Hatha Yoga or Kundalini Yoga is primarily a discipline meant to arouse the Kundalini.
“Thus, by constantly trying and controlling his mind, the yogi completely purged of all evil impulses in him and made perfect through many births finally attains the Supreme goal”To most, yoga is a recipe of the practice of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) and for the few connoisseurs of spirituality, toss in a pint of meditation. However, these ‘bit practices’ are but mere drops in the ocean of Hatha Yoga or the Yoga of Sturdiness.
Hatha Yoga or Kundalini Yoga is primarily a discipline meant to arouse the Kundalini. The more commonly known aspects of HathaYoga, viz. Asana, Pranayama and Mudra practices are physically demanding and if done with the right intentions, can manipulate pranaor life energy into the Sushumna (lit. graceful) nadi or middle channel. Consistent practice raises the prana upward to the top of the head (the crown chakra) to leave the body and attain the much sought after Moksha or liberation/freedom from the pangs of material existence to delight in the transcendental sphere ever after.
However, this is not the aim of the modern Hatha Yoga practitioner who is bent on limiting the practice by reducing it to its physical domain, claiming new and varied types of yoga, giving them innovative and sometimes, odd names.
Please know that Hatha Yoga is a much larger teaching and only its first part deals with the physical. The second part is devoted to pure meditation and the realization of the supreme knowledge essential to building the bridge between the physical and the eternal and indestructible. Hatha Yoga has good reason to lay down the foundation of spiritual thought as encased in the Upanishads, the philosophical part of Vedas, as it includes moral codes that help reining in the mind and securing it in Dharma (virtuous living). Hathayoga is a vehicle used to attain eternal frequency.
Living up to the ideal of being the Yoga of Sturdiness, Hatha Yoga believes that practice and practice alone will bring success. However, it forcefully warns the practitioner that without the grace of guru and God, the practice will go wrong and suffering will occur. The moral codes enshrined in the Hatha Yoga scriptures form the backbone of its practice and are indispensable. The practice ofHatha Yoga is somewhat severe and at times highly unpalatable to the norms of ordinary society, especially the present age.
The core practice of Hatha Yoga focuses on Pranayama i.e. prana or life air manipulation and the eventual attainment of Kumbhaka or the cessation of breath and the purification of the nadis, the pranic channels that distribute prana everywhere. Do note that in higher states of consciousness even if seemingly normal breathing goes on, it may still be with the suspension of breath. In ordinary states of consciousness, the nadis are mostly impure; in general, the habits of humankind are the result of a mind highly addicted to physical and mental enjoyment. This lifestyle pushes the Pranas into the lower areas of our bodies. Where Prana goes consciousness follows. Of the five life-airs (apana, prana, samana, uddana and vyana), the fourth, uddana, is cultivated intensely by yogis. It is the upward (Ud–urdhva) flowing air with its seat in the Vishuddhi chakra (a highly pure centre) that acts as a lightning rod for consciousness to manifest its original, spiritual nature of the Atman, the Self. Pranayama and Mantra practice ignites Uddana.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.1
“Having done the practice of asanas, a self restrained yogi who consumes wholesome and moderate food should undertake the regular practice of Pranayama as instructed by the Guru”
The first verse of the chapter deals with Pranayama, which emphasises the mastery of oneself through self-restraint bringing us to the five Yama (conducts) and five Niyama (obligations). These Yama and Niyama of Hatha yoga are an extended version of the well-known list found in Patanjali‘s YogaSutras. We shall look at them later in the text. First, master the asanas (posture) for the comfortable practice of Pranayama and cleaning of the nadis. Second, diet should be wholesome and balanced and third, consumption should be in moderation.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.7
“One should undertake regular practice of Pranayama with a pious attitude, to get rid of impurities and attain a deep sense of well-being”
Clearly, a pious attitude of IshwaraPranidhana or surrendering prana or life to the Lord is one of the required Niyama.
