About the “tantrikas”, saying that Yoga is “the path of paśu”.

I have translated a short passage from the Rudrayamalatantra Uttarakāṇḍa, dedicated to those “tantrikas”, who criticise the Yoga path:

श्वासाभ्यासं विना नाथ अष्टाङ्गाभ्यसनेन च ।
विना दमेन धैर्येण कुलमार्गो न सिद्ध्यति ॥१६-३६॥

O Nātha, without the breathing practice along with the practice of the eight limbs [of yoga];
Without control and stability, there will be no perfection in the Kula path. (16-36)

तथा पूरकयोगेन रेचकेनापि तिष्ठति ।
विना कुम्भकसत्त्वेन यथैतौ नापि तिष्ठतः॥१६-३७॥ 

The same is true with inhalation and exhalation.
Without the essence of holding [breathing], these two are also unstable. (16-37)

तथा योगं विना नाथ अष्टाङ्गाभ्यसनं विना ।
कुलमार्गो महातत्त्वो न सिद्ध्यति कदाचन ॥१६-३८॥ 

O Nātha, also without yoga, without practicing its eight parts.
The Kula path will never be successful in the highest essence. (16-38)

कुलमार्गं विना मोक्षं कः प्राप्नोति महीतले ।
कुलमार्गं न जानाति योगवाक्यागमाकुलम् ॥१६-३९॥ 

How can one achieve spiritual liberation on this earth without the Kula path who knows neither the path of kula, nor the doctrine of yoga, nor the kaula-agama? (16-39)

The fifth makara in tantra practice

I translated a small part of the Experience in Spiritual Practice (साधना के अनुभव), the book by Rameshchandra Sharma. I think this information will be useful for many practitioners to understand the maithuna topic in Tantrism. It is necessary to practice the maithuna ritual when the sexual energy stagnates in the area of the mūlādhāra and svādhiṣṭhāna cakras. When the kuṇḍalinī ascends, the practice with it becomes a form of yoga, which is mainly contemplative. Of course, these boundaries are very relative, however, there is a general principle of connecting the two poles in order to sublimate our vision and energy. Here is the text:

The Fifth of the Five Makaras

In tantric sādhanā, the practice of pañcamakāra is found. Practice with madya (wine), māmsa (meat), etc., it can also be done with their substitutes. In the pañcamakāra, the fifth is associated with the sense-oriented pūjā, which is known as maithuna. In essence it leads to the regulation of the semen. Maithuna is also called “latasādhanā“, it is a special practice for awakening the svādhiṣṭhānacakra.

Often after the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī, when vāyu (energy) rises to the svādhiṣṭhānacakra, kāma (passion), ascending there, begins to transform into what we know as yogasādhanā. Through the identification of a woman with Devī (Goddess) and himself with Śiva, the practitioner leaves the gross states of the physical body, and his spirit and consciousness are directed to the sphere of spiritual consciousness. This often happens when practicing a mantra with prāṇāyāma. The power in the svādhiṣṭhāna or maṇipūracakra begins to intensify and the practitioner through asceticism becomes an ūrdhvareta – one, whose ascending sexual power is sublimated. Near the maṇipūracakra (just below it) in a woman is the womb (garbhāśaya), which is the most important area in their body. 

So, from the svādhiṣṭhānacakra to the maṇipūracakra there is a point of two poles, the connection of the spiritual and the physical. and through the practice of japa you connect these centers in a pure sāttvic state. In a state of full bloom of power, at the beginning of the practice, you use a special method, thanks to which the power increases and moves further in the direction of the anāhatacakra. Mental worship is the essence, thanks to which everything basic happens there.

In the daily pūjā you can invoke the Goddess into a red flower (yellow in the case of Bagalāmukhī), and invoke Śiva in a white flower. Place the flower where the Goddess is on top of the white flower of Śiva, that will be the symbol of viparīta-rati, symbolically connecting Śiva and Śakti.

