Sequence and randomness of aṅgas in yoga

I have found different sequences and quantity of the yoga parts (aṅgas), but the following sequence from Agni-purāṇa (381.11), I think, is especially interesting:

प्रणयमस्तथा ध्यानं योगो प्रत्याहारोऽथ धारणा | समाधिश्च मुनिश्रेष्ठा यमो नियम आसनम् ||
praṇayamastathā dhyānaṃ yogo pratyāhāro’tha dhāraṇā |
samādhiśca muniśreṣṭhā yamo niyama āsanam ||

The eleventh part of Kūrma-purāṇa (11.11-12) actually repeats this śloka and the description of the aṅgas sequence: praṇayama, dhyāna, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇa, samādhi, yama, niyama, āsana.

What is most interesting that ‘āsana’, which now has become the most important and maybe even the only practice, is listed in the very last position; yama and niyama go prior to it. I personally see logic even how the āsana is described by Patañjali, by Gorakśanāth, in Śiva-sūtra-vimarśinī, and other texts of different traditions and darśanas. Concerning yama and niyama, it is also logical, there is even a version that they were prescribed to saṃnyāsin, and also the logic is that the perception and perfection of yama and niyama can change with enhancement in contemplative methods.

Khecarī as a mudrā, mantra and a Goddess

There are many practices and elements of one or another practice under the name of khecarīmudrā, for the reason that in India every spiritual path introduced something of its own. For example, in Gorakh-bānī, khecarī-mudrā is one of eight mudrās:

मुष मध्ये षेचरी मुद्रा, स्वाद विस्वाद ले उतपनी |
 स्वाद विस्वाद समो कृत्वा, मुद्रा तौ भई ||

muṣ madhye ṣecarī mudrā, svād visvād le utapanī |
svād visvād samo kṛtvā, mudrā tau bhaī ||

«Khecarī-mudrā is inside the mouth, where a feeling of pleasant and unpleasant taste appears. Khecarī-mudrā is realised when a practitioner is in even attitude to pleasant and unpleasant tastes.»

Some of these eight mudrās are described in a similar way, as a form of regulation of sensory states.

In Jogpradīpikā by Jayatarāma, which is also written in dialect, khecarī-mudrā is included in the category of several mudrās, which resemble hand mudrās of Śrīvidyā by their names. There are such mudrās as: सर्वसंक्षोभिणी मुद्रा (sarvasaṃkṣobhiṇī mudrā), सर्वविद्राविणी मुद्रा (sarvavidrāviṇī mudrā) etc. They are presented in the same sequence as in Śrīvidyā Tantra, with the difference that in Jogpradīpikā those are not hand gestures, but internal yogic processes. In Śrīvidyā, these mudrās are also associated with various Goddesses (Yoginis), who are worshiped with mantras and also those gestures. Obviously, these elements of Śrīvidyā Ttantra, as well as the elements of other Tantric systems, have influenced yogic methods. Another text that I found in the Nath Chaungera Mandir in Nepal, is Gorakh-yog-mañjarī, which also describes those mudrās. The text is a combination of elements of Hatha-yoga-pradīpikā and possibly Jogpradīpikā. In the yogic khecarī-mudrā description, in the same manner as in Jogpradīpikā, can be found such approaches as चलन calana (a movement of the tongue for stretching of its base), दोहन dohana (stretching), छेदन chedana (cutting the base of the tongue). In the same text, the practices of khecarī-mantra are given with viniyoga, aṅga– and kara-nyāsas.

अस्य श्री खेचरीमन्त्रस्य कपिल ऋषिः सिद्धिनाथो देवता खेचरीमुद्राप्रसादे सिद्धयर्थे जापे विनियोगः 

oṃ asya śrī khecarīmantrasya kapila ṛṣiḥ siddhinātho devatā khecarīmudrāprasāde siddhayarthe jāpe viniyogaḥ 

With the declaration of content and the purpose of a sādhana, in the form of success in chanting the mantra, ṛishi, Devatā.