The practice of Pranayama is the core of Hatha Yoga. The cleansing techniques and asana practice is done before as preparation forPranayama. The practices that follow including attention to Mudras (used to seal Prana into the Sushumna nadi, the middle channel, for ascent), Pratyahara (withdrawal), Dhyana (meditation) and finally Samadhi (absorption) are fuelled by the practice of and rendered successful because of success in Pranayama.
However, it is Pratyahara, the withdrawal of senses from interactions with the world outside, that turns on the switch of spiritual life. This is rarely understood by the ordinary mind so fuelled with cravings for interaction and enjoyment, always ready to exploit anything and everything for personal wellbeing. For the sake of basic survival, one-way or the other, the senses will act and whether we like it or not, we are impelled to interact with the world. A yogi, intent on knowing the ultimate, the seed of all that is, axes mass interaction of the senses with sense objects. This reduces material success for the sake of opening dormant frequencies leading to the Absolute, independent of time and space. This is not to be confused with poverty,
Lao Tzu captures the essence of Pratyahara in the Tao Te Ching beautifully…
Without going out your door,
You can know the ways of the world.
Without peeping through your windows,
You can see the way of Heaven.
The farther you go,
The less you know.
Thus, the sage knows without travelling,
Sees without looking,
Achieves without doing.
This teaching somewhat symbolizes the way of a yogi. In a yogi‘s life, everything takes place within and in space, without the mind and senses and in places where self–controlled Pranas are the only lighthouse in a sea of material darkness. By minimizing material desires, a yogi strives to purify his seemingly material existence.
Purity is the force without which success in meditation is unlikely. To realize this all-pervading, absolute nature one must acknowledge the Divine in everything. The greeting Namaste that often resonates amongst yoga communities and spiritual seekers around the world does just that.
Na is ‘not’, Ma is ‘me’ and Astetu is ‘unto you only’.
Loosely this means, ‘Not me, only you’. Specifically who is this ‘you’?
‘You’ is the Paramatma, the Supreme Self, the indweller, the life force of all beings. Atma, Jivatma or the Self is the minute self and denotes the conditioned nature whereas Paramatma is unconditional and pure. Having purified his vision, a yogi naturally sees the Supreme spirit everywhere – in the lows and the highs, in the auspicious and the inauspicious, in beauty and in ugliness, in everything and everybody. This is true universal vision based on equality where images differ but the essence is one. That is the highest form ofPratyahara (withdrawal).
Sa panchavidhaha vicharataam-indriyaanaam
Yadhyatvasayati tatsarvamaatmeti pratyaahaaraha
“Then, withdrawal that is of five kinds. It is the drawing away of the sense organs from attaching themselves to the objects of sense organs
Contemplating upon everything that one sees as the Self is withdrawal”
Vishnu is also known as Paramatma, one who pervades everything. It comes from the root verb Vishlri -pervading. The Upanishads declare ‘Vishnu vishwatervavishwaha‘ “One who pervades everything is called Vishnu”
There are other names symbolizing the all-pervading Divine, sometimes used by yogis to greet living beings. One is Shiva, which means auspicious. Sometimes you come across holy men in India or Nepal greeting you with NamoShivaya, “You are the auspicious!” Another often used is NamoNarayan. Narayan means ‘abode of the living’ wherein nara is human and ayana is abode.
Developed through the below mentioned Yama and Niyama, the cleansed mind intimately exudes a transparency when dealing with others, hence greeting others as the auspicious, all-pervading abode of everything affirms the Divine in all.
My Guru once said, “The purpose of life is not to be rich or famous, the purpose of life is to become pure.”
Only a pure mind meditates successfully and realizes the Absolute.
