Venerable Suṣumna

In general suṣumna is very glorifying in Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, many texts say that suṣumna contains the entire universe, it is very revered. The term itself comes from the root सुम्न (sumna), which means something desirable, magnificent with a strong prefix सु (su), where the “s” is transformed according to the sandhi rules into “ṣ”, thus the word suṣumna (very gorgeous) appeared. It comes up from the name that this channel is worthy of extremely serious perception, and Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati and a number of other texts describe it as a goal (lakṣya).

Sometimes there are translations of the term, like where the sun’s rays are. Obviously, this context comes from such early texts as Taittirīya Samhitā (

सुषुम्नः सूर्यरश्मिश्चन्द्रमा गन्धर्वस्तस्य नक्षत्राण्यप्सरसो वेकुरयः |
suṣumnaḥ sūryaraśmiścandramā gandharvastasya nakṣatrāṇyapsaraso vekurayaḥ |

Thanks to (suṣumna) moon, shining with the rays of the sun, is gāndharva, and his āpsaras (companions of gānharva) are the nakṣatras.

Further, it follows from the text, that this is described in the context of a fiery yajña, where the fire also relates to gānharva, the radiant rays of the flame – to āpsaras. In fact, the fire ofsuṣumna is the interiorised fire of the external yajña. Apparently, the term itself has Vedic origin.

Sometimes it is difficult to say where the object of reverence acts as a “support”, and where it is the goal.

The multidimensionality of the same term meanings in different texts

One of my students asked a question about the Yogayājñavalkya text. There is a shloka in the section on dhyana:

अथवा परमात्मानं परमानन्दविरगहम्
गुरुपदेशाद्विज्ञ्याय पुरुषं कृष्णपिंगलम्।

athavā paramātmānaṃ paramānandaviragaham
gurupadeśādvijñyāya puruṣaṃ puruṣaṃ kṛṣṇapiṃgalam।

Or when receiving a teaching from the Guru, the embodiment of the supreme soul, the highest bliss, having dark and red color.

What does it mean by dark and red color? Why these particular colors?

The meaning of combination of these two colors in relation to Divinity can be found in a number of sources, first of all in purāṇas, such as Padmapurāṇa, Skandapurāṇa, Liṅgapurāṇa.

In Liṅgapurāṇa, in the description of greatness of the five faces of Shiva, namely Aghora, Aghora Shiva has the characteristics of Dark and Red colors.

स तं दृष्ट्वा महात्मानमघोरं घोरविक्रमम्।।
ववंदे देवदेवेशमद्भुतं कृष्णपिंगलम्।। १४.६ ।।

In Nārāyaṇasūktam, or for example in Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad (Ch. 23), the famous mantra is given:

ऋतं सत्य परं ब्रह्म पुरुषं कृष्णपिंगलम् ॥ उर्ध्वरेतं विरूपाक्षं विश्वरूपाय वै नमः ॥

To the Great Order, Truth, the Great Absolute, the person in the shape of the Universe, with extraordinary eyes, having dark and red color, the one whose sexual power is directed upwards, to him I offer my respects.

Numerous comments to that ancient Vedic mantra contain different interpretations, as for example the dark (on the right) is a symbol of Shiva and the red color on the left side is a symbol of the Goddess Uma (Umāmahēśvara).

तादृशं ब्रह्म स्वभक्तानुग्रहाय उमामहेश्वरात्मकं पुरुषरूपं भवति | तत्र दक्षिणे महेश्वरभागे कृष्णवर्णः | उमाभागे वामे पिङ्गलवर्णः |

There is also the interpretation saying that these are the colors of Shiva and Nārāyaṇa (Harihara). But whatever the interpretations are, the idea of integration of basic metaphysical categories can be traced in all of them.

Yājñavalkya as a Nātha yogin

There is an interesting explanation of the oldest source of the yoga doctrine found in बृहद्योगीयाज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति Bṛhadyogīyājñavalkyasmṛti (12.5):

सांख्यस्य कर्ता कपिलः परमार्थः स स
हिरण्यगर्भो योगस्य वक्ता नान्यः पुरातनः ||12.5 ||

sāṃkhyasya kartā kapilaḥ paramārthaḥ sa sa
hiraṇyagarbho yogasya vaktā nānyaḥ purātanaḥ (12.5)

Kapila, the founder of Sāṃkhya, is known as paramārtha. (Similar to that) Hiraṇyagarbha expounded the yoga doctrine, there is none more ancient than him.

