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Hatha yoga pradipika

Yoga Swami Svatmarama.

    Foreword by B K S Iyengar
    Commentary by Hans Ulrich Rieker Translated by Elsy Becherer

    FOREWORD by B K S Iyengar

    The Hatha yoga pradipika of Svatmarama is one of the most important yoga texts, and Hans-Ulrich Rieker's translation and commentary have long been valuable to yoga students as a complement to their practice and study.

    Hatha yoga, or hatha vidya (the science of hatha yoga) is commonly misunderstood and misrepresented as being simply a physical culture, divorced from spiritual goals. Hans-Ulrich Rieker shows the error of this idea by explaining the changes which take place, through the practice of hatha yoga, in the practitioner's body, mind and self. He makes the reader aware of the subjective transformation that occurs as the consciousness penetrates inwards towards the Self, and as the Self diffuses outwards. He shows that hatha yoga is not just physical exercise, but an integrated science leading towards spiritual evolution.

    We are caught up in emotions like lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), infatuation (moha), pride (ynadha) and malice (matsarya). Hatha yoga helps us to overcome these obstacles and hindrances to spiritual development. It is a biochemical, psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual science which deals with the moral, mental, intellectual and spiritual aspects of man, as well as the physical and physiological. We can clarify our understanding of hatha yoga by first examining five important underlying concepts: mind, knowledge, aims of life, health and afflictions.


    Man is known as manava (human), as he is descended from Manu, the father of mankind who is said to be the son of Brahma, the Creator of the world. The word mana or manas (mind) comes from the root man, meaning to think. Man is one who possesses a mind.

    Manas means mind, intellect, thought, design, purpose and will. It is the internal organiser of the senses of perception and the organs of action, and the external organiser of intelligence, consciousness and the

    Self. Man is graced with this special sense so that he can en)oy the pleasures of the world, or seek emancipation and freedom(moksa) from worldly objects.


    Knowledge means acquaintance with facts, truth or principles by study or investigation. The mind, which is endowed with the faculty of discrimination, desires the achievement of certain aims in life.

    Knowledge (jnana) is of two types: laukilfa jnana, which concerns matters of the world, and vaidika jnana, the knowledge of the Self (relating to the Vedas, or spiritual knowledge). Both are essential for living in the world, as well as for spiritual evolution. Through yogic practice, the two kinds of knowledge encourage development of a balanced frame of mind in all circumstances.

    Aims of Life

    The sages of old discovered the means for the betterment of life and called them aims orpurusarthas. They are duty {dharma), the acquisition of wealth (artha) (necessary to free oneself from dependence on others), the gratification of desires (kama) and emancipation or final beatitude (moksa). Moksa is the deliverance of the Self from its entanglement with the material world: freedom from body, senses, vital energy, mind, intellect and consciousness.

    Dharma, artha and kama areimportant in matters of worldly life. Dharma and moksa should be followed judiciously if they are to lead to Self-realisation.

    Patanjli, at the end of the Yoga Sutras, concludes that the practice of yoga frees a yogi from the aims of life and the qualities of nature (gunas), so that he can reach the final destination--kaivalya or moksa.

    Health and Harmony

    To acquire knowledge--whether mundane or spiritual--bodily health, mental poise, clarity and maturity of intelligence are essential.

    Health begets happiness and inspires one to further one's knowledge of the world and of the Self. Health means perfect harmony in our respiratory, circulatory, digestive, endocrine, nervous and genito-excretory systems, and peace of mind. Hatha yoga practices are designed to bring about such harmony.


    Human beings aresubject to afflictions of three types: physical, mental and spiritual (adhyatmika, adhidaivika and adhibhautika). Afflictions arising through self-abuse and self-inflictions are adhyatmika. Physical and organic diseases are caused by an imbalance of the elements in the body (earth, water, fire, air and ether) which disturbs its correct functioning. These are called adhibhautika diseases. Misfortunes such as snake bites and scorpion stings are also classified as adhibhautika. Genetic and allergic disease or diseases arising from one's past deeds (^arma) are known as adhidaivika. The practice of hatha yoga will help to overcome all three types of affliction.

    Hatha Yoga or Hatha Vidya

    Hatha means to stick fast, to be devoted and to hold closely or firmly. Yoga means to unite, to associate, to yoke and to join. It also means zeal, endeavour, fixing the mind on one point, holding the body in a steady posture, contemplation and meditation. Vidya means knowledge, art and science.

    The Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Siva, approached her Lord-- the seed of all knowledge--for guidance to ease the suffering of humanity. Lord Siva revealed to her the greatest of all sciences for the holistic development of man--the science of hatha yoga.

    On receiving yogic knowledge from Siva, Parvati imparted it to Brahma, who taught it to his children born of his own will, the sages such as Narada, Sanaka and Sanatkumara, who passed it on to Vasista and others. Hatha vidya was set down in the Hatha yoga pradipika by Yogi

    Svatmarama who, it is thought, lived between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The Pradipika has thus been referred to as a nebrively recent addition to the literature of yoga, which goes back to the Vedas (1500 bc). In fact, Svatmarama was part of the long unbroken line of sages or rishis, descended from Brahma, by whom hatha vidya was passed down through the ages.

    At the very beginning of his treatise, in verses 4-9, Svatmarama invokes the names of many of these sages who came before him and who practised and passed on the noble art of hatha yoga. A consideration of this list of names leads to the conclusion that the yoga described by Svatmarama is contemporary with that of Patanjali (whose Yoga Sutras were also a codification of long-established theory and practice).

    If Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, codified the eight limbs of yoga (astanga yoga), Svatmarama did the same for hatha yoga. If the former is a scholarly exposition with gems of wisdom woven together, the latter is a direct practical and technical handbook.

    Because Svatmarama's treatise incorporated ideas from the Yoga Sutras, the Yoga Upanisads, the Puranas, the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures, doubts may arise in the reader's mind as to its authenticity. Hans-Ulrich Ricker's re-organization of the subject matter helps the reader to grasp it more easily, and to understand it more clearly.

    It should be realised that the Hatha yoga pradipika is a major treatise with practical guidelines. It takes the practitioner from the culture of the body towards the sight of the self.

    The first Sloka (verse) of the book reads: "Reverence to Siva, the Lord of Yoga, who taught Parvati hatha wisdom as the first step to the pinnacle of raja yoga" (Patanjali yoga). And at the end we arereminded that "all hatha practices serve only for the attainment of raja yoga". (4:103).

    Hatha means willpower, resoluteness and perseverance; and Hatha yoga is the path that develops these qualities and leads one, towards emancipation. The word hatha is composed of two syllables: ha and tha. Ha stands for the seer, the Self, the soul (purusa), and for the sun (Surya) and the inbreath {prana). Tha represents nature (prakrti), consciousness {citta), the moon (chandra) and the outbreath (apana). Yoga, as already noted, means union. Hatha yoga, therefore, means the union of purusa

    with prakrti, consciousness with the soul, the sun with the moon, and prana with apana.

    The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

    The Pradipika is divided into four parts. The first explains yamas (restraints on behaviour), niyamas (observances), asanas (posture) and food. The second describes pranayama (control or restraint of energy), and the shatkarmas (internal cleansing practices). The third deals with mudras (seals), bandhas (locks), the nadis (channels of energy through which prana flows) and the kundalini power. The fourth expounds pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).

    In all, the text contains 390 verses (floras). Out of these, about forty deal with asanas, approximately one hundred and ten with pranayama, one hundred and fifty with mudras, bandhas and Shatkarmas and the rest with pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.


    The text begins with asanas as the first step in hatha yoga. For this reason it has been referred to as six-limbed yoga (sadanga yoga) as opposed to the eight-limbed patanjala yoga (astanga yoga) which includes, as its foundation, the first two limbs, yama and niyama. However, hatha yoga does not overlook the yamas and niyamas. Possibly, in Svatmarama's time, the ethical disciplines were taken for granted, so he does not explain them at length.

    He does speak of non-violence, truthfulness, non-covetousness, continence, forbearance, fortitude, compassion, straightforwardness, moderation in food and cleanliness as yama, and zeal in yoga, contentment, faith, charity, worship of God, study of spiritual scriptures, modesty, discriminative power of mind, prayers and rituals as niyama. (The ethical disciplines of what to do and what not to do are given in the text. Asanas, pranayamas, bandhas, mudras and shotkarmas are illustrated by examples to assist aspirants with their practice. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi cannot be explained, but only experienced, when the earlier stages have been mastered.)

    It is said that there areas many asanas as there are living species: 840,000. That means the muscles and joints can flex, extead-and rotate in several thousand ways. The Pradipika, however, describes only sixteen asanas. Similarly, Vyasa names only eleven asanas in his Yoga Sutras', and there are thirty-two in the Gheranda Samhita. It is possible that yogasana practices were such a regular daily routine that it was necessary only to touch on the subject without going into depth. In view of these figures, to claim that hatha yoga is merely physical yoga is simply ridiculous.

    Yogis were in constant contact with nature and they were searching for natural remedies to combat afflictions. In their search, they discovered hundreds of asanas to increase the life-giving force and restore it to its optimum level.

    Asanas arenot just physical exercises: they have biochemical, psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual effects. The cells of the body have their own intelligence and memory. Through practice of different asanas blood circulation is improved, the hormone system is balanced, the nervous system is stimulated, and toxins are eliminated, so that the cells, sinews and nerves are kept at their peak level. Physical, mental, and spiritual health and harmony are attained.

    The commentary Jyotsna1 of Sri Brahmananda clearly and beautifully sums up the effect of asanas. He says: "the body is full of inertia (tamasic), the mind vibrant (rajastc) and the Self serene and luminous (sattvic). By perfection in asanas, the lazy body is transformed to the level of the vibrant mind and they together are cultured to reach the level of the serenity of the Self."

    Patanjali, too, states that perfection in asanas brings concord between body, mind and soul. When asanas are performed with the interpenetration of all three, benevolence in consciousness develops. Then the aspirant ceases to be troubled by the pairs of opposites, and the indivisible state of existence is experienced.

    1 The Hatha yoga pradipika of Svatmaratma (with the commentary Jyotsna of Brahma-nanda) Adyar library and Research Centre, The Theosophical Society, Madras, India, 1972.


    Part Two is devoted mainly to pranayama and its techniques. Pranayama means prana vrtti nirodha or restraint of the breath, which is by nature unsteady. According to Svatmarama, "When the breath wanders the mind is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still." (2:2)

    Pranayama flushes away the toxins and rectifies disturbances of the humours, wind (vata), bile (pitta) and phlegm (kapha).

    All the yoga texts, including Patanjali's, are emphatic in their view that one must gain perfection in asanas before practising pranayama. This point is overlooked today, and many people think that any comfortable sitting asana is good enough for pranayama practice, and that pranayama may be safely practised without the foundation of asana. Svatmarama cautions: "By the faulty practice of pranayama the yogi invites all kinds of ailments." (2:16)

    Asanas, important though they arefor the health and balance of the body, have a deeper purpose: to diffuse the consciousness uniformly throughout the body, so that duality between senses, nerves, cells, mind, intelligence and consciousness are eradicated, and the whole being is in harmony. When the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine and genito-excretory systems are cleansed through asanas, prana moves unobstructed to the remotest cells and feeds them with a copious supply of energy. Thus rejuvenated and revitalised, the body--the instrument of the Self--moves towards the goal of Self-realisation.


