The Amṛtasiddhi as a Nātha text

Not long ago student of mine sent me a curious article by Kurtis R. Schaeffer The Attainment of immortality: from Nāthas in India to buddhists in Tibet. It is dedicated to a text, which James Mallinson identified as ‘buddhist one’, which is, in my opinion, not quite correct. I also find his another claim, when during an online interview he said that the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā is the Vīraśaiva text only because Allama Prabhudeva is mentioned there, to be also incorrect. An attempt to take only one name related to Vīraśaivism from a huge number of listed names, ignoring all the others, and attribute the whole text to Vīraśaiva, seems very strange to me. Especially when the text itself is quite distant from the main doctrine of Vīraśaivism and its goals. The same thing is with the text Amṛtasiddhi, a conclusion that this is a Buddhist text is based on the fact that it contains several Buddhist elements, at the same time completely ignoring the huge number of Śaiva elements. This text is more Nātha related, and Virūpakṣanāth (one of the famous Nāthas) could add some elements from Buddhism there. I believe that texts of this kind should be judged primarily by the number of prevailing elements of a particular tradition. And it is obvious there, that the elements of Nāthism are dominant. But for me, even without reading the article, it is clear that the text is not Buddhist, not least because there was the Mahāmudrā practice in Buddhism in those times and it was not in the form of haṭha-yoga practice. All Vajrayāna Buddhists perfectly understand what it is. So what was the point in calling completely different levels of practice in Vajrayāna with the same term? Here is another example from the Amṛtasiddhi:

म्रियन्ते मेरुवेधेन  ब्रह्माद्या देवता ध्रुवम्
आदौ संजायते क्षिप्रं वेधो ऽयं ब्रह्मग्रन्थितः॥

mriyante meruvedhena  brahmādyā devatā dhruvam 
ādau saṃjāyate kṣipraṃ vedho ‘yaṃ brahmagranthitaḥ॥

By piercing Meru (suṣumnā with prāṇa), Brahma and other Gods are getting killed.
First, this (prāṇa) quickly pierces the Brahma-granthi (Brahma knot).

ब्रह्मग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा विष्णुग्रन्थिं भिनत्यसौ
विष्णुग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा रुद्रग्रन्थिं भिनत्यसौ ॥

brahmagranthiṃ tato bhittvā viṣṇugranthiṃ bhinatyasau
viṣṇugranthiṃ tato bhittvā rudragranthiṃ bhinatyasau॥

Thus, when the Brahma-granthi is pierced, the Viṣṇu-granthi (Viṣṇu knot) is pierced.
When the Viṣṇu-granthi is pierced, the Rudra-granthi (Rudra knot) is pierced.

रुद्रग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा छित्वा मोहमयीं लताम्
उद् घाटयत्ययं  वायुर्ब्रह्मद्वारं सुगोपितम् ॥

rudragranthiṃ tato bhittvā chitvā mohamayīṃ latām 
ud ghāṭayatyayaṃ  vāyurbrahmadvāraṃ sugopitam ॥

Thus, piercing the Rudra-granthi, the “vines of illusion” (the intricacies of Māyā) are getting cut off. Further, ascending upward, Vāyu (air) penetrates into the super secret, Brahmadvāra (the door of Brahma).

The question is, what is so ‘Buddhist’ in these images of Purāṇic Devatās, and where in Buddhism such names of granthas are being mentioned?

There are also many other arguments in the article, for example, mentions of jīvanmukti, when a practitioner is likened to Śiva in yogic realisation etc. That is why I consider the statement of attribution of the text to Buddhism to be incorrect. Of course, some borrowings could come to Indian yoga or tantra from Buddhism, but we also have to consider the main goals of different sampradāyas. For instance, we cannot call Pancharātra ‘a yogic tradition’, if it is in fact a Vaiṣṇava bhakti oriented sect full of its specific karmakāṇḍa etc. If I take, let’s say, Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini-yoga and claim that it belongs to a Sikh tradition, it will be an incorrect statement. Even if you find a Sikh lineage Sant Mat, where meditation on light and sound is practiced, it doesn’t make it the main practice of the whole tradition. And again, we cannot conclude from this that it is the rationale for what Yogi Bhajan developed while living in California. Just as it is not entirely accurate to say that the Ashtanga Vinyasa style is a ‘tradition’, it is more correct to say that it is rather a modern yoga style. It could be called a tradition being spread in the West on the condition Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois would have transmitted the same sacred threads (janeū), which they had from their Gurus – to their students. Which didn’t happen, and most likely couldn’t have happened. But, if this did happen, I doubt that such disciples would have the same discipline and practice that they exercise on masse today. And although these teachers were good innovators, we should not confuse a style and gymnastic exercises with dīkṣā, discipleship, nitya sādhanā and etc. For those who want to seriously understand these things, I highly recommend taking these factors into account, although there are actually a lot of them.