CONDUCTS AND OBSERVANCES
Atha dasha yamaha
Shaucham caiva yama dasha
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.55
“The ten Observances of Hatha Yoga are:
Non-hurting, Truthfulness, Non-stealing,
Continence, Forgiveness Forbearance, Kindness,
Simplicity, Moderate diet and Cleanliness”
Atha dasha niyamaha
Tapaha shantoshama astikyam
Niyama dasha vai proktaa
Paapapaam-shumahaavaataaha syurami niyamaa yamaaha
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.57–58
“According to experts on yoga, the ten Conducts of Hatha yoga are:
Austerity, Contentment, Faith in God and Scriptures, Charity,
Worship of God, Hearing philosophical doctrines,
Coyness, Conscience, Penance and Sacrificial Rites”
Those familiar with the Patanjali‘s YogaSutras will immediately see the dichotomy in numbers: the YogaSutras enumerate five Yamaand Niyama each, half the above list.
The YogaSutras contain non–hurting, truth, continence, non-stealing and non-possession as Observances. Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, worship of God and study of the self are the five Conducts. The factual difference is only in their elaboration and expansion.
Yama or Observances
Non-hurting (Ahimsa) stands foremost as a mast upon which further Observances are attached. Non-hurting is of three types: physical, verbal and mental. One restraining himself in all three ways of hurting will certainly master the rest with ease. My Gurualways said that as a matter of practice one should focus on just one Observance and perfect it and the rest would follow.
Life can be daunting and an Observance like Non-hurting is contradictory to perceived compulsions like that of defence of self, of near and dear ones or as a duty to the community or nation. In these situations, Dharma (moral law plus spiritual discipline) is the guiding light – what needs to be done for the sake of normalization or as part of work that earns us an honest livelihood must be pursued accordingly.
However, our personal Dharma to individuals does differ from our personal Dharma to the community.
This quote from the YogaSutra serves as the benchmark of the mastery of Ahimsa.
Ahimsaa pratishthaayaam tatsanidhau vairat-yaagaha
“When non-hurting is established everyone in his presence gives up hostility”
Truthfulness is rare indeed. It is imperative to be honest with oneself and this includes understanding our boundaries. It is good to be ambitious, especially when young, but it is wise to know and understand one’s limitations.
The Mundaka Upanishad contains a mantra, Satyamevajayate, Sanskrit for “truth alone prevails”. It always does hence a life based on healthy interaction devoid of duplicity takes us far. Saying just one lie forces us to say a thousand more to cover the one and life gets complicated and difficult.
“Mastery of veracity brings out the truth in all his actions”
Veracity is intimately linked to purity. It is like a mirror to our behaviour showing us our real countenance. A yogi established in reality possesses the power to make the truth shine forth in every place, subject or object even without expectations. His very words become the truth.
Non-stealing (Asteya) can be very tough. Consciously or unconsciously, stealing is almost omnipresent in our society. To refrain possessing what is not yours indeed makes you richer.
“When non-stealing is mastered, precious jewels come”
By default, nature is wired to provide everything required. Wealth does not elude those established in non-stealing; in fact, mastery over Asteya creates endless possibilities for riches to unfold at one’s feet. This does not necessarily mean that the yogi will earn plenty money or own prime real estate; however it does mean that all the yogi needs for living the good life is unfolded in time. Theyogi is connected with Brahman, the Absolute and by this connection, is the absolute owner of the world. Everything is at his disposal through his unattached consciousness.
Continence (Brahmacharya) or celibacy can be a dreadful word to many, yet it is one of the most intimate, sublime and sacred choices of a yogi, a definite must.
Brahmacharya is a Sanskrit word wherein Brahman denotes the Absolute, the ever expanding (verb: Brih) and Acharya is someone anchored in conduct, living by it and usually teaching it too. Being firmly established in the Absolute in thought, word and deed (not to be confused with despotic behaviour) and constantly moving toward the sublime is Brahmacharya.