However, in the Nātha Sampradāya, Yājñavalkya is known not only as a Vedic ṛishi, but also as a disciple of Brahma (Satyanāth), who in the form of Hiranyagarbha transmitted the knowledge of yoga to Yājñavalkya. And Yājñavalkya Nātha is mentioned on the lists of 84 Nāthas.

āgamarahasyam Ch. 17

In the chapter devoted to the yoga practice, namely, in the section of dhyāna, the elements of sexuality are described in a positive context. Unlike many formal celibate guardians, who in fact do not follow it themselves, there is not so much hypocrisy directly in the ancient texts. On the contrary, sexual power is interpreted as extremely important in spiritual evolution. With the correct perception it is capable of bestowing a higher yogic realisation.

अग्रतः पृष्ठतो मध्ये पार्श्वतोऽथ समन्ततः ।
विद्युच्चकितवद्भाति सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभः ॥ २९७ ॥

रतान्ते स्त्री यथात्मानं क्षणं क्वाहं न बुध्यते ।
रमणोऽपि न जानाति कोऽहं योगे तथा पुमान् ॥ २९८ ॥

agrataḥ pṛṣṭhato madhye pārśvato’tha samantataḥ ।
vidyuccakitavadbhāti sūryakoṭisamaprabhaḥ ॥ 297 ॥

ratānte strī yathātmānaṃ kṣaṇaṃ kvāhaṃ na budhyate ।
ramaṇo’pi na jānāti ko’haṃ yoge tathā pumān ॥ 298 ॥

(Yogin) is shining with thousand millions of sun rays evenly in front, behind, in the middle, in the center and at the sides. During orgasm, a woman (रतान्ते स्त्री ratānte strī) tries to realise: “Where am I?” (क्वाहं kvāhaṃ?), but can not realise it. A man at the moment of pleasure asks the question: “Who am I?” (कोहं? ko’haṃ?) and cannot find the answer, also a person in the yogic state doesn’t know who he is (i.e. his false personality).

The limbs of haṭha-yoga in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā and the Agama Rahasya Tantra

The limbs of haṭha-yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

आसनं कुम्भकं चित्रं मुद्राख्यं करणं तथा ।
अथ नादानुसन्धानमभ्यासानुक्रमो हठे ॥ ५६ ॥

āsanaṁ kumbhakaṁ citraṁ mudrākhyaṁ karaṇaṁ tathā |
atha nādānusandhānamabhyāsānukramo haṭhe || 56 ||

The sequence of haṭha-yoga could be practiced as āsanas, breath holdings, mudrās and nādānusandhāna.

तान् हठयोगे वक्ष्यामः |
आसनं प्राणसंरोधो ध्यानं चैव समाधिकः |
एतच्चतुष्टयं विद्धि सर्वयोगेषु सम्मतम् || १२ ||

tān haṭhayoge vakṣyāmaḥ |
āsanaṁ prāṇasaṁrodho dhyānaṁ caiva samādhikaḥ |
etaccatuṣṭayaṁ viddhi sarvayogeṣu sammatam || 12 ||

Asana, a stopping of prāṇa (prāṇāyāma), dhyāna (contemplation) and samādhi – these four kinds are recognised in all the yogas.

Svātmārāma specifies the following sequence of the four-limb haṭha-yoga:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) mudrā, 4) nādānusandhāna.

Agama Rahasya Tantra specifies the following sequence:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) dhyāna, 4) samādhi.

Also, Agama Rahasya divides the genealogy of haṭha-yoga into two categories. The first one is going from Matsyendranātha (kaula and nātha yogin) and the second from aṣṭa-ciranjīvī (immortal ṛṣi and muni, like Mārkaṇ‍ḍeya and others). Although, they are considered to be related to nāthas in Nātha Samprādaya.