The role of suṣumṇā in the mantra realisation

Looking through the Bengali text, the Bṛhattantrasāra, written by Guru Kṛṣṇānandāgamavāgīśa, I found an interesting point regarding the mantra practice, where the Gautamīya-tantra is quoted. We know that there is a classical practice of puraścaraṇa in the form of japa, homatarpaṇamārjana and brāhmaṇa bhojana. However, it speaks of a certain “exception”, which, in my opinion, is a transitional moment of sādhanā, “joining” in itself the goals of vāmācāra and yoga of the Nāthas (vajrolī). I decided to share this piece of text with you, maybe it will give someone an additional understanding of the tantra and Nātha yoga practice.

पशुभावे स्थिता मन्त्राः प्रोक्ता वर्णास्तु  केवलाः 
सौषुम्ने  ध्वन्युच्चरिता  प्रभुत्वं प्राप्नुवन्ति ते
मन्त्राक्षराणि चिच्छक्तौ प्रोतानि परिभावयेत्
तामेव परमव्योम्नि परमामृतबृंहिते
दर्शयत्यात्मसद्भावं पूजाहोमादिभिर्व्विनेति
मूलमन्त्रं प्राणबुद्ध्या सुषुम्नामूलदेशके
मन्त्रार्थं तस्य चैतन्यं जीवं ध्यात्वा पुनः पुनः

In the Gautamīya Tantra:

The mantras practiced in the paśu bhava are recited only at the letter level. The Suṣumṇā-related, practiced sounds are overflowing with power. During jāpa, the mantrāksharas should be fully connected to the power of consciousness. That (mantra) in the highest space is nourished by the highest bliss. Pūjā, homa and etc. are not required for this type of practice, practice the main mantra* through the power of consciousness in the root area (the base) of suṣumṇā (genitals). Practice meditation over and over again with that mantra essence, the consciousness of a living being.

Mūlamantra (the root mantra) is the main mantra of a Deity. For example, Śiva’s mantra is oṃ namaḥ śivāya, Gaṇeśa’s mantra is oṃ gaṃ gaṇapataye namaḥ, etc.

Why do the texts say that paścimottānāsana activates suṣumṇā and awakens the kuṇḍalinī?

It so happened in India, that spiritual practices are most often performed facing east. Accordingly, the west (conditionally) is our back, the south is the right and hot side and the north is left and cold. The Sun is associated with vital power, it rises in the east and sets (i.e. disappears) in the west. We fall asleep at sunset and our senses become silent, and they turn on at sunrise. We can see basically everything that is in front of us, on the sides, below and even sometimes from above, but we cannot see our back. We can only feel it, while there should be an inversion element, i.e. direction inward, listening to our sensations inside. The west is a symbol of the extinction of activities, the completeness of them, so it is suṣumṇā. It is also no coincidence that one of the well-known traditions, where kuṇḍalinī is worshiped in the form of the Goddess Kubjikā, is called paśchimāmnayā – the Western Doctrine. Paśchima – from paścāt (behind, the last, completed, western), therefore it is a symbol of suṣumṇā, self-absorption. Thus, paścimottānāsana is focused specifically on the direction of attention and the prāṇa in suṣumṇā along with it. This āsana is also focused on the conscious activation of suṣumṇā with pratyāhāra and the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī power.

Vajrolī in Buddhism and Indian traditions

Recently, one of my students asked me a question, “Is it true that there is semen retention in Vajrayana (in the practice of karmamudrā of the Completion stage), but is it not so in Indian tantras?”