गं हृदयाय नमः| सं शिरसे स्वाहा | नं शिखायै वषट् | मं कवचाय हुं | फं नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट् | लं सः अस्त्राय फट्

gaṃ hṛdayāya namaḥ| saṃ śirase svāhā | naṃ śikhāyai vaṣaṭ | maṃ kavacāya huṃ | phaṃ netratrayāya vauṣaṭ | laṃ saḥ astrāya phaṭ| 

Then recommendations are given to perform kara-nyāsa by adding the following bijas: ह्रं ह्रीं ह्रूं ह्रैं ह्रौं ह्रः hraṃ hrīṃ hrūṃ hraiṃ hrauṃ hraḥ to each element of the kara-nyāsa.

Similar recommendations are given in Yogakuṇḍalyupaniṣaḍ:

पूर्वं बीजयुता विद्या ह्याख्याता याति दुर्लभाम् ३७
तस्याः षडङ्गं कुर्वीत तया षट्स्वरभिन्नया
कुर्यादेवं करन्यासं सर्वसिद्ध्यादिहेतवे ३८  

pūrvaṃ bījayutā vidyā hyākhyātā yāti durlabhām
tasyāḥ ṣaḍaṅgaṃ kurvīta tayā ṣaṭsvarabhinnayā
kuryādevaṃ karanyāsaṃ sarvasiddhyādihetave 38  

«This is a special knowledge, described earlier, with the bija which is difficult to implement. It is necessary to perform ṣadaṅga (nyāsa) with an addition of six “svāras” of vowels (previously mentioned as ह्रं ह्रीं ह्रूं ह्रैं ह्रौं ह्रः hraṃ hrīṃ hrūṃ hraiṃ hrauṃ hraḥ. To achieve perfection, one must perform kara-nyāsa.»

Khecarī-mantra is described in Haṭha-tattva-kaumudī (Ch.18) in same way as in Yogakuṇḍalyupaniṣaḍ, and viniyoga, nyāsa with the dhyāna are also given. Five lakhs (500 thousand times) of mantra is recommended to recite for its realisation. The bija-mantra ह्रीं hrīṃ is described as the main khecarī-bija in the following way:

खेचरावसथं वह्निमम्बुमण्डलभूषितम्
व्याख्यातं खेचरीबीजं तेन योगः प्रसिध्यति

khecarāvasathaṃ vahnimambumaṇḍalabhūṣitam
vyākhyātaṃ khecarībījaṃ tena yogaḥ prasidhyati

«Khecarī means ha (i.e. the element of space), ra or ‘repha’ is the state of fire, so कार ī-kāra is adorned with the space of the moon (i.e. bindu or anusvāra). This way khecharī-bija ह्रीं hrīṃ, which grants perfection in yoga, is formed».

In addition, several more mantras are given. For example, to remove obstacles and please Deities, the following mantra is mentioned:

ह्रीं खेचर्यै नमः hrīṃ khecaryai namaḥ 

The melana-mantra in Yogakuṇḍalyupaniṣaḍ is the same as in Khecharī Vidyā of Ādinātha:

ह्रीं भं सं पं फं सं क्षं hrīṃ bhaṃ saṃ paṃ phaṃ saṃ kṣaṃ

However, there are many sources where mantras or bijas, khecharī kūṭākṣaras are very different.

In Gorakh-yog-mañjarī there is a mantra:

ह्रीं गं सः नमः  oṁ hrīṁ gaṁ saḥ namaḥ

In Yogacūḍāmaṇyupaniṣaḍ, khecharī  is mentioned in connection with the “So-Hammantra:

जाग्रन्नेत्रद्वयोर्मध्ये हंस एव प्रकाशते
सकारः खेचरी प्रोक्तस्त्वंपदं चेति निश्चितम् ८२॥
हकारः परमेशः स्यात्तत्पदं चेति निश्चितम्
सकारो ध्यायते जन्तुर्हकारो हि भवेद्धृवम् ८३॥

jāgrannetradvayormadhye haṃsa eva prakāśate
sakāraḥ khecarī proktastvaṃpadaṃ ceti niścitam 82
hakāraḥ parameśaḥ syāttatpadaṃ ceti niścitam
sakāro dhyāyate janturhakāro hi bhaveddhṛvam 83

«In the awakened state the so-ham shines in the centre of the eyebrow. The produced sound “Sa” is known as khecharī, it symbolises the state of tvam (the individual Self). The pronounced sound “Ha” means the Supreme Lord, it symbolises tat (That). Who contemplates himself as “Sa” becomes definitely identified with “Ha”(That, i.e. Absolute).»

