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

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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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Hatha Yoga Pradipika 16 — The Greatness of Continued Practice

Continuing from chapter one on Suitable Food

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 Greatness of Continued Practice (vs 66-68)

Sinh edition:
Whether young, old or too old, sick or lean, one who discards laziness, gets success if he practices Yoga. Success comes to him who is engaged in the practice. How can one get success without practice; for by merely reading books on Yoga, one can never get success. Success cannot be attained by adopting a particular dress (Vesha). It cannot be gained by telling tales. Practice alone is the means to success. This is true, there is no doubt.

Akers edition:
One succeeds in all Yogas through energetic practice—even if one is young, old, very old, sick, or weak. The practitioner will succeed; the nonpractitioner will not. Success in Yoga is not achieved by merely reading books. Success is achieved neither by wearing the right clothes nor by talking aout it. Practice alone brings success. This is the truth, without a doubt.

Kripalu edition:
Even a young, old, very old, ailing, or weak aspirant attains accomplishment if he performs the continued practice of the steps of yoga without slacking. The aspirant who has purifying action attains accomplishment; how could an individual who does not have purifying action attain accomplishment? The accomplishment of yoga is not achieved by merely studying scripture. Nor is wearing the clothing (of a yogi) or hearing tales from the yogic scriptures the way to accomplish yoga. Continually practiced yogic purifying action is the way to accomplish yoga; in this there is not the least doubt.

Kripalu Commentary on the Greatness of Continued Practice

Everyone has the same right to yoga, so each person can benefit from it to the degree that he is suited to it (which increases as yoga progresses). Of course, in yoga one must observe one main rule: to perform the continued practice of yoga without slacking. Without continued practice, even an ordinary task cannot be accomplished, so how can yoga be accomplished [without it]? By studying the scriptures, guidance is certainly received; but accomplishment is not received. By changing one’s dress or by hearing tales from yogic scriptures, there is certainly some ordinary benefit, but accomplishment is only attained through the continued practice of yoga.

Just because someone dresses like a yogi, calls himself a yogi, or can quote yogic scripture, does not mean that he is a yogi. A yogi is one who has attained yoga, union. The wearing of a uniform is irrelevant to the attainment of yoga

One has three sources of learning and guidance: the oral teachings of guru, scripture, and experience.  If you study scripture, this is good.  If guru lives nearby, this is good.  But experience can only be gained by you through repeated practice. All three are needed. Reading and listening are not enough.  What is read in scriptures and what is heard from one’s guru must be applied repeatedly in order to experience these teachings for yourself, and to quickly avail yourself of direct experience—perception without the aid of the senses or the mind. 

A teaching of my lineage is that one who studies and contemplates scripture progresses a thousand times faster than one who does not.  So Kripalu is not saying that this is not important, or that guru’s teachings are not important, but that it is only through your own experience of these teachings through repeated practice, that they all come together for you. This takes place two ways: (1) You receive teachings from guru and scripture. Through repeated practice you gain greater depth of understanding of these teachings, as well as your own experiences. (2) You have an experience. The teachings of scripture and guru provide understanding and validation of the experience, and give you some sense of where you are in the process of yoga.  By these two, you come to see where you’ve been and what is coming. 

__________ ♦ ♦ ♦ __________

Durga Ma

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 15 – Suitable Food

Now that you have had a sampling of chapter one on Asana, I will skip to the last few verses of that chapter.

This installment answers a question I am often asked: “Is there a specific diet I should adhere to?” Some of what you read will probably come as a surprise.

The first translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition
The second translation is from the Akers edition from yogavidya.com
The third edition 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.

Suitable Food (vs 64-65)

Sinh edition:
Wheat, rice, barley, shastik (a kid of rice), good corns, milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugarcandy, honey, dried ginger, Parwal (a vegetable) the five vegetables, moong, pure water, these are very beneficial to those who practice Yoga. A Yogi should eat tonics (things giving strength), well sweetened, greasy (made with ghee), milk, butter, etc., which may increase humors of the body, according to his desire.

