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Tantric Scriptures – Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
when we now speak of the various forms of kumbhaka you should not try to understand it all at once in the first few sentences. Everything that follows is so important that some details have to be made clear first. So do not let your thoughts race away; whatever is not explained now will be discussed later on.
(44) There are eight kumbhakas: suryabhedana, ufjayi, sit^ari, sitali, bhastrika, bhramari, murccha and plavini.
(45) At the end of inhalation [puraka] one should do jalan-dhara band ha; and at the end of kumbhaka and the beginning of exhalation [recaka] uddiyana bandha should be done,
How does this work out in practice? The yogi sits cross-legged on the floor, hands on knees, and inhales deeply. Then he holds his breath, with chin pressed against the chest, abdomen withdrawn. This is jalandhara-bandha.
As soon as his breath is short he raises the head and exhales as deeply as possible. When he has reached the limit he again holds his breath, straightens up the body and draws in the abdomen, whereby a pressure is created on the stomach area, which is increased when he again presses the chin against the chest. The first part of the practice (inhalation and jalandhara bandha) concerns the upper half of the spinal column, the “moon”; the second part (exhalation and uddiyana bandha) involves the “sun” in the center of the body (solar plexus). But something else is added, as the next sutra tells us:
(46) When at the same time the throat is contracted and mula-bandha practiced [i.e., the sphincter of the anus is contracted], breath flows through the sushumna, driven by [the pressure exerted by] the navel region [at the time of exhalation].
Anyone who tries this practice and thinks he has succeeded in guiding the breath through the sushumna had better remember the purity of the nadis; with the second attempt, he should become aware how tense he is during this practice. The purpose of the asanas as taught in Part One is to train the body so that no unnecessary exertion will deplete the extra prana supply that has been acquired. It is not sufficient to install the wiring and have proper outlets; it is also necessary to have current in proper voltage and amperes. Otherwise the result is either no light at all or a short circuit. We must be especially careful to avoid the latter; for human “fuses” cannot be replaced.
(47) By contracting the anus [to force apana] upward and forcing prana down from the throat, the yogi becomes a youth of 16 years and is forever free from old age.
Or, staling it more modestly: he who succeeds in uniting the two main currents in the body will thereby eliminate the causes of premature old age. The most significant of these causes is the lack of utilization of the body’s natural regenerative powers. Here, two limited main currents arecombined that complement each other; together they accomplish what they cannot do singly. Prana and apana are “knotted” in the navel area (nabhi
granthi), creating an aggregate that gives youthful strength to the aging yogi. This is the first step in raja yoga.
Once again, the main part of pranayama is kumbhaka, and this can be performed in various ways.
(48) Sitting down comfortably in a good asana, the yogi should inhale through the right nostril.
(49) [Then] he should do kumbhaka until he feels that the whole body from head to toes is suffused by prana; then he should slowly exhale through the left nostril*
(50) This suryabheda kumbhaka should be practiced again and again for it cleanses the brain [forebrain and sinusces], destroys intestinal worms and all the diseases that arise from an overabundance of vata [wind].
This is the first and the most commonly practiced of the eight varieties of kumbhaka. We should also note that before we begin this practice we exhale deeply.
(51-52) With closed mouth inhale deeply until the breath fills all the space between the throat and the heart (i-e„ to the tips of the lungs). This creates a noise. Do kumbhaka and exhale through the left nostril. This removes phlegm in the throat and enhances the digestive power of the body. This is ujjayi and can be practiced walking or sitting, it keeps diseases away from the individual organs and the nadis, especially diseases that are due to kapha.
*”This is to be done alternately with both nostrils, drawing in through the one and expelling through the other.” Pancham Sinh, Hatha Yoga Pradipika (translation with commentary) (Allahabad, 1915), p. 21
The noise mentioned is a special characteristic of this kumbhaka. It occurs in a perfectly natural way. We know that with straight body we should exhale deeply before each kumbhaka. During the short pause made after exhalation, when the abdominal wall is drawn inward, the glottis invariably closes. Inhalation through both nostrils simultaneously will cause the glottis to open abruptly; thus ensues the noise.
This kumbhaka seems to deal with the body onesidedly, for while we inhale through both nostrils at the same time, we exhale through the left only. This, of course, makes no difference to the lungs, but all the more to the nadis, and here the heart is especially involved. And that the heart is heavily influenced we can ascertain after the first round. Ujjayi kumbhaka should be practiced only by those whose heart is completely sound; otherwise it can lead to complications.
What is the special benefit of this kumbhaka, apart from its therapeutic influence on kapha? The heart rhythm does not function by itself. It is the pacemaker of all other bodily functions. In yoga it is sometimes necessary to change certain rhythms, and this is one of a number of methods. The organic rhythm is much too important a function to be subjected to willful experiments. The guru knows its meaning and purpose.
(53-55) With tongue protruding a little between the lips, draw in the breath through the mouth with a hissing sound [after kumbhaka]: exhale through the nose. This is sitkari. By repeating this, the yogi becomes beautiful as a god. All women admire him; he is in control of his actions and feels no hunger, thirst, or fatigue. He gains physical strength and becomes master of yoga, free from all dangers.
Obviously an enticing practice, and not even a dangerous one if one does not overdo it, as is so often the case with enticements.
We should, however, not be disappointed if we do not activate a love charm, but simply fan the pitta (the “fire of life”) to heightened activity. We have already seen what benefits this brings in its wake, and here we should not expect anything further.
(56-57) With tongue protruding stilt further, inhate. Then follows kumbhaka and exhalation through the nose. This kum-bhalka, called sitali, removes illnesses of the spleen, fever, gall bladder trouble, hunger, thirst, and the effects of poison, as for example snake bites.
Here again the therapeutic purpose concerns pitta, but the practice has also another purpose. He who succeeds in inhaling and exhaling deeply with protruding tongue without having his stomach turn will feel that the breath follows an unusual path, for it gets into the stomach. And what happens there?
We remember that the countercurrent to prana is apana in the abdomen. The alert reader will long have wondered: If we must do so much breathing to acquire the extra prana how do we get the corresponding quantity of apana for the abdomen? For what accumulated there has long been washed out by vasti. Sitali is the practice that corrects this deficiency.
(58-60) Place the feet on the [opposite] thighs. This is padma-sana and removes all diseases. Having assumed this posture, exhale with closed mouth until a pressure is felt on the heart, the throat and the head. Then one draws in the breath with a hissing sound until it touches the heart. During all this time head and body are kept straight.
(61-62) Again inhale and exhale as indicated, again and again, as a blacksmith worlds his bellows, in this way the prana is kept ill constant circulation in the body. When tired exhale through the right nostril. This is bhastrika kumbhaka.
There aretwo variations of the same pranayama, one slow, the other fast. It becomes most effective when both kinds are combined in one sitting. With too intensive practice, colored flames dance before the eyes and a blackout is imminent.
In this practice of pranayama the body becomes saturated with prana–in fact, it becomes so “overloaded” that even the inexperienced student can feel the prana. After about five rounds of the “bellows,” hold the breath. What then becomes palpable in the fingertips is prana. After a little practice, this current on one’s skin can even be felt by another person.
(63-64) When the breath flows through the body, close the nose with thumb, ring finger [and little finger --Trans.]. Having then performed kumbhaka according to the rule, exhale through the left nostril. This removes illnesses caused by an overabundance of pitta, kapha, and vata, and stimulates the gastric fire of the body.
Through this bhastrika kumbhaka alone it is not possible for the breath to penetrate the whole body. However, when we combine the protruding-tongue practice described above with the “bellows”–in the sequence mentioned–then this actually does happen. And with this another important step has been taken in the direction of the sleeping kundalini serpent.
(65) Thus kundalini rises quickly, the nadis are purified, it is pleasant, and of all kumbhakas the most beneficial, in this manner phlegm at the mouth of the sushumna is removed.
The procedure is as follows: In sitali kumbhaka the body is filled with apana. In bhastrika kumbhaka the necessary amount
of prana is created, and then for the first time, the two currents arebrought to face each other. Through jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, and mula bandha, these two currents are knotted together (nabhi granthi) and now raja yoga can begin.
(66) Bhastrika kumbhaka should be practiced especially, for it forces the breath to pierce the three knots that are in the sushumna.
Although the “three knots” (Brahma granthi, Vishnu granthi, and Rudra granthi) areextremely significant, we shall give here only a short theoretical survey.
The three stations of human evolution (“focusing, unfolding, and change” [Rousselle], or the “via purgativa, via illuminativa, via unitiva” of the Christian mystic) are directly dependent on the three knots, which in the process of higher evolution have to be pierced. Each breakthrough is accompanied by a catharsis, which here, in kundalini yoga, also manifests on a physical level. [See Part One, Slokas 27-28 --Trans.]
