Cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas in the yogic texts

Such elements as cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas are not always clearly described in the Natha texts and Tantras. Therefore, it is often necessary to use different texts for “complementarity.” There is another perfect way, the presence of a knowledgeable guru, who can explain everything and transmit it. However, it is extremely difficult to find such gurus. It is obvious from lots of texts that these elements of tantric yoga are transmitted to the disciple by a guru, who are realised in them. So, for example, the Pranatoshini-tantra (in the section of guru-tattva) describes these elements:

षट्चक्रं षोडशाधारं त्रिलक्षं व्योमपञ्चकम् |
स्वदेहे यो विजानाति स गुरुः कथितो बुधैः

ṣaṭcakraṃ ṣoḍaśādhāraṃ trilakṣaṃ vyomapañcakam |
svadehe yo vijānāti sa guruḥ kathito budhaiḥ ||

Six cakras, sixteen pillars, three goals (in yoga) and five vyomas are known (realised) in the body [of a disciple], that is connected with a guru.

Also, there are six streams or ways of opening of Paramashiva (षडध्वा ṣaḍadhvā) added to these elements. They play a big role in the tantric initiation (diksha), when the guru places them in the disciple’s body, awakens them in him, actually transmitting that he has realised already in himself. Therefore, a disciple adopts the psychophysical realisation of his guru. A disciple must perceive the transmission of these elements from the guru as the very revealing of Shiva. The revealing of Shiva, who is vācaka (expressing speech) and vācya (expressed) – Shakti. They are both revealed on three levels: the higher – parā (or abheda – apart from the differences), parāpara – the combination of the higher and the lower or the bhedābheda (one in discrimination) and apara – the lowest or bheda (separate). At the highest level, Shiva manifests as varṇa (the Sanskrit letters), and Shakti – as kalā (the five forms of primordial energy). At the parāpara level, Shiva manifests as a mantra and Shakti at the same level – as tattva, one of the 36 elements of Shaivism. At the level of apara, Shiva manifests himself as a pada (words) and Shakti appears as bhuvana (worlds). In a word, the entire manifested universe is the expression of the union of ShivaShakti. The shadadhvas are used in many practices, one of the well-known examples can be found in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra (Shloka 56), they are also mentioned in the Amaraugha-shasana by Gorakshanāth in the context of prāṇa movement and the awakening of kuṇḍalinīshakti.

Regarding the remaining elements, the Pranatoshini-tantra gives the following explanations:

पृथिव्यादीनि भूतानि कथितं व्योमपञ्चकमिति
pṛthivyādīni bhūtāni kathitaṃ vyomapañcakamiti

Starting from the ground, the five elements are known as the five vyomas. The Tantrāloka (Ahnika 29, Shloka 252) says about five centers, where the five vyomas manifest:

व्योमानि – जन्मनाभिहृद्विन्दुस्थानानि
vyomāni – janmanābhihṛdvindusthānāni

The following are connected with the vyomas: 1) janma-sthāna (mūlādhāra), 2) nābhi (maṇipūra), 3) hṛdaya (anāhata), 4) bindusthāna (usually, bhrūmadhya or ājñā) and 5) sahasrāra. Obviously, the earlier system of the five cakras, known in the Kubjikā-tantras for examples, corresponds to the yogic experience of five spaces. Although they are described differently in the Upaniṣadas (the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa-upaniṣad, the Advaya-taraka-upaniṣad) or in the Siddha-siddhānta-paddathi.

The Pranatoshini-tantra gives explanations of the three lakṣyas:

त्रिलक्षादिकमपि तत्रैव स्वयम्भूर्वाण इतरस्त्रिलक्षं परिकीर्त्तितम्
trilakṣādikamapi tatraiva svayambhūrvāṇa itarastrilakṣaṃ parikīrttitam

The three goals of meditation are known as svayambhū (liṅga), vana and itara (liṅgamas).

Six cakras are described similarly to many texts, but in the Pranatoshini-tantra they being reunited with the dvādaśānta system (subtle centers and spaces in the head area), give 16 adharas in total.