Akers edition:
These are wholesome for the best yogis: wheat, rice, barley, shashtika rice, auspicious food, milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugar candy, honey, dry ginger, cucumbers, etc., the five potherbs, mung dahl, etc., and pure water. The yogi should eat food that is desirable, suitable, nutritious, pleasantly sweet, juicy, contains dairy products, and strengthens the bodily elements.

Kripalu edition:
Wheat, rice, barley, quick-growing rice, the best food, milk, clarified butter, unrefined cane sugar, fresh butter, sugar candy, honey (nectar), dry ginger, cucumber and other fruit, the five green leafy vegetables (potherbs, cooked greens) (those potherbs that are good for the eyes), and crystal clear water are suitable for kings among yogis. The yogi should ingest food that is nourishing, sweet, agreeable, combined with milk, supportive of the constituent essences of the body (chyle*, flesh, blood, bone, marrow, fat, and sexual fluid), wished for in the heart, and appropriate.

* Chyle – A milky fluid consisting of fat droplets and lymph. It drains from the lacteals of the small intestine into the lymphatic system during digestion.

Kripalu Commentary on Suitable Food 

There are three kinds of food: tranquil [sattvik]-powerful, passionate [rajasic], and dark [tamasic]. Tranquil-powerful food is the most appropriate for the yogi. In The Chandogya Upanishad it says, “From pure food comes purity of being; from purity of being comes a stable memory.” This is indeed true. But we ordinarily think of food (ingesta) as food and water only; this is incorrect. We forget that all the objects of sense perception of the (various) organs are encompassed by ‘food’! That is to say each organ has its own type of food. We think that only one tongue ingests food – the other organs fast; this is not so. Therefore, it also becomes unavoidable for the aspirant to take in tranquil-powerful visual phenomena (sights), tranquil-powerful sounds, tranquil-powerful odors, tranquil-powerful tactile phenomena, etcetera. Thus, when there comes to be tranquil-powerfulness in thought, speech, faith, feelings, conduct, etcetera, real tranquil-powerfulness is attained.

Tranquil Power

In Hatha Yoga Pradipika 10 – Asanain the section beginning, “There are many levels of yoga” we read about three qualities—lethargy, passion and tranquillity—in the context of the three main levels of yoga. Now we are to understand that one of these, “tranquil-power,” will guide what we put in front of our senses for them to ingest during the stages of Hatha Yoga. But what is “tranquil-power”?

Tranquil-power is how someone has translated the Sanskrit word, sattvas. Sattvas is the quality of something that is easy-going, smooth-flowing. It is also interpreted as clarity and goodness. So to get there, we are to take care about what we take in, i.e., our food, the company we keep, what our eyes behold, our ears hear, and so forth. During Hatha Yoga, our intake should be sattvic. The short list of foods in this verse are sattvic foods.

We go through Hatha Yoga in order to get to Raja Yoga.  At the highest level of yoga, as stated in Kripalu’s commentary in Hatha Yoga Pradipika 10 – Asanasattvas is predominant. But even this is going to change, get destroyed, and ultimately disappear altogether, along with the other gunas.

The Three Gunas (Qualities of Nature)

Guna: Property or characteristic of all created things.
Tamas: The quality of inertia.
Rajas: The quality of passion.
Sattvas: The quality of tranquillity.

________ ♦ ♦ ♦ ________

I discovered a very good resource in yogavidya.com and ordered all of their books. They carry the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Bhagavad Gita, Shiva Samhita and Gheranda Samhita, all of which are relevant to our practice, and are reasonably priced.  There is no commentary and the translations are sweet and simple.  Their books are so clearly printed that I can actually read the Devanagari without a microscope.  Please pay them a visit.

Durga Ma

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 14 — Virile Asana

Chapter One — Virasana

Continuing from The Cow’s Face Asana with one more verse.

The first translation and the Titles are from Swami Kripalu’s, Revealing the Secret, a commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

The second translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition.

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

For persons using other editions, in this blog we are taking up at 21 in the Kripalu translation, which is 23 in the Sinh translation.