In Kubjikā Tantra khecharī-bija is called ख्फ्रें khphreṃ, in Tantrāloka Abhinavagupta associated this bija with dissolution in the macrocosm, the practices of Bhairava-mudrā (the unity of outer and inner spaces), etc. There is an instruction given for each element of that bija in Tantrāloka. The Yogi in a state of total renunciation must immerse himself into the space of ‘Kha’, reaching full bloom पुल्ल pulla (‘Pha’ symbol). Individuality will be dissolved in the fire of ‘Ra’ of the triangle (yoni), symbolised by the “E”-phoneme (), letting a yogi reside in the great reality of bindu “M”.

In Mahākāla-saṃhitā there are many khecharī-mantras, such as ख्रौं khrauṃ and others. We can consider khecharī as the Goddess, where ‘mudrā‘ is the term of the feminine gender and means a Goddess’, in this sense it can be Kuṇḍalinī  itself, ascending into the space above the head, identical to Śiva. In that case she is also a Goddess Śambhavi (Śambhavi-mudrā), i.e. directed to Śambhu – Śiva’s name meaning someone who is manifested as the pacification ‘Śam’. In that context, khecharī-mudrā is the internal process of Śiva-Śakti merging. The mudrā can also mean ‘joy’ (ānanda) of the Goddess and Śiva union. In Kashmir Śaivism, khecharī is a union (mudrā) of the space of our consciousness ‘Kha’ with carana (something that moves within this consciousness or changes, i.e. Śakti). In the texts of  खेचरी khecarī is described among four special mudrās, such as करङ्किणी (karaṅkiṇī), क्रोधिनी (krodhinī), भैरवी (bhairavī), लेलिहाना (lelihānā). Their meditative practices are described in Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra and other texts. The experiences of those mudrās are related to the five centres of the body: kanda (a place where Kuṇḍalinī is in a contracted state), nābhi (abdominal area), hṛdaya (heart), kaṇṭha (throat) and khecharī is comprehended in the bhrumadhya (a point between the eyebrows). It corresponds to the Haṭha-yoga texts, because khecharī is mainly associated with the space of the head or above it. Those mudrās, as well as others are described in detail in āhnika 34 of Tantrāloka, devoted to mudrās. But all the mudrās are considered as manifestations of khecharī, and this also fits with how khecharī is presented in the Yogic texts. In truth, many of Yogic texts, especially some particular parts of them, I personally associate with Tantric processes, which are expounded in Tantras. Here is an example, the part of Yogakuṇḍalyupaniṣad:

तस्मात्सर्वप्रयत्नेन गोपनीयं विजानता यत्रास्ते गुरुर्ब्रह्मन्दिव्ययोगप्रदायकः १४॥
तत्र गत्वा तेनोक्तविद्यां संगृह्य खेचरीम् तेनोक्तः सम्यगभ्यासं कुर्यादादावतन्द्रितः १५॥
अनया विद्यया योगी खेचरीसिद्धिभाग्भवेत् खेचर्या खेचरीं युञ्जन्खेचरीबीजपूरया १६॥
खेचराधिपतिर्भूत्वा खेचरेषु सदा वसेत् |

tasmātsarvaprayatnena gopanīyaṃ vijānatā
yatrāste ca gururbrahmandivyayogapradāyakaḥ 14
tatra gatvā ca tenoktavidyāṃ saṃgṛhya khecarīm
tenoktaḥ samyagabhyāsaṃ kuryādādāvatandritaḥ 15
anayā vidyayā yogī khecarīsiddhibhāgbhavet
khecaryā khecarīṃ yuñjankhecarībījapūrayā 16
khecarādhipatirbhūtvā khecareṣu sadā vaset |

«The practitioner must consider a transmission of that practice from a Guru as a connection with Acyuta (Viṣṇu), it is necessary to perceive the Guru, transmitting that secret knowledge, as Śiva himself. Having received that knowledge, it cannot be shared with anyone. Oh Brahman, it’s required to come to the place where that Guru teaches divine yoga and receive khecharī-vidyā from him. After that one can practice very keenly, and khecharī will give him siddhi. “Connecting” युञ्जान yuñjāna with khecharī, through khecharī and khecharī-bija, a yogi becomes a lord of the khecarās and resides in the space all the time (unconditioned).»