First of all, I think that it is wrong to sacrifice a human nature to religious corporations, dividing it into Tibetan and Indian one. There is a tendency to think that if you are a Tibetan, you can retain semen, and if you are an Indian, the practice must necessarily be different. The  retention  of ejaculation in the practice of maithuna or karmamudrā is an allegory. In Indian kaulācāra, this kind of practices implies ejaculation, as an analogue of pūrṇāhuti in agnihotra. After which, this substance is mixed with wine and then used in pūjā. There is a lot of evidences of that fact, for example, in the Guhyasamāja-tantra:

विण्मूत्रशुक्ररक्तादीन् देवतानां निवेदयेत्।
एवं तुष्यन्ति सम्बुद्धाः बोधिसत्त्वा महाशयाः॥२१॥

viṇmūtraśukraraktādīn devatānāṃ nivedayet।
evaṃ tuṣyanti sambuddhāḥ bodhisattvā mahāśayāḥ ॥21॥

It is necessary to offer the secretion: urine, semen, female bodily fluids and offer them to the Deities. Thus, it will satisfy the great awakened ones, buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Prior to that, there is a recommendation to practice intercourse with a beautiful young woman. In order, for example, to offer semen in pūjā, it is obvious that there must be present a finalised ritual of maithuna. And there is quite a bit of such recommendations in Vajrayana. These kinds of transgressions in Vajrayana, which seems to be full of  savagery to the common man, in fact, are not much different from saptamakaras in aghora, which took a lot from traditions like kāpālikas.

If you read a description of vajrolī or amarolī in the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, you will see that there is a recommendation to mix the released semen with ash and apply it as a tilaka. That is, it means that ash is a symbol of amṛta, as well as semen. It says of the same principles as in the description from the Guhyasamāja-tantra and other Buddhist texts. Here is a very similar fragment from the Yoni-tantra:

भक्त्या द्रव्यं जपेन्मन्त्रं जप्त्वा मैथुनमाचरेत् शु्क्तोत्सरणकाले च शृ्णु पार्वति सुन्दरि
योनितत्त्वं समादाय तिलकं क्रियते यदि शतजन्मावर्ज्जितं पापं तत्क्षणादेव नश्यति ॥20-21॥

bhaktyā dravyaṃ japenmantraṃ japtvā maithunamācaret 
śuktotsaraṇakāle ca śṛṇu pārvati sundari
yonitattvaṃ samādāya tilakaṃ kriyate yadi
śatajanmāvarjjitaṃ pāpaṃ tatkṣaṇādeva naśyati ॥20-21॥

The sādhaka should chant the mantra and enjoy the ‘substances’ during the practice of maithuna. Listen, beautiful Parvatī, if a sādhaka makes himself a tilaka with ‘yoni fluids’ after an orgasm, then he will instantly forsake all the sins associated with a hundred births. (20-21)

The requirement given here is very similar to the one from the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. Probably, the goal here is not to retain semen so that there is no ejaculation at all. If the process is contemplative, then such a suspension or extension of the act occurs naturally. And the practitioner accomplishes that not by themselves and not because their ego wants it, like they can feed it by being ‘good technicians’. Here, the Goddess also controls the process through you. And the prolongation of the act is needed more in order to satisfy the Goddess in a woman, so she will bestow siddhi through her satisfaction. And at the end of the ritual, pūrṇāhuti is being done in the form of an orgasm. A prolongation of the act may occur due to the desire to satisfy the Divine. But not at all in order to demonstrate some kind of  ‘athletic abilities’ to stretch time, in which many people mistakenly believe. Each practice has a main task that must not be forgotten, otherwise it loses its true purpose and value, no matter how exclusive the technique may look. As we can see, ūrdhvaretā could be understood as  retracting substances back, but that is not by drawing them back into the genitals. That could be, for instance, the communion in the form of tilaka (as ūrdhva is the head area), and so on. And the most important thing is what happens on a psychic level, psychic vibes are significant. For a yogin who understands the essence of this practice, the physical side may be less relevant. They can perceive the sexual energy of life and flowering in their essence. Therefore, for some, a yogic practice is simply the essence of such ceremonies, even without their external implementation.

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)

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.


Ekatattva principle of Patañjali

This is one of the most interesting sutras, let’s try to examine it.

