Chapter One — Primary Asanas
Continuing with one more verse from Hatha Yoga Pradipika — Asana using titles instead of numbers.
The first translation and the Titles are from Swami Kripalu’s, Revealing the Secret, a commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika [HYP].
The second translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition.
Anything in (parentheses) is from the edition concerned.
As always, my own input amidst verses is in [brackets], in color when commenting.
For persons using other editions, in this blog we are taking up at 18 in the Kripalu translation, which is 20 in the Sinh translation.
Remarks of Earlier Teachers
Vasishtha (Most Excellent) and other sages, and Matsyendra Master and other yogis have accepted certain postures. I, too, having accepted certain postures, describe them.
I am going to describe certain asanas which have been adopted by Munis like Vasishtha, etc., and Yogis like Matsyendra, etc.
Kripalu Commentary — Revealing the Secret
For attainment of the Absolute teaching, there is only one means: yoga. Sun-moon yoga is the first part of it. By means of sun-moon yoga, bodily purity occurs. It involves the organs of action. The second part of yoga is royal yoga. By means of it, mental purity occurs. It involves the organs of sense (the organs of knowledge). Vasishtha and other great seers resorted to yoga.
Bodily Purification – Hatha Yoga: Organs of Action
Hands, feet, tongue (speech), sex organs, and anus.
Mental Purification – Raja Yoga: Organs and Faculties of Sense
Organs: Ears, eyes, skin, tongue (taste), and nose.
Faculties: Hearing, seeing, feeling (touch), tasting, and smelling.
I have included the sense faculties in royal yoga (raja yoga), because Swami Kripalu has called the organs of sense, “the organs of knowledge.” This implies that the perception to which he refers is not limited to the actual organs. The faculties (abilities or powers) can operate without the organs by means of imagination, dreams, and thoughts, and do operate without them entirely in meditation. When this occurs in one’s meditation, perception is direct and knowledge is acquired without the use of the corresponding organs.
How can there be any association between sun-moon yoga and Great-Seer Sage Vasishtha? The revered great seer is a knowledge yogi; he has no allegiance to action – why should he take up action worship? “With the fire of knowledge he can make action into ashes!” This is only the reasoning of some learned men; there is not much fact in it. Great-Seer Sage Vasishtha Muni, is a supreme worshipper of the life energy [prana]. The worship of the life energy is called sun-moon yoga. He is the author of the jewel-like book, The Yoga Vasishtha. In many places in it he has explained the importance of the worship of the life energy. In the fourth section, entitled “Peace of Mind”, he has said, “O Delightful One! Even after hundreds of births, this is the practice provided for the worldly condition. Without practice for a long time, how can the worldly condition be broken?” So the knower of the essence, along with abandonment of mental attachments, also tells about the systematic practice of the stabilization of the life energy. It also should be done.
See Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1:12-14 – Sanctuary for discussion on the use of the word, “worship” in Swami Kripalu’s commentary.
Beloved King-Among-Yogis Atmarama says, “In ancient times, Vasishtha and other sages, gave forest-dwelling, unattached, liberation-seeking aspirants knowledge of scripture first, and in the end, giving them instruction in renunciation-of-action yoga, made them pilgrims of yoga.” To presume that these sages were followers of the path of knowledge, and therefore expounded only knowledge yoga, is to make a mistake. They were all-knowing; they knew all paths. They taught devotion yoga to the devotee, action yoga to the yogi, and knowledge yoga to the knower. The reason they expounded knowledge yoga was that their group of students was knowledge-oriented. They usually taught the continued practice of scripture and the continued practice of yoga to inquirers following both paths – the path of engagement and the path of cessation – but they were in different study groups. They also favored certain postures.
It is my opinion that one might as well take up knowledge, action and devotion from the very start since these three personal orientations are ultimately going to merge anyway. At the start, most of us are stronger in one of these orientations, so how would this work? Contrary to popular teaching methodologies, rather than focusing on trying to improve the weakest orientation, I would recommend that you do what you do best first, and gradually add the others to it. By doing this, you will not become discouraged or disinterested and your weakest orientation will automatically rise in strength due to its association with your naturally strongest orientation.
Matsyendra Master and others (other yogis who taught) were called teacher yogis. They taught town-dwelling, desirous, ethical-action-seeking aspirants action yoga first, and in the end, instructing them in necessary scriptural knowledge, made them pilgrims of yoga. They too were followers of the path of knowledge. Matsyendra and other yogis were also situated on the level of yoga on which Vasishtha and other sages were situated. The reason they came to expound action yoga was that their group of students was action-oriented; it was of the intermediate class. Alternatively, they gave knowledge of scripture to unattached and learned liberation-seeking aspirants first, and in the end, engaged them in renunciation-of-action yoga. They were truly all-knowing. Seeing the eligibility and class of the aspirant, they would give instruction accordingly.
“Town-dwelling, desirous, ethical-action-seeking aspirants” describes what Swami Kripalu quoted earlier as, “the worldly condition” (though perhaps without the complementary appellations of “ethical” and “aspirant”). If you are attempting yoga sadhana and are bound up in worldly concerns, this is your Good News, your medicine for the cure: action yoga, then, the necessary scriptural knowledge to make you a pilgrim of yoga (walking a path to the shrine of Union). But what is “action yoga”?
Beyond the usual selfless service to the guru, action yoga is Hatha Yoga, sun-moon union, which can only be completely successful with the “necessary scriptural knowledge.” So it’s a sequence: start with action and then go forward well informed. “Unattached and learned liberation-seeking aspirants” would naturally proceed beginning with knowledge of the truth about action leading them to renunciation-of-action yoga (through action, of course). Confused yet? Well, this is just one of those esoteric places. What can I say!
Now Beloved-Yogi Svatmarama will describe the good luck posture and other postures.
Coming up next time.