The Virile Posture

Firmly place the first foot on the second thigh, and the second foot on the first thigh; this is called the virile posture.

One foot is to be placed on the thigh of the opposite side, and so also the other foot on the opposite thigh. This is called Virasana.

Kripalu Commentary — Revealing the Secret

Someone will call out, “But that is the lotus posture! How can it be called the virile posture?”

This uncertainty is quite proper, but that lotus posture which has been called the virile posture is different from the lotus posture ordinarily found in meditation.

When a natural triple lock composed of the root lock, the flying-up lock, and the water-holder lock occurs in the lotus posture, and the palms are firmly placed on the soles of the feet, then, from the viewpoint of the sentiment (the emotional state, the mental state), the yogi appears to be a virile warrior, because at that time valor has spread throughout his body and mind.

This naturally occuring triple lock is composed of: 

1. The root lock—mulabandha, a lock at the first chakra, the muladhara, root-holder…

2. The flying-up lock—uddhiyanabandha, the flying up of prana and the contraction and locking of the diaphram at the third chakra…

3, The water-holder lock—jalandharabandha, the locking of the throat at the fifth chakra…

You can see all of this in the asana:

When this triple lock occurs in the lotus posture with the palms firmly placed on the soles of the feet, pressure is created, restricting the flow of blood.

From the yogi’s point of view, he feels virile—he experiences strength and energy—because at that time, he experiences this throughout his body and his mind.

Just as under the influence of defeat or misery, the mental tendencies slacken and the person becomes dejected and empty (down and out), so under the influence of victory or joy, the mental tendencies strengthen and the person becomes cheerful and virile.

When the yogi comes under the influence of despondency, misery, defeat, etc, there is a reduction of the level or strength of the energy of the body (consider the word, “depression” in a literal sense). We talked about this in the previous post.

“Dejected and empty” refers to a mode of purification. When the yogi feels successful and joyful, strength is regained and the mode of purification is tapas, heat.

The fire is called “the virile one”. When the fire of yoga is kindled in the body of the aspirant by means of continued practice, he receives the name “the virile one”.  Yoga is the best sacrifice of all. Indeed the fire of yoga is the sacrificial fire.

Now we find that “sacrifice” is not what we may previously have believed.  This is Good News. 

From the point of view of the followers of the Tantras (the scriptures that form the basis of the tantric system of yoga), the triple lock is the trident. Trident-bearing beloved Lord Kind Dissolver [Shiva] and trident-bearing Mother Black One [Kali] are incarnate in the body of the aspirant in which the triple lock occurs.

This is why it has been called the virile posture.

There is also another posture called the virile posture. In it, one foot is in the middle of the buttocks and, the knee being bent, the other foot is placed standing (with its sole on the ground). Lastly, the wrist of one hand is held firmly by the other hand.

Great singers of Indian scriptural music (the music that accords with the principles given in ancient Indian scripture) sit in this virile posture with their tanapura [or tambura] (four-stringed musical instrument made from a gourd).

I am reminded of one of Swami Kripalu’s writings in which he made an interesting opening statement that went something like this: For the last two years I have been studying yoga and music. This was written decades after he had begun yoga; he had been a musician during his lifetime, so there was special meaning to this statement. Some of my earlier entries address this pairing of music and yoga.

In illustrations, Great Virile Beloved Crusher (the monkey god) is portrayed in this posture.

In this picture, the monkey god, Hanuman, instead of holding his wrist, is displaying his ardent devotion to the divine couple, Rama (you) and Sita (your shakti) to whom he was deeply devoted. His “crusher” (lower left) represents the crushing of the mentally based desires that stood in the way of their union. This story is told in Valmiki’s Ramayana.

_________ ♦ ♦ ♦ _________

I think this is a good time to remind you that you are, and have been, reading about and looking at asanas in their final forms. For instance, the triple lock associated with virasana, consists of three locks that initially occur independently of each other.  It is only later in sadhana that they occur together. Their simultaneous occurrence is the final form of the triple lock (tribandha) as demonstrated in virasana.

Durga Ma