Sexual energy is the most basic and fundamental form of life. It is a building block and conceals in its DNA the intricacies of life. Usually its path is downward, releasing semen. A yogi knows this as loss of life and uses this same energy in its vaporized form (heats up through tapas – austerity and the practice of Pranayama), moving it up through the Sushumna nadi, middle channel, primarily through Pranayama and Mudra practice but through meditation as well.
This control over one’s sexual energies and semen (by moving this life energy upwards) and contemplating God is to attainBrahmacharya. Semen or life energy constitutes the final, finest and sublime essence of food.
“Firmly established in continence, vigour is obtained”
Preserving sexual fluids is good for overall health. Tissue, inner organs especially the liver & kidneys, muscles and blood are the main beneficiaries. Naturally, regeneration increases vitality.
Maranam bindupaatena jiivitam bindu-dhaaranaat
Sugandho yoginio dehe jaayaye bindu-dhaaranaat
Yaavad-binduhu sthiro dehe taavat kaalabhayam kutaha
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 5.121
“Downward flow of semen leads to decay of the body, while its preservation leads to life and creates pleasant smell in the body.
As long as semen is retained, there is no fear from death”
Brahmacharya is not only the practice of reclusive yogis. Householders may be Brahmacharis; there are a number of great householderyogis. Marriage itself is not the obstacle; however, sexual acts should conform to the scriptures with regard to the auspicious times of the night. Take care to avoid days like the new and full moon, during the menstrual cycle and festive days dedicated to a particular aspect of the Divine.
After the brahmachari years of study and restrain, marriage is advised for the true yogi as a means to enrich society through Dharma, virtue. Similar temperaments, values and a firm faith in God are the required qualities of a yogi‘s partner.
Forgiveness (Kshama) is the fifth Hatha yoga Observance. It is not in the YogaSutras.
Seemingly a very Christian ethos, it is much evoked in the general practice of Yoga. It is difficult to practice meditation and at the same time rise above body and mind identifications unless forgiveness forms the pivotal part of our sadhana or practice.
Forgiveness is easily applied. Insults or any form of violence within and without pertains to our body and mind and are not actually connected with our Self, the Atman, but restricted to mortal constituencies like our bodies and minds. We are not the body or mind – these are just outer manifestations of the outward moving consciousness. They are disposable and do not constitute the eternal form, hence feeling insulted is ignorance on our part. Having said that, justice is equally important; an act may be forgiven but if a grave sin has been committed, consequences shall be faced for the sake of justice and Dharma.
Forberance (Dhrithi) is an understanding that nothing is easy and pain is omnipresent, but suffering is optional.
“…for the one who finds everything easy in the beginning, will find everything difficult at the end…” (paraphrased from Lao Tzu‘s TaoTe Ching)
Being able to bear the consequences of our Karma especially the unpleasant ones is a form of humility. This denotes surrender to a higher energy rather than resignation to destiny. Realize that nothing is in our control, that Ishwara the Lord, is the controller in the form of the Antaryami (inner controller) or the Paramatma (the Supreme Self).
Forbearance towards our destiny is a sign of maturity. Humanity seems busy running away from this truth, enmeshing itself more and more in ‘give-get’ actions; yet a yogi knows the ways of heaven are wiser, its powers are unlimited and its wisdom beyond human comprehension.
Kindness (Daya) opens all doors, well… almost all; spontaneous to some, others have to work at it.
Maitre karunaa mudita upekshaanaam
Sukha dukha punya
Apunya vishayaanaam bhaavanaathaha cittaprasaadanam
“By cultivating habits of friendliness, compassion, complacency and indifference towards happiness, misery, virtue and vice, the mind becomes pure”
The habit of friendliness can be easily cultivated; if we really want it, we cultivate it. Kindness is a powerful outlet for Non-hurting and helps transcend several deficiencies.
