The importance of svara in the nātha sādhana

On higher levels of initiation and practice of tantrism, such as pūrṇābhiṣeka, medhā-sāmrājya and practices of upper āmnāya, there are methods of contemplation of Ardhanārīśvara. Also, such ritual as pañca-tattva is not usually practiced before śāktābhiṣeka dīkṣā, and this is especially true for higher initiations and āmnāyas. Such titles as left-handed or right-handed tantra have both symbolic and quite practical values, for instance, pātra with wine is taken by the left hand when we offer it to the ”inner fire” into the mouth of Kuṇḍalinī. The left part of the body is Śakti and the right is Śiva. Some tantrikas say that kaula sādhana begins where such dualistic methods as Patañjali yoga are ended. But the same could be said about nāthas and kaulasnātha sādhana begins where kaula sādhana ends. It has always been like that in India: the more recent endevour to continue something is more substantial than the previous one. That is why Gorakṣanātha is more honoured today than even Matsyendranātha, but this, of course, does not belittle the benefit and the authority of the latter. In the same way, for example, Vedanta – the completion of the Vedas, is not considered as something below the Vedas, but rather as its essence by either Vedantins or many other Hundu. Or, similarly, we couldn’t say that Vajrayana Buddhism is a simplification of Theravada, despite the fact that it had been developed later. Or, for instance, the fact that some cults of early female deities, like sapta and aṣṭa mātrikās have been transformed into such sophisticated cults as Trika, Kubjikā, Śrīvidyā and others, doesn’t make the latter less developed or less authoritative. And the most essential way was always the most secret, with a very careful selection of applicants for that kind of dedication and practice. The same could be said about nāthas. The phenomenon of svara-yoga is of tantric origin, but its basis is still yogic. In speaking of essence, by which we usually mean something that is closer to us as subjects, and also implying the involvement of the subjects in different degrees of the external process. That is why the practices with the body, breathing, with tracking how the breath is associated with the sun and the moon, how these two are related to the elements, tithis, grahas, nakṣatras and other aspects of both micro- and macrocosmos, are very great and subtle processes. But the most important thing is that they are all tied to the essence of it all, namely the yoga of the Sun and the Moon. In many books of both the medieval gurus of the Nāth Sampradāya and the present authors, we can very often find a description of the importance of svara-yoga and, of course, the practices of it. That can be called the basis of nātha-yoga, as its symbol is the Sun and the Moon, i.e. Śiva-Śakti saṃyukta.

The internal fire

It’s the time to expand the topic of “internal fire”. Accidentally, I discovered a very interesting description of the inner nāda source, which occurs in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, one of the earliest Upaniṣadas. The śloka from there is also repeated in Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (2.6.).

बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् । ५.११.९ ।
bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad । 5.11.9 ।

अयमग्निर्वैश्वानरो योऽयमन्तः पुरुषे येनेदमन्नं पच्यते यदिदमद्यते तस्यैष
घोषो भवति यमेतत्कर्णावपिधाय शृणोति स यदोत्क्रमिष्यन्भवति नैनं घोषं शृणोति ॥

ayamagnirvaiśvānaro yo’yamantaḥ puruṣe yenedamannaṃ pacyate
yadidamadyate tasyaiṣa ghoṣo bhavati yametatkarṇāvapidhāya śṛṇoti sa
yadotkramiṣyanbhavati nainaṃ ghoṣaṃ śṛṇoti ॥

The fire, in the form of a universal being, is inside the living beings, thanks to it the food that is eaten is digested. He [a man], hears exactly that noise when he closes his ears. [However] he does not hear this sound when he dies.