Romāvalī (Hairline)

This is one of the texts of Gorakshanath, written in a mixture of Hindi and dialects. For this version I used translations from Hindi. Of course, the text requires special verbal explanations of the meaning of the terms and how they all relate to each other. In such texts there are always a lot of symbolic images often used in meditation – the key focus of yoga. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the terms khecarī, bhūcarī, mahāmudrā are found in a variety of sources and in different contexts. Contrary to popular belief that among the Nāthas khecarī-mudrā is the practice of rolling the tongue back, this text confirms that, as in some tantric systems, in Nātha’s practice it may simply be a form of awareness. The same accounts to mahāmudrā, which isn’t described here as Haṭha-yoga technique of stretching one leg, regulating breathing, etc. The mahāmudrā in Buddhism is one of the highest states of consciousness, in this text the term is used in a very similar context. I used for translation a collection of texts published in the Gorakshanath Mandir in Gorakhpur, in addition to this, there are many other texts where you will find the names of mudrās similar to those found in various tantric traditions and their practices. But this is one of the illustrative examples that helps to expand the idea of ​​seemingly “known practices” among “yoga teachers” in the West. Although in India there is a trend to limit variations of practices because of consumerism. But, the true seekers of the authentic state of yoga avoid the limited state and therefor modern artificial paths. For people who are curios and enthusiastic to expand their knowledge, I have translated this text into English.

Romavali (Hairline)

सत पिता रज मात्ता तम करि गाड़ी पाई,
Sattva is the father, rajas is the mother, tamas – decay.

लोह मास तुचा नाड़ी ये चारि धात माता की वोलिये,
Blood, muscles, skin, and veins are said to belong to the mother.

चीरज हाड गृद्र ये तीनि धात पिता की बोलिये,
Semen, bones, bone marrow, these three are said to belong to the father.

ए सप्त घात का शरीर बोलिये ।
These seven joined together are said to be the body.

द्वै हाथ द्वौ पैर छाती लिलाट घाट अष्टांग जोग बोलिये।
Two arms, two legs, two breasts, a torso, and a head, they are said to be the eightfold yoga.

बंद भेद मुद्रा तीन्यू  साधंति ते सिधा बोलिये ।
Bandha, bhedana (piercing), mudrā (symbol of union), it is said that those who know these three are perfect (siddha).

कौंण बंधि बांधिये, कौंण भेद भेदिये, कौंण मुंद्रा मुंदिये ये बोलिये घट भीतरि । ते कौंण कौंण ।
What bandha (connection) should be connected? What bheda (penetration into the hidden) should be pierced? What mudrā (symbol of the Supreme) should be made a symbol of the Supreme?

मन बन्धि बांदिये पवन भेद भेदिये चिंद मुंद्रा सुंदिये।
The mind is a bandha (connecting), it must be bound (by the Supreme); pavan – the life force penetrating within – must be penetrated (by the Supreme); bindu (the essence of creation) is a symbol of the union mudrā, it must be in a symbolic union.

कौंण विमल बिचारै कौंण षिरे कौंण झरै।
Who is pure, who thinks? Who destroys? Who makes it rain?

मन विमल बिचारै सूरज षिरै चंद्र झरै ।
The mind is that pure one who is the basis of thinking, the Sun – who destroys, and the Moon – who sends rain.

हिंद पीर जिंद पीर ए बोलिये घट भीतरि | ते कौंण कौंण ।
Hindu pir (spiritual father), Muslim pir, they are said to be hidden within the body. Who are they?

हिंद पीर बोलिये मन, जिंद पीर बोलिये पवन ।
The Hindu pir (spiritual father) is said to be the mind, the Muslim spiritual father is said to be the pavan (vital force).

षेचरी भूचरी गुपत प्रगट ।  ते कौंण कौंण  ।
Khecarī (moving in the sky) and Bhūcarī (moving on the earth) are hidden and manifested. Who are they?

षेचरी बोलिये मन, भूचरी बोलिये पवन ।
The mind, it must be said, is Khecarī, and the vital wind is Bhūcarī.

गुपत  बोलिये ग्यांन, प्रगट बोलिये सरीर ।
Knowledge, let’s say, is that which is hidden, and the body is that which is manifested.

सरीरारथ परमारथ, गूढारथ । ते कौंण कौंण ।
The truth of the body, the highest truth of the body, the hidden truth, who are they?

सरीरारथ बोलिये सरीर भेद, परमारथ बोलिये प्रांण भेद, गूढारथ बोलिजै विचार ।
The truth of the body, it must be said, – what is realised within the body. The highest truth – what is realised within prāṇa. The hidden truth – what is in the investigation or vicāra.

चारी पीर बोलिजै घट भीतरि । ते कौंण कौंण ।
Please tell about the four masters within the body. Who are they?