    Prana is an auto-energising force. The inbreath fans and fuses the two opposing elements of nature--fire and water--so that a new, bioelectrical energy, called prana, is produced. Prana neutralises the fluctuations of the mind and acts as a spring-board towards emancipation.

    Pranayama stores prana in the seven energy chambers, or chakras, of the spine, so it can be discharged as and when necessary to deal with the upheavals of life.

    Patan)ali states that "mastery in pranayama removes the veil that covers the lamp of intelligence and heralds the dawn of wisdom."

    Svatmarama explains various types of pranayamas and their effects, but cautions that just as a trainer of lions, tigers or elephants studies their habits and moods and treats them with kindness and compassion, and then puts them through their paces slowly and steadily, the practitioner of pranayama should study the capacity of his lungs and make the mind passive in order to tame the incoming and outgoing breath. If the animal trainer is careless, the animals will maim him. In the same way, a wrong practice of pranayama will sap the energy of the practitioner.

    Bandhas and Madras

    Bandhas and mudras are dealt with in Part Three. Bandha means lock and mudra means seal. The human system has many apertures or outlets. By locking and sealing these, the divine energy known as kundalini is awakened and finds its union with purusa in the sahasrara chakra.

    Mudras and bandhas act as safety valves in the human system. Asanas act in a similar way. All three help to suspend the fluctuations of the mind, intellect and ego, so that attention is drawn in towards the Self. The union of the divine force with the divine Self is the essence of Part Three.


    Samadhi, the subject of Part Four, is the subjective science of liberation, the experience of unalloyed bliss. Before discussing Samadhi, we need to look at consciousness (citta).

    Consciousness is a sprout from the Self, like a seedling from a seed. As a branch of a tree is covered by bark, so the consciousness is enveloped by the mind. While the concept of mind can be understood by an average intellect, that of consciousness remains elusive: it is not easy to catch hold of mercury. Consciousness has many facets and channels which move in various directions simultaneously. The breath, on the other hand, once it

    has been steadied, flows rhythmically in and out in a single channel. Svatmarama, after watchful study of the mind and breath, says that whether the mind is sleepy, dreammg or awake, the breath moves in a single rhythmic way.

    Just as water mixed with milk appears as milk, energy (prana) united with consciousness becomes consciousness. So hatha yoga texts emphasise the restraint of energy, which can be more easily achieved than the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind. A steady and mindful inbreath and outbreath minimises the fluctuations and helps to stabilise the mind. Once this steadiness has been established through pranayama, the senses can be withdrawn from their objects. This is pratyahara. Pratyahara must be established before dhyana (concentration) can take place. Dhyana flows into dharana (meditation) and dharana into samadhi. The last three cannot be described, only experienced.

    Svatmarama says that through samadhi, the mind dissolves in the consciousness; the consciousness in cosmic intelligence; cosmic intelligence in nature and nature in the Universal Spirit (Brahman).

    The moment the consciousness, the ego, the intelligence and the mind are quietened, the Self, which is the king of these, surfaces and reflects on its own. This is samadhi.


    Hatha yoga practices bring certain powers (such as clairvoyance and clairaudience) called siddhis, about which Svatmarama cautions the aspirant, If he does not practice with the proper attitude, there is danger that he will misuse these powers. (Patanjali calls the siddhis worthless, and a hindrance to the true goal of Self-realization).

    Svatmarama says that practice has to be done without thinking of its fruits, but with steadfast attention, living a chaste life and moderation of food. One should avoid "bad company, proximity to fire, sexual relations, long trips, cold baths in the early morning, fasting, and heavy physical work". (1.61). In 1.66 he says that yoga cannot be experienced "by wearing yoga garments, or by conversation about yoga, but only through tireless practice". Earlier, in 1:16, he says: "Success depends on a cheerful disposition, perseverance, courage, self-knowledge, unshakable faith in the word of the guru and the avoidance of all superfluous company." And Patanjali says, "faith, vigour, sharp memory, absorption and total awareness are the key to success".

    Hans-Ulrich Rieker presents Indian thoughts in Western terms so that people can understand them with less difficulty. I am glad to note that he asks his readers to regard with open mind the Indian masters' unattached and dispassionate attitude and their ways of testing prospective pupils. No master accepts a pupil just for the asking. First, he studies the student's capacity for determination and one-pointed devotion. Through the practice of hatha yoga, the body and the mind are refined and purified, and the pupil becomes worthy of acceptance by the master, to be uplifted towards spiritual emancipation.

    Hans-Ulrich Rieker's explanation of the mystical terms nada, bindu and kala is praiseworthy. Nada means vibration or sound, bindu is a dot or a seed and kala means a sprout, or to shine or glitter. Here, bindu represents the Self; kala, the sprout of the Self, that is, consciousness; and nada the sound of the inner consciousness. A return journey from nada to kala, kala to bindu is the ultimate in hatha yoga. Svatmarama says that if the consciousness is the seed, hatha yoga is the field. He enjoins the student of yoga to water the field with the help of yogic practice and renunciation so that the consciousness becomes stainless and the Self shines forth.

    Hans-Ulrich Rieker is to be commended for the accuracy of his representation of the original text as well as the helpfulness and clarity of his commentary. I hope this book will be studied by yoga aspirants, to help them to understand hatha yoga and savour its effects. Then I shall feel proud to have shared in its presentation.

    B K S lyengar December 1991


    in Indian philosophy it is generally understood that hatha yoga is one distinct path to liberation and raja yoga another. Hatha Yoga Pradipika shows a rare and fruitful combination of the two paths: hatha and raja.

    The slokas of this ancient classical text are presented in an extremely terse and often highly symbolic language, which makes them practically unintelligible without commentary. It is therefore very fortunate that Hans-Ulrich Rieker has given us in his commentaries the benefit of his experiences and knowledge acquired in the course of many years of intensive training with native teachers. He is a highly accomplished yogi but is always aware of the Western student's problems. Thus his translation and commentaries make Hatha Yoga Pradipika truly a vade mecum for the serious student of yoga.

    This is a faithful translation of the original German text, das klassische Yoga-Lehrbuch Indiens. It is complete with all the valuable and elucidating commentaries except for a few passages of philosophical exegesis, and some comparative references to Goethe's Faust, which would be of little or no interest to modern English and American readers. Within the classical text passages, interpolations inserted by Hans-Ulrich Rieker have been set off in brackets, while additional interpolations made by the present translator for the sake of clarity have been set in roman type within brackets. Finally, an extensive index of terms and a list of books recommended for further reading have been added.

    Questions will no doubt arise about the presentation of the slokas in a retranslation of the Sanskrit from the German into English. This objection is partly overcome by the fact that the translator not only had recourse to two early translations from Sanskrit into English by the Indian scholars, Swami Srinvasa Iyangar and Pancham Sinh, but also is familiar with the subject and terminology through 12 years of training and practice with the Indian yogi and scholar, Dr. Rammurti S. Mishra.

    I wish to thank David and Debby, whose enthusiasm and valuable suggestions constantly sustained my efforts.



    Is it really worth while for the average reader to read a scholarly classic, a book that has been pulled off a dusty shelf and translated into a modern Western language? This question occupied my mind for a long time, until I realized to my surprise that the subjects of my research, the yogis, are anything but dry scientists. I noticed that the most successful among them were those who understood how to transform old traditions and terminologies into the spirit of the time. Similarly, I have seen more laughing yogis than smiling professors. And that encouraged me to break the dry sacred tradition and to search for living wisdom in the ancient texts. This is a serious decision. Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity. That a misunderstood yoga can be dangerous has been proven by many a student who started his practice in grim determination rather than relaxed joy. It is not the dry letter but the pulsating life in the ancient teachings that are transmitted to us not by scholars but by the wise men.

    Our endeavor here is not so much to enrich science as to enrich ourselves; and he who enriches his self, his inner Self, does he not also enrich the science of man? Yoga is the science of man and his potential. Yoga as a deadly serious business does not interest me. I want yoga to bring a deeper joy into my life. I do not wish to make anyone smarter, nor is this the endeavor of yoga. For cleverness has proven itself much less than that rare wisdom for which yoga has always stood. It is quite easy to accumulate a vast store of knowledge and still get under the wheel of fate. Real wisdom is not at all encyclopedic, but it knows how to master everyday life, and that to me seems vastly more important. Knowledge of the world beyond my horizon is of interest only after I have removed all dangers on this side. He who is interested in the manifold aspects of science and with that forgets his own self deprives himself of the experience of the greatest mystery the world has to offer. We must certainly be grateful to science for giving us so much that we so quickly take for granted. But why do we so quickly take things for granted? Because at some time or other someone puts aside the book of science and realizes its practicability through his own experiments. This book too should eventually be put aside in favor of practical experiments.

    Here science has made a mysterious text available to us: the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, by Yoga Swami Svatmarama. And we shall try together to find hidden in the folds of this strange text the treasure that can bring us closer to the path of wisdom than is suspected by the confirmed skeptics.

    In order to achieve this, it is necessary that we pretend to know as little about ourselves as a newborn babe. Of course, modern science has provided us with a fabulous amount of knowledge concerning our body and mind. But although it is possible, after years of study, to know all the secrets of the mechanism of an automobile, with the human being we will never succeed in the same way. The most important problems will never yield to theoretical probing. Love, hatred, diplomacy, control of situations, economy of forces, interest, and futility-- all this is in a day's work. And who despairs just because the deepest sources of these events are unknown to us? Everything in life is simple as long as one takes everything for granted. It is when we want to know "why" that we stop in our tracks. Is it necessary to know why? If we have practically no problems, why create them theoretically? The answer would be quite clear if we

    really did have no problems. Unfortunately, we do have them, both with our surroundings and with ourselves. When one of these problems becomes serious we realize how imperfect we are, and the question becomes acute: must we really be content with such a full measure of imperfection, and is this imperfection man's immanent fate? We must admit that this or that person in world history was more perfect than we are but out reverence for such a person does not induce us to make him our teacher. Not through others do we want to become perfect, but like others. Nor do we want to go to the trouble of becoming perfect. We seek the sudden, joyful awareness that fundamentally we are perfect.

    It is encouraging that this natural attitude is not as presumptuous as it may seem. We really do not have to adopt the wisdom of others; we have our own at our disposal. But there are certain obstacles to prevent its unfoldment. To remove these obstacles has from time immemorial been the greatest endeavor of mankind. And some actually did find ways and means: Zoroaster, the Buddha, Lao-tzu, Christ, to mention but a few. It is from them that humanity received its greatest treasures, and humanity gratefully received the gift and tried to utilize it.

