Hatha Yoga Pradipika 11 — Asana, Continued

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.

Durga Ma

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 10 – Asana

Chapter One — Asana
Continuing from Hatha Yoga Pradipika — Restraints and Observances.

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.

The numbering of the verses is different in the two translations after verse 16 so I am not using numbers, only Kripalu’s titles.  If you are following these blogs on the HYP using other editions, in this blog we are taking up at 17 in the Kripalu translation, which is 19 in the Sinh translation.

In this entry, I am only giving one verse in order to include Kripalu’s entire commentary so that those of my initiates who are arriving at a turning point in their sadhana can derive useful information in Kripalu’s words.

Posture [Asana]

The first limb of the sun-moon teaching is posture (position, stance), so it is mentioned first. By means of its continued practice, the practitioner acquires stability, freedom from disease, and lightness of limbs.

Being the first accessory of Hatha Yoga, asana is described first.  It should be practiced for gaining steady posture, health and lightness of body.

Kripalu Commentary — Revealing the Secret

In the Gheranda Samhita, Great-Seer Sage Gheranda (Confining the Egg), says, “In the world there are as many postures as there are living beings (living souls and lower life forms). In the beginning, Lord Eternal Kind Dissolver set forth 8,400,000 postures.” Through natural [sahaja] yoga [Surrender Meditation], countless postures are manifested. In The Shandilya Upanishad, Great-Seer Sage Shandilya (Milk Curds) says, “He who is victorious in posture is victorious in all the three worlds.” Through the continued practice of posture, the passionate condition and the dark condition cease to exist.

You may think of the “three worlds” as Brahma Loka, Vishnu Loka and Rudra Loka (see Intensive book); body (physical), feelings (emotional, astral, or subtle body) and mind (mental, etheric, or subtler body); humankind, ancestors and gods; etc.

The “passionate condition” is rajas, and the “dark condition” is tamas in its negative aspect which causes lethargy (see Intensive book).

Posture first occurs in the very beginning of yoga, but its special characteristic is that it is present up to the state of equanimity [samadhi]. That is to say, it holds first place in the center of any systematic practice.

Don’t miss this one:  Hatha Yoga isn’t over until samadhi is reached, even though samadhi is associated with Raja Yoga which involves concentration (dharana) and the meditative state (dhyana).

Ordinarily, along with the arousal of the life energy [pranotthana], postures, suspensions of the life energy, energy seals, etcetera, begin of their own accord; nevertheless, the expert teachers of yoga consider posture to be the first limb (stage); this is quite correct. Great-Seer Sage Patañjali (Flying-Up-Anointing), says that there are eight limbs of yoga: restraint [yama], observance [niyama], posture [asana], the suspension of the life energy [pranayama], the withdrawal of the senses [pratyahara] (the withdrawal of the organs of sense/knowledge gained through the objects of sense perception: sound, tactility, visibility, savor and odor), concentration [dharana] (focusing the attention), meditation [dhyana] (keeping the attention focused), and equanimity [samadhi] (divine union).

Sun-moon yoga is not different from eight-limbed yoga, but different points of view make them appear different. In sun-moon yoga, apart from restraint [yama] and observance [niyama], there are four limbs: posture [asana], the suspension of the life energy [pranayama], energy seal [mudra] (locking in the life energy), and divine-sound uniting [samadhi] (reaching divine union through the divine vibration, or the music of God). Concentration, meditation, and equanimity are included in divine sound (uniting). It can be said that “sun-moon yoga” consists of posture, the suspension of the life energy, energy seal, and the withdrawal of the senses, and “royal yoga” consists of divine sound uniting – concentration, meditation, and equanimity [refer to Intensive book].

There are many levels of yoga. Among them are three main levels: beginning, middle, and last. In the beginning level, the fourteen main energy channels [nadis], nine energy centers [chakras], and three plexuses [granthis] are still totally unpurified, that is, darkness (lethargy) (the dark condition) is predominant in them. In the middle level, passion is predominant, and in the last level, tranquil power is predominant in the beginning and is being destroyed in the middle, and in the end the yogi is beyond the three conditions of nature. The power of a given posture does not remain the same in each level; it increases step by step. (When the word ‘level’ is used, it usually refers to one of these three levels. The word ‘stage’ is used more generally; it usually means ‘the state of a stage’, and is sometimes translated as ‘state’.)

Level 1:  Lethargy is predominant
Level 2:  Passion is predominant
Level 3:  Tranquil power is predominant

Note that Level Three, the “last” level, has three levels:
Level 3.1:  Tranquil power is predominant
Level 3.2:  Tranquil power is being destroyed
Level 3.3:  One is beyond the influence of the 3 gunas (see Intensive notes), trigunatita.