Vaiśvānara is a very revered deity in the Vedas, much like Agni, and is often identified with him. It is also one of the deities that is recommended to perform dhyāna on in Yogayājñavalkya and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā. We can find many parallels with various yoga sources. For example, the following signs associated with purified nāḍis are listed in Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

यदा तु नाडीशुद्धिः स्यात्तथा चिह्नानि बाह्यतः।
कायस्य कृशता कान्तिस्तदा जायेत निश्चितम् ॥१९॥

yadā tu nāḍīśuddhiḥ syāttathā cihnāni bāhyataḥ।
kāyasya kṛśatā kāntistadā jāyeta niścitam॥19॥

When the nāḍis are purified, then external signs appear: harmony and radiance of the body, the yogi has success beyond doubt.

यथेष्टं धारणं वायोरनलस्य प्रदीपनम्।
नादाभिव्यक्तिरारोग्यं जायते नाडिशोधनात् ॥२०॥

yatheṣṭaṁ dhāraṇaṁ vāyoranalasya pradīpanam ।
nādābhivyaktirārogyaṁ jāyate nāḍiśodhanāt ॥ 20 ॥

If the yogi can retain the life force (e.g. kumbhaka), then the radiance and inner fire are increasing. Having cleaned channels, the nāda sounds are heard and disease is overcome.

Of course, there are different types of agni in the body among which jaṭharāgni is considered particularly significant. However, the “health” concept is not the same from the common man and yogi’s point of view. Yogis do not set the goal of becoming just healthy, the goal for them is rather samādhi. Therefore, the ritual of internal and external fire for the gr̥hasthas, many tantrikas and for the sannyasins has different levels. The yogi awakens the internal fire only in the suṣumnā, “dying for the outside world.” Initially, nāda sounds appear with the fire and light, but with full realisation, even the smallest fluctuations of prāṇa-spandana are extinguished. The above-mentioned Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (6.22) says of two kinds of Brahman: Śābda Brahman, who manifests himself in the sound and Para Brahman, where the sound disappears.


Two nāḍī-śuddhi prāṇāyāmas

In Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (4-35-44), at first, purification of nadīs is given in the form of using the alternate breathing technique with breath holdings, using bijas, which we can find in tantric rituals, such as bhūta-śuddhi or, for example, those intended to remove doṣas (defects) from some offerings. In that way, impurities are dried up by the bija of Air यं ‘yaṃ’ and then they are burned by the bija of Fire रं ‘raṃ’. Further, the remained ash is getting wet by the element of Water or Nectar by the corresponding bija वं ‘vaṃ’ (as it often happens in tantric practices), but sometimes in yogic and tantric texts another bija symbolising nectar ठं ‘ṭhaṃ’ is suggested to use instead. Then a newly formed body should be strengthened by the bija of Earth लं ‘laṃ’. Some prāṇāyāmas reduce these elements to only three bijas (of Air, Fire and Nectar) because in yoga, it is very typical to minimise the practise to the most essential components.

As in a tantric ritual, in Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, there is a description of the further use of the alternate breathing but in combination with praṇavaOm’. Also, in the third part of Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā prāṇāyāma with the use of praṇavaOm’, or, more precisely ‘A-U-M’ – three mātrās or counts of breath lengths, is described. It is said that a practitioner must mentally repeat अं ‘aṃ’ a certain number of times on the inhalation, then उं ‘uṃ’ during kumbhaka and मं ‘maṃ’ on the exhalation. It is recommended to meditate on each of the three elements as on one of the Goddesses, namely ‘A’ – Gāyatrī, ‘U’ – Sāvitrī and ‘M’ – SarasvatīGāyatrī is described as बाला bālā in a Sanskrit text, which usually means ‘a child, a girl at the age of eight’. She is red in color and rides on a swan (haṃsavāhinī). U-kara is Sāvitrī, she is described as युवती ‘yuvatī’ (she’s 15 y.o.). She is white in color and rides on Garuḍa (garuḍavāhinī). Similarly Ma-kara, or repetition of the vibration of ‘M’ correlates with Sarasvatī, who is described as वृद्धा ‘vṛddhā’, she is 28 years of age or older and she rides Vṛṣabha.

