The elements of the Sri-Yantra are: (1) a square outer frame, composed of straight lines broken according to a regular pattern, (2) an inclosed arrangement of concentric circles and stylized lotus petals, (3) a concentric composition of nine interpenetrating triangles. The square framework is called, in the Tantric tradition, "shivered" (sisirita) i.e., trembling, as if with a chill. This curious expression does not refer to its symbolic meaning, but to its shape. What the "shivered" frame represents is a square sanctuary with four doors opening out to the four quarters, a landing before each entrance, and a low flight of steps leading up from the ground to the raised floor of the sanctuary. This sanctuary is the seat (pitha) of the divinity, and should be thought of as the center of the heart of the devotee. Herein resides his own particular "Chosen Deity" (ishta devata), who, finally, is to be understood as a symbolization of the divine nucleus of his own existence, his eternal, higher Self.
There are nine triangles in the figure, interpenetrating, five pointing downward, four upward. The downward-pointing triangle is a female symbol corresponding to the yoni; it is called "shakti." The upward-pointing triangle is the male, the lingam, and is called "the fire" (vahni). Vahni is synonymous with tejas, "fiery energy, solar heat, kingly splendor, the threatening fervor of the ascetic, the bodily heat of the warm-blooded organism, the life-force condensed in the male seed." Thus the vahni-triangles denote the male essence of the god, and the shakti-triangles the female essence of his consort.
The nine signify the primitive revelation of the Absolute as it differentiates into graduated polarities, the creative activity of the cosmic male and female energies on successive stages of evolution. Most important is the fact that the Absolute itself, the Really Real is not represented. It cannot be represented: for it is beyond form and space. The Absolute is to be visualized by the concentrating devotee as a vanishing point or dot, "the drop" (bindu), amidst the interplay of all the triangles. This Bindu is the power-point, the elusive center from which the entire diagram expands. And now, whereas four of the shakti-triangles link with their represented vahni-counterparts, the fifth, or innermost, remains over, to unite with the invisible Point. This is the Primal Shakti, consort of the transcendental Shiva, creative energy as a female manifestation of the pure, quiescent Brahman, the Great Original.
Like the Shiva-Shakti images, the Shri Yantra symbolizes Life, both universal life and individual, as an incessant interaction of co-operating opposites. The five female triangles expanding from above and the four male emerging from below, signify the continuous process of creation. Like an uninterrupted series of lightning flashes they delve into each other and mirror the eternal procreative moment-a dynamism nevertheless exhibited in a static pattern of geometrical repose. This is the archetypal Hieros Gamos, or "Mystical Marriage," represented in an abstract diagram-a key to the secret of the phenomenal mirage of the world.