Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Gopala Yantra

Verse 18 of Swami Tripurari’s Gopala-tapani Upanisad. Read all sections here.

tan uvaca | yat tasya pitham hairanyasta-palasam ambujaµ tad-antaralike ’nalasra-yugaµ tadantarady-arnakhila-bijam krsnaya nama iti bijartham sa-brahmanam adhaya | ananga-gayatrim yathavad vyalikhya bhu-mandalam sula-vestitam krtvanga-vasudeva-rukminy-adi-kha-saktindradi-vasudevadi-parthadi-nidhy-avitam yajet | sandhyasu pratipattibhir upacarais tenasyakhilaµ bhavaty akhilam bhavatiti ||

Brahma replied: One should sacrifice (yajet) to the seat (pitham) [of the mantra] (i.e., the yantra), which should be made according to the following specifications: It should have the shape of a golden lotus flower with eight petals, within which should be a six-pointed star made of two inverted triangles. At the center of this star, the mantra krsnaya namah should be written, preceded by the foremost of all seeds (i.e. klim). One should also write the mantra that gives the root meaning of the seed (i.e., the eighteen-syllable mantra) and then in the proper place the kama-gayatri. One should then surround the entire field on which the yantra has been drawn with protective tridents, and so on. In the spaces between the petals, the various other expansions, deities, and energies are to be worshiped in the avarana-puja, starting with the bodily limbs, then followed by Vasudeva, Rukmini, the energies of the sky, Indra, his parents, Vasudeva, his friends like Arjuna, and so on. By making appropriate offerings signifying surrender [to this yantra] at the three junctures of the day, the mantra will bestow upon the worshiper boundless rewards; it will bestow boundless rewards.

This text gives a brief description of the Gopala yantra—the worshipable, mystical diagram corresponding to the mantra. It is recommended that one imprint this yantra on a gold or copper plate and consecrate it for worship. All the commentaries on this verse follow Visvesvara Tirtha, who has given a detailed description of how to establish this yantra.

The conviction that sounds have corresponding forms or that sound creates form is not exclusive to mystics. In the field of cymatics, the study of the interrelationship between energy and matter, it has been demonstrated that sounds can be seen. Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor and author of Cymatics: The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations, invented the tonoscope about which he says, “The tonoscope was constructed to make the human voice visible without any electronic apparatus as an intermediate. This yielded the amazing possibility of being able to see the physical image of the vowel, tone, or song a human being produced directly. Not only could you hear a melody—you could see it.” By precisely controlling the rate of vibration, which was not possible without the tonoscope, Jenny attained identical results in repeated experiments. Relative to the yantra and sacred sound, further experiments showed that when the syllable Om was intoned, the image produced was a circle filled with concentric squares and triangles, closely resembling a yantra.

A yantra corresponding with a particular sacred sound, such as the Gopala mantra, is thus a geometric diagram somewhat analogous to a blueprint that forms the basis of a plane of spiritual experience, in this case the realm of Gopala Krishna. This sacred realm has sometimes been described as a hexagonal figure. For example, in Sri Brahma-samhita 5.3 we find the following verse:

The center of the divine lotus is Krishna’s residence. It is presided over by purusa (Krishna) and prakrti (Radha) and mapped as a hexagonal mystic symbol in which the eighteen-syllable mantra is manifest in six divisions together with the kama-bija. The self-effulgent Krishna stands like a diamond in the lotus’s central pivot. He is the reservoir of rasa, the greatest bliss, the joy of love.

Before entering such a sacred realm, the spiritual practitioner becomes acquainted with its blueprint (yantra) or an approximation of that realm in the form of an altar on which the Deity of the mantra is installed. The spiritual practice of meditating on the yantra or altar of the Deity is what Brahma advocates in this verse in response to the spirit of the sages’ inquiry in verse 17.

In their inquiry, the sages use the word upasana, which implies arcana. As mentioned earlier, arcana is more closely related to vaidhi-bhakti than raganugabhakti. However, Rupa Gosvami recommends a refined standard of arcana intended to nourish one’s culture of ragabhakti.21 Indeed, Sri Rupa and his contemporaries established Deities of Radha-Krishna and engaged their followers in arcana. While they themselves were engaged in bhava-seva of the Deity and thus were involved in direct service unobstructed by the medium of ritual, they simultaneously established standards of ritualistic worship for beginners on the raga-marga.

When such devotees initiated into the chanting of the Gopala mantra engage in ritualistic temple worship of the Deity of Krishna (arca-vigraha), such worship serves as an aid to the internal visualization of Krishna lila. The ritual of arati, for example, is performed at specific times that roughly correspond with the daily lilas of Krishna in Vraja. Attending the early morning arati of the Radha-Krishna Deities, devotees offer various items and sing songs that correspond to the lilas of Radha and Krishna taking place simultaneously in the invisible world of Goloka. Although the lila itself is spontaneous and ever flowing on the waves of spiritual emotion (bhava), those in whose hearts this flow has not begun envision the arati ritual as a single frame—a still picture—in the entire motion picture of the lila. Jiva Gosvami has termed this still-picture meditation mantra-mayi upasana, which eventually gives way to svarasiki, or spontaneous visualization of the free flow of Krishna’s divine play. Thus arcana can serve as a medium to direct service. From arcana one can develop eligibility for bhajana, the culture of inner life in pursuit of entering the lila of Krishna. Here Brahma recommends this approach to the sages.

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9 Responses to Gopala-tapani Upanisad: Gopala Yantra

  1. Who did the Sanskrit translation on this literature that Swami is commenting on?
    Anybody know?

    • Jagadananda dasa did this translation. We aimed for a more literal translation. It was done in 1993-1994. The entire translation and commentary is available in print from Thanks for asking.

      • I will order the book soon. This is a great book that brings a very valuable light to the use of Yantra in devotional service.
        This book would be a great addition to the spiritual library of all Krishna bhaktas.
        Is there wholesale availability of this book by the case for retail distribution through other channels?

        • Yes, Gopala-tapani is available wholesale for retail distribution. Please email me: Thank you.

        • Great article.
          Could someone help me find a place from where I can buy Gopala yantra. (One of those copper or gold metal plate with etched yantra)

          I would really like to buy one and use in my meditations.

          Thanks in advance.

          -Rajiv, Delhi, India

  2. I love the translation, commentary and the yantra. Does the yantra use the term shring, or simply srim? If so, what’s the significance of the term shring?

  3. Comment for Rajiv in regards to the acquisition of a Gopala Sat Kona Yantra— You can easily find companies that produce pre-made
    Yantras and etch on gold or silver.— But best to make it yourself.
    The act of drawing and installing the mantra within its Yantra is the devotion that is required for the Yantra to be most useful.
    Any piece of birch bark or art paper can be used. The essential sadhana is the meditation on the form. The basic bhupura with the eight lotus petals– signifying the eight shakis and an upward and downward intersecting triangle. In the middle is a hexagram( six sided figure )and you chant the Gopala Mantra. Klim is Radha Krishna in the center.Then you go around on the six sides of the hexagram—start at 12 O clock– 1)Krishnaya 2)Govindaya 3)Gopijana 4)Vallabhaya 5)Svah 6)Ha This installs the spiritual presence of Radha Krishna and the Eight Shakis.

  4. Where can I get a high resolution image of the yantra above?

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