The nature of nātha is divya (divine)

Today I was looking through the Shaktisaṅgama Tantra and there is a description of different sampradayas there, such as kaśmira, kerala, gauḍa. Likewise bhavas (such as pāśa, vīra and divya) are described as three sampradayas. And here is what it says about the Divya-sampradaya in Sundarīkhaṇḍa (paṭala I, ślokas 153-154).

आनन्दः प्रथमः प्रोक्तो द्वितीयो नाथ एव तु |
मुख्यस्तवानन्दनाथः स्यात् प्रकाशस्तदनन्तरम् || १५३ ||
स्वरूपस्तु ततः प्रोक्तश्चैतन्यस्तु तदुत्त्रम् |
आराध्याचार्यकश्चैव विद्याधिक्यात् प्रकीर्त्तितः || १५४ ||

ānandaḥ prathamaḥ prokto dvitīyo nātha eva tu |
mukhyastavānandanāthaḥ syāt prakāśastadanantaram || 153 ||
svarūpastu tataḥ proktaścaitanyastu taduttram |
ārādhyācāryakaścaiva vidyādhikyāt prakīrttitaḥ || 154 ||

[Divya-sampradaya] is divided into seven parts. The first is called ānanda, the second is nātha, [the third is] ānandanātha is the main one, the fourth is prakāśa, then the fifth is svarūpa, the sixth is caitanya and the seventh is ārādhyācāryaka. That knowledge is especially respected.

The second branch of the divya-sampradaya is called nātha. What is interesting is the fact that such authoritative Tantras associate nāthas with divya-bhava. Logically, divya is even higher than vīra, and even more so than the pāśa category.

It is just that people who are strongly attached to hedonism, praise only vāmācāra and for this very reason are trying to reduce the significance of nāthas. Their argumentation is about the same as if they said that dzogchen is the level of the kyerim stage of generation, therefore the dzogrim with signs (the stage of completion) is higher. It is just like saying that karmamudrā is higher than mahāmudrā or śambhava is lower than śaktopāya or that śambhava really is āṇavopāya. If we relate the level nātha yogis are dealing with, to the ācāras of śaktism, then it will be at least the level of divyācāra.

Core of the Nātha Tradition

One of the very common problems associated with understanding the Tradition is how to perceive Gorakśanāth and nathās in general. People often ask me, “I worship Durgā, Gaṇeśa or Viṣṇu and what should I do, if Gorakśanāth, Śiva and nathā are Śaivas?” There are even many attempts to argue what yoga or some of its specific forms are more related to, (with Shivaism, Vaishnavism or with Buddhism, etc.). Yoga is just yoga and that’s it. But it is a matter of choice to determine its relation.It so happened that India is a very religious country and in this regard it is very unique. Religion there permeates everything, therefore it is natural that yoga is tied to one or another belief system and a method of worship. To make you understand who Gorakshanāth is, I will give the following example. There is the famous mantra ॐ शिव गोरक्ष योगी ‘Om Śiva Gorakśa Yogi‘ and a shorter version of the Śabar-mantra, which should be correctly called ‘nama’ शिव गोरख śiv gorakh. However, they did not appear in any “canonical Tantras”. Everything that can be found is the Gorakshanāth mantra in some Tantras, for example, in the Puraścaryārṇava-tantra, which quotes the Kalpadruma-tantra, describing the dialogue between Garga ṛśi and Kṛṣṇa. Garga talks there about Gorakshanāthupāsana practice.

बिन गोरक्ष मंत्रेण योग सिद्धिर्न जायते |
गोराक्षस्य प्रसादेन सर्व सिद्धिर्न संशय ||

bina gorakṣa maṃtreṇa yoga siddhirna jāyate |
gorākṣasya prasādena sarva siddhirna saṃśaya ||

It is impossible to achieve success in yoga without the Gorakśanātha mantra.
There is no doubt that by the grace of Gorakśanātha any success (perfection) is gained.

The text describes the nature of Gorakśanātha and also the fact that the worship of Gorakśanātha is super-secret and his upāsana is the essence of the Vedas. His pūjā, viniyoga, nyāsa, sahasranāma, recommendations for puraścarana and many standard recommendations for tantra are described there. But, I propose to draw the attention to the Gorakśanātha mantras themselves, which are described in the text. They have different numbers of akṣaras (syllables).

ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्ष हुं फट स्वाहा |
ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्ष हुं हुं निरञ्जनात्मने हुं फट स्वाहा |
श्रीं गों लीं हं हां गोरक्षनाथाय निरञ्जनात्मने हं सं सं फट हंस: |

oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣa huṃ phaṭ svāhā |
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gōrakṣa huṃ huṃ nirañjanātmane huṃ phaṭ svāhā |
oṃ śrīṃ goṃ līṃ haṃ hāṃ gorakṣanāthāya nirañjanātmane haṃ saṃ phaṭ haṃsa |

Gorakśagāyatri is also mentioned:

ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय विदमहे शुन्य पुत्राय धीमहि तन्नो गोरक्ष गोरक्ष निरञ्जन प्रचोदयात् |

oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya vidamahē śunya putrāya dhīmahi
tanno gorakṣa nirañjana pracodayāta |