In Gāyatrīhṛdayam from Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa is said:

॥ गायत्रीहृदयम् ॥
पूर्वा भवति गायत्री, मध्यमा सावित्री, पश्चिमा स्नध्या सरस्वती ।
रक्ता गायत्री, श्वेता सावित्री, कृष्णा सरस्वती ॥ १२॥

pūrvā bhavati gāyatrī, madhyamā sāvitrī, paścimā snadhyā sarasvatī ।
raktā gāyatrī, śvetā sāvitrī, kṛṣṇā sarasvatī ॥12॥

In the morning it is necessary to worship Gāyatrī, at noon – Sāvitrī, and in the evening –SarasvatīGāyatrī is red in color, Sāvitrī is bright, Sarasvatī is dark.

Although, there are differences about vāhanas (beings used as vehicles), for example in Gāyatrī Hṛdayam:

पूर्व सन्धि ब्राह्मी, मध्य सन्धि माहेश्वरी, परा सन्धि वैष्णवी ।
हंसवाहिनी ब्राह्मी, वृषवाहिनी माहेश्वरी, गरुडवाहिनी वैष्णवी ॥ १४॥

pūrva sandhi brāhmī, madhya sandhi māheśvarī, parā sandhi vaiṣṇavī ।
haṃsavāhinī brāhmī, vṛṣavāhinī māheśvarī, garuḍavāhinī vaiṣṇavī ॥14॥

In the first sandhya (in the morning) she is known as Brahmī, at noon as Maheshvarī, and in the evening she is Vaishnavī. Brahmī rides a swan, Maheshvarī rides a bull, Vaishnavī rides Garuda.

Something similar exists in many yogic texts where it is recommended to use praṇava (OM).

For instance, in the fifth upadesha of Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (shlokas 48-50) there is also a recommendation to use A-kara, U-kara and Ma-kara. But there, A-kara is connected with raja-guṇa and Brahma and is red in color, U-kara is connected with sattva and Viṣṇu and is black. And Ma-kara, in opposite, is white in color and connected with Śiva.

Here, as you can guess, some similarities with Śri Vidya are immediately come to mind. In the third part of Jñānārṇāva Tantra (shlokas 11-12), it is said that Tripurasundarī is a Goddess with three aspects, the one is with bijaaiṃ” and white in color, the Goddess in red color with kama-bijaklīṃ” and the Goddess suvarṇa (the golden color) with bijasauḥ”. At first she is like Bala, a girl at the age of eight, then she is Pancadaśī (15 y.o.), this is a time full of passion (kāma), and finally she is Śodaśī or Mahaśodaśī (from 16 to 28 years of age or older) – she is full of wisdom.

In yogic texts, It is also said that prāṇāyāma is the unity of three matras, i.e. in case they are unrelated to each other – it would mean a loss and a waste of the vital energy (prāṇa), but not it’s enhancement.

Some pratyāhāra methods given in the texts

Pratyāhāra literally translates as “taking back”, i.e. own perception from the outside inward (in oneself, or ātman). It can be said in another way: the return of consciousness and prāṇa to the source of their origin, which terminates the process of losing energy to something that is of secondary importance to you personally or has virtually no effect. Pratyāhāra returns the practitioner to his normal state, where is much energy. And this energy can then be more effectively used in the practice of dhāraṇā. If there is not enough energy, then sometimes the dhāraṇā practice can lead to fatigue and instead of increasing energy lead to an even greater loss. I will give a description of the five methods of pratyāhāra practice, which are set forth in Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad. Also a similar description is found in Yogayājñavalkya (Ch. 7) and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā. Śāṇḍilya gives the following description of pratyāhāra:

अथ प्रत्याहारः। स पञ्चविधः विषयेषु विचरतामिन्द्रियाणां
बलादाहरणं प्रत्याहरः। यद्यत्पश्यति तत्सर्वमामेति प्रत्याहारः।
नित्यविहितकर्मफलत्यागः प्रत्याहारः।
सर्वविषयपराङ्मुखत्वं प्रत्याहारः।
अष्टादशसु मर्मस्थानेषु क्रमाद्धारणं प्रत्याहारः।
कण्ठकूपतालुनासाक्शिभ्रूमध्यललाटमूर्ध्नि स्थानानि।
तेषु क्रमादारोहावरोहक्रमेण प्रत्याहरेत्॥ ८॥

atha pratyāhāraḥ | sa pañcavidhaḥ viṣayeṣu vicaratāmindriyāṇāṁ
balādāharaṇaṁ pratyāharaḥ | yadyatpaśyati tatsarvamāmeti pratyāhāraḥ |
nityavihitakarmaphalatyāgaḥ pratyāhāraḥ |
sarvaviṣayaparāṅmukhatvaṁ pratyāhāraḥ |
aṣṭādaśasu marmasthāneṣu kramāddhāraṇaṁ pratyāhāraḥ |
kaṇṭhakūpatālunāsākśibhrūmadhyalalāṭamūrdhni sthānāni |
teṣu kramādārohāvarohakrameṇa pratyāharet ॥ 8॥

Thus, the overview of pratyāhāra. It (pratyāhāra) is the fifth method. Pratyāhāra is the effort to remove senses from their objects. Whatever you see (perceive), it is necessary to consider it as one with your higher Self. It is required to constantly consider your actions without being tied to the fruits, as a sacrifice – tyāga (practice of karma-yoga). You need to direct your perception in opposition to external objects (i.e., inside yourself).

Pratyāhāra (the fifth technique) consists in concentrating on eighteen vital points (marmas) in the body. It is required to focus on the toes, ankles, calves (on the legs), knees, hips, anus, genital, navel, heart, throat, palate, nose, eyes, the point between the eyebrows, on the forehead, at the top of the head, and do this by moving the perception along the body up and down (ārohāvaroha-kramena).

A more detailed description is given in Yogayājñavalkya: these points, which is called ādhāra in Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, are located slightly different. If you compare all the sources on the basis of Yogayājñavalkya and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā, then marmas can be the following:

1) pādāṅguṣṭha (the big toe)
2) gulpha (ankle)
3) jaṅghā (ankle)
4) citimūla (base of the calf)
5) jānu (knee)
6) ūrumadhya (center of the thigh)
7) pāyu (anus)
8) dehamadhya (perineum)
9) meḍhra (genitals)
10) nābhi (navel)
11) hṛdaya (heart)
12) kaṇṭha (throat)
13) tālu (soft palate)
14) nāsamūla (the base of the nose)
15) cakṣu (eyes)
16) bhrūmadhya (between the eyebrows)
17) lalāṭa (forehead)
18) mūrdhni (the crown of the head)

Usually, prāṇa moves where the perception is directed, so in this practice like many others, prāṇa should be focused through the consistent concentration and shifting of attention to the indicated points. Prāṇa is usually scattered throughout the body at very different points, which are 108 in number according to some sources, or even more according to others. However, the point is that attention and energy have to go more and more from the periphery to the center. Prāṇa comes from the root “an” – the breath, so we can also talk about the use of breathing at these points. With slow inspiration we concentrate on one point, since pūraka means “filling with energy,” then during exhalation (recaka) we dissolve the sensation of this region. With a new breath we move on to the next point and etc., moving up and down.

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.

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.

The connection of Bagalāmukhī Goddess with yoga practice

Originally, the term “Bagalāmukhī” was mentioned in the Vedas, precisely as the name of the Goddess वल्गा माता (valgā mātā, Valga Mata). Further, “va” in the Valgā name was transformed into “ba” by transposition and changing varṇa-vyatyaya letters, “la” and “ga” swapped, so the “Bagalā” term  appeared . The Goddess herself is described as “the one who eliminates enemy magical actions”. She is mentioned in Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda (6.2.10) and Śukla Yajurveda (5.23-24) and described there as the Goddess Vaiśṇavī, eliminating magical effects, as well as the one by virtue of whom prāṇa is controlled.

