The connection between praṇava  and sohaṃ (continuation)

Besides the Nādabindūpaniṣad, I came across other interpretations of how praṇava is manifested from mantra sohaṃ. There is also the interpretation in which, if we remove ‘sa’ and ‘ha’ from sohaṃ, we get praṇava Oṃ. One of the early texts that I went through was the Prapañcasāra Tantra (4.21):

सकारं च हकारं च लोपयित्वा प्रयोजयेत्।संधिं वै पूर्वरूपाख्यं ततोऽसौ प्रणवो भवेत्।।४.२१ ।।

sakāraṃ ca hakāraṃ ca lopayitvā prayojayet ।
saṃdhiṃ vai pūrvarūpākhyaṃ tato’sau praṇavo bhavet ।।4.21।।

According to the image of pūrva rūpa saṃdhi, removing ‘sa’ and ‘ha’, one must definitely get that praṇava (oṃ) from there.

Explanation: pūrva rūpa saṃdhi is connected with the ending ओ/o, which stands before अ/a of the next word, turning into a sign known as avagraha / ऽ. Thus, the text implies that from ओ/o we get the praṇava mantra.

Four aspects of the Laya process

इन्द्रियाणां मनो नाथो मनोनाथस्तु मारुत:।
मारुतस्य लयो नाथ: स लयो नादमाश्रित: ।। ॥ २ ९॥

indriyāṇāṁ mano nātho manonāthastu mārutaḥ |
mārutasya layo nāthaḥ sa layo nādamāśritaḥ || 29 ||

1) The mind (manaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the senses (indriyāṇām).
2) Also (tu) vital force (mārutaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the mind (manaḥ).
3) Dissolution (layaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of air (mārutasya).
4) And that (sa) depends (āśritaḥ) on resonance (nādam). (Haṭhayogapradīpikā 4.29)

Oṃkāra inside sohaṃ

Many connections can be found between the praṇava oṃ and the mantrahaṃsa” (sohaṃ). The symbol of the swan, like a bird, is found in the Nādabindūpaniṣad. This image and the connection with praṇava are described there as following:

अकारो दक्षिणः पक्ष उकारस्तूत्तरः स्मृतः।
मकारं पुच्छमित्याहुरर्धमात्रा तु मस्तकम् मस्तकम् १॥

akāro dakṣiṇaḥ pakṣa ukārastūttaraḥ smṛtaḥ
makāraṃ pucchamityāhurardhamātrā tu mastakam mastakam 1

It is believed (smṛtaḥ) the mātrā “A” (akāraḥ) is in the right wing (dakṣinaḥ-pakṣaḥ), the mātrā “U”(ukāraḥ) in the north (uttaraḥ – “north” is “in the left” wing). Thus (iti), in his tail (puccham) is the mātrā “Ma” (makāraṃ), also (tu) they say (āhuḥ), ia half the mātrā, (ardhamātrā) is in his head (mastakam), i.e. nasalized vibration.

Haṃsa is the Sun

I heard from my Guru that the so-ham mantra is connected with the experience related to the sahasrāracakra, when kuṇḍalinī-śakti connects jīva with Śiiva. The haṃsa-mantra (inverted “so-ham”) is located in the six-cakras and symbolises the jīvātman (the eternal soul embodied in the body). Both mantras, which are essentially one mantra, have many meanings. I suppose, haṃsa, which is formally translated as “a swan”, requires special explanations of what is actually meant by a swan. You can find the essence of the haṃsa concept in one of the ślokas from the Rigveda, which is later repeated in the Yajurveda, the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka and the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (one of the earliest Upaniṣadas), the Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad and others. This mantra is also found in tantric sādhana. It refers to the haṃsa – a swan, generally symbolising the sun. The sun is the source of prāṇa (the symbol of the jīva respectively), the sun – like a swan, rises on the horizon, moves in the sky and goes back to the earth in the evening. Thus, it is present both in the sky and on the earth, is also able to be under water and on its surface. It is something omnipresent, like prāṇa that pervades the entire universe. Here is the mantra from the Rig Veda dedicated to the Swan Sun (haṃsa):

हं॒सः शु॑चि॒षद्वसु॑रंतरिक्ष॒सद्धोता॑ वेदि॒षदति॑थिर्दुरोण॒सत् ।
नृ॒षद्व॑र॒सदृ॑त॒सद्व्यो॑म॒सद॒ब्जा गो॒जा ऋ॑त॒जा अ॑द्रि॒जा ऋ॒तं ॥  ०४।०४०।०५