मन मच्छिंद्र नाथ, पवन ईश्वर नाथ, चेतना चौरंगी नाथ, ग्यांन  श्री गोरष नाथ,
Mind is Macchindranāth, vital force is Īśvaranāth, intellect is Caurangīnāth, and wisdom is Gorakṣanāth.

चारी तकबीर बोलिजै घट भीतरि। ते कौंण कौंण ।
Tell about four functions within our psychophysics. What are they?

 दृष्टि कहै क्यूं लीजै दीजै, सुरति कहै क्यूं, बोलिये सुणिये, नासका कहै क्यूं सुगन्ध बास परमालादि लीजै, जिभ्या कहै क्यूं  षाटी मीठी षाइये ।
Vision – which receives and projects; memory – which perceives speech and which allows to speak; nose – which catches aromas; tongue – which takes on pleasant tastes.

चारी दिसा बोलिये धन भीतरी । ते कौंण कौंण ।
Please tell about four sides within the body. What are they?

सबद बोलिये उत्तर, पवन बोलिये पछिम I दृष्टि बोलिये दषिण सुरति बोलिये पूरब ।
Speech “sabad”, I must say – the north; life force – west; south is sight, remembrance is east.

चारि आप कला बोलिये घट मीतरि |  ते कौंण कौंण ।
Please tell about the four manifestations within the body. What are they?

ऊरम धूरम जोति ज्वाला |
This is a wave (of vibrations), smoky or atmospheric substance, light and fire.

ऊरम बोलिये मन, धूरम बोलिये पवन, जोति बोलिये नेत्र, ज्वाला बोलिये श्रवन |
The mind, it must be said, is the wave, the atmospheric substance is the life force,
the light is the eyes, hearing is the fire.

चारि षांणी बोलिजै घट मीतरि । ते कौंण कौंण ।
Tell about four forms within the body (evolutionary memory). What are they?

स्वेतरज अंडरज जेरज उदबीरज।
These are birth from sweat, birth from an egg, birth from a womb, and birth from a seed.

सेतरज बोलिये हाड़, जेरज वोलिये बीरज, अंडरज बोलिये नेत्र, उदबीरज बोलिये रोमावाली ।
Bones, it is said, are born from sweat, semen – from the womb,
eyes – from the egg, and hair – from seed.

चारि बांणीं बोलिये घट मीतरि ।ते कौंण कौंण ।
What are the four kinds of speech within the body?

सहज संजम सुपाइ अतीथ |
This is the one that is innate – “sahaja”; the one that is fully assembled – “saṃyama” (often interpreted as control); the speech that is “svayambhū” – manifested itself (anāhata), and transcendental.

सहज बोलिये सरीर, संजम बोलिये पवन, अतीत बोलिये परम पद ।
महा मुद्रा महां अजाच नग्री महां जोगणी स्वयंभू बोलिये ।
The body should be called “sahaja” (innate), the life force should be called “saṃyama”, the Supreme state should be called transcendental. The great symbol is “mahāmudrā”, the great abode without poverty, the great yogini – “svayambhū”.

जे बांणीं षांणी कौ  बिचारैं  ते निराकार बोलिये, ऊँकार  मधे जोति जांणियै
ऊरम धूरम जोति ज्वाला । भेदौ रवि  का चारयूं  कला ।
Those who meditate on these categories of speech should be called unmanifested. You must know that there is light within Omkara. There is a wave (of vibration), atmosphere, light, and fire. Penetrate the four manifestations of the Sun.

मन करि हस्ती बिमल जल पीवै । द्वै  पष चीन्है  तौ सोलह कला जीवै।
बारह कला सूरज, सोलह कला चंद।
The elephant of mind drinks pure water. Comprehend both poles of life in sixteen manifestations (it is likely said about tithi and two pakṣas). Sun has twelve manifestations and Moon has sixteen.

गुरू जिसका लषावै नहीं चेला तिसका अंध ।
बारह  कला सूरज की, ताकौ  गुण घट भीतरि  ब्यापै । ते कौंण कौंण ।
If the Guru shows nothing, then the disciple is blind. Sun has twelve manifestations and they permeate the body. What are they?