शिरो वा एतद् यज्ञस्य यद् धविर्धानम् प्राणा उपरवाः ।
हविर्धाने खायन्ते तस्माच् छीर्षन् प्राणाः ।
अधस्तात् खायन्ते तस्माद् अधस्ताच् छीर्ष्णः प्राणाः ।
रक्षोहणो वलगहनो वैष्णवान् खनामीत्य् आह वैष्णवा हि देवतयोपरवाः ।
असुरा वै निर्यन्तो देवानाम् प्राणेषु वलगान् न्य् अखनन्  तान् बाहुमात्रे ऽन्व् अविन्दन्  तस्माद् बाहुमात्राः खायन्ते । इदम् अहं तं वलगं उद् वपामि ।

śiro vā etad yajñasya yad dhavirdhānam prāṇā uparavāḥ ।
havirdhāne khāyante tasmāc chīrṣan prāṇāḥ ।
adhastāt khāyante tasmād adhastāc chīrṣṇaḥ prāṇāḥ ।
rakṣohaṇo valagahano vaiṣṇavān khanāmīty āha vaiṣṇavā hi devatayoparavāḥ ।
asurā vai niryanto devānām prāṇeṣu valagān ny akhanan  tān bāhumātre ‘nv avindan  tasmād bāhumātrāḥ khāyante । idam ahaṃ taṃ valagaṃ ud vapāmi ।

The mention of Valgā occurs in the same context in both Taitiriya Brahmana and Śatapatha Brahmana (3.5.4). Further,  she is mentioned in Atharva Veda in the form of sūktam, as “abolishing the negative magical  impact”. The very term “Valgā” is translated as “harness,” like the one by which horses can be controlled. By the way, a horse is a symbol of prāṇa (the life force) in the Vedas. In the literal sense, it is about management and control. Actually,  that is one of  several meanings of  a term “yoga”, derived from युज् (yuj),  which can mean “harness” too. The earliest mention of the term (from which the yogic context can be derived) that I was able to discover with a help of Tara Michael, a French scholar, is found in the Rig Veda. The first one is the Hymns to Savitur  (RV 5-81.1):

युंजते मन उत युंजते धियो विप्रा विप्रस्य बृहतो विपश्चितः। वि होत्रा दधे वयुनाविदेक इन्मही देवस्य सवितुः परिष्टुतिः ।

yuṃjate mana uta yuṃjate dhiyo viprā viprasya bṛhato vipaścitaḥ। vi hotrā dadhe vayunāvideka inmahī devasya savituḥ pariṣṭutiḥ ।

He is a priest who “harnesses” his spirit, harnesses his sublime thoughts. Only he knows all the rules of sacrifice. Sublime praise of God Savitur.

I.e. there is a hint here that the yogic state is  a basis of full devotion. Which, by the way, we can find in many Purāṇic and Tantric pūjās, where such yogic elements as prāṇāyāma or bhūta-śuddhi always go first in the ritual.

Also in the Hymns to Brahmanapasthi  (RV 1 – 18 6-7):

सदसस्पतिमद्भुतं प्रियमिन्द्रस्य काम्यम् । सनिं मेधामयासिषं ।

sadasaspatimadbhutaṃ priyamindrasya kāmyam । saniṃ medhāmayāsiṣaṃ |

The one, who is a dear friend of Indra, the beautiful lord of the seat, I honor for the sake of gaining intelligence.

यस्मादृते न सिध्यति यज्ञो विपश्चितश्चन ।
स घीनां योगमिन्वति ॥७॥

yasmādṛte na sidhyati yajño vipaścitaścana ।
sa ghīnāṃ yogaminvati ॥7॥

He, without whom the yajña is not  complete, even if he is sincere. He subordinates thoughts through yoga.