तत्प्रितषेधाथर्मेकतत्त्वाभ्यासः॥३२॥ tatpratiṣedhārthamekatattvābhyāsaḥ || 32 ||

तत् tat – that;
प्रितषेध् pratiṣedh (प्रित – backwards, षेध् от सिध् – taking away) – holding up;
अतर्म् artam – goal;
एक, eka – one;
तत्त्व, tattva – essence (thatness) अभ्यासः,
abhyāsaḥ (अभी – in the direction + आस – to the goal) – practise.

In order to control (hold up) them, one must practice concentrating on single entity.

‘Controlling them’ or ‘holding them up’ means what was discussed in the last sūtra: suffering – ‘duḥkha’, depression – “daumanasya“, body trembling – “aṅgamejayatva“, shortness or irregularity of breath “śvāsa-praśvāsa” and absent-mindedness or mind-wandering – ‘vikṣepa’. Before the sutra we are examining, there was a description of obstacles in the practice of mind control, followed by a sūtra, describing what helps to control it.

Many controversial comments have been written by modern yoga teachers. And many of them are not without sound arguments, and it is clear that some authors have tried well to investigate the subject, but not all of them, and many generate more questions. However, there are quite a few classic commentaries on it; there is even a huge commentary by Śankarācārya. For instance, he has a controversy with an anonymous opponent, where the Buddhist terminology is used, and it is also found in the comments of Vyāsa and other gurusVyāsa uses the term kṣaṇika (instantaneousness, fragmentariness) in the description of absent-minded perception. Hence the obvious parallels with the Buddhist doctrine  ‘kṣaṇikavāda’, especially developed in yogācara. I will only describe it in general terms, since this doctrine is also very important for understanding Nātha-yoga. The idea of the variability of all phenomena, and therefore their emptiness, is also at the heart of whole Buddhism. Its essence is that not a single phenomenon in this world has an independent entity.

All phenomena appear and disappear, each phenomenon can be disassembled according to all its various components, and finally, you will not find anything that exists. I.e. at the end – everything is emptiness. Buddhists say that if you are talking about Atman, then it is a kind of independent entity, because Atman is something that contradicts their theory of emptiness. But as I see it, it is not always an attempt to use this point as the basis of practice for them, but often – how to reduce the understanding of Atman to a level lower than it actually is. After all, these empty disputes may well be endless – with the same success the ideologists and political figures of their sampradāyas may contradict themselves. For example, by the mere fact that they say ’we are not those, or these’ – in this way, they already isolate themselves, because everything that is separate is closed. Something which is closed also corresponds to the principle of form, and therefore it can also be interpreted as mundane. In any case, if we return to Patañjali and classic, famous commentaries on him by Indian gurus – he generally speaks of ātman in connection with ‘ekatattva’ (single entity).

Whatever we study, be it external objects on which we focus our senses, or a content of “karmāśaya” – the causal realm, where our “karmas” are contained (analogy to which is alaya-vijñāna in Buddhism) – in any case, no matter how different or subtle the objects of our awareness are, even to the degree of realising their emptiness, there is someone who is aware of it. So Śankara speaks of ātman, which illuminates them with its light, and Vyāsa speaks about the same. If you look at the Buddhist tantric practices, there are many Deities there, however, by practicing with them, you simultaneously realise their emptiness. And here, personally, I do not see any contradictions with the fact that you would realise them as one with ātman. In his comments, Satyananda Saraswati reasonably condemns many tantrics, who give a lot of initiations with various practices. He says that it is better to practice one thing, otherwise a person will be confused. I agree that for a Westerner, loaded with the duality of the Abrahamic religions, the confusion is 99% guaranteed, except in the rarest cases. These are the cases when a person not only understood Hindu Sanātana Dharma, but became extremely sincere in their commitment to it.

But more often we see imitations instead of true commitment to it, even where people wear rudrākṣa, put tilak on them, install mūrtis of Hindu Devatas to show off etc. Frequently it is only business, where precisely that part is showy and artificial and a soul which believes in the same old duality and other values of the West. There are so many reasons why it’s extremely difficult to sincerely accept it, that’s why it is very good to have the guts to admit your own ignorance and even better – to confess to your guru. Only after that a discipleship and sincere communication start. But to admit it not in the sense of “that is who I am and I can do nothing about it and I will never try’ – the light of desire to change shouldn’t fade out.