The sun (swan – haṃsaḥ) located in the clear sky (śuciṣat), in the atmosphere (antarikṣasat), moving through the air (vasu), it is a priest (hotar – Agni himself) staying in a hollow (the center of the vedic altar – vediṣat), the guest (atithi) abiding in the house (duroṇasat). Dwelling in people (nṛṣat), being in the best (varasat) (that can be deities or siddhas), in the world order (ṛtasat), located in space (vyomasat), born in water (abjā, the fire inside the ocean – vaḍavānala), born of “the cows” (gojā – the sun rays), born of a world order (ṛtajā), appeared from the mountain (adrijā) – the great truth (ṛtaṃ bṛhat) (the rising sun).

The sun (savitā) is one of the main worshiping aim in the VedasSāvitrī in the Vedas is a prototype of Śakti, after which it became known as kuṇḍalinī, which ascends through suṣumṇā to Śiva in the form of the light of prākāśa. The kuṇḍalinī raises the jīva (haṃsa) through the cakras and is absorbed back into itself in the sahasrāra, turning into the realisation of so-ham (I am him) in the form of Śiva.

Goddess Bālāsundarī in Śrīvidyā and Nāth Sampradāya

This practise you can see in the Śiva Samhitā:

मूलाधारेस्ति यत्पद्य चतुर्दलसमन्वितम् तन्मध्ये वावभव बीजं विस्फुरन्तं तडित्यथम् || १९० ||
हृदये कामबीजंतु कधूककुसुमप्रभम् आज्ञारविन्दे शक्त्याख्य चन्द्रकोटिसमप्रभम्
बीजत्रयमिदं गोप्यं भुक्तिमुक्तिफलप्रदम् एतन्मन्त्रत्रयं योगी साधयेत्सिद्धिसाधकः || १९१ ||

mūlādhāresti yatpadya caturdalasamanvitam
tanmadhye vāvabhava bījaṃ visphurantaṃ taḍityatham ॥190॥
hṛdaye kāmabījaṃtu kadhūkakusumaprabham
ājñāravinde śaktyākhya candrakoṭisamaprabham
bījatrayamidaṃ gopyaṃ bhuktimuktiphalapradam
etanmantratrayaṃ yogī sādhayetsiddhisādhakaḥ ॥191॥

One needs to contemplate vāgbhava-bīja (in Śrīvidyā, it is bīja aiṃ ऐं) in the center of the four-petalled lotus (mūlādhāra), like the trembling light of lightning (vispurana). In the heart (anāhata-cakra) there is kāmabīja (known as klīṃ क्लीं in Śrīvidyā), it is similar to a bandhuk flower (in India it is associated with passion). In the lotus of the ājñā-cakra, there is śaktibīja (in Śrīvidyā they call it sauḥ सौः), it is like ten million moons (candrakoṭisamaprabha). This secret mantra bestows fruit both in the form of spiritual liberation and enjoyment. A yogin must diligently practice these three mantras.

Based on that, some people conclude that this is not a text of the Nāthas, but rather the vedantic one, belonging to the tradition of Śrīvidyā. But I don’t think so, the text could well belong to Nāthas. Because, one of the initiations in the Nātha-sampradāya, known as upadeśī-dīkṣā, implies the worship of the Goddess Bālāsundarī. To begin with, I will give you Her śabar-mantra with my translation. Pay attention to the description of the Goddess:

सत नमो आदेश | गुरूजी को आदेश | ॐ गुरुजीसों अलिय कलिय तारा त्रिपुरा तोतला |
बायें हाथ पुस्तक दायें हाथ मालाजपो तपो श्री सुन्दरी बालाजीव पिण्ड का तुम रखवाला इतना योगमाया स्वरूप उपदेशी मन्त्र सम्पूर्ण भयाश्री नाथजी गुरुजी को आदेश आदेश आदेश ||

sat namo ādeś | gurūjī ko ādeś | oṃ gurujī | soṃ aliya kaliya tārā tripurā totalā |
bāyeṃ hāth pustak dāyeṃ hāth mālā | japo tapo śrī sundarī bālā, jīv piṇḍ kā tum rakhvālā
itnā yogamāyā svarūp upadeśī mantr sampūrṇ bhayā | śrī nāthjī gurujī ko ādeś ādeś ādeś |