We have now learned the essentials. The propitious exterior conditions have been established, the necessary asanas carefully practiced; and through proper pranayama the channels of prana, the nadis, have been purified. This is the first step to raja yoga. Then we began the “production” of prana:
1. By alternate inhalation and exhalation, left and right (surya bheda kumbhaka), prana was created.
2. Then the muscles of the throat and the anus sphincter were trained (bandhas).
3. The heart was then prepared for the heavy work ahead (ujjayi kumbhaka).
4. The volume of the lungs was increased (sitkari kumbhaka).
5. We learned the art of guiding the breath into the abdominal cavity (sitali kumbhaka).
6. There then followed the first serious attempt to test what had been learned (bhastrika kumbhaka).
At this point we have accomplished a great deal, but we are still far from the goal. Once the yogi has experienced what he has learned on this level of training, his real work can begin. To become a master in pranayama is simply a question of perseverance, patience and endless effort.
A few special pranayamas follow which should not be confused with the others.
(67) In/tale rapidly, producing the sound of a male bee. Then exhale with the sound of a female bee. This is followed by kumbhaka. The great yogis, by constantly practicing this, experience indescribable happiness in their hearts. This is bhramari.
A strange kumbhaka for which there are many reasons, the most profound of which we will learn in Part Four. Whether or not we imitate a bee successfully is of minor importance. Essential is the humming sound which should be accompanied by concentrated inward vision. If the nadis are pure and there is no muscle tension, the humming inhalation brings with it the sense that one is absorbing something tangible (something that expresses itself in the sound) and thereby dissolving it. Kumbhaka then follows, accompanied by an extraordinary, suspended, potentially filled silence. Now exhalation follows–the longest process timewise–and here the humming becomes an experience. The vibrating sound seems to become a rushing noise that fills the whole atmosphere. A whole world seems to emerge, fashioned completely from vibrations. It becomes stronger and stronger until one is tempted to open the eyes, as one cannot imagine that this roaring sound exists only in one’s own body. If one remains steady and does not yield to this desire to open
the eyes, then that feeling of happiness occurs, a feeling as though one had just witnessed an extraordinary natural phenomenon whereby one was allowed a glimpse into the divine workshop. One is convinced that with these vibrations one could tumble down whole buildings, that one could change the very structure of objects, as though . . . but now the breath is ended and it again becomes as strangely still as before. But this is not the calm of great expectations; it is the calm after the battle, still echoing with threats. When now the humming inhalation follows, a whole world seems to crumble. Everything one has built up disintegrates in a short, rough, seemingly cruel and hideous process.
Thus the pendulum swings from breath to breath, from creation to dissolution and from there back to creation again. Whether all this can happen without the influence of the guru is hard to say. My guru practiced along with me at first and then gradually dropped back without my noticing it.
In principle we have here the essence of a whole yoga system. He who has grasped the deeper sense of this kumbhaka and its related phenomena has saved himself years of study. One thing, of course, must be understood: he has knowledge, but he is not yet a master.
(68) At the end of inhalation do jalandhara bandha and then slowly exhale. This is murccha kumbhaka. It causes a kind of stupor of the mind and is very agreeable.
This kumbhaka too has its peculiarities, which even the text itself recognizes.
We recall the jalandhara bandha (Part Two, 45), which– please note this–comes usually at the end of exhalation. Here it is reversed, and we recognize the many-sided character of this kind of practice. Here the purpose differs widely from our previous method, for now we have to learn to execute a practice while the observing mind disappears. That is, we are to study (in relative safety) the moment of consciously induced unconsciousness.
The strange trance state (to be discussed later) is, of course, not an unconscious state in the ordinary sense; rather it is extremely heightened consciousness, concentrated on a single point in which all else disappears. In other words, it is an unconscious state, generally speaking, but it is more precisely a heightened consciousness. Now the yogi must learn to recognize the image of the transitory stage, of the razor’s edge between the superconscious and the unconscious. If he makes the slightest mistake later and falls from the superconscious into the unconscious state of a faint it can mean death or insanity. Here he is learning to anaesthetize discursive thinking without becoming unconscious; he has also not yet awakened the powerful force of kundalini.
(69) Having filled the lungs completely with air, the yogi floats upon the water like a lotus leaf. This is plavini kumbhaka.
Nothing else is mentioned. Nothing about health or long life, only a rather extravagant-sounding promise. For we all know, regardless of how deeply we inhale) we will hardly float along like a lotus leaf, no more easily, in any case, than we are used to in swimming.
Since this kumbhaka, though useful, is not in any way decisive, we shall only comment briefly: his body having been emptied completely through the much-debated process of shatkarma, the yogi (ills all the cavities with air: lungs, stomach, intestines. Thus the “floating like a lotus leaf” becomes more plausible.
So much for the eight varieties of pranayama. A few general remarks will close this subject.
(70) There are three kinds of pranayamas: Recaka pranayama (exhalation), puraka pranayama (inhalation) and kumbhaka pranayama (retention). Kumbhaka is also of two kinds:, sahita and kevala.
The types of prana aresummarized:
1. Prana that results from kumbhaka after exhalation.
2. Prana that originates from kumbhaka after inhalation.
3. Prana that is developed a. through holding the breath at any time and any place, without force or exertion (sahita) b. by holding the breath when the blood is overoxygenized (kevala).
(71) As long as one has not yet [fully] mastered kevala kum-bhaka, which means holding the breath without inhalation or exhalation, one should practice sahita.
(72-71) When kevala kumbhaka without inhalation and exhalation has been mastered, there is nothing in the [inner] world that is unattainable for the yogi. Through this kumbhaka he can restrain the breath as long as he likes.
(74-75) Thus he [gradually] attains the stage of raja yoga. Through this kumbhaka, kundalini is aroused and then the sushumna is free from all obstacles; but without hatha yoga there can be no raja yoga, and vice versa. Both should be practiced until raja yoga is perfected.
(76) At the end of kumbhaka he should withdraw his mind from all objects. By doing this regularly he reaches raja yoga.
(77) The signs of perfection in hatha yoga are: a lithe body, harmonious speech, perception of the inner sound (nada), clear eyes, health, controlled seminal flow, increased gastric fire, and purity of the nadis.
And thus equipped the yogi can confidently embark upon the third stage of his training, where new, greater and more decisive things are awaiting him.
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
(1) fust as Ananta the lord of the serpents [the "infinite one" with seven heads] supports the whole universe with its mountains and woods, even so is kundalini the mainstay of all yoga practices.
The leitmotiv is majestically clear here. We are entering into the inner sanctum of the secret temple. Now the preparatory work is completed; things are called by their real names, and yet–: this “master,” who now sees with open eyes what is at stake, suddenly becomes aware that he is still only a student. The master of pranayama is a lesser master, for he still has to prove himself. He does not even suspect yet that some day he will have to forget all that he has learned in the course of many years; he does not suspect that all these wonderful experiences are dangerous reefs that imperil his way to the highest abstract knowledge. If he knew all this now he would be troubled by doubts or would try to reach what he is not yet capable of finding. Nature does not make any leaps; neither does yoga.
(2-3) When the kundalini is sleeping it will be aroused by the grace of the guru. Then all the chakras and knots are pierced
and prana flows through the royal road of sushumna. The mind is released from its work and the yogi conquers death.
One thing is certain: kundalini is more than just a symbolic term for one of our known forces or faculties. It is a potential of which normally we know nothing, and one that does not seem to exist for the average man.
The chakras are occasionally perceptible in everyday life. In times of danger there is usually a convulsive contraction of the muladhara chakra; in the case of acute danger, it intestifics as the often-mentioned experience of “seeing the whole life flash through the mind.” In sexual excitement the svadishthana chakra is noticeable. Best known is the influence of the manipura chakra on crying and laughter, which are related to the region of the diaphragm. One speaks of loving devotion as coming from the heart; it really involves the neighboring anahata chakra. The well-known choking sensation when a speaker is “blocked” relates to the vishuddha chakra. The index finger on the brow–”Eurekal’– means that the ajna chakra has spoken, and the halo on the image of a saint has its center in sahasrara chakra, to mention just a few minor characteristic signs of these unknown, yet so important centers in man.
(4) Sushumna, the great void: brahmarandra, the royal road, the burning ground; shambhavi, the middle way–all is one.
How easily one gets confused by big words. Certainly, this spiritual background is unfathomably profound. There are whole philosophical libraries on the “great void,” shunyata, and a school of Buddhism is based on this term. Let us leave this sutra behind us as soon as possible, for nothing is more tempting than to delve into the depth of these terms, to compare them and search for their inner relationship. Yet how useless this is if one
has not experienced the unity of all these differentiations in meditation. This alone is the way of wisdom, not philosophical breeding.
(5) The yogi should carefully practice the various mudras, in order to arouse the great goddess, kundalini, who in her steep closes the mouth of the sushumna.
Mudra: the decisive theme of this chapter. A mudra awakens kundalini; it is set in motion through the practices we have learned in the first two parts of this work.
This arrangement testifies to great wisdom. What good would it do to activate this force without first having learned how to utilize it? He who wants to wake a giant first must test the sharpness of his weapons and make sure of his protection. .
(6-9) Mahamudra, mahabandha, mahavedha, khecari: uddiyana band ha, mula bandha, and jalandhara band ha: viparitaka rani vajroli, and shakticalana; these are the ten mudras which conquer old age and death. –They have been given by Siva and confer the eight siddhis [on the yogi]. All the siddhas strive for them, but they are hard to attain, even for the Gods. They should be carefully kept secret, like a box full of diamonds, and, like an illicit relation with a married woman of noble birth, should not be mentioned to anyone.