When all the energy channels become free of impurity, the body, becoming stable (firm) of its own accord, becomes whole (homogeneous, in perfect equilibrium). Along with this, the head and the neck also become rigid and unwavering. Because of purity of the energy channels, the aspirant also attains freedom from disease. Through the destruction of corpulence, the body becomes quick and lean. The inner heart is filled with bliss. This is the extent of with-seed [sabija] equanimity [samadhi]. In it, the dark condition and the passionate condition fade away, and the tranquil powerful condition thrives.

Consider that kundalini said to be coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine (eight, according to Goraksha) which indicates more than one go-round, that She doesn’t just wake up, hit the bell at the top and it’s all over, you’re enlightened, brimming with wisdom and have completed your sadhana. There is definitely MORE to come.

♦  ♦  ♦

In presenting you with verses of sacred texts, I tend to either write several in one entry without much in the way of comments, write a summary of several, or write one to three verses and include commentaries of others as well as my own as in this entry.  I would be interested to know which you prefer and find most useful.  Please “Reply” to let me know.

Durga Ma

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 7 – vs I:1-16 Synopsis

By Svatmarama of the Natha Tradition (15th Century AD)

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is said to be directly linked to the Pashupata Sutras of Lakulisha, brought back from gradual decline by Matsyendra (950 AD). The author, Svatmarama, having commentaries on these Sutras from various Masters available to him in his time (only one remains today), selected verses from them, organized them, and added verses of his own.

There are four chapters in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Asana [posture, position and disposition], Pranayama [life force restraint], Mudra [energy seal], and Samadhi [equanimity], in that order.

Why am I starting all over again? 

Those of you who know me have often heard me say that the most important piece of a yogic scripture is at the beginning—the punch line always comes first, as Yogeshwar would say.

Also, I thought you might like to have the verses we have already done all together in the one place along with a second translation for comparison.  (See the Archives for previous entries.)  And as a special treat, I have added two more verses.

Two Translations

The first paragraph of each verse is a translation from Swami Kripalvananda’s Revealing the Secret, which was later translated into English by Professor M. D. Pant of the Sanskrit Institute of Almora, India.  The titles given to the verses are from this work.

The second paragraph of each verse is a translation from Pancham Sinh, Sri Satguru Publications, Shakti Nagar, Delhi, India, first published in 1914.

Like this:


Verse 1
Remembering Revered Kind Dissolver

For aspirants intending to mount to the most high royal yoga, the sun-moon teaching taught by Lord First Master makes a splendid ladder; respectful salutations (obeisance) to that Lord First Master.

Salutations to Shri Adinatha who expounded the knowledge of Hatha Yoga, which like a staircase leads the aspirant to the high pinnacled Raja Yoga.

[You’re on your own, now.]

Verse 2
Remembering the Revered Truth Teacher

I, Svatmarama Yogi, having bowed down to my Master Teacher, am giving instruction in the sun-moon teaching only for the attainment of royal yoga.

Yogin Swatmarama, after saluting first his Guru Srinatha explains Hatha Yoga for the attainment of Raja Yoga.

Verse 3
The Small Burning Lamp of Sun-Moon Yoga

For those who do not know royal yoga due to the false knowledge in the pitch darkness of countless doctrines (belief systems), Beloved Treasury of Compassion Yogi Svatmarama holds the burning lamp in the form of The Small Burning Sun-Moon Lamp.

Owing to the darkness arising from the multiplicity of opinions people are unable to know the Raja Yoga.  Compassionate Swatmarama composes the Hatha Yoga Pradipika like a torch to dispel it.

Verse 4
The Lineage

Beloved King-Among-Yogis Matsyendra Master, Beloved Great Yogi Goraksha Master, and other Masters, know sun-moon teaching well, and through their grace, this Svatmarama Yogi also knows this teaching.

Matsyendra, Goraksha, etc., knew Hatha Vidya [vidya, knowledge], and by their favor Yogi Swatmarama also learnt it from them.

Verse 5-9
Former Teachers

Kripalu (5-9):
Revered First Master, Matsyendra Master, Shabara Master, Ananda, Bhairava Master, Chaurangi Master, Mina Master, Goraksha Master, Virupaksha Master, Vileshaya Master, Yogi Manthana Master, Bhairava Master, Siddha Master, Buddha Master, Kanthadi Master, Korantaka Master, Surananda Master, Siddhipada Master, Charpati Master, Kaneri Master, Pujyapada Master, Nitya Master, Nirañjana Master, Kapali Master, Bindu Master, Kakachandishvara Master, Allama Master, Prabhudeva Master, Ghoda Master, Choli Master, Tintini Master, Bhanuki Master, Naradeva Master, Khanda Master, Kapalika Master, and other Masters — these great accomplished ones of old, rising above death, roam the whole of creation.