It says that he is śūnya putra (born out of Emptiness or the son of emptiness), also he is nirānjānā (unblemished). In different ślokas it is mentioned that he manifests himself in the form of the spiritual light, etc. However, these mantras do not explicitly say that he is Śiva. But certainly, if Śiva can be present beyond the limits of qualities (nirguṇa), if he is the transcendental light (prakāśa), then why he cannot be Gorakśanātha, especially for someone who worship Śiva? Of course he can, just like for a Vaishnava he can be Viṣṇu, because Viṣṇu derived from the root ‘viṣ’ – the one who permeates the entire universe, since emptiness is omnipresent and it is pure nirānjānā (this is a well-known term, which is often used in relation to Viṣṇu).

Imagine if you are a Muslim and a Sufi for example, and you want to worship Gorakśanāth. How will you worship him? Perhaps, not in the same manner as Śiva and Viṣṇu, but as a great saint. The same, if you are a Buddhist, and for you Gorakśanāth will most likely be an enlightened mahasiddha, etc. In the Nātha Sampradaya there were quite a few people belonging to different dharmas, there were also Muslims too, Viṣṇu and Śiva devotees, as well as various forms of Śakti, Buddhists e.t.c. We cannot say that Gorakśanāth is present in only one of the many forms – for the yogi he is beyond all forms, even divine ones. But, he is also present in all forms as well. Nevertheless, for a correct understanding the emphasis must be put on the fact that Gorakśanāth is beyond the limits. This fact makes it possible to understand the Nātha Sampradaya and its main reference points. Of course, the majority of nātha prefer to perceive Gorakśanāth as Śiva, but I would not say they are Shaivites, or Vaishnavas, or Shaktas, etc. It would be more correct to say they are Yogis and their path is Yoga. If we proceed from that, then many things immediately fall into place: you are a yogi, you can be Śaiva or not, but you remain a yogi. You can say the same thing on whether you like to combine yoga with Viṣṇu upāsana or not e.t.c. To combine yoga with something or practice it “by itself”, you need to consider several things.

Firstly, there is the simplicity of yoga, without any contradictions. Since you comprehend one element of your faith in a very strict way, you cannot perceive anything else. Secondly, the simplicity has the kind of “ essence of everything” in it, which allows it to be present in everything or, if it is present by itself without everything – it should not become an abstract and special form of limitation (otherwise, it will contradict freedom, which is what yoga is for).

It follows from the foregoing that any upāsaka can be a nātha and most importantly, he can be just a nātha-yogi and no one else, or everything at once.

Gaṇapati in association with yogic experience

On the occasion of the Gaṇeśacaturthī, I would like to share my yogic ideas about association of Gaṇapati with yogic experience. We know, there are plenty of Gaṇeśa’s forms, they are all very important in their own way and can bring different blessings to those who perform their sādhanas. Also, there are multiple of connections of different Gaṇeśa’s forms with those or other Śiva’s and sole universal Śakti’s manifestations.

Gaṇeśa mitigates the negative influences of Ketu, as well as removes many obstacles, grants knowledge, success in sādhana and in many endeavours. Now, you can find a lot of information on this subject. However, Gaṇeśa plays a great role for those who follow the yogic path. It is said in Gaṇeśatharva-śīrṣa:

त्वं मूलाधारस्थितोऽसि नित्यम् ।
tvaṃ mūlādhārasthito’si nityam ।

You [Gaṇeśa] (tvaṃ) are the one who is (rasthito’si) permanently (nityam) in the muladhara-cakra (mūlādhāra).

In other words, thanks to the worshiping of Gaṇeśa, the yogi is able to awaken the kuṇḍalinī-śakti in the mūlādhāra-cakra.

त्वं शक्तित्रयात्मकः ।
tvaṃ śaktitrayātmakaḥ ।

You (tvaṃ) are the essence (ātmaka) of three (traya) Divine powers (śakti).

It can also be the energies of the three kuṇḍalinī forms: the lower one in the mūlādhāra-cakra, the upper one in the sahasrāra-cakra and the one in the center between them. Therefore, Gaṇeśa not only awakens energy in the mūlādhāra-cakra, but also leads to complete yogic realisation. In addition, he is the essence of icchā, jñāna and kriyā śakts.

त्वां योगिनो ध्यायन्ति नित्यम् ।
tvāṃ yogino dhyāyanti nityam ।

For yogis (yogino), you (tvāṃ) are the permanent (nityam) object of their contemplation (dhyāyanti).

There are many descriptions of the Gaṇeśa’s qualities, which actually indicate his yogic nature. And what I would like to say in this connection: whatever external worship a person may do, they can have internally different involvement of one’s energy, consciousness and heart. But, only the revelation of one’s own purest nature in one or another action and the highest aspirations basically gives the power to pūjā. I would like to give some examples showing that the Divine is what we really are. Someone can say by ignorance “Yes, but I do not have the elephant head, I’m in a human body. What is the connection with the yoga practice? ” External attributes are simply symbols of different energies, behind which is a finer and spiritual energy that permeates the whole universe with all its diversity. It is ātman, one in all forms, powers, it is within the human form in which sādhaka realises himself through yoga. That is why the Nava Nāthas (the nine founders of the different Nāth directions), on the one hand, are the famous Indian Deities, among whom there is Gaṇapati (aka Gajabeli Gadjakantharnath), but on the other, they all have human forms.