(10-14) Press the anus with the left heel and extend the right leg; grasp the toes with your hand. Then practice jalandhara bandha and draw the breath through the sushumna. Thus the kundalini will stretch out, tike a snake that has been hit by a stick The two nadis die off thereby, because the prana leaves them. Then exhale–slowly, never fast. The sages call this mahamudra. It destroys death and other sufferings. Because it has been taught by the great siddhas it is called mahamudra, the great mudra, and olio because of its surpassing importance.
Even the first practice in this new stage biings with it powerful experiences about which the text says nothing. So let us look at this practice a little more closely.
Once more we come upon jalandhara bandha. We have encountered it twice before (see Part II, 45 and 68). But we must not make comparisons, because the same practice can serve completely different purposes on different levels.
Here we must also mention the prerequisites for the above practice.
It is quite clear that the asanas of the first training period aretaken for granted. Pranayama too is taken for granted, and is no longer mentioned. But for us there is something new.
The daily nadi purification must precede everything, in order to give the nadis the final polish, and then begins pranayama as described in Part Two. When the chest cavity is filled with prana (remember the bellows exercise) and the abdominal cavity is filled with apana (by means of the pranayama with protruding tongue), we can begin with this practice. Forget the outstretched leg for the time being. The head, lowered to the chest, presses down prana i through pressure of the heel on the anus apana is forced up, and by the pressure of the retracted abdominal muscles the two streams that have been led together areunited into one whole, to an arch which extends from the two nostrils to the two nadis (ida and pingala), along the sides of the spinal column to its lower end where the two meet again at the mouth of the sushumna (which is still closed by the head of the kundalini serpent). But now everything should be drawn into the sushumna. And for this we go back to Part One, 28/29, and compare that exercise with the above. There as here, the body is bent deeply forward and thus places the opening of the sushumna into a favorable position. The sphincter muscle is not contracted, and the pressure on the throat is felt to be stronger than that exerted by the heel on the anus. Thus the now unified prana-apana stream is guided into the opening sushumna where it slowly rises like the mercury column in a thermometer. And this stream sweeps the kundalini along with it.
Now something important happens, as the text reveals: “The two nadis die off.” In other words, the higher the prana rises in the sushumna, the less remains in the two nadis. In this third stage of training, the sushumna is not yet completely filled with the stream of prana, and thus the nadis are not completely empty, but some day this will happen. When it docs, the yogi gives the impression of being dead. The body becomes cold and lifeless. Only the crown of the head (the upper end of the sushumna) is warm. Life and consciousness arecontained solely in the sushumna, where life really originates. It is withdrawn from world and body. The yogi has become pure spirit–until he eventually exhales slowly and returns to his former state.
Can he really do that, exhale while physically in the state of death? We recall the second exercise with jalandhara bandha (Part Two, 68) where this state of consciousness was being trained. And now we understand the significance of that jalan-dhara variation, for here for the first time we encounter this strange state of “new consciousness.”
(15) First he should practice with the left [foot drawn up], then with the right, until both sides are equally exercised.
(16) Now there is nothing that he should [prefer to] eat or avoid eating. All things regardless of their taste or even without taste are digested. Even poison becomes nectar to him.
(17) He who practices mahamudra overcomes consumption, leprosy, hemorrhoids, diseases of the spleen, digestive disturbances, etc.
This sloka is for the ignorant and curious.
(18) This it the description of mahamudra which confers siddhis. it should be kept secret and not given to just anyone.
And this sloka is for the initiated who knows.
But there is still a great deal more to observe and to do in order to reach the ideal state described, where the kundalini, carried by the prana-apana stream, rises through the sushumna. For instance, it is essential that the stream should not reverse its flow. The following practice will take care of this.
(19-24) Press the left ankle against the anus and place the right foot upon the left thigh. After inhalation, when the chin is pressed firmly against the chest, contract the anus muscle and concentrate on the sushumna. Having restrained the breath as long as possible, exhale slowly. This practice should be done first right, then left. Some say that jalandhara bandha should be avoided here and the tongue pressed firmly against the upper teeth. –Through this mahabandha, which bestows great siddhis, the upward flow of prana through the nadis (with the exception of sushumna) is prevented. Through this one becomes free from the snares of Yama the King [of Death], and attains the unification of the three nadis: ida, pingala, and sushumna. It also enables the mind to remain steadily concentrated [at the point] between the eyebrows.
This practice, as a rule, precedes the previous one. It is, so to speak, the overture to the whole. However, a third factor still has to be mentioned:
(25-30) fust as beauty and loveliness are of no avail to a woman without a husband, so also mahamudra and mahabandha are useless without the third, mahavedha. –The yogi, sitting in the mahabandha posture, should draw in his breath with concentrated mind. Through jalandhara banda he prevents the escape of the prana upward or [apana] downward. –Supporting his body by the palms resting on the ground, the yogi should raise himself from the ground, and gently strive the ground with his buttocks several times. With this prana leaves the nadis [ida and pingala] and goes through the sushumna. –Thus is effected the union of ida, pingala and sushumna [moon, sun, and fire] which leads to immortality. –The body assumes a death-like aspect. –Then he should exhale. –This is mahavedha and bestows great siddhis when practiced. Wrinkles disappear and the gray hair of old age. Therefore it stands in high repute. These are the three mysterious [practices] that conquer death and old age, increase the gastric fire and confer the siddhis. They should be carefully kept secret.
The real purpose of this last practice is of a purely technical nature. For there is no natural connection between the three main nadis which run parallel into the muladhara chakra. Although they all end there, they do not join together. This condition has to be created artificially, and it is accomplished by this practice.
Now the preceding practice [mahabandha] can be carried out successfully, followed by the first one mentioned above [mahamudra]. Thus the three practices constitute one unit: the kundalini yoga constitutes both the high point of hatha yoga and a part of raja yoga.
(31) These are performed in eight different ways. Daily, every three hours. This creates good and eliminates evil. He who masters it has to practice this unusual procedure only moderately.
Both text and commentary are silent about the eight different ways of practice, for therein lies a secret teaching. The kundalini, as we know, rises from muladhara chakra through five further chakras to sahasrara chakra, so in all we have seven chakras. However, the seven stations are not simply traversed progressively one after the other, in the natural course of systematic practice. We run into some difficulties here, for each chakra is assigned a specific element:
1. Muladhara chakra: the element of earth
2. Svadhishthana chakra: the element of water
3. Manipura chakra: the element of fire
4. Anahata chakra: the element of air
5. Vishuddha chakra: the clement of ether
6. Ajna chakra: the element of consciousness
7. Sahasrara chakra; the divine element.
These elements have nothing to do with what is known to us as the density of matter. Rather they areplanes of vibrations as required for the creation of the respective forms of matter.
Now prana is, as we know, a life current, and a current consists of vibrations. The kundalini was aroused by the prana current, as soon as this reached the vibration level of muladhara chakra, that of the “earth elements.” If the prana current is to traverse the other chakras it will accordingly have to be transformed or modulated seven times. If the yogi is unable to do this, he cannot reach the goal of raja yoga. And in order to realize this goal there arc, as this sloka says, eight different ways of practice.3
3. Why are eight varieties of practice mentioned here when there areonly seven? With this logical question we touch upon an area that will cause a great deal of discussion among Western yoga researchers, for it concerns the revelation of a secret that is still kept closely guarded: the teaching that the kundalini should be led beyond sahasrara chakra. Many passages in the Tantras and the Puranas point to this secret teaching in a veiled way. This will not be discussed further in this book, for in Hatha Yoga Pradipika there are, apart from this passage, no references to it.
To be more specific: these arenot methods of practice in the sense of the hatha yoga practices discussed so far. They areyantra meditations and mantra recitations.
To each chakra areattributed a visual and verbal symbol, which are transmitted orally to the student by his guru only after an initiation ceremony. Both are strictly secret, and are unattainable to the uninitiated. (The well-known chakra charts with the lotus leaves and the sound symbols are not identical with the secret yantras and mantras, although they derive much from them.)
The beginner naturally needs more time for each individual practice than the master docs. So if he goes through these eight practices one by one every three hours, and if he needs an hour for each (as is usually the case for beginners), then he will need more than eight hours of practice daily; this is the least that is demanded from the beginner. Moving from chakra to chakra, a master of kundalini yoga completes all the stages with a single breath, which, however, may last for several hours. Due to the purity of his nadis, he now has the power to keep the prana in his body active as long as he likes, so that the feeling of shortness of breath does not arise. The gross organs have been put out of commission, and the few fine organs that are still active draw their oxygen supply through the pores.
This closes the description of the first decisive stages of raja yoga: the successful attempt to activate the kundalini. As stated, it is a stage that proves important, but is one that is still far from exhausting all the secret possibilities and the prerequisites for complete success. What follows is even stranger and, unfortunately, even more difficult to understand. Let’s try.
