Hatha Yoga Pradipika 19 — The Order of Things

This entry follows “Things to Avoid” from chapter one.

My input amidst verses is in [brackets] and in color when commenting. Kripalu commentary is in plain text.

The following is a rendering of verses 57 to 58 approximately (in bold black Italics)—verses are numbered differently in different editions:

The best of yogis who has no fatigue from practicing postures [asana] should perform the continued practices of the purification of the energy channels , the energy seals, the purifying action of the suspension of the life energy, etc.

Energy channels (nadis). There are 72,000 nadis in the body. The three main nadis are the ida (eeda), the cooling moon channel, the pingala (ping’-gala), the warming sun channel, and the sushumna, the central channel through which the united sun and moon, apana and prana, try to travel upward as a single evolutionary force, kundalini. Or you could say that the commotion caused by their union “awakens” Kundalini.  This all begins with asana (called “postures” in this translation).

Energy seals (mudras). Mudras are for the purpose of sealing in energy when a nadi has been purified. Mudras occur of their own volition, at exactly the right time.

Suspension of the life energy (pranayama). Pranayama is most often taught as breathing techniques and exercises, but the translator has given us its real meaning: the suspension, or the stopping of the movement, of prana, the life energy. So pranayama is to be take literally here: prana (life energy) yama (restrained, not moving, suspended). When the prana is not moving, the mind is not moving, and vise versa.

Purifying actions (kriyas). Kriyas are actions produced by prana, the life energy, for the purpose of purification. All the various kriyas, pranayamas and mudras are associated with purification. Divine-sound uniting is the next step, and is included in Royal Yoga.

The continued practice of sun-moon yoga occurs in this order: posture, various kinds of holds, the method called energy seal, and divine-sound uniting.

1. Posture (asana)
2. Holds (bandha)
3. Energy Seal (mudra)
4. Divine-Sound Uniting (nada yoga)

Posture (asana). (Asana has been discussed previously.)

Holds (bandhas). Locks. Energy is locked (held) at a certain place in the body in order to concentrate the energy there and to retain what has been purified rather than letting it get away. Locks, or holds, are also used by the purifying actions of prana to prevent impurities from rising beyond a certain point (where the lock is), taking impurities with it and causing uncomfortable symptoms.

Divine-sound uniting (nada yoga).  There are two kinds of divine sound: struck divine sound (divine sound produced by striking something) and unstruck divine sound (sound that occurs without any means). Struck divine sound is caused by desire, and unstruck divine sound occurs of its own accord. Only the yogi knows it.

There are many kinds of unstruck divine sounds which are either gross or subtle. In meditation, the mind exists, one hears subtle divine sounds, and one has divine visions. The mind, divine light and divine sounds ultimately cease to exist and divine-sound-uniting eventually becomes no-mind union—even though no mind or divine sounds remain in this state, it is not unconsciousness, it is union with the Absolute. Thus, nada yoga is the beginning of Royal Yoga.

Kripalu Commentary:
The journey of sun-moon yoga is very difficult and quite long. After it is accomplished, the journey of royal yoga is easy, because at that time the yogi is endowed with omniscience and detachment. It does not matter at all whether that journey is completed in one year or in ten years, because in it he receives the support of knowledge and detachment. The difficulty is in the hard-to-complete journey of sun-moon yoga. In it, the firm steadfastness of a year seems like that of a millennium.

Omniscience and detachment. These two words give us an idea of how to know when Hatha Yoga is complete.
Omniscience — All-knowingness
— Neutrality, impartiality

_______________ ♦ ♦ ♦ _______________

This concludes my entries on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for the time being. I find the HYP to be especially qualified as a “mystical” writing, but I haven’t seen evidence of much interest in these entries. I can only discern interest when there are Replies—comments or questions or sharing of related experiences—and there have been only two of these.

So next week, it’s on to something new. Any suggestions?

Durga Ma

Meditation Teacher Training & Certification
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Hatha Yoga Pradipika 18 — Things to Avoid

This entry follows “The Duration of Sun-Moon Practice” from chapter one.