Issue in understanding traditions

Sometimes I’m really astonished by the statements of some people, who earned their academic degrees in the US or the UK. For example, by  the one that Nathas do not practice “real yogic methods” for the last 400 years (i.e., “real” in the sense that they are understood by scholars and their beloved  modernised and globalised yoga environment, despite the fact that they often deny it). They state that the real hatha-yoga is now easier to be found in the lines related to Dashanami.

But it does not occur to them that the Nathas began to spread widely in the West over the past 10-15 years – thanks to people like me, and not  to the Gurus from Dashanami, who had long since left for the West. In my opinion, those Dashanami Gurus have long been adapted to the needs of Western  consumers, lovers of fitness and  New Age culture. Nathas simply did not have time to  make it, and God forbid they do. It’s not Nathas to blame for not practising “real hatha” for the last 400 years, since the “real hatha” didn’t exist among Nathas or any other followers of the spiritual path either 400, or 700, or 1000 years ago. The fact is that both Western Indologists and Indian Gurus have long been susceptible  to the ideas of Western consumerism, in  which commerce supplanted the  goal of yoga as a sadhana.

For the sake of business they are  eager to recognise everything as traditional. Rather, they have already done  so and integrated it into their Indian culture a long time ago. Yes, the Nathas did practice that yoga neither 400, nor 700 years ago, never. It is ignorance to seek confirmation of your own delusions in the Tradition, doesn’t matter who you are – a  fitness trainer, a scholar or a Guru from India, who dreams of  owning 200 cars in the US  like Rajneesh.

Yoga and upāyas

There is an interesting book in Hindi published by Gorakhnath-mandir (in Gorakhpur), its title is गोरक्षनाथ और नाथ सिद्ध / Gorakṣanāth aur nāth siddh. There is written following:

आजकल हम विभिन्न प्रकार के योगों के नाम सुनते हैं  – राजयोग, हठयोग, ज्ञानयोग, लययोग, भक्तियोग और कर्मयोग| ये शब्द आधुनिक शब्द हैं |  प्राचीन योगियों  की इसमें आस्था नहीं हैं |

My translation:

In modern time we have heard about many varieties of Yoga: rajayoga, haṭha-yoga, jñānayoga, layayoga, bhaktiyoga, also karmayoga. These terms are modern. Ancient yogis did not believe this.

I do not think that all these varieties are completely modern, however, in this statement there is much truth. A person who is limited to a vision of yoga in only one category, is unlikely following the right yogic direction. While modern styles of “haṭhayoga” sin even more, they often lead away from the main yogic goals, they are feeding people’s ego instead of giving liberation from it. They create confusion in the people’s minds, instead of freeing oneself from it. And this mass situation is paradoxical, as often what is called yoga, on the contrary, leads away from the yogic path. Yoga is the integrity of own nature, and how you will come to this and call it is a secondary importance think. It is no coincidence that the term upāya can be translated both, as a method, as a ruse or a trick.

Nātha as a manifestation of the nāda

The following definition of the term nātha is given in Gorakṣa-siddhānta-samgraha:

नाकारो नादरूपं च थाकारः स्थाप्यते सदा |

भुवनत्रयोवैकः श्रीगोरक्ष नमोऽस्तु ते ||

Reverence to Gorakṣanāth, the Nātha, who is one in the three worlds, he as a syllable “nā” – means “nāda”, and “tha” – manifested (in the three worlds).

The other part also says that nāth is one who realises the nāda or the source of own origin. In the subtle form nāda is manifested in the form of the praṇava OM, which is known as Mahāgāyatrī, and in the gross form it is known as Brahmagāyatrī; all Navanāthas, Caurashi Siddhas, Deities, Vedas, grammar (vyākaraṇa), Purāṇa, Itihāsas, etc. are manifestations of this particular Nātha-yoga.

Indeed, practices related to nāda play a fundamental role in the Nāth Tradition.