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
(32-37) When the tongue is bent back into the gullet and the eyes are fastened upon the point between the eyebrows, this is khecari mudra. When the membrane below the tongue is cut, and the tongue is shaken and milked, one can extend its length until it touches the eyebrows. Then khecari mudra is successful. –Take a clean, shining knife and cut the breadth of a hair into the fine membrane that connects the tongue with the lower part of the mouth [the froenum lignum]. Then rub that area with a mixture of salt and turmeric powder. After seven days again cut a hair’s breadth. Follow this for six months. The membrane is then completely separated. When the yogi now curls his tongue upward and back he is able to close the place where the three paths meet. The bending back of the tongue is khecari mudra and [the closing of the three paths] is akasha chakra,
Here again some fundamental questions arise. The indignant objection of the reader, although at this point it represents a suspect prejudice, is quite understandable from a mortal point of view. But, as we know, a great deal of yoga is not accessible to the logical mind, and thus the “reasonable” average thinker will reject the more essential part of yoga because much of it (seen from his point of view) is nonsense. He will even be right, for a logical sense that satisfies the mind in a logical,
materially purposeful manner, is lacking in the key points of yoga. It is non-sense for the scientific explorer and deep-sense for the experiencer.
The “three paths” areclosed: the nasal passage, the pharynx, and the trachea. This is the vas bene clausum of the alchemists.
There are three ways to close the gates: with the natural muscles of the organs concerned; with the fingers; and from the inside, as taught here. To the logician it may all seem the same, whichever method is used. But let him test whether it really is all the same. Close your eyes and mouth and hold your breath. Nothing happens. Then close your ears with the thumbs, the eyes with the index fingers, the nostrils with the middle fingers, and the mouth with the remaining fingers. How the sensation with this type of closure differs from the first one is easily determined in this way. Now, in order to get some impression of the third method described above, have someone else close your passages according to the second set of instructions. And again the sensation will be different. This becomes especially impressive once the breath runs out. Suddenly you areat the mercy of another; you experience dependency, lack of freedom. On a small scale you experience the fear of death, this feeling of being helplessly at the mercy of death that actually means being handed over to one’s own inadequacies.
(38) The yogi who remains but half a minute in this position [with upturned tongue and imperturbable calm] is free from illness, old age and death.
Try to imagine the feelings of a person in this situation. The tongue is far back in the throat; there is no breath. There is, however, a growing fear as to what may happen if one does not succeed in bringing the tongue back to normal. To have to remain for as little as half a minute in this terrible anxiety can lead to insanity. But as long as “.he danger of fear exists no guru will advocate this practice, for the dreaded will most assuredly happen the moment panic arises. Only with calm reflection can the tongue be brought back to its natural position, and the face of the yogi will tell the apprehensive spectator how difficult it is, and that it really is a matter of life or death. Yet he who is so unperturbed in the face of death that even this possibility cannot seriously disturb his equilibrium, has the means in his hand to pass consciously through the darkest regions of creation and dissolution. He is free from that which death represents to the average mortal: the final judgment that he must face in fetters.
(39) For him who masters this khecari mudra there will be no more [physical helplessness in bodily conditioned situations such as] illness, death, mental sluggishness, hunger, thirst, or cloudi-ness in thinking.
He is no longer subject to the overpowering law of nature, whose most painful aspect is the fact that all spiritual processes are sacrificed to this law. He remains undisturbed and calm even at the time of death, and thus deprives it of its dark power.
(40) He is free from [the laws of] karma and time has no power over him.
Fear in the state of helplessness is chiefly the panic-stricken thought: “What is going to happen?” It is uncertainty about the future, and thus involvement in time. But he for whom time does not exist is not troubled by its uncertainty. Karma, the Indian concept of fate based on the immutable law of causality, of cause and effect, is suspended when time does not exist. Only a process, i.e. a time-conditioned event, can cause a time-112
conditioned effect. A state–a situation unconditioned by time (which we cannot comprehend, because thinking is a process, not a state)–is cause and effect in not as dynamic sequence but as static ens. Karma is the effect (dynamic) of the deed (active). The self-contained, meditative state that has freed itself from the time-space conditioned outside world is karmically neutral (static, passive). When time is conquered there is no more karma.
(41) The mudra is called khecari by the siddhas because the mind as well as the tongue remains in “ether” for the duration of the practice.4
Ether, a vibration plane in the universe, is finer than all that is composed of atoms and molecules, and thus is an intermediary between the world of atoms and the world of consciousness. Science has not as yet made a final decision concerning the existence or non-existence of ether, the quinta essentia of matter. But the yogi cannot waste his time with the changing fashion of science. While science investigates, he continues to build with his “unproven theories.”
(42^43) Once he has closed the throat in khecari mudra he cannot be aroused by the most passionate embrace, and even if he were in the state of an ecstatic lover he still could negate the result through certain practices.5
The example of the most compelling temptation is presented here to prove that through khecari mudra the state of complete and
4. The commentary breaks down the word khecari into the root kha == the empty sphere of the sky, and the root car = to move. The real origin of Khecari is khecar = sun. The reason for this we will see later.
5. These two slokas have been rather freely translated. The reason is given in Part Three, 84.
absolute absorption in meditation is possible. We know that one of the preparations of the yogis who allow themseives to be buried for days or weeks is khecari mudra. In this state all bodily functions are suspended for the time being, and the body appears to be dead, because the activating, life-giving prana is absorbed in the sushumna.
But it is not only prana that is isolated. What else? Is it really possible that the upturned tongue can produce such mysterious results?
(44) He who with upcurled tongue and concentrated mind drinks the nectar conquers death in IS days–provided he masters yoga.
We recall the legend of the churning of the ocean of milk where from this ocean, with the aid of the world mountain, the nectar of life was to be produced. The mountain of the world, so we learned, is, in the human universe, the spinal column, the carrier of the life centers. The snake, wound around the mountain, is kundalini, the potential divine force of nature. The gods who pulled on one end symbolize the higher life forces; the demons on the other end represent sheer physical forces. The tortoise that supported the mountain is the power of yoga, of divine origin and universal.
But what is the ocean of milk, and what is the nectar? That is the theme of this chapter. We hear at the beginning that the kapha current of the life force is called nectar (soma). And where is the source of the current that is said to turn into poison if the student’s balance is disturbed?
The cosmology of the “Puranas,” the ancient Indian garland of legends (and a treasure trove of the secret teachings, if one knows how to read it) tells us that the ocean of milk lies
between the Isles of Shaka and Pushkara (Bhagavata Purana V, 20). Shaka is the mythological name for ajna chakra, between the eyebrows, and Pushkara that of the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. Between these two centers lies the ocean of milk, the source of the nectar. That is where the kapha current originates.
This shows that kapha, the nectar, is not )ust any kind of secretion, for the primary functional and structural elements cannot be delineated so simply. True, the explanation that the inversion of the tongue diverts the kapha current, i.c. the biological process of evolution (or at least part of it) is not evident; we have to accept this as a given fact. Irregularities in the course of this current or process, which as a rule lead to illness, are produced at will and utilized for positive purposes. Through “supreme spirituality,** a physical process is transmuted into a spiritual one.
No one can tell what this fluid is, if indeed it is a fluid. Is it a glandular secretion ? Possibly. Most likely, yes. But this should not tempt us to make fruitless speculations. In any case, the tip of the upcurled tongue touches a point on the mucous membrane and through this touch some process of endocrine secretion is altered.
(45) The yogi who daily saturates his body with the nectar that flows from the “moon” is not harmed by poisons even when bitten by the snake Taskshaka.
You may think as you like about khecari mudra, you may consider the matter of the “nectar” naive or ridiculous; the fact remains that there are countless yogis who can take even large quantities of deadly poisons without any harm to their bodies. This fact has been verified by medical authorities.
(46) Just as fire burns as long as there is wood, as the lamp burns as long as the oil and the wick last, so also the life germ [jivan] remains in the body while it is regulated by the “beams of the moon” [nectar].
The source of the nectar is the “moon” in the area of the brain stem. The “cooling beams of the moon,” a term known in the mythologies of all countries, drip into the “fire of the sun” that burns in the region of the diaphragm and, so to speak, represents the flame of life (solar plexus). But the nectar is not fuel for this fire; to the contrary, it subdues and regulates the embers that areconstantly being fanned into new life by the vata current. It is a direct, active messenger of consciousness to the functions of the vegetative system. When the supply is impeded we have fever; with an oversupply the fire becomes weak. When the demons of coarse bodily nature, while churning the ocean of milk, prematurely sampled the nectar before it had been wisely apportioned to them by the gods of mind, they poisoned themselves because the organic balance was disturbed.
(47-49) Daily he may “eat the fiesh of the cow” and “drink wine,” still he will remain a son of noble family. The word “cow” [go] means tongue. When one lets it penetrate into the throat it is called “to eat the flesh of the cow,” and this destroys all sins. –When the tongue enters the throat there ensues great heat in the body. This causes the nectar to flow from “the moon” and that is what is called “drinking wine” [amara-varuni].*
•”In the above two stanzas is given an excellent instance of the way the Hindu occult writers veil their real meaning under apparently absurd symbols. The principle seems to be this. They thought that the very absurdity of the symbol and its inconsistency with the subject in hand would force the reader to think that there was something under it and so he should look deeper for an explanation of this absurdity. A misconception of this rule seems to have given rise to many absurd interpretations of really occult symbols, and many pernicious practices that promote animal tendencies and passions. As examples of these . . . the whole mystic terminology of the Tantras that has given rise to so many disgusting practices.” (Iyangar, of. cit, p. 58 f.) –Trans.