चिंता, तरंग , डयम, माया, परग्रहणै, परपंच , हेत , बुधि ।
काम, क्रोध, लोभ; दृष्टि ये बारह कला सूरज की बोलिये ।
Anxiety (various thoughts), fluctuation, involvement in manifestations, capture by the external, phenomenality, motivation, wakefulness, passion, anger, greed, perception of the visible. These are the twelve aspects of Surya.

सोलह कला चंद्रमा की ताकै  गुण घट भीतरी राषैं | ते कौंण कौंण ।
There are also sixteen manifestations of the Moon, permeating the whole body within. What are they?

सांति, नृवर्त, क्षिमा, नृमल, निहचल, ग्यांन, सरूप, पद,
नृबांण, नृबिष, निरंजन, अहार , निद्रा, मैथुन, बाई, अमृंत 
ये सोलह  कला चन्द्रमा  की बोलिये। 
Peace, detachment from mundane, patience, purity, stability, wisdom, perfect form, perfect state, nirvāṇa (silence of worldly aspirations), fearlessness, spotlessness, satiety, rest (sleep), intercourse, breath, elixir. These are the sixteen aspects of Moon.

ए चारि कला सूरज की साधै तो सोलह कला चंद्रमा की पावै।
Those who are masters of the manifestations of Sun, they will attain the sixteen manifestations of Moon.

एती एक रोमावली ग्रंथ जोग कथितं श्री गोरषनाथ ।
Gorakshanath explained the book on yoga called “Romāvalī” (Hairline).

Meaning of Ādeś salutation

There is its own Sūkṣma-veda in the Nātha Sampradāya, which is called the Gorakh Sabadī. There is also the Gorakṣopaniṣad and analogues of Vedanta (ātma-jñāna, brahma-jñāna), the Gorakh Gītā, the Gorakh Purāṇa and the Gorakh Tantra. Of course, all of this often differs from what most people see in it, and although essentially it is one whole, it should be better discussed separately. There is also its own nirukta – the interpretation of terms. For instance, according to nirukta, a term ‘ādeś‘ means the following:

आदेश नाम योग – योगेश्वरों का, नाम सत रुप नाथों का, आदेश नाम पूर्ण सिद्धों का आदेश नाम आत्मा, परमात्माऔर जीवात्मा की एकता का । आदेश नाम एक अन्तर आत्मा से दूजा अन्तर आत्मा में योग बनया ज्योति स्वरुप आत्मा को नमस्कार । आदेश नाम अद्वैत आत्मा आदेश नाम निर्गुण निराकार अविनाशी आत्मा को इतना आदेश शब्द निरुक्त सम्पूर्ण भया श्री नाथ जी गुरूजी को आदेश ।

Ādeś is the name of the Lords of yoga and yoga itself, the true state of the Nāthas. Ādeś is the name of realised siddhas, of the unity of ātma (an individual soul as it is), paramātma (an omnipresent soul) and jivātma (a soul incarnated in a body). Ādeś is the name of the unity of a soul (within a person) with another soul, reverence for the luminous nature of the soul. Ādeś is the name of the non-dual ātman, which is beyond qualities, formless and indestructible. This is the full interpretation of the term ‘ādeś’. May there be respect and will (teaching) of Śrī Nātha ji Guruji!

However, according to the Machhindra Gorakh Bodh (6), we see the following explanation of the term ‘ādeś‘:

मछिंद्र: अवधू आदेस का अनुषम उपदेस, सुंनि का निरंतर बास ।
सबद का परचा गुरु कथंत मछिन्द्र नाथ ।

Oh disciple, the guidance (upadeśa) in the immeasurable ‘ādeś’ transmission (anusham), where the infinity (nirantar) lives (vāsa) in the emptiness (śūnya). Speech is a manifestation of the guru (śabd kā paricaya guru) (obviously here is the connection of the guru with vāgbhava bīja “aiṃ”), This is what guru Matsyendranāth says.

That is, ādeś or, in Sanskrit, ādeśa means a certain transmission from a guru to a disciple or from a deity to a practitioner in a special form, where an instruction and the highest essence, or the meaning are inseparable. That is the subtle knowledge which guru reveals in a student, which is, in fact, the yogic experience. Since that is not an ordinary knowledge obtained in universities, it is rather revealed in a meditative state, in a state of utmost peace of mind and feelings, so this transmission may often be a non-verbal one. It frequently occurs even in silence between some yogis or gurus and those who receives śaktipāt from them. This is a relationship of a kind that a student understands a guru giving only a small hint, half the words, on a deeply intuitive level. As a rule, that is accompanied by the deep psychophysical transformation of the student’s nature.