Only then contradictions will constantly disappear in the process of continuous revolution in your own consciousness, and there will be no problem on what your mind is focused: Gaṇeśa, Śiva, Goddess or all their forms. I would like to draw your attention to a term in that sutra which, generally speaking, points out to ātman as the basis of recollection and concentration of consciousness. The term is ’tattva’ and it is often translated as an ‘entity’, which means very little for the most of people))). Very many practices become clear if you understand it properly. The term tattva consist of tat (that) and suffix tva, which in English is indicated by the ending ‘-ness’, so it can be translated as ‘thatness’. And here, when you see my examples, you will probably remember Buddhist ‘kṣaṇikavāda’. For instance, when I hear about the elements of earth, water, fire, etc., I have different associations. Earth is like black soil, mountains, rocks, etc.

There is a general characteristic of it, for example firmness, but ordinary people do not perceive it as such, but rather ‘look out’ upon something. A person, for example, hears about the theory of five mahābhūtas, saying that water manifests from fire, earth from water, then earth dissolves into water, water in fire, or that fire manifests itself from water, and thinks – how is that possible? How, for example, can fire appear from water? Probably from alcohol, or petroleum, or oil. He begins to think through the prism of the time he lives in and the values of this time, of all the discoveries and inventions made during this period. He starts thinking about cars that use fuel. And this is only one example of a human perception, conditioned by the time frames – the consciousness of the utilitarian consumer.

Unfortunately, all modern “yogis” also think in that way, not realising that traditionally yogis moved away from such perception, that they are yogis precisely because they are far away from being conditioned by temporary factors. That the goal of yoga is clearly not in “sticking” in phenomenality, as for example, in creating a beautiful body. The body which acquired perfection by itself is rather a side effect of the sādhana as a whole. Another example: when you look at the Dancing Śiva statue, you think that Śiva has four hands and he is dancing, or maybe he carries a skull, or lying dead and Kālī stands on him. Then you think: but who is Kālī, and who is their son Gaṇeśa, who suppose to have a head of an elephant, but there are temples where he has a human head.

You think and think: who they are, ‘who is Śiva?’, sometimes you think he has one head, sometimes he has five, and sometimes nine. So who is Śiva? Is he five-faced? Sort of yes, but also he is not. Śiva is Śiva. To understand who Śiva is you need to stop projecting your limited patterns on him, you need to look at him with an empty mind. Instead of silence and contemplation, people have so much noise in their heads. It blocks perception, people want to impose, not perceive. There are so many gurus around and almost no disciples. A disciple and a yogin are the same, that’s why Gorakśanātha calls yoginsavadhū’ – the one who is a yogin, the one who is a yoga practitioner and the one who is a disciple.

When a person decides that they ‘know’, their learning and perception process stops. Thatness means that you, for example, look at Śiva and see through your sensitive perception that it is not just some attributes, but that any attribute and his representation in general – is a gateway to another dimension. And the more you see this thatness, the more this dimension becomes all-encompassing, that’s what tattvaanusandhāna (study of tattva) is. To tell the truth, yogins are people who have the spirit of scientists, researchers, with the difference that they are independent from social institutions. Institutionalism with its frames means very little for yogins due to their spiritual evolution, because they understand the limitations of this system. After all, who are scientists? They are individuals, who made some discoveries, but it doesn’t mean that discovered processes never existed before. Thus, yogin is a kind of a ‘free scientist’, discovering something not discovered by others, and that explains some miracles done by those who achieved a huge success in sādhana. In fact, there are no miracles, there is just something that is understandable and explainable for some, but not for others.

Concluding my explanation of this sūtra, I want to point out a very important moment: in fact, all phenomena exist within one single spiritual entity, a higher, all pervading consciousness that some see as ātman, some as Brahman, some as Śiva or Viṣṇu. Every person has this experience to one degree or another; therefore, when we look at an object, it somehow reveals this experience within us. I would say this: the stability of your concentration does not contradict the vividness of perception, and the vividness of perception is connected with sincerity of what you are doing. There is always a certain awe and humility in sincerity, there is no learning, no research spirit, no discipleship and no spiritual process without it. That is why your sincerity, honesty with all the other qualities listed above help to achieve good concentration, and if it is deep, doesn’t matter what object you are concentrated on, you will gain wisdom from everything. This is probably why the next sūtra lists the qualities important for the practice of pure and stable consciousness.