In order to fan the fire of “burning asceticism” the nectar has to be diverted from its usual course into the fire of life. But the stream is not only diverted; it is also utilized in other ways.
(50-51) When it remains pressed in the throat passage, the tongue is able to receive the nectar “beams of the moon,” which are [simultaneously] salty, hot, and pungent, but also lilke milk, honey, and ghee. Then all diseases are eliminated, and also old age. Thus he will be able to teach all the Vedas and the Shastras; and he has power to attract the damsels of the siddhas. –He who with upturned gaze and tongue in throat meditates on kundalini [parashakti] and drinks from the pure source of the nectar stream that flows from the “moon” in the head into the 16-petaled lotus [the vishuddha chakra], he will be free from all diseases and will live long with a beautiful body, delicate as a lotus petal–if during practice he keeps prana under control.
Here we have the answer to the question: “Where does the nectar flow once it is deviated from its natural course, the fire of life (solar plexus)?” The tongue guides it into the vishuddha chakra (in the throat), i.e. into the most important one, the 16-petaled lotus that carries the sound a, the primeval sound which even precedes 0m (Aum). Thus he is enabled to teach all the Vedas and the Shastras. Here we cannot help but think of the saying: “His words flow like nectar from his lips” –like a nectar that flows from his mind.
In vishuddha chakra (so the scriptures tell us) the birth of the word takes place. Cognition here becomes word.
The fruit from the Tree of Knowledge gets stuck in Adam’s throat, and paradisc is lost. The poison that the gods churn from the ocean of milk is swallowed by Siva, and it remains in his throat which becomes blue. The fruit gets stuck in Snow White’s throat too—the undigested fruit of the dark mother aspect, which she does not recognize as her fruit and thus is unable to “digest.”
The fruit of the process of evolution is always twofold: nectar for the perfect one, poison for the all-too-human one. The nectar is at the highest level, in its noblest aspect, pure spirit. For the materialist it is just what its gross aspect represents: the manifold bodily secretions. Just as the crude aspect of alcohol is merely a liquid–until it is imbibed. Then it shows its strength.
(52) Inside of the upper part of Mount Merit–that if the sushumna–there, in the opening, nectar is secreted. He who has a pure sattva mind, not overshadowed by rajas and tamos, therein recognizes the Truth \his own Atman]. It is the gully into which the currents discharge themselves. From the “moon” flows the nectar, the bodily essence, and hence the death of the mortals. Therefore one should practice the beneficial khecari mudra. Otherwise no siddhis will be attained.
(53) The sushumna, especially its [upper] opening, is the place of confluence of the five rivers and bestows divine knowledge. in the void of the opening which is freed from the influence of ignorance [avidya], sorrow, and delusions [of maya], the khecari mudra reaches perfection.
Just as breath (the vata element) has five currents (the five vayus), so also has the nectar of the kapha element, and so there are five fires that burn inside. However, the “asceticism of the five fires” (pancagni tapas) is a little different from that which is seen today at Rishikesh or Benares, where Siva sadhus light four great fires around themselves (the sun is considered to be the fifth) and try to slowly roast into the sainthood which is more distant from them than the sun.
(54) There is only one germ of evolution, and that is 0m; there is only one mudra: khecari; only one duty: to become independent from everything; and only one spiritual state [avastha]: deep meditation [mano-mani].
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
before going any further let us recall one sentence: “Maha-mudra, mahabandha) mahavedha, khecari; uddiyana bandha, mula bandha, and jalandhara bandha; viparitakarani, vajroli, and shakticalana; these are the ten mudras which conquer old age and death.” So far we have learned only a few of these mudras:
Mahamudra: The joining of prana and apana. Mahabandha: Preventing prana and apana from reverting their course.
Mahavedha: Connecting the three nadis by beating the buttocks on the floor. Khecari mudra: Bending back the tongue.
The following three bandhas arenot unknown to us, but they are discussed below from a new point of view.
(55-62) Uddiyana bandha [literally "to fly up," "to arise"] is so called by the yogis because thereby the prana flies up through the sushumna. Through this bandha the great bird “prana” constantly flies up through the sushumna; that is why it is called uddiyana banda. Drawing up the intestines above or below the navel [so that they touch the back and the diaphragm] is called uddiyana bandha. It is the lion who conquers the elephant,
death. –He who constantly practices uddiyana bandha as taught by his guru, and as it occurs in a natural way, becomes young though he may be old. –He should draw up the intestines below or above the navel, and within a month he will conquer death, without a doubt. Of alt the bandhas uddiyana bandha is the most excellent. When it is mastered, liberation [mukti] follows naturally.
We have encountered this bandha twice before: first in the purification process of shatkarma. There it preceded the churning of the intestines (Part Two, 33/34). Then we met it in the next chapter when we had to raise the abdominal apana (Part Two, 45). In both cases the practice was mainly mechanical. Here, in the third case, it says: “because through this practice prana flows through the sushumna . . .” We now know considerably more than we did at the previous levels of training. There are more things happening internally, so that uddiyana bandha has indeed acquired a decisive meaning.
The inner process of this practice is as follows: In the two nadis) prana and apana have been united into one continuous flow, and neither a separation of the two nor a reversal of the current can occur after this point. From the nostrils to the muladhara chakra a current-bearing path now extends, or rather two paths, which unite at the lower end of the sushumna. From there the path again goes upward to the “moon.” The flow of nectar is diverted by the upcurled tongue, so that the “sun” can now unfold its full fiery power.
There still remains one important question: to what end should the “sun” yield its strongest fire?
We know that the sun sits in the area of the fire chakra (manipura) below the heart chakra (anahata), within which dwells jivan, the germ of life. This jivan resembles the filament in the radio tube that sends out electrons as soon as it is warmed up. The “cathode rays” that the jivan sends out when heated by the sun are concentrated vital energy, and the-practicing yogi needs a great deal of this for his kundalini. In order to bring this about the fire has to be led closer to the jivan, i.e. to the anahata chakra, and uddiyana bandha accomplishes just this. But fire cannot kindle without air, so the flame has a second task: to attract the prana-apana current by drawing it up through the sushumna.
(61-64) Press the scrotum with the heel, contract the anus, and force apana upward. This is mula bandha. Through contraction of the muladhara the normally downward flowing current of apana is guided upward. This is why the yogis call it mula [root] bandha. –Press the anus with the heel and press apana forcefully until it flows upward. Through mula bandha, prana and apana as well as nada and bindu unite to give perfection to the yogi. There is no doubt about this.
Through the pressure of the heel and the taut anus muscle the upward tendency is furthered and the current kept flowing. Here again, a practice that had little meaning for the beginner has taken on a decisive character. We will get acquainted with nada and bindu at level IV.
(65) Through the union of prana and apana, secretions are considerably reduced. Through mula bandha a yogi, though old, becomes young.
Indeed, for the fire that tempers the life germ is fanned into new vigor by this practice.
(66-69) When apana rises upward and reaches the fire orbit, the flame becomes large and bright, fanned by apana. When apana and the fire join with prana which by its nature is hot, then the fire of the body becomes especially bright and powerful. The kundalini feels the great heat thereby and awakens from its sleep like a snake that is hit by a stick, hisses and raises itself. Then it enters the opening [of sushumna]. Therefore the yogi should always practice mula bandha.
Should any nectar now flow into the fire, all efforts would have been in vain, for the organism would at once revert to “normal.” Therefore we have to take precautionary measures which will support the work of the tongue, so that it only needs to intercept, but need not conduct.
(70-73) Contract the throat and press the chin against the breast. This is jalandhara bandha and destroys old age and death. It is called jalandhara bandha because it makes the nadis taut and stops the downward flow of the nectar which issues from the throat. When jalandhara bandha is accomplished and the throat contracted, not a single drop of nectar can fall into the fire of life and the breath does not take a wrong path. When the throat is firmly contracted, the two nadis are dead. Here in the throat sits the middle chakra, vishuddha. Here the 16 life centers are firmly bound.
We have also encountered before, this jalandhara bandha at a time when it did not have much significance; we are meeting it now for the fourth time. It will help if we follow the evolutionary stages in connection with this bandha through all four phases. In the first place it helped us to learn kumbhaka in pranayama (Part Two, 45). There it had only a supporting role. In the second case it suddenly had a strange result (Part Two, 68): it caused a state of mental absence. Though this was only to give the student the experience of such a state it nevertheless proved the overwhelming power of this bandha. Then it appeared in Part Three (10-14), where the first practical experiments were made with kundalini and the knowledge acquired thus far. The fire merely glowed and no harm could come of it, for the powerful key, khechari mudra, was missing. But now the fire flares up, and it has been brought closer to the life germ. Now all the supplementary practices, formerly so negligible, have a thousandfold greater effect.
The nadis have died off, so it says. Indeed, the prana-apana current now flows through the sushumna. The body appears to be dead, while deep inside an infinitely intense life is burning, more intense than any of the many known vital manifestations of life. If one touches the crown of the yogi’s head in this state one can feel a little of it. While the body is ice-cold the center of his head burns as though in a raging fever.
