Tantric sadhanas use a special symbolic. A part of this is the iconography of tantric deities.
== Vajrayana ==
A Yidam is a type of deity associated with Mahayana and with tantric Buddhism. Yidams are looked at as manifestations of Buddhahood or of enlightened mind or as visualized representative of the enlightened energy of Buddha-nature.
Yidam is sometimes translated by the terms "meditational deity" or "tutelary deity". They are widespread in Anuttarayoga-Tantra. During meditation (sādhana) practice, the practicioner identifies their own form, attributes and mind with those of a yidam for the purpose of spiritual transformation.
Examples of yidams include the meditation deities Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra, Hevajra, Yamantaka, and Vajrayogini, all of whom have a distinctive iconography, mandala, mantra, rites of invocation and practice. These forms are symbols of a specific sadhana.
In Vajrayana, the yidam is one of the three roots of the "inner" refuge formula, and it is also the key element of Deity yoga since the 'deity' in the yoga is the yidam.
== Ishta devata ==
The equivalent Yidam in the Hindu context is the Ishta-devata.
In Hinduism the term Ishta-Deva or Ishta Devata (Sanskrit: iṣṭa-deva(tā), literally "cherished divinity" from iṣṭa "desired, liked, cherished, preferred" and devatā "godhead, divinity, tutelary deity" or deva "deity") denotes a worshipper's favourite. The chosen form of the godhead symbolizes the goal of the specific sadhana. It is explained during the diksha(initiation).
It is especially significant to both the Smarta and Bhakti schools wherein practitioners choose to worship the form of God that inspires them.
Within Smartism, one of five chief deities are selected. The "worship of the five forms" (pañcāyatana pūjā) system, which was popularized by ninth-century philosopher Śaṅkarācārya among orthodox Brahmins of the Smārta tradition, invokes the five deities Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Devī, and Sūrya.
The Ishta Deva concept exists even in scools that focus on a singular concept of God, such as Vaishnavism. Special focus is given here to a particular form of Lord Vishnu or one of his Avatars (i.e. Krishna or Rama)
Within Shaktism, focus is similarly given to a particular form of the Goddess such as Parvati or Lakshmi. The Swaminarayan sect of Vaishnavism has a similar concept, but notably holds that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the same God.
== Weblinks ==
* Wiki about the Iṣṭa-devatā.