We pay respect to the highest being (truth), let there be its will (ādeś). Let there be the will of Guruji, with all respect to Guruji. Soṃ is the expression of the Goddess of Speech (aliya), Kālī (kaliya), Tārā (tārā), Tripurā (tripurā). She holds a scripture in her left hand, and japa-mala in her right. So (itnā) it was your (tum),Śrī Bālāsundarī (śrī bālā sundarī), in the form of the nature of yoga (yogamāyā svarūp), complete repetition (japa) and spiritual effort (tapas) of the upadeśīmantra (upadeśī mantr sampūrṇ bhayā) in the form of a living soul, located inside the body (jīv piṇḍ kā rakhvālā). Let there be the will (blessing) of the respected Ś Guru Nāth (śrī nāthjī gurujī ko ādeś).

It describes exactly the same image of the Goddess Bālā, which is worshipped in the Tradition of Śrīvidyā. We can argue about the varieties of syllables, the differences between Saṃskṛt mantras and Śabar mantras. But, that is the same as, for instance, we confidently say that Gorakṣagāyatrī is not Gāyatrī, because it does not correspond to the metric size, as there are no 24 syllables in it. Or, to argue about the fact that it is not right to consider the Gāyatrī mantra as so-ham. However, if you thoroughly study the topic of metric sizes, you will see that each metric size has many variations. One chandas can have variations with different numbers of akṣaras. On the other hand, Bālā is not limited to three bījas; there are combinations of six, nine, and even sixteen (ṣoḍaśī). Her bījas are parts of the Mahaṣoḍaśī mantra, inside of which there is the pañcadaśī or ṣoḍaśī (mantra) from kādi, hādi and sādi kūṭakṣaras, with the addition of śrīṃ, and also praṇava Om. In fact, the mantra of Tripura Bhairavī is also derived from the mantra of Bālā, in which bījas ha, sa and ra are added. The former is the essence of the Śrī Yantra, and also the form of Kālī. For that reason, virtually all the main mantras of Śrīvidyā are derived from Bālā. In general, Tripura Sundarī in tantrism is the Goddess of ūrdhvāmnāya, oriented on the ideals of mokṣa, the main goal in yoga.

I propose to analyse the shorter śabar-mantra of Bālā from the Nātha-Sampradāya:

The Nātha-mantra of Yoga Māyā Bālā:

ॐ सों इलीं क्लीं श्रीं सों श्रीं सुन्दरी बाला नमः ॥
oṁ sōṁ Ilīṁ klīṁ śrīṁ sōṁ śrīṁ sundarī bālā namaḥ ॥

These bījas are slightly transformed versions of the triakṣari, as well as of other mantras of Śrīvidyā (śriṃ, oṃ and sohaṃ) derived from it.

The Śrīvidyā mantra of Bālā:

ऐं  क्लीं सौः ॥
aiṁ klīṁ sauḥ ॥

Some are compressed according to the principle of pratyāhāra, some, on the contrary, are expanded. Let’s take a closer look.

The bīja सों soṁ is a combination of सोऽहं so̕haṁ and Parā (Śaktibīja सौः sauḥ. The bīja इलीं ilīṁ is simply a modified ऐं aiṁ (vākbīja), because ऐं aiṁ is nothing more than a sandhyakṣara from + , although there could be short variants of them. We get , then if we again add to it, we get . Just like joining + , we get , with bindu it will be praṇava ओं, and if we further ‘strengthen’ it, we will get , which can be a part of the bīja सौः, called Śaktibīja and sometimes Parābīja. In fact, इलीं could be understood as a compressed form that extends from to – the last akṣara of the Sanskrit alphabet (mātṝkā), with the exception of the first akṣara , from which the entire mātṝkā emerges. The bīja क्लीं klīṁ is the kāmabīja without modifications. This is just a small analysis of the parallels between the Nāth Tradition and the Śrīvidyā-tantra mantras. Of course, I cannot give out all the secrets of the mantras to those who are not dīkṣita. Nevertheless, even from that one can see a lot of connections and parallels of seemingly different traditions. In my opinion, the situation here is about the same as in Vajrayana, when many siddhas could not really separate themselves from Buddhism and from Nāthism at the same time. But after centuries, the paths diverged. Although, there are fewer differences between Śrīvidyā and Nāthism, since both traditions are theistic and have much in common.

Goddess Bālā is directly related to Gorakṣanāth, because she is young, just like Gorakṣanāth (bal-jati). Both deities are symbols of living energy, opened to everything new, without the weight of worldly affairs etc.