(74-76) Practice uddiyana bandha by contracting the anus muscle; tighten the nadis ida and pingla [through jalandhara bandha] and cause the prana to flow [through the sushumna] to the upper part. in this way the breath is absorbed [it remains motionless in the sushumna] and old age, disease and death are conquered. The yogi masters these three outstanding bandhas, as practiced by the great siddhas [Matsyendra, Vashishtha, and others], and through which one acquires the siddhis described in the hatha yoga shastras.
The yogi now has the much-debated ability to put himself into a deathlike state, and to remain buried for days or weeks (to prove that he is not cheating). No one who has read the text so far will contend that this conscious death is now no longer a riddle. Even to the yogi who masters it, it is replete with mysteries. Only one thing must be remembered: all this—that seems so strange to us–is not essential. The yogi does not practice the ancient art of yoga in order to play dead, to remain for days or weeks under ground, or to squat in the midst of five flaring fires, on nail boards, or in a block of ice. If this were so we would be fools not to find something more worthy of our interest. Something is at stake that seems much less flamboyant than these imposing tricks: the perfection, not the distortion, of man; the development, not the abuse, of inner powers. This is a fact, and those who do not recognize it cannot change it, not even those in the homeland of yoga itself. Even in India it is hard to find a master. One encounters magicians everywhere, but the true master does not exhibit himself publicly. Now there is a second method to divert the flow of the nectar.
(77-79) Every particle of nectar that flows from the ambrosial “moon” is [normally] swallowed up by the “sun.” Thus the body grows old. [But] there is an excellent practice whereby the sun is deceived. But this we can learn only from the guru. No theoretical study even of a million shastras can elucidate it. It is viparitakarani, whereby the attributes of the “moon” and those of the “sun” are exchanged. The “sun” in the solar plexus and the “moon” above the palate exchange places. This must be learned from the guru.
On the surface, the practice itself seems comparatively simple, as we will see. The difficulties lie once again within us. But let the text lead us a little closer to the secret.
(80-82) In him who practices daily the gastric fire increases. Therefore the yogi should always have an ample supply of food on hand. If he restricts his food intake the fire will eat his body [instead]. –On the first day he should remain [only] a little while in the headstand, with legs in the air. This is viparitakarani. Increase the practice time a little each day. After six months gray hair and wrinkles disappear. He who practices three hours a day conquers death,
Through a headstand, values arereversed. And what is so difficult about learning this?
First of all, we must know one thing: Among the asanas, the physical exercises treated in the first book, there is one that our text does not mention, although it is called the queen of asanas, and this is the headstand. This asana is called sirshasana.
As mentioned above, there is no great difficulty in this practice. And it is not the headstand that is referred to in the text as not being teachable through books or description. It is the process of deceiving the sun that can be learned from a guru only. How to exchange the position of the moon and the sun; that is what has to be learned from the guru, for this exchange is not accomplished by simply standing on our head.
But it does happen as soon as one has become accustomed to this position, as soon as the organism functions exactly as in the normal position. We know that through a radical change in consciousness organic processes can be influenced. Now we have to reach the point where consciousness does not register this inverted position as unusual. Then all the organs will adjust to it. How this is to be accomplished is the great problem discussed in this sloka. If it were a problem of meditation, it would be a comparatively simple matter for the experienced yogi. But if he does not want to fall down, he has to keep fully awake–and still convert his consciousness! This cannot be achieved through any kind of technique, but only through the suggestive influence of the guru.
This practice, by the way, is nowadays seldom encountered. Is it perhaps due to the fact that there are not any more gums who have these suggestive powers?
(83) When someone, though leading a worldly life without observing the laws of yama and niyama, practices vajroli mudra he will become a vessel for siddhi powers.
The following slokas, 84-103, describe the vajroli, sahajoli and amaroli mudras. These are practices that aim at reversing the flow of the semen virile in coito. The purpose of such practices is clear: to enjoy all the benefits of yoga without sacrificing any of the worldly pleasures.
In leaving out these passages, we merely bypass the description of a few obscure and repugnant practices that arefollowed by only those yogis who lack the will power to reach their goal otherwise. In these 20 slokas, we encounter a yoga that has nothing but its name in common with the yoga of a Patanjali or a Ramakrishna.
Any technique that enables a yogi to sublimate his virility within his organism merits approval. Whatever he does outside his organism cannot be called yoga. For a yoga without yamas and niyamas does not exist. Even the very profound maithuna practices (i.e. ritual cohabitation) of the Shaktism cult can be acknowledged as a symbolic background of a religious ritual, but not this technique of uniting pleasure with the benefits of yoga. So let us take a detour around Orcus into the purer fields of kundalini.
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
everything so far has really been only preparation. Everything essential has been accomplished, except the most essential: the raising of kundalini. To be sure, the yogi is now capable ot going into deep meditation; he can put his body into a deathlike state; and he can fan or quench the inner fire. He has complete control over the functions of his body. All in all, he is master of hatha yoga.
But what of it? He is still only an insignificant apprentice of raja yoga. We have already seen that it is not the bodily functions and their control that count. Decisive is the degree of total perfection–physical, mental, and spiritual. Mastery of hatha yoga is only a preliminary to the mastery of raja yoga.
This final chapter of the third stage of training is concerned with the last, though the most magnificent of all physical phenomena: the guiding of the kundalini serpent through the various chakras to its highest goal, the sahasrara. Note, however, that it does not bring in the all-important phenomena that characterize absolute consciousness, the essence of raja yoga. The technical-dynamic process which is taught in the following will lead up to that goal to which Part Four is devoted.
(104) I now describe shakti calana kriya [literally: the action that loosens the inner power of nature]. Kutitangi, kundalini, bhujangi, shkti, ishvari, kundali, arundhati: all these are names for the same shakti.
Shakti is the name for all dynamic forces of nature. The release of the shakti in man corresponds in its effect directly to the release of the latent shakti in the atom. Through nuclear fission we do not call forth an external power, but simply release the power latent in the atom. In man too repose unsuspected powers that do not manifest materially blit act with equal force on the mental plane, which in turn reacts on the spiritual plane. We need such an atomic spiritual power in order to reach the goal of the yogi. With our threadbare everyday intellect we get nowhere. It leads us, if anywhere, into a hopeless blind alley.
Where else can we find the needed forces for the highest goal, if not from within our own selves? Since there is a path to liberation, there also must exist the means to pursue it to the end. And all the means that we require to reach our ultimate goal, however high it may be, lie within us. The problem is only how to release them.
(105-110) As one opens the door with a key, so the yogi should open the gate to liberation [moksha] with the kundalini. The great goddess [kundalini] steeps, closing with her mouth the opening through which one can ascend to the brahmarandhra (crown of the head), to that place where there is neither pain nor suffering. The kundalini sleeps above the kanda [where the nadis converge]. She gives liberation to the yogi and bondage to the fool. He who knows kundalini knows yoga. –The kundalini, it is said, is coiled like a serpent. He who can induce her to move [upward] is liberated. There is no doubt about it. –Between Ganga and Yamuna sits a young widow, arousing compassion. One should despoil her, for this leads to the supreme seat of Vishnu [her spouse in sahasrara]. The sacred Ganga is ida [nodi] and Yamuna if pin gala [nodi]. Between ida and pingala sits the young widow kundalini.
(111) You should awaken the sleeping serpent by grasping its tad. The shakti, when aroused, moves upward.
Once more remember the churning of the ocean of milk. The demons seized the head of the snake, the gods took hold of the tail, and thus the work was accomplished.
Here we have the same process. The physically manifested powers, prana and apana, pull on the head; that is where the current flows into the sushumna, which is closed by the head of the serpent. The spiritual forces, however, work from the tail. We will presently learn about the nature of these spiritual forces.
(112) After inhaling through the right nostril perform kum-bhaka according to the rules. Then manipulate the shakfi for an hour and a half, both at sunrise and at sunset.
But didn’t we learn before that we should practice eight hours a day? And now suddenly only at dawn and dusk ! Here we have an example of bow easily the words of a secret teaching can be misleading.
We have to understand that last sentence symbolically. The shakti should be manipulated for an hour and a half from two sides (head and tail), from the side of the sunrise (above) and from the side of the sunset (below). Here we must know the following: hatha yoga is comprised of )yoti (light) and mantra (sound). This passage means that the powers are awakened by means of the upper sphere of vibrations (light), which extends from the cosmic ether rays through the ultra colors to infrared, the rays of heat; and they are also awakened through the lower
sphere of vibrations, from supersonic sound down to the lowest plane of vibrations. These are the means by which the kunda-lini should be manipulated “from the tail,” the means used by the gods. The attributes that Krishna holds in his four hands symbolize these potentials. The symbol of prana is with Siva.
(113) The kanda [upon which the kundatini rests with its tail] lies above the anus and extends four inches. It is described as of round shape, and as though covered by a piece of soft white cloth.