    But since evidently nothing is more attractive than to confound the words of great masters and present them according to one's own taste, whole libraries have grown around the teachings of the great ones, so that we are now hardly in a position to find the real words of the masters among the presumptuous "improvements." The Parsis admit that only a small fraction of their master's teachings has been preserved. Lao-tzu has been translated so ingeniously that it is possible to understand the exact contrary of what he intended to say. If the Buddha had really made all the speeches attributed to him, he would have bad to speak day and night for a hundred years. And if we had understood Christ's teachings more intuitively, the world of today would be a different place. No doubt we can learn immeasurably from these great ones provided we can reach the true teachings, but that is very difficult. For one, we are at the mercy of translators who at best may be philologists, but certainly are not saints who have put into practice the teachings they are putting before us. For example, anyone who has even a casual knowledge of biblical texts will be dismayed to find passages that were completely misunderstood by such a man as Martin Luther. And it is even worse with K. E. Neumann, the great Buddha translator. His work is almost completely free of the kernels of real wisdom. Here too, the original text reveals whole new worlds.

    Well, we might ask, were these people completely blind? Let us look at the dictionaries and compare. Philologically, both are right--the old translator as well as the modern critic. So either might want to take a pencil and write down his own interpretation (an improvement, no doubt) in the margins) as was done in old manuscripts.

    Now let us imagine what would happen--and it happens constantly--in such languages as Chinese or Sanskrit, where one word may have twenty different meanings. What- libraries of misinterpretation have grown in the course of a thousand years. And where is the ordinary faithful reader to find the truth among so many versions which all claim to be true? For--and this is important--every interpretation is in some way justified.

    How does it stand with our text? The man who wrote it was an authority, a yogi of the highest achievements, as can be surmised by his name; the work itself indisputably holds first place among all classical yoga textbooks and is quoted by all those first-class teachers who have sat at the springs rather than the faucets of wisdom. Why, then, should we be satisfied with secondary material when we can go directly to the master himself? Of course, the same question arises here as with Luther and

    Neumann: Is the present translation authentic? This translation of Hatha Yoga Pradipika and my commentary on it were not done at a desk, but were, so to speak, written on my knee, on the straw mats of India. If a question arose and my own experience proved inadequate, I did not go to look up the answer, but asked the master. And this frequently did happen, for as the reader will see there are things here that are too strange to accept without question.

    But we should not be tempted to know better, to judge, or to assume that it is nonsense. Nothing is more damaging than prejudice. It is a thousand times worse than childish faith, which is also not desirable. In between lies a healthy skepticism which we can heartily recommend.

    However, he who wants to read this book with profit, yet without starting to practice after the first few pages, should constantly try to bear in mind that there have been and still exist today human beings who through this peculiar practice reach a degree of self-control that is quite beyond our imagination.

    Some will now say that I seem to think that I am the first one ever to speak about yoga, while they have known for some time how to evaluate the discipline. This may or may not be so. But I would ask the reader to start from scratch, as though he were an innocent child. Accept what is being said as something completely new, which in most respects it actually is: a translation of the most authoritative hatha yoga textbook of all times.

    I imagine that I know a little about yoga, but when I stand before a master in India I become very quiet and humble. Forgetting that I know a little, I listen and learn. So far, this method has proved to be the most fruitful. There is time for philological studies when I am back in my room, where I can reflect upon what I have seen and heard. Thus, in a sense, whoever takes up this book stands before a very great master. May he be silent and listen, try to understand, and go to his earlier learning later to compare.

    Here a new problem arises: the quest for a guru, which has now almost become a fad. And simultaneously another question, essential for Western students: Can a book replace the guru, the master? Not completely, of course. Still, the right book, read and understood correctly, can be more successful than running after a yoga master in India without understanding him, not realizing in our enthusiasm that he is not our guru; that he is a teacher, but not a guru. Not every teacher is a guru, and, strangely enough, not every guru is a teacher. He who uncritically trusts the first best yoga teacher--and they are as plentiful as sand at the seashore--may find that he has wasted his time and efforts with a gym teacher who knows no more (or even less) about the real goal of yoga than do his students. Unfortunately, this type of teacher is the most loquacious and most prolific. That is why most modern yoga books are superficial despite the beautiful Indian names of their authors. Most of these yogis did not go beyond the first two chapters of our text, and thus have not reached anything really decisive. The real yoga only begins where such yogis (and their books) end. No one has as yet reached any stage of enlightenment through physical exercises.

    But we should talk about real gurus. Every human being yearns for the fulfillment of his most secret desires. Some, in order to be happy, seek nothing further than to learn the ABCs, while others will be happy with no less than the wisdom of God. Naturally, for the former the search for a teacher is simple. There are so many levels of desire between these two, in fact, that there are simply not enough kinds of gurus to meet the demand.

    In reality things are a bit different, however. Our main problem at first is not to find the guru to lead the ignorant student on a spiritual apron-string to nirvana; rather is it important to progress by our own endeavor to the threshold of the closed door to final achievement where only the experience and advice of a master can guide our ever more decisive and ever more dangerous steps. In other words, only when we have completely exhausted our own resources does the guru guide us to the solution of the last question, the final goal.

    To prepare ourselves for a guru means self-discipline. In this sense, every sentence, even from the simplest book, has power to teach, if it happens (in a kind of negative polarity) to hit the corresponding vacuum in the reader's mind, and there fill a breach. Thus it can happen that we work our way through whole libraries and then find the key sentence in a newspaper. This sentence need not necessarily be very wise, but it must completely answer my question, mine and no one else's, for I am the one who is asking and the answer must give me some degree of enlightenment.

    Those who expect an open door that they can enter without knocking may learn a great deal, but they will never reach the decisive knowledge. Only he who has learned long and with sacrifice can become a master. I know of no master who did not have to go through painful years of discipline. That these years were painful was not due to this so often accused "cruel world" and "hard life." Life is never hard if I am not too soft, if I am not afraid. The sage learns to be hard and unyielding toward himself. And behold, the world changes its face. Of course there is no universal recipe; every individual has his own weaknesses. But that things depend on the weakest part of our so complicated psyche-soul-body organism is undisputable, and we have to draw some conclusions from this fact. Let us take the greatest and perhaps most suffering seeker in world literature, Faust. . . . "Now here I stand, a simple fool, and am no wiser than before." He confesses that knowledge is not reached by being "smart" (worldly-wise). He knows his real aim without knowing how to reach it. He subscribes to the most impossible of all "sciences," to magic, in order to find out what ultimate force holds the world together. . . . Only he who goes beyond all words can reach the experience of reality.

    It is not for the sake of mystery mongering that the highest teachings are as secret now as they have ever been. Were they to be given out indiscriminately to the novice who has no power of discrimination the guru would soon get a reputation as a devil who lightly hands out death and destruction. Secrecy is nothing but a protection for the student.

    What does the guru really do? One readily imagines the student sitting day and night at the feet of the guru, being showered with secret teachings as a reward for having so diligently hunted for the guru. This would be nice, but completely useless.

    What actually does happen ? Let us take a seeker who does not yet quite know what in the deepest sense is at stake, nor has he any idea how to shape his spiritual future. He does not know which of the many yoga systems is right for him, but he is ready to strive and to submit himself to the wisdom of the master. And thus he goes in search of a guru.

    Were it now as we would like to imagine, then by chance he would fall into the hands of a yoga teacher. Though chance has no place in yoga, it is left to chance whether he meets a yogi who can teach hi[m] mechanical technique or meets him whom he urgently needs. With bad luck he will run into any one of the above yogis, submit to him as a student and try to learn, only to find out after months or years that all remained empty and useless. Certainly he will have profited in some ways. But he will not feel that he has reached a higher stage of yoga. The teacher will not divulge to him the last secrets because he knows that this student is lacking the necessary foundation.

    Usually, however, it happens that the student "accidentally" hears that somewhere there is a great saint. His teacher confirms this rumor. The student gets restless; perhaps his lack of success

    is the fault of the teacher. He wants to leave. His teacher has no objection, so he goes. The saint does not deign even to look at him. Impressed by the deep veneration shown to the master everywhere, he decides not to give up until the master accepts him as a student. Still the saint does not even look at the yearning one, says not a word. At most he waves him away once in a while. It is not pleasant to be so disliked and still remain. Thus days and weeks pass. He travels around with his haughty idol, or rather pursues him unremittingly for miles and miles. The only progress: the saint no longer waves him away. But still he does not look at him, nor does he speak to him. Until one day the miracle happens: the master looks at him and speaks one sentence; then he turns away, and the happy seeker no longer exists for him. That seeker can now quietly go home, for it is quite certain that he will not elicit another word from the guru.

    What has happened here? Why does it seem so strange? First of all, let us discard the notion that the master did not heed the importunate student. Nothing during these weeks was to him more important than the student who did not notice the master's concern. Surely he tested the student; but more than this, he was master enough to know from his vibrations all the virtues and all the faults of that student And when he finally decided to speak, it was only after he had formed his opinion. The opinion of a Western psychotherapist after years of depth analysis could not approach this master's in its absolute and complete certainty.

    And the sentence? It contains--mostly in the form of a categorical imperative---the decisive wisdom which is to be the student's absolute leitmotiv for a number of years. Out of this sentence evolves everything that he now needs to accomplish his high goal. If he lives, thinks, and acts strictly according to the injunction of that sentence and continues with his previous yoga practice, he will suddenly see everything with new eyes, and the success he has been yearning for will materialize.

    When we look at some of these sentences we are likely to be a little shocked by their apparent meaningless" "simplicity and exclaim: "What? Such a great saint has nothing more profound to say?" But we should not forget that psychotherapeutic prescriptions are the aim, not spirited phrases. The effectiveness of a medicine does not depend on its color or taste. What is essential is that it contain that which cures the body. The effect is what counts. The Amar Swami, a South Indian, a Pacceke Buddha, to my guru: "Take your reason and look." The Yoga Swami, a South Indian siddha: "Whatever happens has its meaning." And to the same student seven years later: "Summa iru" which means both "be still" and "let go." Yogi Chellapa, also South Indian: "Make it new." These are just a few examples. One must not forget, however, that in the native language these sentences have a much deeper and more manifold meaning, and that through association their content is considerably enhanced. To submit such a sentence to psychological analysis would make sense only if we had a thorough acquaintance with the student involved.

    In an easy and simple sentence we can test the effectiveness of such an approach. For one week ask yourself after everything you have done: "Was this necessary?" Was it necessary to be rude, to be angry? Was it necessary to let yourself go? Here is no hidden teaching, no yoga wisdom as one would like to have it presented. What it really means becomes evident only after one has carried the sentence around for a few weeks, having used it like a pair of spectacles through which to view everyday life. This is the answer to the riddle. The teaching of such a sentence does not necessarily make us "better." But we should become conscious of things we were previously hiding through fear, prudery, or negligence.

    The guru knows intuitively what we most urgently need. But then he does not tell us directly. He lets us find out for ourselves, for only then are we really convinced. Open censure makes even

    the most devoted student rebellious. No matter how profound may be the teachings of a Buddha, a Christ, a Lao-tzu, a Mohammed, only what we discover for ourselves can immutably persuade us. This is the reason why we need a guru for these teachings that are often presented to us so clearly that we understand them intellectually, and why the guru then does not give us the decisive information, but indicates the ways and means to real knowledge. No book can proceed in such a manner. But once we have found them we also know which of the yoga systems is the most beneficial for us.