This part reminds me of gaining of śaktipāta and transmission of a sādhana, described in Tantrāloka, where śaktipāta is firstly transmitted from a Guru and the knowledge of how to practice. Then a sādhaka receives śaktipāta from a Goddess “Duti”, connecting with her, and that second śaktipāta is considered stronger (तीव्र शक्तिपात tīvra śaktipāta) then the first (मन्द शक्तिपात manda śaktipāta), it gives the highest realisation. Although of course, one cannot be realised without the other, but there is nothing higher then śaktipāta from the Goddess itself.

Mudrās from Nātha texts and Tāntric mudrās

Such mudrās as karaṅkiṇi, krodhinī, bhairavī, lelihānā and khecarī belong to the same system. The basis of this system is khecarī-mudrā, and the other four are in fact various aspects of khecarī-mudrā. These mudrās are mentioned in 32nd āhnika (5-6) of ‘Tantrāloka’ as a manifestation of khecarī-mudrā, and altogether they described as a principle (प्रतिबिम्बोदयो pratibimbodayo), reflection of divine awareness between a subject and an object(s). The practice of these five mudrās is mentioned in a famous ‘Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra’ (dhāraṇā 54) and in a number of other texts, such as, for instance, ‘Mahārtha Manjarī.’ Nāthas attribute ‘Mahārtha Manjarī’ to Gorakṣanāth, as the text identifies Maheshvarananda and Gorakṣanāth as authors. Also, these five mudrās are connected with Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, through its awakening by ritual sexual practices, ascending over five centres in the microcosm of a practitioner, starting from ‘kanda’ in a lower part of a body to bhrūmadhya. While Kuṇḍalinī ascends, these mudrās proceed as follows: karaṅkiṇi, krodhinī, bhairavī, lelihānā and in bhrūmadhyakhecarī. That practice may include both inner and objective awareness. Also, many texts state that these mudrās reveal different perfections. Karaṅkiṇi is translated as ‘a carcass’. This mudrā gives an experience of ‘jñāna-siddhi’ – the knowledge of conventionality of external form, because there is a divine dimension behind it. ‘Krodhinī’ means destructive qualities of Bhairava or Bhairavī, when tattva of a Deity, presented as devouring fire of a mantra, consumes basic elements of creation. Bhairavī-mudrā shows the unity of internal and external spaces, feeling of their interflow, which is an analog to śāmbhavī-mudrā in Tantra, described in many Tāntric sources and in ‘Amanaska Yoga’ of Gorakṣanāth as “an unblinking outward gaze” (with simultaneous inner awareness). Bhairavī-mudrā grants melāpa-siddhi, which is a realisation of unity between consciousness and outer space, or between Bhairava and Yoginī. Lelihānā-mudrā means the consumption of neсtar ‘kulāmṛita’. This mudrā gives śakta-siddhi, practically it’s an enhanced form of bhairavī-mudra. Khecarī-mudrā grants a state of immersion into the omnipresent space of appeasement, which reveals śāmbhava-siddhi. Five chakras in microcosmic system of human being can be found in many early Tāntric traditions and their texts: in the 29th Chapter of ‘Tantrāloka’, where they are mentioned in connection with eight vyomas; in Kubjikā Tantras, also in texts of Gorakṣanāth (e.g. ‘Gorakṣa-purāṇa’). Many similarities about such sort of practices can be found in texts of Gorakṣanāth and many other Nātha Yogins, as in the title of Tāntric mudrās, as well as in their essential reference points. The fact that yoga texts say that of all yogic mudrās khecarī-mudrā is the fundamental (essential) is not accidental. Guruji Mithileś Nāth ji told me once that Tantra is a nutrition environment for Nātha Yogins, it served as ‘nourishment’ for yogic life of Nāthas. But of course, there is a vast amount of detailing in Tantrism, sacred use of Sanskrit alphabet, it’s phonetics, including mentioned mudrās and other methods. However, it’s impossible to examine all these subtle details in a short article, they bound with secrecy and a certain level of a relationship (confidence, devotion) between a disciple and a Guru.