Shapes of Consciousness: Gateway to Sacred Art

Friends, after three years of work, research, and testing, I’m thrilled to announce the launch my first course at Living Sanskrit — Shapes of Consciousness: Gateway to Sacred Art.

This class is for everyone interested in spiritual growth, art, yoga, meditation, yantras, and maṇḍalas the dharma traditions. You don’t need to be a talented or skilled artist and you won’t be evaluated based on how the artworks look. This course is about your inner growth.

We’re going to learn about sacred geometry, ritual conduct, and how to expand awareness through self-observation. There will be practices for expanding wonder, curiosity, generosity, and self-transformation. We will learn how and why the visual arts are considered such an important tool to support spiritual growth across cultures. This course is deeply informed by the Vijñāna Bhairava, Yoginī Hṛdaya, the teachings of my Tibetan, Newar, and Rajasthani art instructors, and from twenty years of practicing and teaching the arts.

Schedule of 10-Week Online Courses

Please note that these courses are identical in content, but offered at different times to accommodate our global audience. Each individual class is expected to last 90 minutes.

Wednesdays, 6:30pm PDT (1:30 GMT), starting August 22, 2018


Sundays, 11:00am PDT (18:00 GMT), starting September 15, 2018


Sundays, 11:00am PDT (18:00 GMT), starting February 10, 2019


What is sacred art?

Sacred art is not simply a decorative diversion or illustration of myth, it’s not just a relaxing pastime or craft; it is a fundamental pillar of the entire dharma tradition. Our core faculty at Living Sanskrit agree it is necessary to have some basic understanding of sacred art to do deity yoga and to grasp the culture from which yoga sprang. This entry-level course will be required for anyone taking advanced Sanskrit classes through our school, as well as classes drawing the figurative forms of deities.

Why do yoga practitioners and language students need to study art? Mantra may be one of the main ‘doorways’ through which people enter serious spiritual practice, but images of deities (which includes yantras and maṇḍalas) are probably the first way most people encounter Hindu or Buddhist dharma. It is said that a mantra is the ‘mind’ of the deity, while yantra is the body. Understanding the wisdom encoded in these icons unlocks profound insights into the nature of deity yoga and ritual practice.

Yantras are visual meditation tools, usually composed of geometric shapes and filled with written prayers of invocation. Geometric shapes are to art what letters are to language: the basic building-blocks of visual communication. The images of deities, when made properly, are built upon a set of proportions and geometries designed to transmit the deity’s blessing-power; they are yantras disguised by the figurative form. When deciphered, they indicate what you are invoking and your likely experience of that power.

Who should take this course? Will it take a lot of time?

This course is for anyone interested in yoga, deities, art, or dharmic culture. The 90-minute classes will be live, but they will also be recorded and students will have access and freedom to complete the course for up to a year. You’ll need a computer with a webcam, some paper, a pencil, a compass, and a ruler. That’s it.

Each week you’ll be given a simple home practice to integrate and apply the principles we’ve learned into your life, as well as a few readings and review questions. Assignments should take ess than half an hour to complete.