In order to awaken the kundalini, the yogi has to know the plane of light (or color) vibrations as well as the plane of sound vibrations that correspond to the mulandhara chakra, and has to project the respective light and sound symbols onto that white cloth (of the kanda). But these two symbols are just as secret as those of the other chakras, and only the initiated can know them, for they arethe keys to the most vital gate of yoga, to the spiritual atomic force that can bring blessings or destruction. Whatever has been revealed in the course of the centuries– carelessly noted and discovered by others, betrayed by talkative students–these secret symbols have escaped that fate. And even when single elements become known, the system has remained impervious because the initiated have always carefully kept the essentials to themselves. This is due to the extremely discriminating care of the teacher in selecting his students, and also to the fact that the spiritual results of this science mature only after the long and strenuous practice of meditation. If the uninitiated, even a scientist, discovered some of these things (particularly those concerning the mantra system), he would not know what to do with them. He is therefore skeptical from the very beginning; and it is highly doubtful that a skeptic would be willing to recite mantras that seem senseless to him for three hours daily. Even the non-skeptic seldom possesses the strength -to accomplish this from 3:00 to 6:00 a.m. Personal weakness is usually the best safeguard against the abuse of secret teachings.
Three components, when united, lead to success in guiding the kundalini upward: the spiritual, mental, and physical powers, as represented in the practice of asanas, prana, and light and sound meditation. So once more body postures are included:
(114-116) Seated in the vajrasana posture [see
Figure 12), firmly hold the feet near the angles and beat against the kanda. In the posture of vajrasana the yogi should induce the kundalini to move. Then he should do bhastrika kumbhaka. Thus the kundalini will be quickly awakened. Then he should contract the "sun" [through uddiyana bandha] and thus induce the kundalini to rise. Even though he may be in the jaws of death, the yogi has nothing to fear.
The earlier reference to light and sound actually belongs in Part Four, which is why the text referred to it only indirectly. Here in the last few slokas of Part Three, discussion is limited to the essentials of active yoga.
(117-122) When one moves the kundalini fearlessly for about an hour and a half, she is drawn upward a little through the sushumna. In this way she naturally leaves the opening of the sushumna free and is carried upward by the prana current, in this way one should daily move the kundaiini. The yogi who does this is freed from disease. The yogi who moves the shakti gains the siddhis. Why talk about it so much? With ease he conquers time. That yogi only who leads the life of a celibate [brahmachari] and observes a moderate, healthful diet will reach perfection in the proper manipulation of the kundalini, within 45 days. Once the kundalini has been set into motion he should persistently practice bhastrika kumbhaka. He who is perfect in yamas and practices thus need never fear death [through his own kundalini].
The alert reader will have noticed that in these and the previous slokas only the motion of the kundalini is mentioned, and that she “rises slightly in the sushumna”–that is, so far as she does not encounter the resistance of the next vibration level.
We also note in the last sentence that when the kundalini is put into motion we should do bhastrika kumbhaka. How is this possible when everything stops during the deathlike state, including breath? The real meaning of the sloka is this: once we have succeeded in putting kundalini into motion we should emphasize bhastrika kumbhaka during the daily hatha yoga practice, because this increases prana production. The amount of prana available often makes the difference between life and death, for if the kundalini is led upward and (through some error in practice) the prana is prematurely exhausted, there is immediate danger of death for the yogi.
(123-125) What other ways are there to prevent the pollution of the 72,000 nadis? –The sushumna is straightened through asanas, pranayama and the mudras. –He who practices this with unflagging concentration obtains siddhi powers through shambhavi and the mudras.
The first sentence could be translated into modern language as follows; above all, do not allow the nadis to become impure, because then all else is in vain. The next sentence says: keep on practicing the first and second steps, for if the sushumna reverts to its old crooked shape the path of the kundalini is impeded. And the third sentence: in any event remain tirclessly concentrated.
(126-129) Without raja yoga there is no “earth”: without raja yoga no “night”; useless are all mudras without raja yoga. All pranayamas should be conducted with concentrated mind. The wise man does not permit his mind to wander during the [practice] time. Thus have the ten mudras been described by Lord Siva. One who is replete with yama [Part 1, 17] reaches siddhis through each of the mudras. –He who teaches the secret of these mudras as transmitted from guru to guru, he is the real guru and can be called Ishvara in human form.
The “earth” is the activated muladhara chakra, “night” is the state in which the “light” shines bright, that light which we will presently discuss. From “earth” rises the kundalini, winding itself up on the Tree of Life to sahasrara, the crown of the head; and from her union with the highest principle originates the
fruit which she tenders to the seeker, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Thus the yogi becomes Ishvara (God) in human form: Eritis sicut deus, scientes bonum et malum (Gen. 3.5).
Over and over again the concentrated mind is mentioned, the mind that must remain within itself. We haye learned the art of the mudra. Now let’s try to track down its secret.
(130) He who carefully follows the words of the guru, and attentively practices the mudras will obtain the siddhis, as well as the art of deceiving death.
And with this let us climb to the last and highest step of yoga.
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika of Svatmarama
PART FOUR PASSIVE YOGA
imagine that on the first morning after Easter vacation, a professor enters his classroom and announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, forget everything that you have learned so far. Everything that you have had to cram into your head so far was good and important, but it was only necessary for the lower classes. Now that you are working for your finals and are about to graduate, we will pay attention only to the essential, namely, the knowledge of ourselves.”
Everyone freezes. All those years of worrying, the wakeful nights, the expensive books, the pain of memorizing–everything useless, senseless? The top student jumps up. He fights for the fruits of those painful years: his high grades which are about to be completely forgotten.
The professor smiles. “You are now going from the seminar room out into real life. There you won’t be asked whether you have carefully analyzed Plato, but whether you can be a useful member of the State in the sense of the platonic polis. Hardly any of you will have occasion in his profession to work with tangents and pi’s. Forget the rules and laws–but never forget that you have had the opportunity, through the laws of mathematics, to glimpse the great universal laws; and remember that these laws are valid even where we do not yet have formulas. “Forget the sentences that you had to memorize; but remember that their meaning has now become second nature to you. It is in the forgetting of the mechanical process that the effect of real knowing is produced. Now the mind is completely free and can give full attention to its own self. If you still feel the need to have recourse to the first three stages, you are not ready for the fourth stage. You are ready only when all your spiritual efforts are devoted to this fourth stage. Once again, forget the teachings, for now you have experience. Let us begin:”
(1) Veneration to Siva, the guru who is in the form of nada, bindu and kala. He who is thus devoted reache’s the maya-free state.
We have to pay careful attention here, for this devotional sentence harbors some vital information: Shiva who is in the form of nada, bindu and kala.
It is not difficult to understand this, provided one is willing to study the intricate symbolism of Indian tantra. However, that is not the purpose of this book. We want to turn directly to the practical side of the problem.
Let us imagine the strange case of a man who wants to recreate the universe. First he must decide what he requires. His answer to this is “quite simply” vibrations. What kind of vibrations would our presumptuous creator need?
Let us classify. The highest range of vibration is that of cosmic rays, which we term “light” for short; the middle range is “heat,” and the lowest range “sound.” But man too is part of the universe, and since every part of the creation is subject to the same laws, let our “creator” limit himself for the time being to the creation of man from his arsenal of vibrations. This man is a mechanism of the most manifold forces, and tendencies that in their theoretical totality bear the name of Siva. And since the composition of the universe is not different from that of man,
and they both aresubject to the same great law, this Siva is created out of the lower range of vibrations, “sound” (nada) and the highest, “light” (kala). (We will speak about the middle range later.)
But just as the universe is not a dynamo, neither is man a machine, for he understands “sound” as a concept, as a name, and “light” as image, as form. In this too he corresponds to the cosmos, where divine forces, finer than matter, rule in profound regions. But let us remain with man.
He comprehends. In other words, he not only exists but he knows himself. Everything in him is a process sustained by a force, a process that is in fact itself this force, the force of nature. And this force of nature (prakriti or shakti) is inseparable from him, the Siva. In fact, without this force he would not exist, for their relationship is the polarity of all beings.
Thus, as stated, man comprehends himself. And what he comprehends is not only the technical process of vibrations, but also the finer aspect of bindu, the principle of intelligence. Thus Siva is not only nada (sound) and kala (light) but also bindu (sense).
The middle range of vibrations (heat) is, as we already know, the metabolism. But this “fire” is not sheerly biological; it too has its finer aspect, its bindu. In Part Three, we saw how we can influence this fire in an indirect way by inhibiting it through the “nectar.”
Now when the yogi wishes to produce his highest and lowest vibration fields to give new character to his personality (which consists of these two ranges of vibration), he would founder hopelessly if he addressed himself directly to his whole personality with all its fields of vibrations.
Instead, he has to learn to work on the “centers” of energy, the chakras. And his whole education is pointed in this direction. What part do these chakras play on the different levels of vibration? Let’s analyze a word–something that has had a magical character from time immemorial–and let’s try, with this word as an example, to clarify the inner processes.
Take your own name and pronounce it slowly, clearly, and audibly. A multiple reaction takes place:
1. The pronounced word evoked by the throat chakra rings out, But if you have carefully registered this sound with the physical car, you have heard the sound and nothing more.
2. Now pay attention not to the sound, but to the sense. Not the succession of letters but the name is our chief interest. This involves the heart chakra. The word evokes a feeling, because this time you did not listen as attentively, but became more deeply involved internally.