    My guru in kundalini yoga is also a man of great learning in the shastras. One day I asked him for the meaning of certain symbols which seemed to me of great importance. "I cannot tell you this because you are not yet initiated." So I had to be patient

    When the time came, immediately after initiation I again asked the same question. "Meditate as I have told you before. Then you will experience." I was terribly disappointed, but had no choice but to obey. The result was that in a surprisingly short time I received the answer to my question, an answer that nobody could have given me in words. The symbolism in question was of such a deep nature that it could be grasped only by direct experience. The meditation that gave me the answer did not relay any intellectual association or hint; it only triggered off the process of understanding. This is the method of a real guru.

    When the first guru has fulfilled his psychological aim and his "magic formula" has achieved its effect, the next guru, the yoga master (who is usually more accessible), begins to act, and we consult certain books, which undoubtedly can also help teach us. Key examples are the Upanishads, the Brahmanas, and the Tantras.

    But here too it is not quite so simple. Not everything has equal value for everybody who hears. For example, a person wants to learn how to drive, so he buys a book that explains in detail how the motor works, and nobody tells him that this kind of knowledge alone will not make him a driver. When he has smashed up the car he realizes his lack of essential knowledge about driving. Actually, this is not a very good example, for the law puts the teacher before the license. But in yoga the law is still unwritten (though no less important), and that is why many a student has foundered.

    As we will see from our text, what the West understands as yoga is simply a technique to keep the motor in good condition. This is eminently important, but is[?] is not an end in itself. Our text claims--and rightly so--to be a yoga system (hatha yoga) that leads from what seems to be sheerly physical culture to the highest goal, raja yoga. The practice of the system presents comparatively few dangers for the student who does not overdo. No doubt danger exists, but I am sure that no reader will take an interest in those practices that are potentially dangerous. Fortunately, these are not particularly enticing, while the other, more attractive exercises are sufficient and rich enough to more than fill a lifetime of troubled city life.

    So let us begin to read Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yoga Swami Svatmarama. Put aside all your Western knowledge and your prejudice, and do what yoga students have done from time immemorial: sit down, relax, and listen with joyful attention to these ancient teachings. There will be ample time later on to accept or reject them.




    (1) Reverence to Siva the Lord of Yoga, who taught [his wife] Parvati hatha wisdom as the first step to the pinnacle of raja yoga.

    It is a good practice to evoke a divine power before beginning serious work. We may call it Siva (the Benevolent) or God or Ganesa (gana == legions; isa = master), to whom in fact the yogi author has dedicated his work.

    (2) Having thus solemnly saluted his master. Yogi Svatmarama now presents hatha vidya [vidya = wisdom] solely and exclusively for the attainment of raja yoga.

    Now it can begin--and it begins with an admonition. The classical commentary, at times so tediously wordy, here has an important message: "solely for the attainment of raja yoga" indicates two delimitations. The lower level indicates that hatha yoga is not being taught for its own sake, for the achievement of physical fitness and worldly power, but is a method to prepare the student for the rigors of raja yoga.

    The upper delimitation needs a little more elucidation. As we will soon and often hear, the real goal of a yogi is to become a siddha. A siddha, a person in possession of siddhis, has developed powers that can readily be called supernatural. There are eight siddhis, the highest of which is nirvana, the great liberation.

    If in India, even with great masters, one so seldom has a chance to witness the miracles that these siddhas have the powers to perform, it is simply because a siddha who does not want to get the reputation of a black magician will keep his powers carefully concealed and refuse to use them for worldly purposes. If he does misuse a siddhi, the misused siddhi strikes back at him and causes him some kind of unpleasantness, usually of a physical nature.

    One does not necessarily have to believe such things. You may put this down to the fabulous imagination of the East, and say so. The yogi does not resent your doubts, and they will not in any way impede the objective study of the wisdom of yoga. In fact, the text gives warning against striving primarily for powers: "solely for the attainment of raja yoga."

    The deeper purpose of the siddhis is something else. Through the developing forces the student recognizes what stage of evolution he has reached. Certain phenomena will tell him that he should change his way of practice, and if after due practice these phenomena do not occur, he surely has made a mistake. The siddhis are signposts on his way to the final goal, liberation. To be a siddha means to be in possession of all the characteristics of the final yoga goal.

    "Siddhis," my guru told me, "are not the aim of our work. We want to become siddhas in order to enjoy the realization and perfection of a siddha, not to gain worldly position or evade responsibilities." And since he himself is a siddha, this sentence clearly indicates what is defined as the upper delimitation. Yoga is not for braggarts or egocentrics, nor is it for those who merely want to add method to their physical training.

    (3) For those who wander in the darkness of conflicting creeds [and philosophies], unable to reach to the heights of raja yoga [self-knowledge and cosmic consciousness] the merciful Yogi Svatmarama has lit the torch of hatha wisdom.

    Raja yoga, the royal yoga1 is a goal that many strive to reach without even being aware of it, without having the slightest inkling of yoga. What else is Faust aspiring to but perfect self-knowledge and cosmic consciousness, to "know that force which holds the universe together, to see creative power and the seed"?

    For the student of Indian wisdom this reference to Faust presents an especially interesting parallel. Goethe speaks here of creative power and of seed, in Sanskrit shakti and bindu, two of the most important terms in tantra yoga, as we will see later on. At the time of Goethe these teachings had not yet reached the West, and it speaks for his universal genius that he recognized their supreme importance.

    (4-9) Gorafksha and Matsyendra were masters of hatha vidya, and by their grace Yogi Svatmarama learned it. Siva, Matsyendra, Shabara, Anandabhairava, Chaurangi, and many other great siddhas who have conquered time are still roaming through this world.

    A daring statement: after the enumeration of 33 masters of hatha vidya who have illuminated the ages, to claim that they are still roaming through the world, for "they have conquered time."

    We have already spoken of the siddhis, and here it is specifically stated that these masters were siddhas. They reached what so many covet, "eternal youth." Many are the tales of yogis who are said to be several hundred years old and look like youths, but it is useless to discuss this kind of doubtful rumor. A wandering

    1. The translation of the term "raja yoga" as "royal yoga" is exoteric. Esoterically it is "the yoga of radiating light," for "raja" can also mean "to shine." Thus we have an allusion to the "inner light," which is dealt with in the fourth part of this work.

    yogi has no birth certificate, and it seems strange that one can state that he is exactly 250 years old, while his younger colleagues do not know whether they are 10, 20,30, or 40 years old. Besides, a hundred years more or less is important only to us. To a yogi who lives alone in the woods time is of no concern. True, I did meet some yoga masters who looked younger than their grown sons, and this alone seems quite a desirable goal. And it is also true what is stated above: that these yoga roasters had conquered time. That is, they were no longer subject to the laws of time; they were roasters of this strange unfathomable mystery, "time."

    For us time is inseparable from the clock, but no one has ever succeeded in really defining time. It is impossible--because time does not exist outside of our own minds. As our consciousness, so our time: long as eternity the hour of danger; short and fleeting the hour of happiness. So when we say that a yogi has conquered time it means that he has conquered his (relative) consciousness.

    (10) [Therefore] hatha yoga is a refuge for all those who are scorched by the three fires. To those who practice yoga, hatha yoga is like the tortoise that supports the world.

    These three fires are well known to us; they are the fire of self-created suffering; the fire of suffering through higher powers; and the fire of suffering that is caused by other beings.

    Nobody can eliminate from this world the influences that create such sufferings. What we can and should do is to prepare the physical-mental-spiritual soil in such a way that the seed of impressions cannot sprout into suffering.

    Sufferings are unfulfilled desires. The realization of these desires depends not only on ourselves, but is subject primarily to external influences. If I want something, I have to try to reach it.

    For this I am dependent on my own power as against the opposing forces. And we always desire something, even if it is the desire for the happiness of a desireless state.

    Now we are on the track of our idea: to be desirelessly happy means to want nothing, to have no needs, to be happy with oneself and the given conditions. But yoga does not mean to learn self-satisfaction. Rather, it means to strive for such a state of perfection that some day it will be our nature to be desirelessly happy--and to have good reason for it.

    This is by no means a state of apathy, devoid of the dynamics of natural activities. On the contrary, our endeavors will no longer be whipped by passions toward a goal where, with open eyes, we uselessly invest our most precious forces in senseless intoxication. We will learn to evaluate our wishes, to know our own forces as well as the opposing powers. And if we have to renounce, we will then do so with clear understanding, not with a painful sensation of loss.

    As to the symbolism of the tortoise, this is a meaningful legend which we will encounter later and which will accompany us throughout the whole book.

    (11) A yogi who is desirous of developing siddhis should keep the hatha yoga strictly secret, for only then will he have success. All his efforts will be in vain if he reveals everything without discrimination.

    Physical exercises are nothing shameful, and they are fun; but practiced on a highway they become insanity. "When you pray, go into a room by yourself." Or, more drastically: "Do not cast pearls before swine."

    (12) The student of hatha yoga should practice in a solitary place, in a temple or a hermitage, an arrow shot away from rocks, water, and fire. The land should be fertile and well governed.

    Here we have the first great problem, larger perhaps than that of the siddhis: to find a quiet spot, undisturbed and safe. Predatory animals, earthquakes, and floods: those were the problems at that time. Today's problems are professional, financial, political, which constantly drag the practitioner back into the stream of social life.

    However, it is not entirely impossible to create a hermitage under modern conditions. Perhaps there is a quiet attic, away from the attractions of movies, radio, television, where we can meet our neglected and ignored own selves.

    (13) The hermitage should have a small door and no windows. It should be level with the ground and have no holes in the wall. [It should be] neither too high nor too long, and clean and free from insects. It should be laid daily with cow dung. Outside there should be a raised platform with an elevated seat and a water tank. The whole should be surrounded by a wall. These are the characteristics of a yoga hermitage as described by the siddhas, the masters of hatha yoga.

    Do not despair! I have seen many hemitages that conformed in only a few points to the ideal. Some had holes in the walls and most of them were lacking the cow dung. But all of them were clean. We should not be too dependent on external conditions, helpful though they may be. If I so will, my hermitage has neither doors or windows. And when I am distracted, my restless mind will penetrate the thickest walls. If the hermitage is not ideal, a little extra effort must be made. The goal of yoga is by no means dependent on cow dung.

    (14) Seated in such a place, the yogi should free his mind from all distracting thoughts and practice yoga as instructed by his guru.

    Our keenest weapon, and often our only salvation, is our thought power. If your thought is open, so is the chance of success; if it is slow and limited, you will be left behind in the great race for success. Not only is right thought essential, but also the capacity to think of several things simultaneously. Many Western men with executive ulcers could write reams about this.

    Must men be like this? Evidently, if they wish to succeed. But what is success? Nothing against success--which, after all, is the foundation of a "happy life." Success is wealth, wealth is happiness; therefore, success is happiness. A logical conclusion, but somehow it leaves us uneasy. Is the man who has bought success with his health, with the sacrifice of his most precious attribute, really happy ?

    There is a different way. One of the most remarkable men of our time, and by no means a pious man, swears by yoga. Every morning Pandit Nehru, the coolest thinker of his country and a maker of world history, stood on his head, and with him 63 members of Congress. Yehudi Menuhin, the great violinist, makes no secret about his yoga. And like him many of the most successful men of our day, including medical men who are world famous, find in yoga the purest source of human harmony.

    Harmony: the key word, the all-important. There is no objection to the search for success as long as the harmony of life is not disturbed. No need to relinquish any of our plans and principles as long as there is harmony.