Āsana concept in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras and Gorakhabānī

There are several mentions of the āsana therm in Gorakhabānī:

आसण बैसिबा पवन निरोधिबा थांन मांन सब धंधा |
गोरषनाथ आतमां विचारंत ज्यूं जल दीसै चंदा || ८२ ||

āsaṇ baisibā pavan nirodhibā thāṃn māṃn sab dhaṃdhā |
badaṃt goraṣnāth ātamāṃ vicāraṃt jyūṃ jal dīsai caṃdā || 82 ||

Seating (baisibā) in posture (āsaṇa), overmaster, calm (nirodhibā) vitality (pavana), external environment (thāṃna), your social image (māṃna), all worldly activities (saba dhaṃdhā).
Gorakshanath says (badaṃta goraṣanātha), “Comprehending oneself or Atman (ātamāṃ vicāraṃta) in the same way that (jyūṃ) the moon (caṃdā) is reflected (dīsai) in water (jala).”

दिढ अहार दिढ जे न्यंद्रा दिढ होई ||
कहै सुणौ रे पूता मरै न बूढा | || ||

āsaṇ diḍh ahār diḍh je nyaṃdrā diḍh hoī ||
goraṣ kahai suṇau re pūtā marai na būḍhā hoī || 125 ||

The position, location (āsaṇa) should be settled, stable (diḍha), the nutrition controlled (ahāra diḍha), whoever (je) sleeps (nyaṃdrā), should be (hoī) regulated (diḍha) in this. Goraksha says (goraṣa kahai), “Listen (suṇau), o (re) my spiritual son (pūtā). Then, will (hoī)  not (na) be senility (būḍhā) and death (marai).”

Thanks to Gorakshanātha, much becomes clear with regard to the description of āsana in Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. I am going to give explanations.

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥
sthira-sukham-āsanam || 46 ||

The position (āsana) must be stable (sthira) [with perfect inner space] (sukha).

The term āsana comes from the root ās, which can have several meanings. The main one is “to sit” or “a seat”, but it can also mean “a place of seating” and “space”. Still it can be translated as “to be”, “to stay” in something or “to live” somewhere, that may indicate the action itself. Thus, it may be a soul staying in the body as puruṣa: ‘pura‘ – a body and ‘uṣa‘ – that is in the body. For example, when we invoke some Deity, we offer him/her a place to sit. So, Nāthas texts often say that the bodies of all living beings were created by Śiva and āsanas too, and āsanas are as many as embodied beings. The main āsanas and number of embodied souls are 84 (siddha-puruṣas or nāthas, who realised in themselves or experienced themselves as Śiva-svarūpa).

Further, the term sukha many people translate very shallow and even in a “sporting way” as “comfortable” or “convenient” posture. However, I think that for a better understanding we should consider the etymology of the term. The term consists of the prefix su सु, which means something “good”, “perfect” and kha ख – “space”. So, if there are blockages in psychophysics, then you are aware of your body as the negative space (duhkha), the opposite of sukha. Practicing āsanas you are freed from blockages and become a pure space, and the purest space is the space of ātman. When your thoughts and body reflect it, they become stable (sthira). All this is what Gorakshanātha spoke about, reflecting on the ātman (it is unchangeable, eternal), the body becomes like water reflecting the moonlight (ātman). If the body reflects the ātman, self nature, then body becomes like it, reflecting its stability.

Conception of alakh vijñān in Gorakh Sabadī

First of all, I will try to define such a meaningful term as alakh vijñān (alakṣa vijñāna in Sanskrit), which is used in such texts as Gorakh Sabadī and others. The first word consists of a root lakṣa which means ‘symbol’, ‘sign’ or ‘goal’ (for instance, of worship or dhyana) and a negative prefix ‘a’, which means ‘something beyond any symbols’. The term vijñāna I would translate as ‘detailed, deep comprehension within a context of detachment’. A prefix vi means ‘diversified’ and a root  jñāna means ‘knowledge’. Altogether it means ‘diversified unconditioned knowledge or comprehension’. Below, I quote Gorakh Sabadī, where this term is mentioned in a dialect, which is close to Hindi:

अलष बिनाणी दोई दीपक रचिलै तीन भवन इक जोती ।
तास बिचारत त्रिभवन सूझै चूनिल्यो माणिक मोति ॥ ५ ॥

alaṣ bināṇī doī dīpak racilai tīn bhavan ik jotī । 
tās bicārat tribhavan sūjhai cūnilyo māṇik moti ॥ 5 ॥

Who have lived experience beyond the boundaries of symbols (alakh-vijñānī) of supreme light (ik jotī / ek jyoti) in three worlds (tīn bhavan), is creating (racilai / racnā  in Hindi) two (doī or donoṃ in Hindi) lights (dīpak). Who explore (vicārit) those (tās) three worlds, reveals (sūjhai / sūjhnā) a ruby (māṇik) and pearl (moti).

The text is rather difficult, firstly because it’s not standard Hindi, and most importantly, the twilight language (saṃdhā bhāṣā) is used here. For instance, there are various gradations of light, the supreme one, as the light of Śiva (prakāśa), and further, the two kinds of light: ‘the cold light’ (the Moon) and ‘the hot’ one (the Sun) – as sources for the following creation of three worlds. The gems usually mean essential substances of Śiva and Śakti, which is well-known by experts in highest tāntric sādhanas. On the one hand, despite their small size, gems have a great value, and on the other – they are very hard and indestructible (which symbolically means the experience of timelessness or the unfolding dimension of silence, beauty and eternity). The red ruby symbolises a fluid of  Śakti and the white pearl – a fluid of Śiva. From one point of view, that is the essential tantric symbolism, from another – that is Nāth’s symbolism from the yoga of the Sun and the Moon and also – raja-yoga. Strictly speaking, the both yogas are linked very tightly.

In my previous blog post I gave an example from Haṭhayogapradīpikā, speaking on śūnyāśūnyavilakṣaṇaṁ (the references not on what is or what is not a void):

We cannot believe in one thing without acceptance of the opposite, that’s why you can call this Nāth’s principle dvaita-dvaita vivarjita, as it called in Nāth or tantric texts, for instance, in the Kulārṇava Tantra:

Or, there is the essentially same definition lakṣālakṣaṇā – ’symbol beyond symbol’. By the way, in a certain sense the term ‘mudrā’ can be a synonym to ‘lakṣa’, because one of the meanings of the word mudrā is ‘meaningful symbol’. If a symbol reflects something transcendental, you get the realisation of transcendence in the image which reflects transcendence. Actually, that is the most important goal of all tantric and yogic practices. For instance, why we practice mantra connected with God or something Supreme? To become it. You become a reflector of the Supreme, you could call it the Man-God, the enlightened, siddha etc. That is what distinguishes the true adept of yoga from a profane man, who didn’t reveal it in himself. Some call it sahajāvasthā  (inherited quality), because you don’t need to ‘achieve’ or ‘form’ the omnipresent Absolute, you just need to reveal or recall it inside yourself.



I have repeatedly mentioned the Nātha’s principle, which is used in many Nātha texts, as well as in A. K. Banerjee’s books – it is dvaitādvaita-vivarjita.

There are many who call themselves tantrikas. They say that Gorakśanāth and nāthas are not oriented towards the same principles as Kashmir Shaivism, etc. In general, I have already said that I do not consider those tantrikas to be experts in tantrism. It is better I quote a śloka from the famous kaula text of ūrdhvāmnāyaKulārṇava-tantra (ullāsa I, śloka 110).

अद्वैतं केचिदिच्छन्ति द्वैतमिच्छन्ति चापरे |
मम तत्त्वं न जानन्ति द्वैताद्वैत विवर्जितम् ||

advaitaṃ kecidicchanti dvaitamicchanti cāpare |
mama tattvaṃ na jānanti dvaitādvaita vivarjitam ||

Someone prefers non-duality, someone – duality, none of them knows the essence that is beyond duality and non-duality (dvaitādvaita vivarjitam).

These are absolutely the same reference points as in the Nātha-sampradaya, sometimes the same terms and ideas can be found in tantric sources, but under different names (advaitadvayta-vilakśana, advaya, pratyakśa-advaita, etc.).