3. Now don’t pay attention atall; try to occupy your mind elsewhere, and let yourself be spoken to by your own name. Expect nothing, just be addressed unconsciously by your name. Again something else happens: you are startled. It is as though someone suddenly, unexpectedly, called you by name: something like an inaudible signal results every time. And this third plane of vibrations, the source of your personality, lies in the root chakra, the muladhara chakra, at the lowest end of the spinal column, seat of the kundalini. With this example we have presented the three levels on which vibrations, both light and sound, can manifest: coarse, fine, and abstract; or: perceptible through the senses, perceptible through feeling, and perceptible through intuition.
The corresponding manifestations of these three levels of reception are also threefold: physical perception through concentration (dharana), mental perception through meditation (dhyana), and spiritual perception in complete absorption (samadhi).
Before discussing these three methods of perception extensively in their relation to raja yoga, let us compare them with the above example of the name.
1. Noting with the senses (tone with ears or image with eyes).
2. Reception through feeling (What is the meaning of this or that symbol?)
3. Nothing; the reception “speaks for itself” because everything conceptual is eliminated.
Nothing much can be said about No. 1. It means perception and nothing more, in the way an animal perceives: pure sensory perception. This is the area of mechanical learning.
Processes on the second plane are considered more complicated, for here we have to presume an immanent spiritual primordial entity, which resembles a tuning fork in that when approached by a similar frequency of sound (or image) it will vibrate with it. Here the “meaning” penetrates the shell of appearances and hits the hidden opposite pole of consciousness, with which it condenses into a dynamic mental process. The fact that “meaning” here does not necessarily indicate the “logical meaning of the word” is intellectually difficult to grasp.
Before the student begins his meditation on the symbols suggested by his guru he has to root them and their inner meaning within himself, for it is not enough to adopt an apparently meaningless pattern of sound or form [mantra and yantra] and give them an arbitrary sense. He has to absorb the symbols so that they can freely unfold their natural forces to mobilize the archetypal spiritual powers, for such is their purpose. They must become as meaningful as one’s proper name or one’s own mirror image.
Before beginning to work with these symbols meditatively he must take his main (rosary) and pronounce every syllable of the given sound symbol (mantra) 100,000 times (japa) while viewing the corresponding form symbol (yantra). Once this is done–and he starts practice early [see Part One, chapter 17]– he has reached the beginning of his powers. By then the mantra has become name: the name of the deity that dwells within him. It is the name of Siva (or one of his powers), for every yogi knows “Sivoham,” I am Siva.
Mantra becomes the key word, yantra the guidepost to the inner worlds whose source he must find. These inner spheres are fundamentally, primordially a dark, inextricable, labyrinth and even he who knows the ultimate goal needs a guide in order not to go hopelessly astray, for the intellect, like an unclean garment, is discarded at the entrance to this mysterious world. It would be of absolutely no help anyway. The symbol alone is Ariadne’s thread, the magnet that pulls the seeker toward the other pole that is part of himself. In the light of everyday reason the symbol seems strange and incomprehensible, but in the depth of the unconscious it reaches a clarity that thought has never experienced. All this, of course, is valid only for one who has learned to delve below the surface of consciousness into the subconscious, for him who has mastered the art of meditation, the art of samadhi.
(2-7) I now will speak of samadhi, which conquers death and which leads to bliss and union with Brahman. –Raja yoga, samadhi, unmani, manomani, immortality, dissolution, empti-ness-but-not-emptiness, the highest state, passivity of the intellect, non-dualism, beginninglessness, purity, liberation in this lifetime, the primordial state, and turiya (the Fourth State), all these are synonyms. –Just as a grain of salt dissolves in water and becomes one with it, so also in samadhi there occurs the union of mind with atman. Mind dissolves in breath and breath subsides. Both become one in samadhi. This state of equilibrium results
from the union of the jivatman and the paramatman. When mind thus is calm we are in samadhi.
The last two slokas contain three pairs of juxtaposed terms: mind and atman; mind and prana (breath); jivatman and paramatman. To understand the meaning of samadhi, we must understand the significance of these paired terms.
Mind and atman: “A. thought [mind] has just come to me [atman],” says the student. “To whom?” asks the guru. “To whom came what, and where did it come from ? Are these three separate things: you, your mind, and the thought process?”
Mind and breath’. “Here is a process,” the student thinks during pranayama, “and I am detached, watching the process.” This reflection is the contrary of samadhi, the unification. Just as the theatergoer does not think: “Here I am and there is the play,” but identifies with the play, forgets himself, forgets the process, is absorbed in the play, in the immediacy of a deep experience. As soon as he becomes aware of himself and knows he is here and the theater there, it is the intellect at work that destroys his involvement and with this he loses the essential, the spiritual experience.
Jivatman and paramatman: Jivatman is the individual self, paramatman the absolute, the divine Self. The universe consists of energy and matter, nothing more. This energy is always one and the same, regardless of how it manifests itself to our senses: as electricity, the motion of the air, the density of matter, or the beating of the heart. It is the energy that is inherent in prayer and the energy that answers prayer. The measure and the mass of this energy seems diverse only because of the various kinds of matter through which it manifests. Energy-in-itself is param-atman, “the energy which creates the personality of the living self.” If I now succeed in experiencing the inner meaning, the interrelationship of this threefold juxtaposition (sheer intellectual reflection is of little use), then samadhi (the esstablishtnent of oneness) is realized. The real One is then recognized.
(8-9) He who recognizes the true meaning of raja yoga can by the grace of the guru achieve realization, liberation, inner steadfastness and the siddhis. Without the grace of the guru and without indifference to worldly things recognition of Truth, [attainment of] samadhi, is impossible.
The “grace of the guru” is his readiness to hand the student the key to success: the yantras, the mantras, and their application.
More important at this stage is the “indifference to worldly things.” The professional theater critic is not supposed to be detached from the world, he must keep his intellect alert. Only when he no longer succeeds in this and is carried away by the action does he recognize and admit that what has happened to him is that which from time immemorial has been most important to man. There was a real experience; the soul was touched; worldly matters suddenly lost their attraction. What is really gripping is always the spiritual experience and never the intellectual, and the more neutral we become toward worldly (intellectual) things, the more open we become to real experience. The less critically we watch the magician’s fingers, the more startling are his tricks. The critic may know more, but he experiences less.
Yet it would be an error to understand this uncritical attitude as blind acceptance of every deception. The critical intellect can absorb only the unessential part of a so-called truth, while real Truth reveals itself on a higher level, in the realm of the soul. Civilized man differs from primitive man in that, among other things, he separates and objectifies with critical intellect.
But with this he immediately closes the door to a real understanding of spiritual principles or religion.
Lack of thought is not advocated as a principle; the capacity to break the fetters of the intellect at the crucial moment is what really counts. Similarly, the ideal is not the blind fury of the raging elements, but the art to release those forces and then control them.
(10) When the kundalini has been raised through the practice of osanas, kumbhakas and mudras, then emptiness [sunya] absorbs prana.
Emptiness (from any discriminating intellect) and the process of the prana current become one; thus all inner forces areconcentrated on the one process, the rising of the kundalini.
(11) The yogi who has raised the kundalini and has freed himself from all clinging karma will reach samadhi naturally.
(12) When prana flows through the sushumna and the mind is dissolved in emptiness [sunya] then the perfect yogi destroys all karma.
Thus Samadhi is the karma-free state. One could also say: the state of consciousness established in oneness neutralizes the effects of fate.
Indian religion assumes that the fate of man is the natural result of his deeds. “As you think and act, so you create your fate,” is the saying. The less we control our thoughts, the more haphazard will be the course of our life. This is not a question of good and evil, but simply of doing or not doing, of a directing of our intentions and of their natural effect on our endeavors. This view is purely psychological and to be understood only as such. A divine power is at play only in so far as this logical law exists at all.
This karma (result of action) exists only as long as man is dependent on the relative values of this world. If his consciousness is established in the Absolute, independent of time and space, independent from all dynamics in static condition, then there is for him no action (not even a mental action or action of will) and no effect can take place, because effect only results from cause, and absolute, static Being cannot produce cause. Since karma is a time-conditioned concept, it is eliminated as soon as time no longer exists. For where there is no flow of time there can be no happenings, and when nothing happens there is no cause for an effect, and “cause-effect” is a synonym for karma.
(13) Salutation to Thee, oh Immortal One. Even time, into whose jaws falls the movable and immovable universe, has been conquered by Thee.
Samadhi is the most prodigious, the most far-reaching achievement of a yogi. For, being free from time, as he is in this state, he is also beyond the bonds of death, beyond rebirth, beyond all karmas, which hold in their clutches all the world’s pain.
Of course he is not liberated with his first successful practice, for in this samadhi the karmic seeds that lie dormant within him are not destroyed. Each chakra controls certain karmic tendencies. Only when the kundalini force activates one chakra after another will the respective binding force be dissolved. For activating the chakras means gaining insight into the particular plane that has been reached. And gaining insight means dissolution of that specific karma. To mention just a few examples: In the muladhara chakra there is the karma of existence; in svadhisthana chakra that which is born from the I Thou rela-
tionship; in manipura chakra the karma resulting from ambitions for power.
Samadhi, of course, is not the only way to liberation, but it is the most radical and within the framework of this particular yoga the most essential.
(My humble salutations to Swamyjis , Philosophic Scholars, Knowledge seekers for the collection)