    How does harmony come about? The very question proves that this fundamental law of life is becoming more and more a myth as we are turned more and more into machines. So let us try to find the yoga way to harmony.

    (15) The yoga forces are dissipated by too much eating, heavy physical labor, too much talk, the observances of [ascetic] vows, [promiscuous] company, and a growling stomach [too much fasting].

    Here we have the disharmonies of everyday life, and not even the great ones. Not distrust, not rudeness, not lack of consideration, not anger and despair. Just immoderation. And that is bad enough.

    The yogi never quite fills his stomach; the executive always does. The yogi is healthy; the executive has ailments. Harmony versus disharmony.

    (16) Success depends on a cheerful disposition, perseverance, courage, self-knowledge, unshakable faith in the word of the guru, and the avoidance of all [superfluous] company.

    Again the magic word of our time: success. And with it even a formula. Nothing about overtime, or night work, and "you must . . ." Not even a word about thinking.

    A cheerful disposition is incompatible with executive ulcers. Perseverance! That sounds promising. But the keynote is harmony, and the perseverance referred to here is not that of the executive's marathon conference.

    But don't forget that yoga has not yet begun. We are slating here only the minimal prerequisites without which any attempt at practice would be senseless. These preliminary requirements can be fulfilled by anyone, and they will bestow more happiness upon you than you would expect--without exercise, without risk. (Once we really embark upon yoga, however, the evasion of a single requirement can turn nectar into poison.)

    Yoga practice, regardless of the system we follow, has a psychological depth effect. One exercise goes in this direction, another in that. Often they have a perplexing similarity; here and there we find a minimal difference which seems inconsequential. The guru, however, watches not so much the exercises in general, but just those little details. The student does not know why and is liable to ridicule such pettiness; but the guru knows our needs better than we do. He knows that each physical action has its psychic-spiritual reflex, just as every psychic-spiritual attitude is manifest in the body.

    Western science too is aware of the inseparable interrelation between body, soul, and mind. A bit of iodine, adrenaline, or cortisone will change our whole world view. Our whole life is chemically conditioned. Every thought activates one or the other nerve center which in turn influences some endocrine gland. The gland sends its hormones into the bloodstream, we react, new thoughts arise which in turn again influence a nerve center and create new reactions, combining with other nerve centers. There are many centers, many glands, and countless combinations. And this cycle is only one of the inner processes affected by yoga.

    If a certain practice hits something unhealthy (an asana can touch on an organic illness, a deep meditation on some mental suffering), then the result is not as desired; it can even lead to disaster. Quite often nature helps itself. But in very deep meditation (which is hardly ever allowed without initiation) some very powerful phenomena can appear which will frighten the weak into refraining from further investigation. That is why the passage above calls for courage.

    One thing is certain: these preliminary chapters are the most important part of the book. He who disregards them should certainly consider yoga dangerous.

    (17a) Not to cause suffering to any living being; to speak the truth; not to take what belongs to others; to practice continence; to develop compassion and fortitude; to be merciful to all and honest; to be moderate in eating and pure in heart. These are the first prerequisites of yoga [the yamas]. Self-limitation [tapas, austerities], cheerfulness, religious faith, charity, contemplation, listening to sacred scriptures, modesty, a clean mind, recitation of mantras [japa], and observance of rules, these are the second requirements of yoga [the niyamas].

    Thus equipped one can venture to take the first step into the wonderland of one's own self. You do not have to take all the rules literally, but you have to look at them seriously. Not the word "yoga," but the power behind it, is decisive. And this power? "Tat tvam asil--Thou art Thati"


    in Japan there are physicians who kick the patient in the back, twist his neck, or simply give him a heavy slap on the shoulder, and the patient feels like a new man. In China there are physicians who practice acupuncture (the insertion of needles). They prick a place quite apart from the ailing organ and pain disappears--quite suddenly. In Ceylon there are doctors who touch the patient's skin with a red hot iron--and they aim with the precision of a fraction of a millimeter. A quick pain. The patient is cured.

    These are not medicine men at work. Here we have full-fledged physicians who master an art--that nobody in the West can understand? These times have passed. The example of the Japanese doctors has proven itself a hundred times. In America chiropractice has become an academic discipline.

    Thus too it is with acupuncture. We now have theses on the subject, as well as practicing Western physicians. The third example (Ceylon) too will no doubt some day be accepted, perhaps along with some practices of medicine men that we ridiculed some 50 years ago. Primitive people are really not as primitive as we in our arrogant prejudice are apt to imagine. Are not the methods of modern politicians more primitive than those of a medicine man in the jungle?

    We want to study the following chapters on asanas and their psycho-physical background with this in mind.

    "Why so many words?" some will ask. "Asanas are physical exercises." And in a sense he is right.

    "Nonsense," another will say, "all these senseless contortions." And in a sense he too is right.

    A third will consider asanas a practice that nobody can quite understand. Right too.

    A fourth one stands thoughtfully in a corner. "I will learn to understand the inner connections. I have studied medicine and will soon find out what bodily functions are involved. I cannot imagine that the yogis have taken all this out of thin air. There must be a corresponding scientific terminology." Beware of this man.

    Each of the first three critics acknowledged a certain positive aspect of the practice. The first speaks of gymnastics and expects no more than the success of gymnastics. Very good. One should approach these practices not with vague expectations but with clear purposefulness. After all, only the literature of the West presents these preliminary exercises with such great mystification, whereas in comparison with what follows after them they are really little more than gymnastics.

    Nor should he who speaks of meaningless contortions be condemned. Perhaps he is right. For who is capable of explaining the internal relationships? Why give the contortions a meaning for which we have not the slightest proof--except for a few books whose value the average Western reader is unable to ascertain? This skeptic is not likely to start practice, but he is justified in his statement if by "sense" he understands that which can be clearly defined by our intellect. These are practices that "nobody can really understand" because they reach too deeply into our inner world, touch on areas that have not yet been named. From this angle no sense can be discovered, just as it cannot be convincingly denied. It is only the Westerner who seeks "sense" in everything. The Asiatic accepts mystery as a fact, and thus the "senseless," in an intellectual sense, becomes for him sense (in relation to his experience). He experiences the value of that which we cannot understand.

    The fourth is the dangerous one, for he swears by his intellectual knowledge alone. He has studied, he is perfect, he cannot err. (And imagine him as a student of a medicine man.) Science has canonized our intellect, and acknowledges nothing as superior, or even equal to it. Fortunately, we have the really great like C. G. Jung, Erwin Roussdie, and others who have gone to the "primitive" to expand their knowledge.

    Nobody will claim that our knowledge acquired through the centuries is wrong. No, it is completely right, but utterly incomplete because it is so one-sided. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in academia, things that we know exist and that we cannot fathom with our scientifically trained intellect.

    "Well," he will say if he is judicious, "I admit this, but we must have a certain frame of reference. It is quite clear that chakras are nerve centers and nadis represent nerve strands. Why should we deny this? Knowing this does make it easier." However convincing these words may sound, they contain the seed of the greatest error in yoga: foundering through thought. In other words, the dangerous supposition that the essential can be fathomed by thought, that it is "nothing but," that with a little effort of our conceptual intellect we can descend to the very depths of our soul, to the foundation of the universe. Certainly this trend of thought is logical, but what good is logic when yoga wisdom is beyond logic?

    This phrase has discredited yoga with the intellectuals. But let us look at our lives. Is life always logical? Where is the logic of the scientist who analyzes natural laws six days a week and on the seventh goes to church to pray to a God who has no place in his logical system of science? Where is the logic of the drug addict who knows he is digging his grave and still does not desist ? Where is the logic of the greedy old man who, with one foot in the grave still craves millions, though he cannot take a penny with him? Is the cosmic mathematics of Einstein which created our atomic age limited to logic ? And how about the fate of the evil rich man and the virtuous poor? Is chance logical? No, the decisive factors of our existence have nothing to do with logic, and therefore we can readily postulate that the essential interrelations in yoga cannot be penetrated by logical deductions, which, however, does not mean that there is no law.

    When we seem to detect an analogy between a certain concept in yoga and a Western scientific term we must at once deny ourselves all further investigations of an analogy. Why? When one mistakes the part for the whole, as often happens in Western science, one underestimates the whole because one applies to it the lesser value of the part. And how can we possibly judge anything if we know only one of its many facets, and not even the most essential one at that? Take the example of the chakras, the centers of power, which are often identified with chief nerve centers (ganglia), or with main glands, simply because there is a topographical similarity. With this we confuse cause and effect.

    Although we know very little about the central nervous system and the glands, we do know enough to gauge their effects. But what we can learn about chakras in yoga is immense. If the system of chakras were identical with the central nervous system (CNS), then either all our academic knowledge would be wrong, or the yoga teachings would be empty fantasies. But neither is the case. Our knowledge about the CNS applies to the material aspect only, while chakra theory goes to the deepest sources of all dynamic processes in man, down to the deepest cosmic functions, to which we are undeniably bound. There are many effects resulting from the activity of the CNS and the glands which will forever remain a mystery if we ignore the much subtler aspects of these chakras.

    It is characteristic that the tantric Buddhism of Tibet teaches that the yogi has to create the chakras at the relevant places in his body. They are so to speak "psychic centers" that cannot be practically recognized unless I will it. They are vibration centers which are developed in the course of yoga practice. This alone proves how elusive they are to the surgeon's knife.

    But we have not yet come to these strange things. First now to the "gymnastics" of hatha yoga. Even here we should deny ourselves any profound speculations. Certainly one could--and even with a fair measure of success--draw psychosomatic conclusions from asana such-and-such. But again, logic deserts us after a certain point and what remains cannot be investigated by science, however fine its intentions. And this would mean: beyond the borderline of logic there "really" is nothing. But actually a great deal is there; not only is it there now, but it has been there since the very beginning. The logician does not have to Mother about all this, of course, since he has a wealth of concrete, factual material at his disposal.2

    In any event, whether or not certain pranayamas (breathing exercises) regulate the oxygen content of our blood is none of our concern. What is important for us is that forces (currents) arebeing activated that no Western scientist is able fully to evaluate, but which are the very foundation of the whole yoga structure.

    Therefore, Western science, despite its undisputed merits, will be neglected in the following chapters, in favor of that ancient science which is the foundation of yoga therapy. This, I think, is much more vital for the understanding of "Eastern exotics." We should try to think Indian while studying this book--Indian not

    2. "At the borderline of logic science stops, but not nature, which blossoms there where no theory has as yet penetrated" (C. G. Jung, The Psychology of Transference).

    only in relation to yoga, but also in relation to the presuppositions of yoga.

    The art of healing, like all else truly Indian, is based on the Vedas, the oldest book of humanity. Everything that concerns medical theory in the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, and the Yajur-Veda, was later systematized into Ayurvedic medicine.

    Although it is not possible to summarize this gigantic work, which is still in practical use in India today, much less give a survey of the wealth of its principles, we can at least consider the three main concepts of human physiology upon which this system is based. This is important because prejudiced Westerners who cast a superficial eye upon the standard work of Ayurvedic medicine, the Charaka Samhita, have misinterpreted thoroughly these three concepts.

