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Sacred Symbols Painting Workshop with Sean Kramer



Sean Dominic Kramer is a teacher, artist and former monk. He has taught courses in fairytales, art history, world religions, icon painting and contemplative art.

CLASS DETAILS: Beginning with meditation, in the morning each participant will design a yantra, based on principles of sacred geometry.  Using the basic forms of square, circle and lotus petals, triangle and point, each student will design his or her own unique yantra.
In the afternoon the yantras will be painted, using paints hand-made from natural earths and gem stones.

"Yantra" means 'energy-tool'.  The Sanskrit ending '-tra' means instrument or tool--'mantra' means mind ('man') tool; 'yantra' means 'yan' (energy) tool.  A yantra is a kind of mandala whose lines and patterns and colors are tools for organizing and expressing our own energy aligned with the energy of the cosmos and the divine.

The yantras will be made on plastered wood panels, using egg-tempera paint, a technique known as fresco secco.

Sean also painted this large Sri Yantra on the Shilo Farm Barn as an offering to the visual landscape of Shilo Farm.


1. Inspiration

The inspiration came to Jonas-Zev and Amy-Lyn Amberger to have a Sri Yantra painted on the door of their barn.  They have already made their barn, and their whole property, at Shilo Farm into a sacred space.  The barn houses a beautiful common area for meditation, yoga, ping-pong, and a variety of classes.  Shilo Farm is also a place for visitors to stay in peaceful rooms for bnb getaways or retreat.  Jonas and Amy-Lyn are transforming their land into a place for the surrounding community and guests from afar to be with nature and fellow humans in creative and healing and loving ways.  So they thought that the ancient symbolism of the Sri Yantra would be a suitable portal for those entering this place of blessed energy.

2. Materials

They shared with me their vision and asked if I would like to realize this image in paint, which I was grateful and enthusiastic to do.  I suggested that we use natural earths to make the paints.  We used the four basic earths used by the Egyptians and others: yellow ochre, red ochre, a white (a very pale ochre), and a dark umber.  These symbolize the four directions and four elements, thus including and lifting the elements of our material substrate into a symbol that expresses the material world’s nature and purpose: to manifest the unmanifest Source.

  3. Process

The painting took three days. Day one was laying down the reddish base, produced from multiple transparent layers of all four of our pigments.  This base layer represents the energetic creative chaos of matter, as well as the meditative and prayerful state of spaciousness.  For this reason multiple transparent layers were used—a kind of controlled chaos.  The transparent layers over one another convey a feeling of atmospheric receptive space.  Red ochre is a color of the earth, ground, body—so our preparatory state of receptive consciousness is rooted in and approached through our bodies.

The design was drawn with chalk on the second day.  It was all done geometrically, with strings and straight edges and the intersecting points of lines.  On the third day the triangles and petals were painted, again with multiple layers.

II. Meaning

1. Etymology

The Sri Yantra is an ancient symbol arising in India.  “Sri” means great.  “Yantra” means “energy tool”, or instrument for guiding energy.  The “-tra” ending signifies a tool or instrument—so a “mantra” is a “mind tool”; and a “yantra” is an “energy tool”.  Mantras, or mind tools, are usually words or sounds that can be used to focus and guide our thoughts.  Yantras are usually geometric patterns of lines and circles used to organize and guide energies; and by gazing and meditating on them we can organize our energies and consciousness into aligned states.  So the “Sri Yantra” is the great energy tool.

2. An Angelic Symbol

I believe that the Sri Yantra is a symbol given to humans by higher, wise and loving Intelligences.  A ‘higher’ intelligence is a metaphor.  It does not mean above in space.  It is based on our experience of vision. From a higher place one can see more, and further, in one view.  And the person who has a higher and vaster vision is able to help and guide others who vision is more limited.  So a person who climbs up a tree can see more and can guide those who are lower down in the forest.  ‘Higher Intelligences’ (Angels, spirit guides) are beings whose vision is much vaster that ours.  They see more than we do, and they are able to include much more in one thought or symbol than we are.  So when they communicate with us, and share a symbol of their vast and more universal vision, we meditate on it and thus share in their higher intuition by doing so.  But all the meaning which they are able to put into such a synthetic image, we must unpack slowly and more discursively, and gradually articulate in multiple words.

3. The Parts of the Symbol

The Sri Yantra is an image of the vision that the higher Intelligences have of the entire Universe: it is a vision of the whole Universe proceeding from and returning to its formless Source both transcendent and immanent.  That Source is represented in the Sri Yantra by the point in the center. All the other parts of the yantra are shapes/forms.  But the point is without size or shape, yet is the center and origin of all shapes or forms.

The triangles are what first manifests from the Source.  These are the higher Intelligences, the worlds of pure spirits, the Angels.  The triangles are also a multiplication of the two opposite upward and downward triangles: in order that the manifold universe emanate from the One, there must first be twoness, distinction.  So it is a shared insight of many, and maybe all, cultures that the first principles are some kind of opposites.

The circles of flower petals symbolize the realm of soul, breath, life, imagination, the interface between pure spirit and matter, the opening of the manifestation of spirit into the more visible creation.  The square around the triangles and circles (on the Shilo Farm door it is the square boundary of the door itself), is the realm of matter, physicality, the body.

The order of return follows the reverse path: the body and the outer senses are the door, the portals.  Through them, and with the breath, we enter into and work with the soul and imagination and emotions.  Having ordered and quieted the body and the soul, we enter the spirit and level of first principles.  At the center is the alpha and omega, beginning and end, unifying Source and desired Goal of the whole Universe.

Sean Kramer

Earlier Event: December 14
Later Event: December 16
Opening to Love: A Day LONG IMMERSION