The Tantric Spiritual Art of Nadean O'Brien

Mandalas by Rampal







"Tantra Nagaraj"
Temple of the Serpent Spirits

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(acrylic on canvas 36" x 36" embellished with crystals and gold leaf)

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Naga Gods and Goddesses

Mystical serpent beings inhabiting oceans, lakes and rivers, the Naga deities in their various forms have played an important part in most religions and mythologies worldwide as well as in folklore and fairytales. They are known for their miraculous powers, vast esoteric knowledge and a capricious character that can change from helpful to malevolent seemingly on a whim. As keepers of the treasures of the water elements, they often appear with a magical gem in their hands or jewels in their crowns. Their head auras are often composed of radiant serpents.

Possession of this crystallized wisdom-power exposes the Nagas to many archetypal enemies, including Garuda (half man-half bird), who would like to steal this immense source of power. Naga versus Garuda (or snake versus archangel) is the essential force or polarity that creates the world of existence from vastly different perspectives in both East and West. 

Psychologically, Naga energy can be associated with libido, Kundalini or life force. The whole process of enlightenment is determined by how wisely one handles his or her own Naga energy. The practice of Tantric Kriya Yoga is devoted to the safe awakening and use of Kundalini for higher consciousness. In Tantric Buddhism quite beyond any folkloristic beliefs, there are privileged esoteric levels for the advanced Tantrician. It is stated that the historical Buddha Shakyamuni took rebirth in the Naga realm just before his last incarnation on earth, and while sitting under the Bodhi Tree in India was magically protected by a Naga.


The Symbolism of Tibetan Tantric Buddhist Art

The father mother symbolism ("yab yum") is not an example of erotic art but is considered by the devout to be a manifestation of the Buddha's highest spiritual essence. It is concrete evidence presented in a most striking and graphic manner of the existence of enlightenment, denoting the highest stage of yoga in which there is no polarity, no discrimination and the truth is indivisible. There in meditation in the presence of this artistic revelation, one can discover infinite bliss and ultimate self-realization.

The feminine symbol (mother) represents transcendent wisdom, the direct awareness of reality as experienced and taught by the Buddha. The masculine (father) represents compassion for all beings which is the natural expression of such wisdom. Their sacred union is believed to generate waves of bliss and harmony, turning the world into a mandala and showering a rain of nectar that satisfies the spiritual hunger in the hearts of humankind.

Today, statues and paintings of "yab yums" are sought by collectors and boldly displayed in museums, while traditionally in Tibet they were created and meant to be seen by only the initiated. The arcane rituals associated with their display were also not for public consumption. Modern depth psychology has recognized that this imagery represents the deepest archetypes of the unconscious, integrating powerful instinctual energies of life into a consciously sublimated and exalted state. As a result, we are fascinated by this beautiful art form, wanting to possess it whether we are Tantric Buddhists or not!

On a final note, Tantra itself is derived from the verbal root tan, meaning to weave. Many things are interwoven on the Tantric path, including the lives of men and women. The Buddha couples of Tantric iconography celebrate the profound harmony of the sexes and the creation of partnerships devoted to the realization of the ultimate truth.

Om Mani Padme Hum

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