Simplicity (Arjava) is another requirement. Simplicity in food, dress and manners is the way of yoga and builds a steady mind. Showering the mind with a plethora of things is damaging to the practice of yoga, for desires are like untamed beasts ready to tear apart our peace of mind and throw us into the abyss of senseless actions. The result could be painful. Consciously building up simplicity and abiding by it, destroys the sense of the little self or ego (Ahamkara) as the possessor of body and mind, the doer or lord. Simplicity may lead to ridicule from sections of society – a welcome gift for those exchanging the kingdom of mortals for the kingdom of heaven.
Moderate diet (Mitahara) is a form of Simplicity and much more. It is a ticket on a speed train to the realization of the Absolute.
Yoga Yagyavalkya says that only eight mouthfuls food is enough for monks, sixteen for householder renunciates, thirty-two for householders and for the youth, as much as they wish. Roughly, keep a quarter of the stomach empty to facilitate the movement of air to help fuel Jatharagni, the digestive fire.
Yogic diet is diverse and for a comprehensive study log in to the Lotus Membership of this website for topics covering the nutrition, preparation and consumption of yogic and Ayurvedic food in The Kitchen of Yoga and YogaChikitsa (Yoga Therapy); all found in theYogapedia e-book.
Cleanliness (Shaucham) is next step godliness. Hatha Yoga files cleanliness under Observances, whereas the YogaSutras, under Conducts. It seems more suitable to being an Observance.
Shauchatsvangajugupsaa pariah asamsargaha
“Cleanliness develops disinclination to one’s own body and contact with other bodies”
Cleanliness of the body is not restricted to bathing alone, but is more to do with conduct. Bringing our body to unhygienic places, consuming junk food or drugs and engaging in sexual intercourse with people not connected to us through love and dedication results in the hoarding of someone else’s energy thus allowing pollution to affect every facet of our lives. Cleanliness is also a state of mind, which abhors unclean acts due to its purification through yoga practice.
According to yoga, this physical body is not the only body we own; we have as many as five bodies. The first and foremost is, of course, this very gross body including its limbs and senses, produced and sustained by the food we consume. It is the Anumayakoshaor food body, wherein Kosha literally means sheet or envelop.
The second is the Pranamayakosha, the pranic body, composed of our ten Pranas or life-airs: Prana, Apana, Uddana, Samana, Vyana,Krikara, Dhananjaya, Kurma, Naga and Devadutta. Of these, the first five are the most important while the latter are subsidiaries of the first. Without these life-airs, the body has no capacity to sustain itself. The presence of life indicates the presence of Prana. Life-airs are responsible for moving everything that needs to be moved from the opening/closing of eyelids, yawning, the movement of blood, stool, urine and menstrual blood to the delivery of babies. The movement of the electric current and signals in the body from the nervous system to the brain also occur due to the Pranas.
Also the seat of the chakras, the pranic body is primarily accessed, manipulated and exercised through Pranayama practices.
The third is the Manomayakosha, the mental body or the mind. Intimately connected with the Anumayakosha and thePranamayakosha, this is also the product of food (if you do not eat, you cannot think). The practice of Meditation lets us gain access to it to go beyond.
The fourth, the Vigyanamayakosha or the intellectual body may well be called the wisdom body. Its existence is dormant in most and is awakened through IshwaraPranidhana or surrendering oneself to the Lord, the practice of meditation, and the study of scriptures. The wisdom body represents the crossing of mundane existence and the lighting of the lamp of knowledge, where the difference between permanence and impermanence is understood clearly. This is the function of discrimination. Being unable to discriminate between permanence and impermanence, we act contrary to Dharma, resulting in the collapse of Yama and Niyama, Observances and Conducts.
Tossed into nescience at birth, we are subject to the three powerful qualities of nature viz. Sattva (illumination), Rajas (activity) andTamas (inertia). These three govern us without exception, deluding us that we enjoy freedom whereas in reality we are bound to the very last breath.
Sattvam rajas tama iti gunaaha
“The three qualities of nature, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas condition living entity, when he comes in touch (being born) with material nature”.