We can find this term in other sources, for example, in Vedanta, in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (2.3.6):

अथात आदेशो ‘नेति नेति’।

So, the instruction, which is not this (and) not that.
(That is, the truth is outside of the scope of discursive thinking, the nature of the ātman is beyond any description).

Probably, this is where the origin of the Nāthas‘ focus on freedom from the inadequacy of duality or even non-duality, from any extreme, which is destructive and disharmonious comes from.

Thus, ādeś (or ādeśa) means the transfer of essential knowledge, for the sake of the deep spiritual transformation, where a disciple, being in a state of deep respect and utmost attentiveness, both in relation to himself and the guru, discovers the silent truth. We may call it the highest form of the mystical experience, leading to the total transformation, the transformation from a person to a God-man. This is the state of yoga in its essential, unified form and also in its many basic aspects, therefore there could be a connection with any kind of traditional yoga or religious practices here.

Many may consider the greeting ‘Ādeś!‘ among nāthas as an analogue to the well-known ‘namaste‘. ‘Namah‘ – means ‘respect’ and ‘te‘ – means ‘you’. However, as I see it, ‘ādeś‘ has a deeper meaning, it is rather the very essence of ‘namaste‘. By namaste, you honor a guru or a deity or someone you have respect for. It is kind of a pūjā. But why a pūjā is performed? It is performed for the sake of the inclusion in the nature of the divine and the descent of prasādam or śaktipāt. Here ādeś is, rather, the second stage, following the namaste, it is not just a pūjā as an action, but it is a successful performance. Such efficiency actually means staying in goodness, sometimes it can reveal some siddhis as accompanying side effects. Although the siddhis are definite indicators, in this case, it is not them that matters, but the state of siddha puruṣa, a pure perfect being. Whatever the pūjās are performed: vedic, purāṇic, tantric (including non-standard ones, like pañchamakāras), none of them have any meaning if there is no pure grace (prasādam). Therefore, ādeś, for a yogin, is a transforming inner spiritual purity and knowledge, it is more important than any, even the most seemingly exclusive religious techniques. This is not to say that they are good or bad, they may or may not work, as for example, a computer may be useful when it is connected to the Internet and, moreover, to electricity. In the same way, simply put, there is ādeś, in relation to all types of spiritual techniques and systems.

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.

Forceful yoga of the Sun and Moon

The term haṭha-yoga as “an effort or force” has very ancient roots associated not only with the ferocious cults of Yoginis, but also with earlier sources originating in the Vedas. And the understanding of haṭha-yoga, as the yoga of the Sun and Moon, borrowed by such nāthas as Gorakṣanāth and others from the kaula tantra teachers like Matsyendranāth and Ādināth. If you look at popular dictionaries, then ह ‘ha’ is identical to Viṣṇu and Śiva, especially Bhairava, which indicates annihilation. In jyotiṣa (the Indian astrology), in addition to Mars and Saturn, the Sun can also be considered as one of the aggressive planets. In haṭha-yoga, the Sun is a fire eating the nectar of life and leading to death consequently. This is all symbolism indirectly indicating the Sun. If you look at ठ ‘ṭha‘, one of the meanings is “disk of the moon” in the Monier Williams’s dictionary. Also, the bīja ठं ‘ṭhaṃ‘ in tantrism is used as the mantra of nectar, which essentially indicates the nature of the Moon. The Moon has a creative nature, and the Sun is destructive one, together they harmonise each other.

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.

Mudrā in practices of yoga and tantra

We know that there are different types of mudrās in yoga, as well as in the practices of pūjā. What is common between them and what is the difference?

Let’s start with the grammatical meaning of the term. मुद्रा / mudrā originates from the root मुद् / mud, which could be of two classes. The first class चुरादिः / curādiḥ treats मुद् / mud as संसर्ग / saṃsarga – ‘mixing, unification’, which may in the sense coincide with the meaning of the terms ‘yoga’ or ‘bandha’ (binding, unification). Another class is भ्वादिः / bhvādiḥ, in which the root मुद् is interpreted as हर्ष / harṣa – ‘joy’. That could shed light on the understanding of mudrās in general, in spite of all their differences.