Grammatical analysis of the mantra ॐ

This mantra comes from the dhātu of the first verbal group – अव् / av, which means – रक्षण / rakṣaṇa – ‘protection’ (receiving from God, Ishvara). The semi-vowel labial व् / v is transformed into labial उ / u, then it is transformed into ओ / ou with the addition of labial and मन् / man, where only the nasalized म् / m remains, that can turn into a bindu.

This famous mantra is also called प्रणव / praṇava, from the prefix प्र / pra and the root णु / ṇu, which means ‘adoration’. But in this case, the vowel उ / u goes into a strengthened अव / ava, that gives णव / ṇava with the prefix प्रणव / praṇava. In a word, all together this can mean ‘the primary, initial adoration’ from which all forms of worship come from.

There are many other esoteric interpretations of praṇava. The most famous is its splitting into three mātras (अ – उ – म्), to which many traditions give very different meanings.

Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra

I translated the tantric Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra at the request of my students.

विनियोगः। viniyogaḥ

ॐ अस्य श्री गोरक्ष मन्त्रस्य बृहदारण्यक ऋषिः अनुष्टुप् छन्दः श्री गोरक्षनाथो देवता गों बीजम् विमला शक्तिः   हंसेति कीलकं निरञ्जनात्मक सर्व तत्त्व सिद्धये जपे विनियोगः ।।

oṃ asya śrī gorakṣa mantrasya bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣiḥ anuṣṭup chandaḥ śrī gorakṣanātho devatā goṃ bījam vimalā śaktiḥ haṃseti kīlakaṃ nirañjanātmaka sarva tattva siddhaye jape viniyogaḥ ।।

The ṛṣi of the Śrī gorakṣanāthamantra is Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the rhythm is anuṣṭup, the Divine is Gorakṣanātha, the bija is goṃ, the Śakti is Vimalā (pure), the kīlaka is haṃsa, the ritual of japa for success in the essential purity of all tattvas.

ऋष्यादिन्यासः । ṛṣyādinyāsaḥ (the nyāsa starts from the head and so on)

ॐ बृहदारण्यक ऋषये नमः। शिरसि ।
oṃ bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣaye namaḥ । śirasi (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ अनुष्टुप् छन्दसे नमः । मुखे ।
oṃ anuṣṭup chandase namaḥ । mukhe (the face)

ॐश्री गोरक्ष देवताय नमः । हृदि ।
oṃ śrī gorakṣa devatāya namaḥ । hṛdi (the heart)

ॐ गो बीजाय नमः । गुह्ये ।
oṃ go bījāya namaḥ । guhye (the perineum)

ॐ विमला शक्तये नमः । पादयोः ।
oṃ vimalā śaktaye namaḥ । pādayoḥ (the feet)

ॐ हंसेति कीलकाय नमः । नाभौ ।
oṃ haṃseti kīlakāya namaḥ । nābhau (the navel)

करन्यासः । karanyāsaḥ । (the palm nyāsa)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अङ्गुष्टाभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya aṅguṣṭābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two thumbs of your hands)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय तर्जनीभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya tarjanībhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two index fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय मध्यमाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya madhyamābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect the two middle fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अनामिकाभ्यां  नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya anāmikābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two ring fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कनिष्ठिकाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kaniṣṭhikābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect two little fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय करतल-कर-पृष्ठाभ्यां नम: ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya karatala-kara-pṛṣṭhābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect the back of the palms)

हृदयादिन्यासः । hṛdayādinyāsaḥ (nyāsa starts from the heart and etc.)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय हृदयाय नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya hṛdayāya namaḥ । (touch the heart)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिरसे स्वाहा ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śirase svāhā । (touch the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिखायै वषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śikhāyai vaṣaṭ । (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कवचाय हुं ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kavacāya huṃ । (touch your shoulders)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya netratrayāya vauṣaṭ । (touch three eyes)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय सर्व विद्यापतये नमः अस्त्राय फट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya sarva vidyāpataye namaḥ astrāya phaṭ ।
(circle with your right hand above your head clockwise and hit the left palm with index and middle fingers three times)

अथ ध्यानम् । atha dhyānam (now is dhyāna)
(The text from the Kalpadruma Tantra)

निरञ्जनो निराकारो निर्विकल्पो निरामयः।
अगम्योऽगोचरोऽलक्ष्यो गोरक्षः सिद्धिवन्दितः॥
nirañjano nirākāro nirvikalpo nirāmayaḥ। 

agamyo’gocaro’lakṣyo gorakṣaḥ siddhivanditaḥ॥

Unsullied, devoid of image, free from vikalpas and disease, incomprehensible, unattainable, beyond of the symbols – Gorakṣa, revered by the siddhas.