Whichever complex pūjās we perform, we always do this in the presence of our body. While we are in the body, we perform karma (an action). The body is always with us until death, it is the instrument of the soul, its temple, and what is most natural for all human incarnations. The body is also important for the yoga realisation. Few people of us know, but according to many stories Gaṇeśa was not originally with the elephant head, he gained it later. Moreover, sometimes he is the son of Śiva, and sometimes he is the supreme primordial Deity himself. This can all be food for many reflections. Being born in this world, we come from the unmanifested, obtain different energies and then return back to ourselves. We are born in many lives and forms, ultimately affirming in that beyond them all. This original reality is Gaṇeśa. There are not many temples in India with Gaṇeśa in human form. Here, for example, are several known forms of Gaṇeśa from the Śiva temple in Kumbakonam, namely Naramukha Gaṇapati (Gaṇeśa with a human face) or Adi Gaṇapati (primordial Gaṇeśa):

Also, the form of Gaṇeśa with a human face is found in Tiruchirappalli (Tamil Nadu), in Nandrudyan Vināyaka temple. There is another famous Uttarapathisvarasvami Mandir (Vātāpigaṇapatim).

All of these show that Gaṇeśa is not the one who simply takes us away from our human nature, he is rather able to eliminate our weaknesses in human nature and to reveal its pure and strong levels.

Kṛṣṇa as the manifestation of Kālī

Today is Kṛṣṇāṣṭamī of Bhādrapadā month, for the majority this day is known as Kṛṣṇajanmāṣṭami. But, for the śaktaupāsakas this date is also known as Kālī-jayantī. Many people have probably heard that Muṇḍamālā Tantra, Guhyātiguhya Tantra, Toḍala Tantra identify ten Viṣṇu-avatāras with ten Mahāvidyās, and according to these texts Kṛṣṇa is the manifestation of Kālī. However, the very ideas about the unity of Kṛṣṇa and Mahākāla (whose Śakti is Kālī) are also found in earlier sources, in Bhagavadgītā (11.32) Kṛṣṇa says:

कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत् | kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛt |

I am the time destroying the worlds.

If you look at the paddhatis where the Kālī-pūjā is described, then in many of them you can find borrowing from Puruṣa Suktam, for example, in the nyāsa practice or in other elements of the pūjā. This is not accidental, because the image of puruṣa symbolises Mahākāla and His ŚaktiKālī. Mahākāla Dakṣiṇāmūrti is the Śaktimān of Dakṣiṇā Kālī. Mahākāla is the Great Time, who absorbs the very time, He is the symbol of transformation that also indicates the inner yogic process. Many interesting images pointing, for example, to the original dark nature of Mahākāla and Mahākālī, are found in other sources. For example, in Rigveda (10.129. 03):

तम आसीत्तमसा गूढमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमा इदं ।
तुच्छ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिना जायतैकं ॥३॥

tama āsīttamasā gūḍhamagre’praketaṃ salilaṃ sarvamā idaṃ ।
tucchyenābhvapihitaṃ yadāsīttapasastanmahinā jāyataikaṃ ॥3॥

Initially, there was a darkness immersed in a dark abyss, all this were endless waters. That incomprehensible and unified manifested himself through the power of his heat.

A similar description is also found in Dharmaśāstra, for example in Manusmṛti (1.5):

आसीदिदं तमोभूतमप्रज्ञातमलक्षणम् ।
अप्रतर्क्यमविज्ञेयं प्रसुप्तमिव सर्वतः ॥ ५ ॥

āsīdidaṃ tamobhūtamaprajñātamalakṣaṇam |
apratarkyamavijñeyaṃ prasuptamiva sarvataḥ || 5 ||

This world was darkness, immersed in a deep sleep, incomprehensible to the mind, inseparable, unknowable.

However, the darkness associated with Mahākāla, Kālī, Kṛṣṇa and other Gods and Goddesses has no negative context. It rather as the highest reality from which the creation, maintenance and destruction of the entire universe occurs. It is also known that ṛṣi of the Puruṣa Suktam hymns is Nārāyaṇa, who is identified with this puruṣa in other sources, in Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa for example. We can find many earlier sources pointing to the identity of Mahākāla, Nārāyaṇa (Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa) and also Kālī – the Śakti of Mahākāla. For many nātha-yogis, Mahākāla is none other than Śiva Adināth, because Mahākāla and his Śakti are very revered in the Nātha Sampradaya. The goddess Kālī grants liberation from time and worldly impermanence to those who have established themselves in devotion and the yoga path.

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।
पादाङ्गुष्ठगुल्फजङ्घाजानूरुपायुमेढ्रनाभिहृदय-
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 |
pādāṅguṣṭhagulphajaṅghājānūrupāyumeḍhranābhihṛdaya-
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.

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 (3.4.7.1):

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.