Transcending these qualities and returning to the everlasting Self is the primary aim of yoga and fittingly, the fifth body is theAnandamayakosha or the blissful body. This is nothing but the Self or Atman distinct and untouched by nature. The prefix Ananda or blissful is just the opposite of the dejection and confusion that permeates our lives when not in tune with Dharma or virtuous living. The Observance of cleanliness is crucial to the development of the Atman.
“Upon becoming pure, mental elation, one-pointed focus, control of senses and an urge to realize the self follow”
Austerity (Tapas) is self-discipline, both physical and mental and is always beneficial. Austerities are practiced according to Dharmaelse will only cause strain and pain to oneself and others. This is contrary to any spiritual understanding and unproductive to the practice of yoga.
Tapyante ye tapo janaaha
“Those who are engaged in severe austerities not recommended by the scriptures but spurred by pride, ego, lust and attachment end up torturing the body as well as the Supreme Self living inside. They are considered demons”
Early to bed, early to rise, neither overeating nor eating too little, practising yoga and abstaining from vicious acts are true Austerities. Being steadfast in the pursuit and practice of yoga is Austerity par-excellence.
Austerity is Tapas in Sanskrit and denotes the great heat developed in our bodies as the direct result of practicing Austerities. Tapas is also zeal, the willingness for passionate and consistent practice. Austerities are an asset and are gateways to steady yoga practice. Without austerities, Tamas (inertia) sets in disrupting our consciousness.
Kaaya indriya siddhihi ashuddhiikshayaat tapasaha
“By burning away impurities through austerity, attainments of the senses (body) follow, i.e. mystical powers”
Essentially this means that by burning all impurities, the body is ready to experience eight special powers like flying in the sky, clairvoyance and omnipresence to name a few, dovetailed in the third chapter of the YogaSutra. These are direct results of practicing Austerities and are powerful assets.
Contentment (Santosha) is usually not a quality possessed by many. Being content is extremely hard. Discontentment is the product of an ambitious mind. Everyone feels that we deserve more than we earn or attain. It could be more money, more respect, a better job, better facilities et al.
However, contentment is attained in a fraction of a moment – give up the rights to enjoyment, a better status, more money etc. and be grateful for what we have and the life we are able to live. The level of contentment experienced is directly related to the renunciation of the fruits of our work. The only way is to surrender our gains to the Lord and use it only in His service.
Santoshat anuttamaha sukhalaabhaha
“Through contentment there is an acquisition of extreme happiness”
Piety (Aastikyam) is paramount to any success in yoga. Yoga as a discipline is not atheistic. Yoga means union, between the Atman, the Self and the Paramatman, the Supreme Self. By itself, yoga is not a part of religion, but it certainly is a religious practice and/or probably the best auxiliary to it. Whatever our understanding of God, a prayer to Him and surrendering all life to His mercy is the right conduct. Known as IshwaraPranidhana in Sanskrit, meaning surrendering all prana (life) to Him, it makes up a large part of the Bhakti(devotional) tradition. In this, Prapatti or full surrender is a means to super fast emancipation from the illusory pangs gripping our minds.
This conduct is the shortest path to Santosha, Contentment, the development of the Vigyanamaya kosha, the intellectual body and the attainment of Samadhi, absorption.
“Surrender to God results in attainment of absorption (Samadhi)”
Samadhi is perhaps best encapsulated in the Isa Upanishad, in the sixth sutra:
Yas tu sarvaani bhuutaany
Aatmany eva anupashyati
Tato na vijugupsate
“Who sees everything in relation to the Self, all living entities as a part of it
And who sees the Self within everything never hates anyone or anybody”
Deshe kale ca paatre ca
Taddaanam saattvikam smritam
“Charity that is duty bound and done without expectations, at the right time and place, to a worthy person is said to be in the mode of illumination”
All persons with a livelihood must perform charity. To share with the less fortunate cleanses our mind from greed and hate. However, as the above statement from Bhagavad Gita says that it should be to a worthy cause/person. To feed the hungry, provide clothes to the needy, sponsor education especially for children and to help animals is always good. ‘Charities’ that largely cause pain to the living and/or the environment disrupts peace and are best avoided. Always uphold the values of Dharma and the dignity of the beneficiary when involved in charity work of any kind.