समस्त रस भोक्ता यो यः सदा भोगवर्जित ।
सदा समरसो यश्च श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
samasta rasa bhoktā yo yaḥ sadā bhogavarjita । 

sadā samaraso yaśca śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To Him, who enjoys all races and who is always free from pleasures, who forever abides in samarasya, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

हठयोग विधाता च मत्स्यकीर्ति विवर्धनः ।
योगिभिर् मनसा गम्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
haṭhayoga vidhātā ca matsyakīrti vivardhanaḥ । 

yogibhir manasā gamyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To the creator of haṭhayoga and to that who increased the fame of Matsyendra, the one whom yogis comprehend in their hearts, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

सिद्धानाञ्च महासिद्धिः ऋषीणां च ॠषीश्वरः ।
योगीनाङ्चैव योगीन्द्रः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
siddhānāñca mahāsiddhiḥ ṛṣīṇāṃ ca ṝṣīśvaraḥ । 

yogīnāṅcaiva yogīndraḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the great siddha among the siddhas, to the lord of the ṛṣi among the ṛṣis, to the lord of the yogis among the yogis, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

विश्वतेजो विश्वरूपं विश्ववन्द्य सदाशिवः ।
विश्वनामा विश्वनाथः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
viśvatejo viśvarūpaṃ viśvavandya sadāśivaḥ । 

viśvanāmā viśvanāthaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

Universal light manifested in the image of the Universe, revered by all, Sadāśiva, who is called by all kinds of names, the lord of everything, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

अनन्तलोकनाथश्च नाथनाथशिरोमणिः।
सर्वनाथसमाराध्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
anantalokanāthaśca nāthanāthaśiromaṇiḥ। 

sarvanāthasamārādhyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the Lord of infinite worlds, the greatest (lit. “head precious adornment) of the Nāthas, to the Lord of all, to the one who is respected, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

शून्यानाङ्च परं शून्यं परेषां परमेश्वरः ।
ध्यायताञ्च परं धाम श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
śūnyānāṅca paraṃ śūnyaṃ pareṣāṃ parameśvaraḥ ।
dhyāyatāñca paraṃ dhāma śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the highest emptiness among the voids, to the Supreme Lord for others, to the highest state for the meditators, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

Then you can practice japa using the mantras from the above tantras, they can be found here: http://matsyendranatha.com/?p=554:

 

The meaning of touching sacred objects (murti, feet, etc.), then self heart and head afterwards.

Why it is common in India to touch sacred objects and then, after that – your own head or heart? For the most people in the West it is still not clear. Let us address, first of all, the yogic sources. For instance, in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā, in the description of sthūla-dhyana (6. 2-14), there are two techniques of contemplation.

The first technique is a contemplation of the Deity in your own heart, usually it is a heart chakra with eight petals, located according to the eight directions (cardinal and inter-cardinal) where east in us is located in front of us. There are various descriptions of that technique, where different Deities are contemplated in the heart, there are various features of eight petals, and in some cases it is recommended to submerge into nāda e.t.c.

Another technique, described in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā is Guru-chakra, which is located above ājñā-chakra and at the base of sahasrāra-chakra. Sometimes it is considered as a part of sahasrāra, that is why they are often identified as the same phenomenon. This chakra consists of twelve petals with each akṣara having a special meaning, this is navātma-mantra. Navātma-mantra includes in itself main elements (tattvas) of the Universe (brahmanda). That is a very common form of dhyana, where it is recommended to meditate on Guru, who is identified as Śiva.

Actually, the practise is considered a secret, although it may seem simple to someone. But, in our age of information, there is no more secrets after the rise of the Internet. Today we have a different kind of problem – sincerity. That is why, I think, having exclusive knowledge without śuddha-bhakti will get benefits for no one. And for those who are devoted to the true Guru and Deity, the Truth will be revealed by itself.

