Yab-Yum (Tibetan literally, “father-mother”) is a common symbol in the Buddhist art of India, Nepal, and Tibet representing the male deity in sexual union with his female consort. Often the male deity is sitting in lotus position while his consort is sitting in his lap. The symbolism is associated with Anuttarayoga tantra.
The symbolism of union and sexual polarity is a central teaching in 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. In Buddhism the masculine form is active, representing the compassion and skillful means (upaya) that have to be developed in order to reach enlightenment. The feminine form is passive 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.