From the creative side, it is the point at which all of the ideation begins to take form.  It does this through the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas which have been in equilibrium up to this point and, therefore, not solid, physical reality.

This bindu is one of the three emanations of Shakti-Bodhini which are bindu, bija and nada.  Bindu is the Shiva aspect, Bija is the Shakti aspect as Bodhini, and nada is the union of the two.  We will see later on how these three emanations and the three gunas interact.
                                                                                                             AKaTha Triangle
A-Ka-Tha Triangle.  This is not one of the seven causal forms, but it is the result of them in the creative process.  It represents the three gunas out of equilibrium, and indicates how they interact to keep the creative-dissolution process going.  In this process, Nada, Nibodhika (fire that burns up all actions) and Shakti-Bodhini work together to form the universe.  There are three states
of nada: 1) bindu when sattva guna is dominant, 2) nibodhika when there is sound in the form of rajas guna, and 3)  avyakta-nada when tamas guna is dominant and is sound unmanifest. We will be spending an entire unit on this figure later on.

Stopping Stations Process

This is a return process that follows the lines of the seven causal forms.  We will deal with it in the next unit.

The Guru’s Footstool

This is a short five steps that appears rather like a coda in Woodroffe’s (1973) book at the end of the descriptions of the chakras.  He says there are five steps in the Brahma-randhra which is located at the crown of the head.  It contains some of the same symbols as the seven causal forms that are depicted elsewhere as a vertical hierarchy which makes interpretation a bit difficult.  We have to study the meaning of each symbol to get the gist, but do not count on it as being logical.

Hamsa-pithaHam and Sah represent the in- and outbreaths.  As such, hamsa is a mantra that can be carried just by attending to our breathing.  It is depicted as the twelve petals on the Candra-mandala:  Ham and Sah times six.

A-Ka-Tha Triangle.  This is called the guru triangle and/or the abode of Shakti.  Here we find the guru bija: Aim.  This is seen as a Sanskrit letter at the end of your chart and in the center of the mandala.

Maņipitha.  Here the maņipitha is called an altar and is associated with bliss as we have seen.  If we look at the meaning of the Sanskrit syllables, we find that maņi  means “a gem” or “a jewel,” and pitha means “the abode of.”  Govinda says that it means “jewel of the mind.”  That it is regarded as an altar invites reflection.  The Citrini nadi ends here.

Visarga.  This is called the Guru’s Paduka/feet.  It represents prana + mind and is related to two of the sanskrit letters in the top two corners of the A-Ka-Tha triangle: Ksa and La.  These two letters stand for Shakti while the one in the bottom tip (Ham) stands for Shiva.  So we are led to believe that prana and mind are the two feet of the guru.  Incidently Prana is another word for life.  So life and mind support the teacher.  And the teacher’s feet are on the altar.  Is the guru Shakti?  Or is it your inner guidance?

Bindu.  This is the Supreme Bindu,  Maha-pralaya, and it means Oneness.  Maha-pralaya means the great complete merging or dissolution when the cosmos merges into the Ultimate Substratum of Absolute Reality.  

Other versions and placements of symbols exist in this system some within the same book.  So there is not universal agreement on this line of development.  However, it is interesting to compare with other models of creation and dissolution.


This is a line of creation that is carried by sound or nada.  It will be described in the unit on Maha-nada.  But just to know it exists.

Nine Manifestations of Devi

Devatas are male deities and devis are female deities.  So here we are looking at the nine manifestations of Shakti – just an order of manifestation for comparison sake.

1.  Kāla group – Time.  Note that the ā has a different placement in the word “kāla” than it does in #8, so the meaning is different.
2.  Kula group – Form
3.  Nama group – Name
4.  Jnana group – Cit, Intelligence (Note that here Cit means intelligence rather than consciousness.)
5.  Citta – Mind stuff, unconscious mind
6.  Nada – Sound (desire and stages of sound)
7.  Bindu (spiritual germ) – Psychic essence
8.  Kalā – Keynotes (the 50 letters)
9.  Jiva – souls in bondage of matter

This concludes our summary of the symbols used in this mandala of Sahasrara Padma.