5. The following Siddhas (masters) are said to have existed in former times:  Shri Adhinatha, Matsyendra Master, Shabara Master, Ananda, Bhairava Master, Chaurangi Master, Mina Master, Goraksha Master, Virupaksha Master, Vileshaya Master,

6. Yogi Manthana Master, Bhairava Master, Siddha Master, Buddha Master, Kanthadi Master, Korantaka Master, Surananda Master, Siddhipada Master, Charpati Master,

7. Kaneri Master, Pujyapada Master, Nitya Master, Nirañjana Master, Kapali Master, Bindu Master, Kaka Chandishvara Master,

8. Allama Master, Prabhudeva Master, Ghoda Master, Choli Master, Tintini Master, Bhanuki Master, Naradeva Master, Khanda Master, Kapalika Master.

9. These Mahasiddhas (great masters), breaking the sceptre of death, are roaming in the universe.

Verse 10
The Two Aspects of Sun-Moon Yoga: Hut and Tortoise

For people being burned by the three types of burning afflictions – spiritual (of the soul), physical (of matter), and supernatural (of the ‘shining ones’: the gods, planets or stars) – sun-moon yoga is the best refuge, like a ‘place of rest’ (a sanctuary); and for aspirants practicing yoga of all kinds – knowledge yoga, devotional yoga, action yoga, etcetera – it is also the tortoise that forms the foundation.

Like a house protecting one from the heat of the sun, Hatha Yoga protects its practicer from the burning heat of the three Tapas; and, constantly devoted to the practice of Yoga.

Verse 11
The Command of Yogic Scripture: The Sun-Moon Teaching Should Be Kept Hidden

The yogi aspiring to accomplishment must keep this sun-moon teaching well hidden, for unmanifested teaching is potent and manifested teaching is impotent.

A Yogi desirous of success should keep the knowledge of Hatha Yoga secret; for it becomes potent by concealing, and impotent by exposing.

Verse 12
A Suitable Region and Sanctuary

In an uninhabited place in some well-ruled, generous of alms, disturbance-free, and ethical region; where to the measure of a bow’s length, to four cubits distance, there are no rocks, fire, or water, the sun-moon yogi, having constructed a hermit’s hut, should dwell. (Four cubits is about 1.82 meters. A cubit is roughly the measure of the forearm from the end of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, about 45.6 cm.)

The Yogi should pracise Hatha Yoga in a small room, situated in a solitary place, being 4 cubits square, and free from stones, fire, water, disturbances of all kinds, and in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully.

Verse 13
What Kind of Yogic Sanctuary Should There Be?

Accomplished great persons have given this description of a yogic sanctuary: It should have a small door, have no chink (crack, peephole) or gap, have no pit, be level, be plastered with cow dung, be devoid of living creatures [pests, i.e., insects, etc.], and on the outside, have a pavilion (sheltered platform) [porch], be graced by a sacrificial fire pit and a well, and be protected by a wall.

The room should have a small door, be free from holes, hollows, neither too high nore too low, well plastered with cow-dung and free from dirt, filth and insects.  On its outside there should be bowers, raised platform (chabootra), a well, and a compound.  these characteristics of a room for Hatha Yogis have been described by adepts in the practice of Hatha.

Verse 14

Residing permanently in the hut mentioned above, being free from all concerns, the aspirant should unceasingly perform only correct practice of yoga in accordance with the path indicated by the revered truth teacher.

Having seated is such a room and free from all anxieties, he should practise Yoga, as instructed by his guru.

Verse 15
The Six Enemies

Overeating, overexertion, chattering [talking all the time outside of meditation], stubborn persistence regarding disciplines (forcing), the company of people [socializing], and restlessness [resulting from socializing]: through these six defects, yoga is lost.

Yoga is destroyed by the following six causes:  Over-eating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, i.e., cold bath in the morning, eating at night or eating fruits only, company of men, and unsteadiness.

[When one of these becomes powerful, the remaining five begin to arise.]

Verse 16
The Six True Friends

Yoga is accomplished through enthusiasm (generated by yogic experiences), courage (through faith in yogic scripture, God and guru), steadfastness [stability of practice; true detachment], knowledge of the essence (accurate knowledge of body, energy, mind, discrimination, ego, soul, and the Absolute, acquired from scripture, practice and guru), certainty (doubt-free knowledge), and abandonment of the company of people (it is best to live alone).

The following six bring speedy success:  Courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company.

[When one of these becomes powerful, the remaining five begin to arise.]

Durga Ma