    The teaching states that there are three dominant forces in man. and accordingly three main sources of illness: vata, pitta, and kapha. The usual translations as wind, gall, and phlegm are misleading, incomplete, senseless, and simply wrong--as wrong as the false analogies discussed earlier. All three terms are infinitely more complex and become meaningful only in their completeness. To understand the terms vata, pitta, and kapha we need the help of the classical definitions. Comprehension of these terms is all the more important because hatha yoga is closely bound to ayurvedic principles, as we soon shall see.

    The three terms encompass all physiological functions of the human body, and their imbalance causes not only illness but also susceptibility to contagious diseases.


    It is true that this word means "wind" literally. But more important is the root va, movement. To quote the Charaka Samhita: "Vata is the source of both structure and function [of the body]. It is that which is represented by the five forms [of the bodily currents]: prana, udana, samana, vyana, and apana. It is the initiator of the upward and downward flow [of all internal processes such as circulation, metabolism, etc.]; the controller and guiding force of consciousness; the stimulant of the senses; the companion of sensations; the organizer of the elements of the body; the principle of synthesis; the storage battery of speech; the cause of feelings and perception; the origin of excitement and stimulation; it fans the gastric fire, dries out harmful phlegm; expels excrements; is purifier of the coarse and the fine channels of the body; the creator of the fetal form; the principle of life preservation. All these are the normal functions of vata in our body" (Char. Sam. 1. 12:8). Disturbance of any one of these functions leads to illness and susceptibility to infection.

    Some of the illnesses due to the influence of vata are: rheumatism, dislocations, lameness, cramps, stitfness of limbs, peristaltic irregularities, trembling, emotional and depressive states, everything related to tension, relaxation, expansion and contraction, circulation and metabolism, crookedness and distortion of limbs, abdominal diseases, menstrual irregularities, sterility, hallucinations, and convulsions.


    This can be translated as "gall," but here it implies rather that which is also expressed by the word gall: temperament. But this again only in a limited sense. The Charaka Samhita derives this word from the root tap, "to heat," and this brings us closer to the meaning. We quote: "It is only the fire which in pitta brings on good and bad results, according to the normal or abnormal condition [of the organs]. The results are digestion and indigestion, power of perception and its loss, normal and abnormal body temperatures, healthy and unhealthy look, temerity, fear [nerves], anger and joy [moods], confusion and clarity, and other such contrasting pairs" (Char. Sam. 1. 12:11). "The normal function of pitta causes: power of cognition, fire of digestion, fresh complexion, clarity of thought, body temperature, hunger and thirst, and nimbleness of mind" (Char. Sam. 1. 18:50). Diseases from this source are: inflammation, fever, pus, perspiration, softening of bodily substance, itching, metabolic irregularities, redness, bad odor and taste, as well as discoloration.


    This word is composed of two roots: ka== "water," and pha, which refers to the process of biological evolution. And since we know that the body is largely composed of liquid we could translate kapha as "life-fluid."

    "Kapha is the nectar [soma]. It is the fertile water for the play of life; it is living fluid, the protoplasm that sustains all life processes; it is indeed the scaffold of life. It binds the limbs together and produces all the connecting, nourishing, developing, and fortifying functions. It promotes the well-being of the body by its lubricating action. Thus it supplies the water for the roots of life. In its physiological aspect [!] kapha is the power and perseverance of man, which, however, immediately becomes a disturbing impurity when his balance is disturbed" (Char. Sam. 1. 12:12). Kapha ailments are: pallidness, cold, edema, constipation, diabetes, secretions, cold sweat, languidness, and swellings (tumors).

    "No pain without vata (the stream of life), no inflammation without pitta (the fire of life), no swellings without kapha (the fluid of life)" This dearly shows the coordination of the three forces, but it also demonstrates--and more clearly than Western medicine does--the interdependence of body and mind.

    Naturally the ancient Indian art of healing is not exhausted by these three main terms. On the contrary, this is only the beginning. For us, however, this short survey will suffice. It will elucidate much that is to follow; in fact, much would be unintelligible without it.

    We must not forget that these three "doshas" have a material-bodily, as well as an ethereal and an abstract-spiritual aspect. Thus when later on we deal extensively with the prana, the life stream that here is "vata," then with "soma," the nectar, the "fertile water for the play of life" that here is "kapha," and finally with the inner fire that is "pitta," we should not forget this survey. Soon we will learn that all the wisdom of physiological healing also has its place in higher spiritual spheres.

    For the Indian there is one straight path through the universe and situated on this path are all the cities of the world: medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astrology and astronomy, physics, logic, sports, magic, etc., and to him who is fully conversant with any one of them, the others are no secret.

    So let us start by looking at yoga with a new physiological understanding. Not so much to relearn, but to understand that there is wisdom in things that seem quite odd to us.


    (l7b) Asanas are spoken of first, being the first stage of hatha yoga. So one should practice the asanas, which give [the yogi] strength, keep him in good health, and make his limbs supple.

    Our concern is not yet with raja yoga and its mysteries. Let us first concentrate on strength, health, and lithencss of body. Much of this will be of direct help in raja yoga.

    (18) I shall now proceed to impart some of the asanas that were adopted by such wise men as Vasishtha, and practiced by yogis like Matsyendra.

    (19) Sitting straight on level ground, squeeze both feet between calves and thighs [of the opposite legs]. This is svastikasana. [See

    Figure 1.]

    (20) Place the right foot next to the left buttock and the left foot next to the right buttock. This is gomukhasana, and looks like the mouth of a cow. [See

    Figure 2.]

    (21) Place one foot upon the other thigh and the other foot below the opposite thigh. This is virasana. [See

    Figure 3.]

    In the last three phrases we simply have variations of sitting crosslegged as has been customary in India for thousands of years. These asanas in themselves are not practice; rather, they are fundamental conditions upon which the real practice is based. The following sentence is a continuation of the instructions of No.20.

    (22) Press the anus firmly with crossed feet and sit thus. But do it with care. This is kurmasana.

    Here we might look for a deeper meaning, since the posture does not really bear any characteristics of gymnastics. We cannot yet understand the significance of the pressure on the anus, and the special emphasis on care. But at this point, of course, the student knows nothing yet about the essentials.

    (23) Assuming the lotus posture, insert the hands between the thighs and calves. Put the hands firmly on the ground and raise the body up. This is kukutasana. [See

    Figure 4.]

    The lotus posture has not yet been mentioned: the feet are placed crosswise on the opposite thighs, as close to the body as possible. Push the hands through this "network" of legs and place them firmly on the ground.

    Here we have what clearly seems a gymnastic exercise. Yet what is involved is something quite different. Much later we will learn that to "raise the kundalini" a little help is needed, and this asana provides it. It may seem a difficult asana. But things get even more complicated in the following:

    (24) Assuming the [above-mentioned] kukkutasana posture, put both arms around your neck and remain raised like a tortoise [with the back touching the ground]. This is uttana kurmasana.

    Here the gymnastic character is evident; in fact it seems so exaggeratedly acrobatic that we wonder whether this is less than gymnastics--or more? What is behind it? Kurma asana means "tortoise posture." With a little imagination we can think of the body in this position as a tortoise. But strangely enough reference here is to something quite different.

    So far we have encountered the tortoise three times. First in No. 10: "To those who practice yoga, hatha yoga is like the tortoise that carries the world." In the second place (No. 22) the asana in which the anus is pressed is called "tortoise posture" (kurmasana). And now here in No. 24 we have "the raised tortoise" (uttana kurmasana). Let us look at the ancient texts. In the Bhagavat Purana, one of the richest of the ancient texts of Indian mythology and symbolism, we find a legend which is more than merely a legend. In a battle with the demons the gods were losing: they had considered themselves divinely superior to the forces of the world (the demoniac), but these forces stood more safely and firmly upon their ground. Brahma, whom the gods implored for help, ascended with the threatened ones to the Lord of the World, Vishnu, to ask his advice.

    "Make peace with the demons," he urged them, "and churn with their help the nectar of immortality. The divine alone is as powerless as the earthly alone. Together you should churn the ocean of milk until it turns into the nectar of immortality."

    So together the sworn enemies took the mountain Mandara, the backbone of the universe, wound around it the serpent Vasuki in three and one-half turns, and alternately pulling on the head (the demons) and the tail (the gods), they began to churn the terrestrial ocean of milk.

    But soon the mountain became too heavy for the diligent ones, and slowly it sank lower and lower. Then Vishnu transformed himself into a tortoise, dove to the bottom of the ocean, and raised the mountain so that the work could be completed.

    Practically every word in this legend is the expression of a deep symbolism, much of which will be clarified in the course of our study and practice. For now let us consider only the most important points. Not only in modern medicine, but in ancient yoga as well, the spinal column is the most important and most subtle part of the body. In fact we shall soon see that it is actually the spinal column that has the most important task.

    Upon this "axis of the [human] universe" we exert pressure in kurmasana, so that the combined forces of the divine (subconscious) and the earthly (conscious) can accomplish their task. Most asanas involve the spinal column, as does the following:

    (25) Grasp both toes with the hands [left with left, right with right], keep one leg straight and draw the other to the ear as you would the string of a bow. This is dhanurasana. (See

    Figure 5.)

    The spinal cord has two ends: the earth (below) and heaven (above), as is fitting for a "holy mountain in the center of the world." And--as it should be--the worldly problems are mostly situated in the lower part and the more ideal ones in the upper one. We cannot be expected to comprehend this. That the earthly problems are centered in the lower half of the body only he who knows something about the chakras can realize. The yogi develops understanding only in the third stage.

    We could compare ourselves with a tree that has its roots in the earth and the crown with its fruit in the sky. Just as we have to satisfy the needs of the roots in order to supply nourishment to the fruit in the crown, so most asanas are designed to cultivate the root of our tree of life, the spinal column. As is this asana:

    (26) Place your right foot on the outside of the left hip joint and the left foot outside the right knee [which is flat on the floor]. Grasp the left foot with the right hand [passing the arm to the left side of the knee] and the right one with the left hand. Turn the head all the way over to the left. This is matsyendrasana.


    Figure 6.]

    In the more current variations of this asana the right foot is not grasped by the left hand; instead, the hand is placed on the back as far over as possible. This is seen in our illustration. Slight variations in asanas or occasional variations in name have arisen because several teachers developed the same asanas. The variations occur only in minor points. This becomes quite evident by a comparison of our Hatha Yoga Pradipika with the more common and much later work, the Gheranda Samhita.

    (27) This matsyendrasana increases the appetite by fanning the gastric fire [pitta], and destroys physical ailments. Kundalini is awakened and the moon made steady.

    For the first time the text mentions kundalini, a latent force of highest potential, said to lie in three and one-half coils, like the snake in the churning of the ocean of milk, sleeping at the lowest center (muladhara chakra) at the foot of the "tree of life," the spinal column. This serpent power, kundalini, cannot be described fully, even by one who has succeeded in awakening it. When it awakens, it shoots through the body like an electric shock, and, trembling and amazed, the person realizes that a powerful event has taken place within him. This is only the beginning.

    The whole body trembles. A door seems to have been pushed open through which a flood of light flows from some unknown world, a light of incomparable radiance. After a long time the trembling body becomes calm, but the flash of light shooting through the spinal column to the crown of the head is unforgettable.

