For the brothel in Amsterdam, see Yab Yum (brothel)

Yab-yum (Tibetan literally, "father-mother") is a common symbol in the Buddhist art of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet representing the male deity in sexual union with his female . Often the male deity is sitting in lotus position while his consort is sitting in his lap.

The symbolism is associated with Anuttarayoga tantra and, while there are various interpretations of the symbolism in the twilight language, the male figure is usually linked to compassion ('') and skillful means (up?ya-kau?alya''), while the female partner to 'insight' (praj˝?).

The symbolism of union and sexual polarity is a central teaching Tantric Buddhism, especially in Tibet. The union is realised by the practitioner as a mystical experience within one's own body.

Yab-yum is generally understood to represent the primordial (or mystical) union of wisdom and compassion. The masculine form is passive, representing the compassion and skillful means (upaya) that have to be developed in order to reach enlightenment. The feminine form is active and represents wisdom (prajna), which is also necessary to enlightenment. United, the figures symbolize the union necessary to overcome the veils of Maya, the false duality of object and subject.

Yab-yum may also be represented through the aniconic signification of yantra and mandala.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the same ideas are to be found concerning the bell and the dorje, which, like the yab-yum, symbolize the dualism that must be exceeded. The sacred Tantric practice leads to rapid development of mind by using the experience of bliss, non-duality, and ecstasy while in communion with one's consort.

In Hinduism the yab-yum has a slightly different meaning. There, the embraced posture represents the divine strength of creation. The Hindu concept is the one of a passive masculine deity embracing his spouse called shakti, which represents his activity or power.

These figures are frequently worked in the shape of statues or reliefs, or are painted on thangkas.


As a tantric sadhana, Yab-yum is akin to the K?mamudr? or "loveseal" (sometimes Karmamudr? or "actionseal") (T:las kyi phyag rgya). This is the tantric yoga involving a physical partner. Like all other yogas, it cannot be practiced without the basis of the inner heat yoga, tummo, of which k?mamudr? is an extension. This sadhana is subsumed within the Six Yogas.

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