Yoga, as a discipline of controlling prāṇa, mind, senses and a body, is  examined in many texts, and in this case it is very  similar in  meaning to that of the Goddess Valgā or Bagalā (Bagalāmukhī). Also, for  a  proper sādhaka, in the first  place, She is the Goddess, helping to subdue or paralyse inner enemies, such as kāma, moha, matsarya, etc. Although, of course, many worldly people, who are worshipping Bagalāmukhī, hope to subordinate external enemies instead of eliminating their internal  ones. That is a form of internal obscuration.  By virtue of Bagalāmukhī, controlling his  prāṇa, mind and indriyas, a sādhaka gradually passes from  a southern āmnāya to the upper one in a state of samyama. There he gains the experience of Bagalāmukhī in the form of light, consciousness or the Goddess Lalitā. Bagalāmukhī is related to the Śri Tradition (Śrikula), and it is no accident that She is mentioned as Vaiśṇavī in the Vedic texts. Although, in some Tantras She is also seen as Kalī of yellow color – Pīta Kalī. In any case, in the form of Kalī, She helps to overcome time  limitations, since there is also a connection between time and prāṇa. If you can  set your prāṇa  to balance and calmness, then you will go beyond time. And it is no coincidence that Bagalāmukhī is connected with Śiva Mṛtyuñjaya – the Сonqueror of death.

The uselessness of practices without a realised master

Not so long ago I was asked, “Why there are such ślokas in the last chapter (VI) of Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati:

लिङ्गाद्दण्डाङ्कुरान्तर्मनः पवनगमात् ब्रह्मनाड्यादिभेदम्।
कृत्वा बिन्दुं नयन्तः परमपदगुहां  शङ्खगर्भोदरोर्ध्वम्॥
तत्रान्तर्नादघोषं गगनगुणमयं वज्रदण्डोक्रमेण।
ये कुर्वन्तीहकष्टान् परमपदमहो नास्ति तेषां निरुत्थम्॥ ७९॥

liṅgāddaṇḍāṅkurāntarmanaḥ pavanagamāt brahmanāḍyādibhedam |
kṛtvā binduṁ nayantaḥ paramapadaguhāṁ  śaṅkhagarbhodarordhvam ||
tatrāntarnādaghoṣaṁ gaganaguṇamayaṁ vajradaṇḍokrameṇa |
ye kurvantīhakaṣṭān paramapadamaho nāsti teṣāṁ niruttham || 79 ||

Those who enter the brahma-nāḍi into the spine through the convergence of the mind and breathing, enter bindu into the upper state cavity through the vajroli-kriyā which is located above the cavity of the shell, and listen to a vibration similar to the sound of the heavens. They who suffer here [for the sake of perfection], do not reach the highest state of non-manifestation.

सम्यक् चालनदोहनेन सततं दीर्धीकृतां लम्बिकां।
तां ताल्वन्तखेशितां च दशमद्वारोदरे शंखिनीम्॥
नीत्वा मध्यमसन्धिसंघटघटात् प्राप्तां शिरोदेशतः।
पीत्वा षड्विधपानकाष्ठभजनं वाञ्च्छन्ति ये मोहिताः॥ ८१॥

samyak cālanadohanena satataṁ dīrdhīkṛtāṁ lambikāṁ |
tāṁ tālvantakheśitāṁ ca daśamadvārodare śaṃkhinīm||
nītvā madhyamasandhisaṁghaṭaghaṭāt prāptāṁ śirodeśataḥ |
pītvā ṣaḍvidhapānakāṣṭhabhajanaṁ vāñcchanti ye mohitāḥ || 81 ||

Those who perfectly “milk” (stretching) their tongue, as well as moving it (cālana) wrapping it back into the palatine region and through the shankhini channel in the tenth hole (brahmarandhra). Who tastes the six-part nectar from the head region.They fall into misguided path.