    This flash of light is not really the kundalini, however. It is merely a sign of its awakening. The kundalini itself does not shoot up, but will later rise slowly, passing through the stations (the chakras), each of which creates another new and powerful experience.

    Whether the kundalini can really be awakened through this particular asana alone is questionable. But the asana will surely be helpful in the process. And the "moon"?

    As mentioned above, the "mountain in the center of the world" has the earth at its foot and the sky at its peak. Between earth and sky are the sun (the center of the planetary system) and the moon.

    In the center of the triangle formed by the navel and the two nipples is the "sun" [solar plexus]; at the upper end of the spinal column, at the medulla oblongata, sits the "moon." "Sun" and "moon" are not chakras but arespheres that stand directly under the influence of two chakras, lying respectively just above and below.

    Through this asana the "moon" sphere is "massaged," which is all the more important as it is presumably here that we find the source of the fluid of life (kapha). But also the opposite pole, the "sun," is affected by this process of twisting the spinal column. And since it is here that the "fire of life" (pitta) originates, there arises from the combined work of these two well-springs a powerful stimulating influence upon the physiology of the body.

    (28) Stretch out both legs and, taxing hold of the toes, lay your head upon the knees. This is paccimasana [pashimottanasana].

    (29) This most excellent of all asanas causes the breath to flow through the sushumna, fans the fire of appetite [pitta], makes the loins supple [vata] and removes all ailments [caused by pitta and vata].

    The most essential phrase of this sloka needs elucidation. Sushumna is the name for the hair-thin channel that traverses the spinal column lengthwise. It is the pathway of kundalini. Is the breath really to flow through this channel? It seems physiologically impossible. "Breath" in Sanskrit is prana; but what we call breath is only an insignificent fraction of what the Indian understands by prana. Breath is more than inhaled and exhaled air,

    more than oxygen and nitrogen, even more than any chemist could analyze. Breath is the carrier of an especially efficacious life force, of a stream which nourishes the organism. There is actually little difference between this "life current" and an elec-cal current.

    Enough about prana for now. (There will be a great deal more about it in later chapters.) Here again in this asana we see what seems to be a purely physical exercise, but it is one with a very specific meaning and aim.

    (30) Press your hands firmly upon the ground and balance your body by pressing the elbows against your loins. Raise your legs straight in the air till your feet are level with your head. This if mayurasana. [See

    Figure 7. ]

    (31) This asana heals various diseases of the spleen and dropsy, and removes all illnesses caused by excess of vata, pitta, or kapha. It digests an overabundance of food, and even destroys the poison halahala.

    The asana looks like our well-known gymnastic exercise on the parallel bars. And gymnastics it is. At this point of training the plan is to perfect the body and especially to train the abdominal muscles so important in Parts Two and Three of this work.

    As the gods and the demons were diligently churning the ocean of milk and the ocean gradually began to change, the demons sampled the liquid and doubled over in great pain because the first product was sheer poison (halahala). In order to prevent further trouble, Siva swallowed the remaining poison. It remained in his throat and turned it blue.

    At this stage of development the student does not understand the deeper meaning of the story, and does not yet know that it is a romantic allegory of his own development. He is glad to hear that Siva drank the poison, and believes that he is therefore out of danger, until he later learns that danger will still threaten if he does not carefully follow his guru's instructions. And he does not know that the poison is not a chemical but a spiritual poison, a psychic danger which arises from wrong practice.

    Here again the question arises how this single asana can have such far-reaching consequences that it renders the poison harmless. In order to judge we must know two things: first, what kind of danger is referred to; second, what effects are produced by this asana.

    We shall discuss this question to give the Western student a deeper insight, although it does not really belong here.

    As mentioned before, the whole Indian mythology has a direct relation to yoga. When the universe (macrocosm) is mentioned, it is also a reference to man (microcosm). And under "gods and demons" we must understand the forces that are manifest in man on the psychic, mental, and physical levels.

    Thus the churning of the ocean is, generally speaking, a process in yoga. This milk ocean symbolizes the brain. In the course of yoga training there occurs a transformation of consciousness from the "milk of devotional thinking" through the "poison of imperfect development" to the "nectar of enlightenment." In the state

    of incomplete evolution lies the greatest danger, i.cД premature action resulting from erroneous, ill-informed judgment. The student assumes he possesses certain powers, and may even have seen some indication of these, but he is not yet capable of recognizing and governing them. And this is poison, especially for further development. It is now imperative to mobilize counter-forces.

    In mayurasana the pressure of both elbows seals off the "prana channels" of the two nadis and thus forces an increased blood supply into those parts of the brain that are in most urgent need of it.

    It seems clear that the blood suffusion of the brain must have an influence on our consciousness, but blood itself is less important than the stream of prana which imparts itself to the bloodstream. It is, so to speak, an electrification of the brain, a change of gear in the psychic mechanism. And it has been proven a thousand times that a clear head is the result of yoga practice.

    (32) Lying full length on the back like a corpse is called sava-sana. With this asana tiredness caused by other asanas is eliminated; it also promotes calmness of mind.

    How nice that relaxation is part of the scheme. And it is pleasant to find that no mystery is involved. Simply stretch out on the floor.

    But this relaxation is also necessary, as that which follows is more thorough, has greater depth. We are about to take an important step in the direction of raja yoga.

    (33-34) The asanas taught by Siva are 84 in number. Of these I will describe four of the most important ones. They are siddha-sana, padmasana, simhasana, and bhadrasana. Of these, siddha-sana is the best and most comfortable posture.

    (35) Press one heel into the place below the sex organs [the perineum] and put the other heel just above this region [close to the abdomen]. Press the chin upon the chest, sit up straight, with controlled organs, and fasten the eyes between the eyebrows. This is siddhasana, whereby all obstacles on the path to perfection are removed. [See

    Figure 8.]

    It is quite clear that more is at play here than mere gymnastic exercise, especially since there is no longer any mention of healing or nimble limbs.

    But what do these unusual details mean? Each heel presses a certain point, the lower one the muladhara chakra, the upper one the svadhistana chakra. The neck is bent so as to press the vishuddha chakra in the throat, and the eyes areturned toward the ajna chakra.

    The manipura chakra in the diaphragm region and the anahata chakra in the heart region seem to remain unnoticed. In reality

    it is just the contrary. The heart chakra has a unique position in many ways; it would not respond to physical pressure in any event. In this position it can be influenced by a meditative process, as we will see later on.

    The manipura chakra is also dealt with in an unusual manner here, for instructions arestatic in nature. A later sloka (41) will add a dynamic element that will affect the manipura chakra, among other things.

    (36) Place the right heel above the sex organ and the left heel over the right. This too is siddhasana.


    Figure 9.]

    (37) Some call this siddhasana; others say it is vajrasana, or muk-tasana, or guptasana.

    Why? Is there a difference of opinion? No, there are good reasons. This asana can serve several purposes, and each name indicates a different emphasis. But we do not want to get lost in details.

    (38) The siddhas say: Just as among the yamas the most important is to do no harm to anyone, and that among the niyamas moderation, so is siddhasana the chief of all asanas.

    We should not take this as a qualitative characteristic. Rather one should say: just as nonviolence is the leitmotiv of all other principles, and moderation the guideline to all other qualities, so also is siddhasana the foundation of all other requirements for the inner vision of raja yoga (without making them superfluous, however).

    (39) Of the 84 asanas one should always practice siddhasana [above all], it purifies the 72,000 nadis.

    Nadis are those paths through which the body receives its supply of prana. We should not think of these as nerve strands, and whether or not there are72,000 would be hard to ascertain, nor is it of any consequence. Only three nadis are important for us: first, the previously mentioned sushumna path in the center of the spinal column, and then the two major nadis which run parallel to the spinal column, ida (left) and pingala (right).

    They begin in the nostril of their respective sides, wind once around the ajna chakra like thread around a spindle, and end all the way down where the main channel, the sushumna, also ends, in the muladhara chakra. Since it is the task of these nadis to circulate the life stream of prana, they must be kept clean, which is not a simple matter. Under special circumstances this asana serves the purpose. But there areother methods which are indicated under other conditions. The second part of this work utilizes them.

    (40) The yogi who meditates on the atman and eats moderately achieves the yoga siddhis after he has practiced siddhasana for 12 years.

    Atman meditation is reflection upon our own mysterious self; its the way to self-knowledge. God (Brahman) and atman have from time immemorial been the great Oneness: "I am" is the name of God that Moses heard and which is proclaimed as the first name of God in the Jewish Kabbala. It was the same in ancient Egypt and is still so with the Parsis. "I am Brahma" (brahmasmi)'. this is the meditation even of Hindus who arenot yogis. Only the meditator, who can experience it, will understand the atman. The intellectual tackles the problem with logic and philosophical deduction which result only in more complications, but will never lead to a solution. Atman meditation is perfect mysticism. As to the 12 years, this is only applicable to the average aspirant. One of my gurus reached his goal in 23 days, but with 16 hours of daily meditation. Had he meditated only eight hours he would perhaps have needed two years, and with four hours probably no less than ten.

    (41) If siddhasana is perfected and the breath is carefully restrained in kevala kumbhaka, what need for all the other asanas?

    Again a new term, kumbhaka. This is a simple matter: kum-bhaka is the moment between inhalation and exhalation, or vice versa, when the breath is retained for some time.

    Anyone can observe the development of prana: after a few deep and fast inhalations and exhalations concentrate on the fingertips. What you feel then is the direct effect of prana.

    The varieties of kumbhaka, of which kevala kumbhaka is only one, will be discussed later on.

    (42) When siddhasana is accomplished, we can enjoy the ecstasy of the meditative state (unmani avastha), the moon and the three bandhas follow without effort naturally.

    This sloka is not for the student but for the teacher. The three bandhas arestill unknown, the unmani avastha state is a fond hope, and how the moon can "follow" is still a mystery. Have patience; all shall be explained in due course.

    (43) There is no asana like siddhasana, no kumbhaka like kevala, no mudra like khecari, and no laya equals nada [anahat nada].

    A sloka that the teacher at this point can only underline, while the student hopefully awaits the day when he can convince himself of its efficacy. Whether or not it is valid we can judge only at the end of this book.

    (44) Place the right heel upon the base of the left thigh and the left upon the right thigh. Cross the arms behind the back and grasp the toes, the right ones with the right hand and the left with the left. Press the chin on the breast and look at the tip of your nose. This is called padmasana and cures all diseases* [See

    Figure 10.]

    First of all, it appears that we have here without a doubt a gymnastic exercise of enormous value, but one that demands a high degree of skill. The rib cage is expanded and the lungs and shoulders strengthened, the spinal column is straightened out, and the abdominal muscles stretched: an exemplary posture from a sheer physical point of view.

    To this are added deeper results which are immediately manifest when we meditate in this posture. First of all there is completely new awareness of the body; then the spinal column is

    * "The secret teaching is that there should be a space of four inches between the chin and the breast" Sri Nivasa lyangar. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Yoga Swami Svatmarama (translation with commentary) (Adyar, 1949), p. 22. -Trans.

    reshaped: it becomes straight, whereas usually it is slightly S-shaped; the "kundalini path" is relieved of its curves and thus becomes more readily traversible. But there is also an influence on the chakras, and last but not least, the prana "circuit" is re-channeled. Yet as contradictory as it seems, the value of this asana as a physical exercise is greater than its meditative assets.