From Dattātreya-yoga-śāstra

Here is an interesting śloka from Dattātreya-yoga-śāstra:

ब्राह्मणः श्रमणो वा बौद्धो वाप्यार्हतोऽथवा।
कापालिको वा चार्वाकः श्रद्धया सहितः सुधीः।
योगाभ्यासोऽतो नित्यं सर्वसिद्धिमवाप्नुयात्॥३८॥

brāhmaṇaḥ śramaṇo vā bauddho vāpyārhato’thavā |
kāpāliko vā cārvākaḥ śraddhayā sahitaḥ sudhīḥ |
yogābhyāso’to nityaṁ sarvasiddhimavāpnuyāt || 38 ||

Whether he is brāhmaṇa, śramaṇa (ascetic) or follower of Buddhism, jain, kāpālika or (even) cārvāka (materialist). If he is constantly practicing yoga with full faith, he will obtain all siddhis.

It is interesting that even cārvākas are mentioned, although I referred to such an opportunity many years ago, that aroused bewilderment in many. My opinion is very simple, the yogic worldview is plain, therefore it is flexible: if you like the doctrine with a complex metaphysics and theological concept – you can follow it, if you like a simple one – the same. I got my first mystical experience when I was living in an atheistic country, I did not have any books about the Śhiva’s omnipresence. You can call it anything, but there is something higher that regulates everything. And through what we discover it for ourselves, would it be sincere faith in God or sincere atheism, no one knows. Ideologies can sometimes serve as tools for understanding the yogic experience, that lies behind their formal images.


Yoga and death experience

I think that for most people any information about death is virtually almost irrelevant until it is more and more correlating with the subject. On the Internet, we can see the information about catastrophes, wars, hunger occurred somewhere, but even death happened next to you is not necessarily significant for some people. There are plenty of people who like to speak about death by repetitively savouring trivial phrases, introduced by some wise men, but still it is the experience only of wise men, but not a repeater. That’s why yoga is, first of all, an experimental research of oneself, of something we don’t know, or barely know, or have forgotten. We know nothing of afterlife, we have no proof of rebirth or other things except for only sayings of some people and different religions.

And what is yoga for? Yoga proposes to study death on practice. Actually, yoga is a gradual immersion into the experience of death, not external, but your own. If we refer to the states of death, described in Vedanta, Tantras, Yoga texts, all of them – from jāgrat to turya or turyatita – illustrate a gradual transition from objective self-awareness to more and more subjective one. If you correlate yourself with your dreams in svapna, then in suṣupti you correlate yourself with a reality beyond mental constructions. In turya, you realise yourself beyond all the three stages, and use this experience to study yourself as their witness, where all of them serve as supporting instruments of self-awareness. You are Nirālamba Śhiva (Unsupported Shiva) and do not need any of these instruments in turiyatita. In yoga, you slow down the process of breathing by practicing prāṇāyāma, thereby you can gain a more thorough insight into the dimension, revealing itself from the experience, which is usually seen as death.

In India, death is usually divided into two categories: natural and unnatural. Unnatural death is sudden, for instance, from accident, when a person abruptly falls into the unconscious. Natural death, even if it is not strongly perceivable, has at least a more or less smooth transition. Yoga sets the goal to make that process as smooth and conscious as possible, and, at the same time, to get the knowledge of something, which goes beyond what we usually see as life. As I see it, to a greater extent it is connected with the accomplished prāṇāyāma practice.

First of all, yoga offers a self-study of our own unconscious, which is the fundamental goal of a human being. It transcends him from the human to the yogiс level. Some say about stages of videha-mukti (liberation attained by a person after death), some – about sadeha-mukti (liberation while still in the body), however, I see it as a combination of both. Yoga is nothing more than laying a bridge between two realities, and only by this experience we can comprehend and see for ourselves: is there rebirth or not, is there a soul or not, is there God or not. I think that the true knowledge (jñāna), is contained in the yogic experience in particular, none any over-prestigious traditions, nor Gurus, books or theories will give you this knowledge, until you reveal it yourself. Of course, there are huge benefits in traditions, but the true value can be gained only when you are fully correlated with it, otherwise a tradition is worth no more than a visit to a pub. A person can try on a tradition as many times as they want, even not accepting the fact that it remains something secondary for them, after a favourite pub, the Internet, McDonalds or anything else. Do you fully correlate with it or not, that is what you need to think of.