Ishwara Puja (Worshiping the Lord)
There is no yoga practice without a chosen deity. God is omnipresent and may be known in totality only through inference; life is everywhere, so He is everywhere. Yoga ultimately culminates in the practice of meditation and the need arises for an object of meditation. For easier comprehension and an intimate relationship with God, often the chosen deity is worshipped in the man-made form representing Its Divine aspect. For example, amongst the pantheon of Hindu gods it is considered auspicious to venerateGanesha the “elephant god” first. A small statue or picture of Him will suffice. Worship may be done by simply lighting a candle and offering of incense to, thus being reminded of the Divine’s benevolent nature as well as His readiness to remove obstacles on the path of yoga by diminishing desires of the mind.
Hearing philosophical discourses is connected to the recitation of a chosen deity’s Mantra. Mananat trayaate iti mantraha, “that which liberates the mind is called mantra.” Mantra is the sound expression of the divine power and constitutes excellent meditation practice. Start with chanting AUM (OM, Omkara), known as Pranava or sacred; chant thrice and reflect on its meaning through the vibrations absorbed.
Tasya vaachakaha pranavaha
“The sacred word connotes Him”
Hearing philosophical discourses entails study by oneself. Recommended daily reading would certainly be the BhagavadGita and its 18 chapters on the different Yogas.
Hearing Philosophical Doctrines (Siddhanta Shravana) imbibes the mind with great intellect and a profound discrimination much required to differentiate between what is real and not real, permanent and impermanent.
Philosophical doctrines encompass Vedantic discourses that deal with the finest understanding and queries about the nature of and relation between the Absolute and the Self. The philosophical parts of the Vedas, the Upanishads combine both scientific discussions on the nature of Creation and psychoanalysis of the Self. Less tedious literature may be chosen for those unwilling to ponder over highly erudite texts like literature dealing with the devotional aspect of yoga.
There are several streams of Vedantic thought. They differ in understanding of the Self in relation to the Supreme Self. These discourses combine philosophy, cosmology and psychoanalysis and are utterly profound and enlightening. A mind engrossed in mental speculation, politics and uncontrolled senses is a bane to such discussions. Therefore again it is the Observances that bring about control of the mind and senses thus setting the stage for spiritual inquiry.
Hearing philosophical doctrines is related to the “Study of the Self” in the YogaSutras.
“By study of the self comes communion with the desired deity”
Being coy and not revealing intensions is good, preventing evil eyes upon our inspirations or practice. A yogi looks for seclusion, is a bit shy and, to a good degree, detached from the world. It is hard to keep focus on the subtle nuances of the Atman if grossly engaged in politics, gossip and entertainment. The practice of yoga requires great focus and peace. Coyness is therefore intimately tied toIshwaraPranidhana , surrendering all of life to the Lord. It is but obvious that our mental, sensory and intellectual capacity is severely limited and leaving it up to the Absolute intelligence is the dawn of wisdom. Hence, a yogi is coy, almost shy for he understands the limitations of this world more than anybody else does.
Developing a healthy and aware Conscience is an amazing value. Simplified, it is the power to be able to distinguish right from wrong. This is not always easy; often it is hard to understand what really is right. There can be an element of righteousness in the highly perverted and vice versa. Nature is the very essence of duality: man and woman, darkness and light, hot and cold, right and wrong, good in bad and bad in good, the list goes on. Being conscious leads us to observe life without participating. Always conscious of life, yet aloof is the way of the dedicated yogi.