The Buddhist System

One of the great Tibetan Buddhist mantras is Om, Mani, Padme, Hum which is loosely translated as “the jewel in the heart of the lotus.”  Lama Anagarika Govinda (1982) has given us a valuable link between Yoga and Buddhism because he explains the tradition of Tantric Buddhism in Yogic terms including descriptions of the chakras.  He also clearly defines the differences between Kundalini Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism.  One of the most significant of these is the focus on Wisdom (Prajna) as the important figure in creation instead of Shakti.  The masculine counterpart is Compassion or Love (Upaya).  Govinda holds the power of mantra in as great esteem as the Yogis and uses the mantra as a means of sectioning his book.


Govinda (1982)devotes a whole chapter of the book to mantra saying that we need a harmonious cooperation of form, feeling and idea to arouse the latent psychic forces.  He says that Om represents the superconscious state of mind, and that the Universal Mind is Consciousness.  Om is the primordial sound of Reality.  It is the unity with the Infinite that liberates us from egohood and represents the ascent toward universality.  I am That. Universal Mind and the power of consciousness.

Mani is undifferentiated, primordial form, the endpoint of dissolution.  All form dissolves into it.  It is the original substance, the result of previous form-creating states of consciousness.  Mani symbolizes the three jewels: Buddha, the enlightened one; Dharma, truth and realization toward enlightenment; and Sangha, community of seekers.  It is associated with Bodhicitta, enlightened consciousness and the duality/unity paradox.  It transforms the finite into the Infinite when the universe becomes conscious in the individual.  The finite and the Infinite are two sides of the same thing.  Unity, therefore, is the knowledge of non-duality and experience of the equality of all beings.

Padma represents the synthesis of dualities.  It is Wisdom realized in life, the enlightenment consciousness of all conscious life and the human mind.  It is direct awareness of Reality, Knowledge and Power (Prajna and Upaya).  It includes life forces, the union of masculine and feminine principles, inner visions as a creative reality in the differentiation or crystallization of creation and dissolution.  It is a seed principle.  Feeling and knowing.

Hūm symbolizes the integration of humanity with the cosmos.  It represents the descent or return from an experience of universality to the human plane while retaining the consciousness of completeness.  It is the Infinite in the finite.  It is a great mirror that reflects both the void/emptiness and form.  It is realization of the universality of our higher consciousness, self-sacrifice and psychic vibrations.  “H” refers to the essence of life, breath.  “Ū” is silence.  “M” (pronounced “ɳ”) indicates unity, the Absolute, Void, non-duality.  Hūm is pronounced “hoong.”

Dhyani Buddhas

Each syllable of the mantra embodies a Dhyani Buddha who is a form of Wisdom that relates to a portion of the spiritual journey.  These entities represent differentiations of the principles of enlightenment in the form of five transformed constituents of consciousness.  Here we have five rays of power that converge in higher unity.  Dhyani Buddhas are symbols of a reality that goes beyond all form but simultaneously becomes conscious through form.  They are described as a bridge between sense perception and timeless knowledge through purification of present existence.  As such, they transform the skandhas into higher levels of consciousness.  It is important to try to understand this concept.  These entities support aspects of our consciousness that are aspiring to higher levels of beingness.  We could compare them to the powers of Shakti.  They embody qualities of the Infinite or Divine One that can manifest in human beings whose  practices have purified the individual.

Each Dyhani Buddha is associated with a realm of existence, a skandha, a color, an element and with one of the causal planes.  Let us begin at the top and work our way down.

Vairocana.  This buddha is associated with the Om (A-U-M) mantra.  It has the property of undifferentiated, cosmic consciousness through the Wisdom of Universal Law or   The Wheel of Law.  It is the radiating One, the Illuminator.  It is the divine mother of Infinite Space, the Great Void.  It is sometimes called Bodhicitta.  It is blue and its element is space or ether.  It transforms the intuitive mind that we know as buddhi and that Govinda calls manas (not to be confused with the Yogic manas) into the highest level of consciousness.  It is the integration, source or goal of the whole spiritual journey.  The poison it eliminates is ignorance or illusion.