My input amidst verses is in [brackets] and in color when commenting.

The following is a rendering of verses 59 to 63 approximately—I find that verses are numbered differently in different editions:

A chaste, moderate eating, renounced, engrossed-in-yoga aspirant becomes accomplished within one year; there is not the least possibility of a doubt about this. 

Chaste (brahmacharya) refers to one whose sexual “seed” has been sublimated, elevated and not lost. (I have put the word “seed” in quotes so that we females may consider this concept according to our own anatomy.)  

Moderate eating is addressed in Hatha Yoga Pradipika 15 – Suitable Food. There is more on this subject coming up below.

Renounced does not refer to sacrifice, but to being on the verge of true detachment—neutrality—naturally. Because of this detached state, the yogi is able to remain continuously engrossed in yoga.

Accomplished refers to having achieved sun-moon union. Accomplishing sun-moon union does not necessarily mean that it is finished, but that one has gotten there.

Moderate eating, or appropriate ingesting, is the consuming of ‘food’ that is naturally tasty, sweet, minus one fourth portion, and eaten to please Lord Shiva.

Yogis consider the following foods to be unsuitable: Bitter, sour, hot [spicy-hot], very salty, unripe vegetables, fermented foods, sesame oil, sesame seed, intoxicating drink, fish, meat, curds, buttermilk, jujube, oil cake, asafoetida, garlic, onion, etc. Reheated, stale, excessively salty, and food turned sour or spoiled, is to be abandoned altogether. 

Remember that what is being sought concerning what one ingests should be tranquil in nature, sattvas. In this verse, the foods listed as unsuitable or to be avoided are of the quality of tamas (inert or lifeless) and rajas (overstimulating). So as we are to understand from Suitable Foods, we are to avoid food, people, situations and environments that are overstimulating or are oppressive, dark or depressive. In other words, avoid anything and everyone unfavorable to the easy-going, moderate and tranquil quality of sattvas. 

Keep in mind that this instruction applies during sun-moon yogaand that some practitioners of yoga have not reached the stage of sun-moon yoga and others have gone beyond it to royal yoga. However, for one wishing to attain to sun-moon yoga, it only makes sense to apply these instructions (and the ones that follow) to one’s own sadhana anyway. 

During the period of continued practice of sun-moon yoga, the aspirant should not tend the fire, associate with women, or go on journeys, etc. Nor should he associate with base, evil-minded people, bathe early in the morning, or fast, and should avoid all laborious and strenuous physical activities.

Should not tend the fire – One should not stoke passion, i.e., seek sexual pleasure.

Should not associate with women – Read “men” if you are a woman, or read whichever gender is sexually attractive to you.

Should not go on journeys – It is in one’s best interest not to move around a lot during Hatha Yoga as this interferes with one’s practice routine and exposes one to unfavorable conditions. This includes wandering as a mendicant as well as moving house over and over again.

Should not associate with base, evil-minded people – It is taught that, when seeking Truth, one should associate only with those persons who have achieved it, or those who also sincerely seek it, particularly those on the same path as you so as to avoid confusion. 

Should not bathe early in the morning – The purpose of this is to avoid cold baths (bathing would have taken place in rivers and streams in the days of the original text).

Should not fast – Fasting is popular in some circles, but it is not recommended during Hatha Yoga.

Should avoid all laborious and strenuous physical activities – Contrary to popular opinion, excesses of all kinds, including exercise and hard work, are discouraged during sun-moon practice. Sun-moon practice will take care of any such needs on the part of the body. 

Durga Ma

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Hatha Yoga Pradipika 17 – The Duration of Sun-Moon Practice

Continuing from chapter one, “The Greatness of Continued Practice.”

The first translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition
The second translation is from the Akers edition from yogavidya.com
The third translation is from Swami Kripalu’s Revealing the Secret, and is followed by his commentary.

Things in (parentheses) are from the edition concerned.
My own input amidst verses is in [brackets] and in color when commenting.

The Term (Duration) of Purifying Action Yoga (vs 69)

Sinh edition:
Asanas (postures), various kumbhakas, and other divine means, all should be practiced in the practice of Hatha Yoga, ’till the fruit—Raja Yoga—is obtained.