So what are these two areas, the head and the heart? In a tantric pūjā these are two places, connected with the invocation of a Deity in yourself, in your heart, where the Deity through the upper dvādaśānta should descent from sahasrārachakra to the heart. After that, using your breath, you ‘relocate the Deity’ into a flower, which is then placed in your palms. That is being done with the dvādaśānta, which is located in front of your nose. We know that there is inner dvādaśānta, through which prāṇa is absorbed with the inhale into our heart. There is also external dvādaśānta, when we are exhaling and the flow goes outwards. Practises of these dvādaśāntas can be found, for example, in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra. In such texts as Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, Advaya-tāraka-upaniṣad, the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇopaniṣad, external dvādaśānta is described as bahir-lakṣya (an external object of contemplation). In a tantric pūjā, that bahir-lakṣya is used for āvāhana – the invocation and the spreading of the Deity outside and placing it in mūrti, yantra e.t.c. Also, these elements are used during the completion of a pūjā (worship), when we ‘absorb the Deity’ inside ourselves into the heart and it is going back to the head area, beyond the body. Respectively, these areas are the most important places of perception, and everything starts and ends with them. The same centres are used by nāthayogis when they are performing śāmbhavī or nādi-pūjā, when while squatting they make a bow and bent their upper bodies. It is possible that many people who are touching sacred places, feet of saints e.t.c. are doing so automatically, without consideration of what is it about. Nevertheless, your Guru-chakra is your temple, your heart is your temple, your palms are your temple and all external objects in which everything is invoked is also your temple. As for the lower centres, the areas of mūlādhāra, svādhiṣṭhāna e.t.c. – these are worshipped in kaula-, aghora-mārga and are not for the ‘open pūjās’. Although the descent of Śakti from sahasrārachakra downwards to mūlādhāra or the ascent backwards is also a subject of internal yogic practises. Sometimes the internal yogic processes could be a part of external pūjās, complementing each other. But in which cases, what and how to use it – these things are always better to learn from your Guru, as it is not possible to transmit everything openly and publicly.

Elements of yoga in Tantras

Despite the fact that some traditions criticise methods of other sampradāya, sometimes it happens, however, that they themselves utilise them. For example, Abhinavagupta and others criticised Patañjali’s methods. Even though you can often come across the usage of methods of yoga in Kaśmir Śaivism and other tantric traditions, they are actually considered there as an integral part of tantra. In the same way as tantra, they are supporting elements on the path of yoga. I can cite a simple example of such quotations from the description of several techniques from Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra (VBT), which were commented by Śivopadhyaya. In one part, he explains a method from VBT quoting Patañjali, and in another he quotes Viveka-mārtaṇḍa of Gorakśanāth.

सर्वस्रोतोनिबन्धेन प्राणशक्त्योर्ध्वया शनैः |
पिपीलस्पर्शवेलायाम् प्रथते परमं सुखम् || ६७ ||

sarvasrotonibandhena prāṇaśaktyordhvayā śanaiḥ |
pipīlasparśavelāyām prathate paramaṁ sukham || 67 ||

By blocking all channels (jñānendriyas), the force of prāṇa slowly goes upwards. Then there is a sensation like the motion of an ant, and it comes the highest state of euphoria.

First of all, it is clear that it is a description of yoni-mudrā (or ṣaṇmukhi-mudrā). Also, there is an interesting description of kuṇḍalinī movement, which is characterised as pipīlikā-calana (like the motion of an ant) in Nātha texts. That could often be found in Nātha texts in the description of Śakti uprising, in addition to some other motions like vihaṅgama (bird), sarpa (snake) etc. Furthermore, Śivopadhyaya, in his comments to this technique quotes Patañjali, where he defines prāṇāyāma.

.बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्तम्भवृित्तः देशकालसङ्ख्यािभः पिरदृष्टो दीघर्सूक्ष्मः॥५०॥

bāhyābhyantarastambhavṛttirdeśakālasaṅkhyābhiḥ paridṛṣṭo dīrghasūkṣmaḥ 50

The fluctuations of prāṇa could be outward and inward (exhales and inhales), it could also come to a standstill (of breathing). It should be observed, that this process would be elongating, subtle, happens according to time, place and quantity.