Penance (Tapohutam) is sometimes linked to Austerity; however, there is a marked difference between them. Austerity is ongoing, for the betterment of yoga practice whereas penance is atonement for a wrongful act.
Penance in yoga is very much applicable when we understand major shortcomings in us. With penance, shortcomings may be uprooted. For example, we have an addiction to playing computer games and tend to waste hours in front of the computer, utterly unproductive and stagnant in ourselves. Penance for this would be to do something completely opposite, let us say, the practice of meditation.
By habituating the mind to an opposite, positive activity (connected to yoga practice) would be penance in Hatha Yoga.
Sacrificial Rites (Ishtaapurta)
Sacrificial rites form an enormous part of Vedic teachings and Dharma.
They might be difficult to understand for the modern practitioner of yoga let alone followed. Essentially these are fire sacrifices where a pyre is lit, sanctified and energized with mantras through which a chosen deity is manifested in the pyre. Offerings of rice, barley, clarified butter and other particular ingredients are made while propitiating the divine in a befitting manner. Sacrificial rites are done on occasions like weddings, births, funerals and anniversaries or for more lofty attainments like liberation from nature and merger with the Absolute.
Why fire? Because fire burns all impurities – physical, mental and spiritual.
Sacrificial rites are, as indicated in the text, intimately connected with the worship of the Lord in its chosen form.
Yagyaartha–atkarmano’ nyatraloko’ yam
Tadartham karma kaunteya
“Except for sacrifice, every other kind of action done in this world is binding.
Therefore, perform all action as if it were a sacrifice
Do it without any attachment, o son of Kunti”
Sharing earned money is an act of charity.
Offering food to the chosen Deity is also a sacrifice. Such food is Prasada or grace. To learn more about food offerings and Prasadavisit The Kitchen of Yoga in Yogapedia, accessible to Lotus Members .
Moral codes lead us to a real sense of freedom. Those pure at heart and supremely eager to understand the meaning of existence and their place in it practice and make them a second nature with ease.
A good auxiliary to the practice of Observances and Conducts are the Shat Karmas, the six Detox actions that cleanse the body and mind and are the first steps of Hatha Yoga. Its intimate description and guidance are accessible to all the Lotus Members in this web site.
Basically, there are six points of success and six points of destruction described by Hatha Yoga Pradipika (The Illumination on HathaYoga).
Utsahan–nishchayaad dhairya–attatvagyaanaccha nishchalaat
Janasanga–parityaagaat shadbiryogaha prasidhyati
Shruthi–pratiilishca gurupratiitihi svaatma–pratiitimanaso nirodhaha
Etaani sarvaani samucchitaani mataani dhiirairiha saadhanaani
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.47
“Success in yoga is attained through six means:
By enthusiasm, firm resolution, patience, correct understanding, stability and shunning public contact. Also by knowledge of scriptures, guidance from guru, personal experience and control of the mind -are considered the valid means of success, according to the adepts”
Atha yogo baadhakaha–
Atyaahaara prayasashcha prajalpo niiyamaagrahaha
Janasangashcha laulyam cha shadbir–yogovinashyati
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.48
“The following six ruin the practice of yoga:
Over–eating, over–exertion, excess talking, extreme austerity, public contact and greed”
Having an experienced master to guide you in the practice of Hatha yoga is necessary. The master can shine light on the practice and clarify any misunderstandings arising from it or from our karmas (destinies), which condition us to specific thinking and acting.
Finally, this modern age is always an excuse for not taking seriously instructions from yore. Terming the moral codes enshrined inHatha Yoga archaic would do injustice to them and to the whole discipline, which is practiced all over the world in its dissected forms and adages. Success does not happen overnight, it is a combination of persistent practice, guru‘s guidance and grace from guru and God.
Count your blessings if you are on this path as Hatha Yoga is the right vehicle to take you to the state of spiritual royalty.
Om Tat Sat