Akers edition:
Practice Hatha’s asanas, various kumbhakas, and excellent karanas until the fruit of Raja Yoga is won.

Kripalu edition:
Various postures, different holds [locks], energy seals and other unworldly methods: all these systematic practices of sun-moon yoga should be continued until the fruit consisting of royal yoga is attained.

Kripalu Commentary on The Term (Duration) of Purification Action [Kriya] Yoga

Sun-moon yoga is the tree, and royal yoga is its fruit. The liberation-seeking aspirant does the continued practice of sun-moon yoga only for attaining liberation. By means of it, the mastery of the organs is accomplished. Through it, the vital air is brought under control, so that the stabilization of the mental faculty is facilitated. The stabilization of the mental faculty is called royal yoga. In it, Divine Power, rising up from the root-base energy center, becomes of one form with Kind Dissolver in the thousand-spoked energy center. Until the aspirant attains the fruit consisting of royal yoga, his effort is not completely fruitful; this needs to be borne in mind.

What’s the big deal about Raja Yoga? The big deal begins with samadhi and ends with liberation and the ever new joy of union with the Divine. But how does all this start? Where does one begin?

Things begin when one finds a teacher, a guru, who knows Hatha and Raja Yoga. Many people try to practice yoga on their own, and many make good progress, but until one becomes dedicated to a teacher and a path, progress is slow by comparison. So let’s examine an example of how this process might look:  

Joe Blow, who has been managing his yoga practice on his own, finally decides to shop around for a good teacher. Once having found one, he asks for shaktipat diksha. Permission granted.

Joe Blow has shaktipat and the next thing he knows he’s back at first base, listening to teachings on yama and niyama. Joe has never heard of these teachings before (which is why he’s learning about them now), but being a clever fellow, he realizes that he is actually in yoga kindergarten and determines that he must master these yamas and niyamas if he’s going to get on with things. This frustrates him to no end. Joe feels that with all his past experience and all those kriyas that were happening in his meditation before he even met his teacher (which, by the way, he did without anyone’s help, thank you very much!) that he should be getting on with something more advanced!

But Joe is dead serious about his trek in the land of enlightenment, and sticks with it anyway. His teacher has him doing two consecutive hours a day of the practice he learned at his initiation, and which he likes very much. But where’s the action? Where are the goodies? Even the old kriyas begin to elude him. At least with those, he felt like he was getting somewhere. (He doesn’t realize it yet, but he was.) 

Still, Joe is a serious guy and stays with the practice regardless of his frustration, confusion and niggling doubts, and decides to read some scripture to see if that will help. He picks up a copy of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika only to discover that it’s all gibberish—or so he hopes, because if what he suspects as a result of reading this gibberish is true, he hasn’t even begun Hatha Yoga yet! (He hasn’t.)

Joe sticks with the program. After a few months, some interesting things start to happen in his meditation. Now he’s inspired and excited. But the next thing he knows, he’s downright scared. He finally tells his teacher about the scary stuff (he’s been a little embarrassed about this, you see), and his teacher suggests he read the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, skip the commentaries, and pay attention to what Arjuna is going through to see if he feels that there is any correlation to his own situation. More gibberish and still scared. Teacher says, “Go ahead anyway” (with the practice, that is).

At this point, Joe has gotten a lot of personal garbage out of the way, but, being in unfamiliar territory, he’s not yet at a point where he can see this. Then one day (SURPRISE!) Hatha Yoga begins on its own and, with the guidance of his teacher, he begins to catch on. It was this and all the earlier work that seemed so unrelated to the present practice, and paying attention to the yamas and niyamas and using them (he was pretty good at some of them already; he’ll work on the others), that got him here. 

All in all, Joe got to Hatha Yoga fairly soon after his initiation. Only about six months to a year…or so. Now he will spend some years with Hatha Yoga (if he doesn’t balk at the next hurdle or two) and eventually find himself in completely new territory all over again: Raja Yoga.

Jaya Bhagavan,
Durga Ma

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