षोडशाधारस्वरूपमपि तत्रैव ||
मूलाधारस्वाधिष्ठानं मणिपूरमनाहतम् |
विशुद्धमाज्ञाचक्रञ्च बिन्दुर्भूयः कलापदम् |
निबोधिका तथार्द्धेन्दुर्नादो नादान्त एव च |
उन्मनी विष्णुवक्त्रञ्च ध्रुवमण्डलिका ततः |

ṣoḍaśādhārasvarūpamapi tatraiva ||
mūlādhārasvādhiṣṭhānaṃ maṇipūramanāhatam |
viśuddhamājñācakrañca bindurbhūyaḥ kalāpadam |
nibodhikā tathārddhendurnādo nādānta eva ca |
unmanī viṣṇuvaktrañca dhruvamaṇḍalikā tataḥ |

In addition to the cakras, from mūlādhāra to ājñā, there are listed bindu, kalā, pada, nibodhika, ardhendu, nada, nādānta, unmaṇi, viṣṇuvaktra, dhruvamaṇḍala.

In fact, this is a unified psychophysical system of the yogin including also the macrocosm.

In some texts, adharas are described as granthas (nodes of the energy connections), for example, in the Manthanabhaira-tantra, in others – as marmas (in the Yoga Yājñavalkya). In the last text, these marmas are used in the practice of pratyāhāra, in which, through the concentration of the mind, a yogi learns to collect his prāṇa scattered throughout the body. The term “marma” is found in Āyurveda, in Indian martial arts and comes from the root of mṛ meaning “death”, since the points were used to defeat the enemy. In these systems, marmas are numerous, and they are localised at the junction of different body systems, etc. Nevertheless, the points can play a healing function, so the mṛta (death) becomes an amṛta (life) or a path from mara to amara (immortality).

All these details in their entirety at the applied level can be transferred to the disciple only by a guru, who, without any doubt, must realise them in the most perfect form in himself.

The signs of the progress in prāṇāyāma

Different texts give the different signs of the progress in prāṇāyāma. The most famous is the division of the levels into the duration of the breath holding, namely कनिष्ठ kaniṣṭha (short period), मध्यम madhyama (medium) and उत्तम uttama (high). The yogin controls sweating (स्वेद sveda) on the first one, trembling in the body (कम्प kampa) on the middle and on the highest, according to the Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (5-56), “earth abandonment” is happening or levitation (भूमि त्याग bhūmi tyāga). In other texts for example, in the description of the third stage, it is said about “fatigue”, “melancholy” (विषाद viṣāda), but since “triumph” (जय jaya) is used in relation to the three conditions, so it is about “conquering the gravity”, above “fatigue”, i.e. in contrast to the lightness. Therefore भूमि त्याग bhūmi tyāga can be understood not necessarily as a physical levitation, but more often as an “easy state,” although in some cases one cannot exclude the other.

Some tantras, for example, the Āgamarahasya-tantra or Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa (Ch. 36) give a similar description, the Kūrma-purāṇa (2.36, 21-26) says about the four processes of progress in prāṇāyāma. They are as following:

  1. ध्वस्ति dhvasti – the cessation of attachment to the fruits of good and bad actions.
  2. प्राप्ति prāpti – independence from such conditions as kāma, lobha, moha; abandonment of the wishes of the ordinary (ऐहिक aihika) and other (अमुष्मिन् amuṣmin) worlds. Acquisition of the abandonment of all desires (स्यात्सर्वकामिकी syātsarvakāmikī).
  3. संविद् saṃvid – knowledge (comprehension) of the past (अतीत atīta), the future (अनागत anāgata), nearest and remote objects, the moon, the sun, the planets, etc. (of the macrocosm).
  4. प्रसाद prasāda – realisation of “mercy”, “divine grace” thanks to which the mind, feelings, senses and five pranas are appeased.

There is a description of the other four elements closely associated with the four aforementioned in the purāṇa, for example in the Vāyu-purāṇa (11.4 – 11) and in the cases where they are quoted by tantras accordingly.

  1. शान्ति śānti – getting rid of imperfections (पाप pāpa).
  2. प्रशान्ति praśānti – perfection in speech, elimination of the problems associated with the father, mother and other relatives (पितृमातृप्रदुष्टानां pitṛmātṛpraduṣṭānāṃ).
  3. दीप्ति dīpti – enlightened vision, the vision of the past and the future, comprehension of the objects of the universe (the sun, the moon, etc.).
  4. प्रसाद praśāda – an appeasement of the five prāṇa, the mind, the senses and their objects of perception.

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.