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The traditional Tibetan Buddhist Yab-yum (literally, “father-mother”) image of two deities in an overtly sexual posture is meant to be shocking, but not in the way one might suppose. A yab-yum icon is a meditational tool, one of many seemingly contradictory images of sex or death used to achieve the insight that leads to spiritual liberation. There are several types of yab-yum, each depicting a tantric deity (compassion) in sexual union with his consort. (wisdom), each with its own layers of additional symbolism. Like the Hindu Shatkona or the Taoist yin-yang, the image represents dual forces in union, which united, create a transcendent unity. Despite appearances, the yab-yum is not related in any way to sexual practices.

A typical rendering of the Yab-Yum; antique Tibetan Thangka

Related Symbols:

HexagramYin yangYab-Yum

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