    Important in this connection is the next asana with the same name, which contains all the benefits that are referred to as secondary in the above asana. The two combined in systematic practice give the results that aredesired at this stage of evolution.

    (45-47) Place your feet firmly on the opposite thighs and place your hands firmly in the middle, one upon the other [in your lap], fasten your eyes on the tip of the nose and touch the back of the upper teeth with your tongue. Press the chin on the chest and raise the air [apana vayu] slowly up while contracting the anus muscle. This is padmasana that destroys all diseases. [But] this can be achieved by only a few very intelligent persons.

    This is the first step to raja yoga. In the previous padmasana we created the essential physical conditions. The spinal column was straightened and the "bow of the nadis" was drawn (as my guru termed it), so that the real yoga could now begin. But even when we have achieved this posture it is like an empty pot, for what is essential here, the prana, will be developed only in the second stage.

    This section introduces a part of the anatomy that has not yet been mentioned, as indeed it is not often mentioned: the sphincter muscle of the anus. We should also know that in addition to the prana circuit there arefour other similar currents that course through our body, one of which, called apana, flows through the "lower regions," just as prana flows through the respiratory system. We can influence the prana through the process of breathing and the apana through the above-mentioned movement of the sphincter muscle. What for? Again we must look back. It was stated that prana should enter the hairline channel of sushumna; but prana cannot move any lower than the diaphragm, while apana finds its upper boundary below the diaphragm.

    If we can "tic" these two streams together, one continuous flow reaches from the nostrils to the end of the spinal cord, thus constituting a single unit able to fulfill its task.

    Here the condition has been created that will be utilized practically in the next step.

    (48) Having assumed the padmasana posture, with the hands one upon the other, and the chin firmly pressed upon the chest, meditate on Brahma, frequently contracting the anus muscle to raise apana. Similarly, by contracting the throat, force prana down. Thus with the aid of kundalini [which is aroused by this process] we achieve highest Knowledge.

    (49) When the yogi remains in padmasana and thus retains the breath drawn in through the nadi gates [nostrils] he reaches liberation. There is no doubt about it.

    If everything has been understood thus far, one has an inkling of what is at stake. Only one point is not quite as clear as it may sound: that the yogi reaches liberation. Liberation from what? What is this liberation like ?

    He is liberated who sees this world for what it really is, a figment of our own imagination. The nonliberated believed that he is a part of this tangible world; he has to submit to the demands of circumstance, and his fortune or misfortune is apparently tied to this tangible world. His desires are for possession of things or people. He lives only by the consciousness of what his senses convey to him. And beyond the world of senses there exists for him only the darkness of dubious fantasies. An uncertain faith in a higher power is about the extent of his other-worldlincss, and more often than not even this is nothing but a primitive fear of punishment that he expects from someplace where his carthbound understanding cannot reach. His obedience to divine laws is based on weakness, not on the recognition that he himself is a part of that law, a part of the eternal light-- and darkness. These "two souls, alas! in his own breast" chafe under the material illusion of the cosmos: the insensitive matter as master of which he entered the world and whose slave he soon became. He stumbles over the least little stone, curses the stone, and with his curse strikes only his own weakness. His condition is hopeless servitude. He who searches for the source of his sorrow elsewhere, who tries to demolish the stumbling block without realizing his own unmindfulness, is always a slave.

    The liberated one knows and sees all problems within himself. It is not that he has persuaded himself of this by philosophical

    logic. No, he experiences in meditation the forces and the content of his own personality and can objectively oppose them to sense impressions. Once he realizes his true position he is a$ free from sense impressions as the adult is free from attachment to the toys of his childhood. He views those oh-so-vital things of this world as the grandfather sees the dolls of his grandchildren: not senseless by any means, but not worthy of being idolized at the cost of inner power. To be sure, he cannot persuade the "unfree" child of the "objective uselessness" of the doll with wise words, but under his guidance the child can grow to maturity so that one day she will realize by herself the worthlessness of the doll. Here, similarly, it is useless to try to persuade the average human being of the objective uselessness of his toys as long as he is not ready for it. "Do not show men the real value of their world, but teach them to fathom it for themselves." This is perhaps the aptest tenet in all yoga.

    (50) Place your angles in the region of the sex organs [between anus and scrotum]: the right ankle to the right and the left to the left side.

    This means kneel with knees slightly apart, feet crossed. (Compare

    Fig. 2.)

    (51) Place the palms upon the knees with fingers spread out and eyes upon the tip of the nose [and breathe] with open mouth and concentrated mind,.

    (52) This is simhasana, held in great esteem by the highest yogis, This asana facilitates the three bandhas.

    If the student does not know something about the bandhas this asana has little meaning. Bandha comes from "to bind." That there is something to bind we have seen, namely prana (the upper circuit) and apana (the lower circuit).

    If we try this asana we realize that the chest expands when we inhale and the abdomen recedes. This is the first step to the bandhas.

    (53-55) Place the angles under the buttocks, right below right, left below left, on either side of the perineum. Press the soles of the feet together and hold firmly with both hands. This is bhadrasana and cures all diseases. The siddhas andyogis callit gorakshasana. The yogi should practice this until he feels no more pain or tiredness. [See

    Figure 11.]

    Nothing much is gained for raja yoga through this asana. It does control unwanted desires.

    (56) Then he should cleanse the nadis by practicing pranayama, as welt as mudras and kumbhakas of various kinds.

    These will be learned at the next level. 63



    A few useful hints before we attempt the higher goals of the second part. They may not be as dramatic as the slowly clarifying background of asanas, but they are important enough to cause tremendous difficulties if they are ignored.

    (57a) Then follows the concentration on the inner sound [nada].

    This sloka belongs to the highest form of raja yoga (to be discussed in Part Four), and is rather premature here; it may be an interpolation by an impatient student of Swatmarama.

    (57b) The brahmacharin who, observing moderate diet, renouncing the fruits of his actions, practices [hatha] yoga will become a siddha in the span of one year.

    A brahmacharin is a yogi who observes complete celibacy. Here the question of celibacy becomes acute. How compulsory is it for a yogi? At this point I cannot give a decisive answer but should say that most of the yoga masters I have known were happy householders, while I have met brahmacharins, on the other hand, who did not distinguish themselves by higher knowledge. It is not as important to withhold potency as it is to know how to manage it and, above all, how to transform it into spiritual

    potency. Celibacy without transformation of the preserved potencies only forces them to find their own outlet, mostly where it is least desired, at the weakest point of the whole organism.

    "Yoga," says my guru, "is economy of forces, not repression of nature." This statement may seem very comforting to some students, but "economy" needs closer definition, for the yogi's "economy" seems like heavy sacrifice to most. Economy of forces means to be in tune with natural harmony. And this is exclusively the measured rhythm of nature. Stimulation does not originate from the outside, artificially, but from inner sources, the essential wellsprings which are within us. It is therefore not a question of overpowering the body or (most curious of all endeavors) of shutting out all the stimuli of the outer world, but a question of illuminating our own consciousness. After that the body obeys automatically. Celibacy of the mind has to precede celibacy of the body. An evil thought is worse than a bad deed.

    The "deed in thought" is often underestimated. One imagines control of action is the chief accomplishment, and forgets that frequently lack of opportunity or fear of external laws are the motivations which make us so virtuous. Sigmund Freud has perhaps painted too dark a picture, but we can hardly deny his principle, especially when at a later stage of meditation we are faced with our fearful animalistic self.

    Another interesting problem arises from the phrase, "renouncing the fruits of his actions." This is pure karma yoga.

    A deed is of value only when it is done for its own sake. This is a platitude which has the remarkable distinction of containing one of the deepest wisdoms of the world. The reason for this and its practical value can easily be explained psychologically but the advantages that result from it internally lie beyond the most fertile imagination. It is easily tested: Anyone who succeeds in doing a really "good deed" without the slightest selfish motive-- one of the most difficult tasks a man can accomplish--will reap the joy of its sublime fruit. Everything that we mortals do has a motive, for we are "creatures of reason," and reason always demands the motive (which according to ancient wisdom we are not supposed to have). The psychological explanation for this cannot be discussed here; but whether or not we adopt the path of yoga, we should occasionally analyze one of our "good deeds" to see how much selfishness or self-satisfaction it actually contains. The fruit of every good deed is a certain satisfaction which directly or indirectly results from this deed. And it is this satisfaction that the yogi renounces. He does not create anything in his mind that could be satisfied in this way.

    The careful observer will note that the spiritual background of the abstinence of the brahmacharin and the renunciation of the karma yogi have the same source, and that the same psychological disciplines are demanded. There is no doubt that he who can fulfill these conditions can "become a siddha in the span of one year." Something more has to be said about the "moderate diet":

    (58) Moderate diet means pleasant, sweet food, leaving free one fourth of the stomach. The act of eating is dedicated to Siva.

    The classical commentary says: "He [the yogi] should fill two parts of his stomach with food, and the third part with water, leaving the fourth free for air to aid the digestive process." In short, moderation.

    (59-61) The following are considered as not being salutary: sour, pungent, and hot food; mustard, alcohol, fish, meat, curds, butter-milk,* chicle peas, fruit of the jujub, linseed cakes, asafetida, and

    garlic. It is also advisable to avoid: reheated food, an excess of salt or acid, foods that are hard to digest or are woody. Goraksha teaches that in the beginning the yogi should avoid bad company, proximity to fire, sexual relations, long trips, cold baths in the early morning, fasting, and heavy physical work.


    *This does not refer to the commercially cultured milk we call "buttermilk." --Train.


    These strict disciplines are imposed on the student, but do not necessarily apply to the master.

    "Proximity to fire": the temperature of a yogi changes considerably during specific practices, especially in the meditative state. The term "burning asceticism" (tapas) has its origin here, and is not, as it may seem, sheer rhetoric. If the yogi in training submits to exterior temperature changes through proximity to fire or by a cold bath after the warmth of his couch, he damages through these unnatural changes the "fire of life" (pitta). The temperature of the atmosphere depends on atmospheric pressure, which influences the whole human organism and regulates the pitta. Artificial temperature changes do not agree with the yogi while he is in an altered state. Even the simplest practice of meditation becomes senseless if the yogi is freezing. This is one of the reasons why the coverings of a kundalini yogi consist always of silk or wool, never of cotton [or manmade fibers --Trans.].

    (62) The following items can be used without hesitation: wheat products [bread, etc.] rice, milk, fats, rock candy, honey, dried ginger, cucumbers, vegetables, and fresh water.

    (63) The yogi should eat nourishing, sweet foods mixed with milk. They should benefit the senses and stimulate the functions.

    (64) Anyone who actively practices yoga, be he young, old, or even very old, sickly or weak, can become a siddha.

    (65) Anyone who practices can acquire siddhis, but not he who is lazy. Yoga siddhil are not obtained by merely reading textbooks.

    (66) Nor are they reached by wearing yoga garments or by conversation about yoga, but only through tireless practice. This is the secret of success. There is no doubt about it.

    (67) The various asanas, kumbhakas, and mudras of hatha yoga should be practiced as long as raja yoga has not been attained.

    And when will that have been attained? When human existence no longer holds any problems.

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