There’s also a lot of criticism of those who do yoga exercises. Then the question arises, how can yogic Tradition criticise methods that themselves relate to it? After criticising all these methods and yogic states, even after revealing which the yogi can fall into delusion, the following is said:

आज्ञासिद्धिकरं सदा समुचितं सम्पूर्णमाभासकं
पिण्डे सर्वगतं विधानममलं सिद्धान्तसारं वरम्।
भ्रान्तेर्निर्हरणं सुखातिसुखदं कालान्तकं शाश्वतं
तन्नित्यं कलनोज्झितं गुरुमयं ज्ञेयं निरुत्थं पदम्॥ ९३॥

ājñāsiddhikaraṁ sadā samucitaṁ sampūrṇamābhāsakaṁ
piṇḍe sarvagataṁ vidhānamamalaṁ siddhāntasāraṁ varam |
bhrānternirharaṇaṁ sukhātisukhadaṁ kālāntakaṁ śāśvataṁ
tannityaṁ kalanojjhitaṁ gurumayaṁ jñeyaṁ nirutthaṁ padam || 93 ||

The non-manifestation state is comprehended as having a nature of the Guru, it is devoid of manifestation, eternally, it destroys time, bestows supreme happiness, eliminates delusion. It, residing in the body, totally shining, granting the perfection of Will (ājña), is the pure essence of the teachings of the perfect.

The sense is that without patronage and correction from the traditional Guru realised in the purity, any practices and even “achievements” can be meaningless. These ślokas are very relevant for the present time, when yoga has lost its traditional goals.

Even if someone is not pleased to read these parts of the text, one must admit the fact that they have truth. Although the described yogic techniques being applied in the original yoga guidelines, in any case, have their value. It’s just like if an ignorant jungle man was shown a computer and the Internet, not guarantee he wouldn’t decide to dig a hole by the laptop. He has to understand what the true purpose of this device is, what its usefulness, if he learns to use it. Similarly, with any yoga methods.

What does it mean to be beyond duality and non-duality according to the Nātha doctrine?

Haṭhayogapradīpikā says:

अन्तर्लक्ष्यविलीनचित्तपवनो योगी यदा वर्तते
दृष्ट्या निश्चलतारया बहिरधः पश्यन्नपश्यन्नपि ।
मुद्रेयं खलु शाम्भवी भवति सा लब्धा प्रसादाद्गुरोः
शून्याशून्यविलक्षणं स्फुरति तत्तत्त्वं पदं शाम्भवम् ॥ ३७ ॥

antarlakṣyavilīnacittapavano yogī yadā vartate
dṛṣṭyā niścalatārayā bahiradhaḥ paśyannapaśyannapi |
mudreyaṁ khalu śāmbhavī bhavati sā labdhā prasādādguroḥ
śūnyāśūnyavilakṣaṇaṁ sphurati tattattvaṁ padaṁ śāmbhavam || 37 ||

By the grace of the Guru, when the consciousness and energy of Yogī are absorbed by the inner aim, perception (vision) is directed to the outside and motionless, but at the same time, suspended from vision; this mudrā known as śāmbhavī. That radiant essence beyond (vilakṣaṇam) of emptiness (śūnya) or fullness (aśūnya), is known as the Śambhū state (Śiva or the embodiment of appeasement).

Thuse, according to the Nātha Yogīs doctrine, to be beyond emptiness or fullness – means to be both emptiness and fullness simultaneously.

The connection of Bagalāmukhī Goddess with yoga-sādhana

Bagalāmukhī many consider as the Goddess who is paralysing the enemies, however, Her goal is to eliminate the internal enemies in the form of our weaknesses. She helps to control feelings, mind and the most important – prāṇa (vital force). Then She leads to samādhi and the light of our consciousness appearing in the form of the radiant Lalitā Goddess. What is said in the form of aphorisms in Bagalāmukhī-paṭala:

अंतरवायु – सञ्चार – निरोधेन वा || १२ ||
aṃtaravāyu – sañcāra – nirodhena vā (12)

Or through holding the air inside (kubhaka).

तं हठ – योगमाहुः || १३ ||
taṃ haṭha – yogamāhuḥ (13)

This is called haṭha-yoga.