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