Amogasiddhi is the buddha of All-Accomplishing Wisdom,  Realization, Fulfillment and Transformation.  This means knowledge of the accomplishment of what ought to be done.  This is the Life Force.  It has a quality of karma-free activity, fearlessness, movement, life,  breath, spiritual action, selflessness and will.  It transforms the skandha of volition into fulfillment and realization of the Bodhisattva path.  It is the realized person who returns to the world to give service.  Its color is green and the element is air.  It is associated with the mantra Ah.  The poison it eliminates is envy.

Amitabha is the buddha of Distinguishing Wisdom and is associated with the padma part of the mantra.  This refers to the intuitive consciousness of inner, creative vision in which special and general characteristics of all things become clearly visible, clear vision.  It is like a mental image, but on a higher level.  It transforms sense perceptions and intellect into prajna as direct perception of spiritual vision.  The focus here is knowing and seeing.  Amitabha is active as the Giver of Infinite Life.  One of his forms is Amitayus – the Lord of Boundless Life. The color is red and the element is fire referring to light and life.  The symbol is the lotus which conveys the idea of purity in groundedness.  The poison it eliminates is greed and craving.  Mantra is Hrih.

Aksobhya is associated with Hūm and is the Great Mirror Wisdom that reflects both ways: into the Infinite One or out into the world.  It is associated with the first differentiation of form, so it looks at both form and emptiness simultaneously.  It transforms forms and the sense perceptions into alaya consciousness, the basic universal consciousness.  Its color is white and its element is water whose surface is mirrorlike when it is still.  The poison it eliminates is hatred and aggression.

There are two other Dyhani Buddhas but their associations with mantra differ.  

Ratnasambhava comes next as a personification of Mani.  This is the Wisdom of Equality and unity of all beings.  It is the force of equinimity, nourishment and abundance. This buddha is yellow and the element is earth.  Ratnasambhava is associated with the feeling skandha and transforms it into maitri and karuna/compassion.  We have here the three jewels of Buddhism as described above.  The feeling tone is unification and oneness on the plane of life itself.  The poison it eliminates is pride. Mantra is Tram.

Avalokitesvara is the Wisdom of Active Compassion and is associated with the whole mantra:  Om Mani Padme Hum.  This is the aspect of the Infinite One who comes down to earth to help all beings.  Its method is to transform consciousness into service in the bodhisattva way.  Its focus is compassion and love.

I have made an arbitrary assignment of each of these buddhas to one of the parts of the Sahasrara Padma based on the similarity of functions.  However, they can best be viewed as petals around a center (Vairocana) in a mandala.  They are as follows:

Candra-mandala  -  Vairocana
Samani - Amogasiddhi  
Manipitha  -  Amitabha
Mahanada  -  Aksobhya
Kamakala triangle  - Ratnasambhava
A-Ka-Tha triangle  -  Avalokitesvara

If you have access to a painting of the Wheel of Life, you will find one of these buddhas in each of the realms of human existence.  At Naropa University, there is a set of Maitri rooms each of which is a different color corresponding to each of the buddhas’ colors.  Each room is an eight-foot cube and the entire room, including the rug, is the particular color that describes the buddha family.  There are windows of different shapes through which the same colored light comes.  The practice is to take a designated posture in the room and hold it for 45 minutes to allow the color to work on you.  Over enough time, you will experience every aspect of the corresponding realm of existence from the most psychotic to the superconscious.  When you exit the room, there is a noticeable heightening of perception as if the veils had been lifted allowing direct perception of things as they really are.  It is a very powerful experience.

We have seen some general patterns of universal creation based on higher levels of consciousness and the differentiation process.  And we have examined some of the Buddhist ideas about mantra and the Dyhani Buddhas.

In Unit II. Return, we will see how the reverse process of dissolution follows the same general pattern but with different actions and activities.


Govinda, L. A.  (1982).  Foundations of Tibetan mysticism: According to the esoteric teachings of the Great Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.  York Beach,       ME: Samuel Weiser.

Johari, H. (1987).  Chakras: Energy centers of transformation.  Rochester, VT:       Destiny Books.

McTaggart, Lynne.  (2002).  The Field: The quest for the secret force of  the universe.  New York: Harper Perennial.

Woodroffe, Sir J.  (1973).  The serpent power: Being the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana and Paduka-Pancaka.  Madras: Ganesh & Co.

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