Then, what could be considered as mudrās? Firstly, there are yogic mudrās, such as mahāmudrā, mahābandha, etc. Secondly, there are hand mudrās, which are mostly used in pūjās in India. Thirdly, the mudrās as certain states of consciousness, for example, khecarīmudrā as continuous awareness, not as curling of the tongue back into the mouth above the palate. Although some of these mudrās may have names similar to ones in haṭha-yoga, but mudrā could be a state of consciousness, let’s say, as mahāmudrā in Buddhism. Fourthly, various forms of the Goddesses are called mudrās. Fifthly, money with certain images, signatures on documents, certain signs that convey some important meaning are called mudrās. Sixthly, certain attributes are sometimes called mudrās. For instance, in the Vaiṣṇava Śrī  Sampradāya such attributes, as a sacred thread (yajñopavīta), ashes (bhasma), skull (kapāla) and others, are also called mudrās. Or, in the Nātha Sampradāya – earrings, symbolising the archetype of Śiva, are also sometimes called mudrās. The attributes, which are hold by Deities are also sometimes called mudrās. Seventhly, in Kaśmīr Śaivism, Abhinavagupta divides mudrās into three categories: 1) performed by the body (dehodbhava) mentioned above, 2) states of consciousness (manobhava), which were also mentioned above, 3) he also names mantras, as vaghavamudrā.

For further clarification, I would like to give one more example, this time from a Western tradition. Some Greek philosophers, Aristotle, Plato for instance, had such a view regarding the genesis that there is the supreme consciousness or spirit, and there is an inert and lifeless matter. So, when the supreme consciousness comes into contact with that matter, then forms reflecting the paramount plan of the Creator arise. I think, it considers the meaning of the term ‘mudrā’ in a right way. Each created form is a transmitter and a reflection of the supreme consciousness, therefore everything in the world is arranged, everything interacts with everything and everything is in its place. That very well reflects a concept such as ṛta from the Vedas or the later one – dharma. When you peer into the essence of phenomena, through that you can come to the awareness from an ultimate source.

So, what do all these mudrās have in common, despite all the differences? All of them contain a certain, highly significant archetype. Even if we practise, for instance, such mudrās as mahāmudrā from haṭha-yoga or viparītakaraṇī, these are not just body poses. Of course, nowadays, most haṭha-yoga practitioners utilise these practices without any attempt to go deeper into their essence. But, if you take a look at the descriptions of all yoga techniques, then the mudrās are described in a poetic, colorful language there, and very few people understand that we can meditate on the very description of these methods. Thus, jānu-śīrṣāsana ceases to be just a body pose, when you realise that one leg represents the solar channel and the other – the lunar one, etc.

Probably, you know that sometimes we can understand each other without words, on the level of gestures or glance. Why is that so? Because, all these levels transmit the meaning and precisely that element of ‘meaning’, especially when it comes to the ultimate meaning, makes them all mudrās. So, the speech that has become logos, which tries to convey a very high meaning, becomes both a mantra and a mudrā. A nāth, who wears kuṇḍalas (attributes of Śiva), wears them realising himself as Śiva and he never takes them off, since they are forever, eternal, just like Śiva himself. Kuṇḍalas are a symbol of your meditation, or of something that is beyond sleep, wakefulness, and generally any worldly change. Although of course, not everyone knows that meaning, even among those who receive and wear them. Unfortunately, that is not explained to everyone who receives them. And if there is something high and meaningful, you never remain indifferent, and if that is really so, then you cannot be insincere. A mudrā is something that affects you very deeply, you can attain samādhī and samādhī itself could also be a mudrā. If it is a level of essentiality, the differences are conditional there. A mudrā instantly makes you both attentive and responsible. For example, you signed an agreement that you will be going to work at a certain time, put a signature there. It connects you with something, because there is also bandhana. But, this bandha does not have a negative meaning, because the other meaning of the root and the term as a whole is something that gives joy. If there is a high meaning and the joy associated with it, then it becomes a practice of mudrā. Hand mudrās, with which you resonate with deities, thereby creating a subtle and deep channel of communication, work on the same principle. That is the use of the essential meaning displayed in a sign, in this case, performed by various positions of hands. If there is a mantra, and you engage with it and get into its higher meaning, then it becomes mudrā too. If mudrās activate a connection with the Divine in you, that connection gives you perfections, therefore it is believed that mudrās grant siddhis.

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.