Also, Śivopadhyaya cites sutra 49, where Patañjali defines prāṇāyāma as a cessation (vicchedaḥ) of inhales and exhales (śvāsapraśvāsa). Although the term ‘viccheda’ could indeed be translated like that, I would define it in other way. It could also mean ‘cutting off’, like something that is no longer needed ‘comes off’. If the goal of prāṇāyāma is calming of consciousness and prāṇa (with which it’s connected), than it is exactly ‘cutting off’ prāṇavṛtti and cittavṛtti. But, it is actually happening in a natural way with the involvement in the process of proper contemplation. Consciousness, being agitated by the sensual experience is unable to calm down, it is fragmented. Only when the practise enables an involvement in higher orientations and higher dimension, it subsides and everything in excess ‘comes off’, ‘cuts off’ by itself. It happens as at the level of sensual perception, as well as of prāṇa and mind.

Equally interesting explanation of the quotation from the Viveka-mārtaṇḍa, also the Bhagavadgītā appears in the description of a technique from VBT in the other part of the text:

मध्यजिह्वे स्फारितास्ये मध्ये निक्षिप्य चेतनाम् |
होच्चारं मनसा कुर्वंस् ततः शान्ते प्रलीयते || ८१ ||

madhyajihve sphāritāsye madhye nikṣipya cetanām |
hoccāraṁ manasā kurvaṁs tataḥ śānte pralīyate || 81 ||

With the middle of the tongue (it is the tip, if you look at it from the particular angle), pointed in the centre of something that is widely open (the head area – ‘ākāśa’), you should mentally recite the uprising sound ‘ha’, dissolving your mind in calm.

Śivopadhyaya quotes this śloka:

कपालकुहरे जिह्वा प्रविष्टा विपरीतगा|भ्रुवोरन्तर्गता दृष्टिर्मुद्रा भवति खेचरी ॥

kapālakuhare jihvā praviṣṭā viparītagā|bhruvorantargatā dṛṣṭirmudrā bhavati khecarī

When the tongue points backwards and enters the cavity of skull, and the look is directed between the eyebrows – it is khecarī-mudrā.

Śivopadhyaya points out that it is from the Viveka-mārtaṇḍa (68), although you can come across it in many texts – it seems that many authors have copied it from Gorakśanāth. You can see it in the Dhyānabindu Upaniṣad, the Yogacūḍāmaṇi Upaniṣad, in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā etc. It’s quite obvious that Śivopadhyaya implies khecarī-mudrā, which is known in haṭhayoga in particular, in spite of the fact that in Kaśmir Śaivism it is also known as the practise performed inside consciousness. It is clear, that in India, some masters could claim that practises from different traditions cannot be mixed, but other gurus boldly mixes them and see their interconnection. I incline towards the latter approach. It is interesting that Śivopadhyaya quotes śloka from the Bhagavadgītā while commenting this śloka from VBT:

स्पशार्न्कृत्वा बिहबार्ह्यांश्चक्षुश्चैवान्तरे भ्रुवोः।
प्राणापानौ समौ कृत्वा नासाभ्यन्तरचािरणौ ।।५.२७।।

sparśānkṛtvā bahirbāhyāṃścakṣuścaivāntare bhruvoḥ
prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau ।। 5.27।।

Leaving with external (world) the tangency (of consciousness), concentrating the look between the eyebrows, a yogin balances prāṇa and apāna.

This technique is known in haṭhayoga as bhrūmadhyadṛṣṭi or śāmbhavī-mudrā. It is for a reason, that it is often associated with sādhana of khecarīmudrā. However, in Kaśmir Śaivism, this practise means the way to achieve pratimilanasamādhi, or bhairavīmudrā (the union of internal and external spaces), that is often acquired through the practise of maithuna in kaula ritual. Then in accord with the Tantrāloka and the Mahārtha Mañjarī (the text which is connected with Gorakśanāth according to nāthas), the sound ‘ha’, which is made during mahākśobha (orgasm) – is the sound of anāhata, which dissolves (laya) the mind. However, it is more likely that in this practise it is implied ‘the internal coition’ of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, upraised to Śiva in sahasrāra cakra, where Śakti was released in the space above the crown of the head.

All these methods, actually, could become the one unified process for those who don’t stuck in modern yoga, where everything is being ‘divided’,everyone ‘comes up with something new’ because of the obsession with markets and trade concepts.

 

My perception of the right āsana

Over the years of yoga practice, I have developed my own definition of what the true āsana is. The right āsana is that, which leads to the interconnection of the two main dimensions of all. And through this in particular you will find explanations of any categories of āsanas. What those dimensions are, physical and spiritual or other explanations will be found for this, for everyone at their stage of practice, this can vary and can always be flexible. But, for any practitioner at any moment, this awareness of polarities must be total.