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.

Symbolism of the Chinnamastā image

Today is an interesting day, the birthday of Nṛsiṃha, the incarnation of Viṣṇu, and of the Goddess Chinnamastā. According to the Toḍala-tantra, the Ten Mahāvidiyās are associated with the Ten Viṣṇu avatārs.

What do the images of Chinnamastā and Nṛsiṃha have in common? According to one legend, Nṛsiṃha came to destroy the demon HiraṇyakaśipuHiraṇyakaśipu, performing austerities, asked Brahmā not to be killed either outdoors or indoors, either on the ground or in the air, either by humans or animals. Then Viṣṇu appeared in the form of a half-man and a half-lion, he killed the demon on the porch of his palace, placing him over his knee. So the demon was killed in a way that he did not expect. There is also a continuation of this story,  in which Nṛsiṃha gets drunk on the blood of the killed demon and becomes infected with it. After that, Śiva appears in the form of Śarabheśvara and neutralises the blood of the demon in NṛsiṃhaŚarabheśvara is depicted not  just as a lion, but with wings, i.e. he has a great  ability of manifestation in various  realms, since he is able to  fly through the air. Two Goddesses appear from his wings, one is Pratyaṅgirā and the other is Śūlinī Durgā, both of which are related to the elimination of the negative influence or witchcraft on the practitioner. In fact, Śarabheśvara is nothing more than an enhanced form of Nṛsiṃha. I heard from Indian tantrikas that there are no contradictions here, because Viṣṇu and Śiva are  fused in the form of Harihara.

If you  look at the  image of Chinnamastā, you will see that it stands on Kāma, the God of sex, who is in the intercourse with his companion Rati (Goddess of passion). Thus, Chinnamastā  gets energy from passion, but in its essence, this passion is also self-transformation or sublimation. Chinnamastā chopped off her own head and holds it in her hand, while her head drinks a stream of blood from the body. Two other streams are drunk by her two companions. This is a symbol of the three channels, where Chinnamastā herself symbolises suṣumṇā and the other two Goddesses – the channels iḍā and piṅgala. In other words, Chinnamastā is a certain single reality that is present in all channels, in the power of passion and creation. In fact, it is a single indestructible force within every living form. Her mantra is the same as the Vajravārāhī mantra in Buddhism,  who is also known there as the Goddess Khecharī (mudrā) of white color. The name Chinnamastā in the mantra is “Vajravairocanī” (‘the shining lightning’), and the term vajra  could also mean “indestructibility”.

From my experience of worshiping Chinnamastā, I can say that this form is associated with a deep comprehension of one element or aspect of self, through which it is possible to penetrate into all others. You  kind of unite them and go beyond them. In yoga, for example, you exhale smoothly (rechaka) and automatically comprehend the essence of the correct inhalation (pūraka). Through both of them you comprehend the essence of the retention (kumbhaka). Kumbhaka – from the root कुम्ब् / kumb ( something which encompasses, embodies in itself). Therefore,  a  vessel is often a symbol of female genitals  (yonī), from the root यु / yu, – something which connects, forms and holds in itself. Yonī  could also mean something that is associated with  various forms of birth, all creation comes from it, all forms of life, they dissolve in it. Kumbha or a vessel is a symbol of the body, both individual and the body of the universe, all life (amṛta) and the whole universe is in it. A vessel is a symbol of the unity of external and internal space (vyoman), the void inside  and outside a vessel is one in its essence. Therefore, there is one single reality in all our bodies. We  could say that these are parts: inhalation, exhalation, retention, like other parts of yoga, besides prāṇāyāmaāsanapratyāhāradhāraṇāyamaniyama, etc. All of them are one single sādhanā, one yoga, like other yogas (rājakarmajñānalaya). Unfortunately, people have separated all these methods now, although they have one goal and one reality. Once you comprehend one aspect well, you automatically come to the comprehension of its inextricable connection with  all others. Chinnamastā is a very paradoxical symbol, it is a symbol of cutting off all worldly things and at the same time it is a symbol of presence in everything. It is the transcendental, indestructible,  radiant emptiness that generates an abundance of life forms and is present in each such form.  Surely, she is associated with the complete absence of oneself in something, but also with the complete presence of oneself there. Chinnamastā is a symbol of spiritual death in which there is no conditioning by births, she is also a symbol of the fullness of life and the infinite wealth of life. Fear of death and fear of life are usually related. A yogi is one who dies for the world and through this death he is resurrected to a new vision of life in all its beauty and fullness. In this regard, Chinnamastā is a part of the Kālī pantheon (Kālīkūla), because Kālī is connected with time, which is divided into parts, into segments. The term Kālī is feminine from kāla (‘time’), which is  masculine.  It comes from the root कल् (kal),  which is the first gaṇa (group of roots) of ten in Pāṇini, and means सङ्ख्यान (saṅkhyāna – “to count”) , and कला (kalā) is from the same root – “a part of something  general, art, etc.” She teaches to control prāṇa, and through the management of prāṇa leads to going beyond time or death.

 The meaning of the circle principle (the cakra)

According to the Pāṇini’s grammar, the term cakra comes from the root कृkṛ, meaning “movement”. Abhinavagupta, in the Tantrāloka (āhnika 19, ślokas 106-107), explains that the term is really from the root kṛ, but it also means vikāsa (expansion), tṛpti (satisfaction), paśotkartanātkṛtiśaktitaḥ (what cuts off the fetters and what is the power of activity). Further, he says that the term is connected with the root कस् / kas or कः / kaḥ, which is translated as “who,” by which denote Ātman, Brahman, light and much more in different sources. Abhinavagupta chooses the meaning of light, pleasure.

Based on these sources, I would deduce the following: kaḥ is Brahman or Ātman, and , which means “movement”, is Śakti. Since Brahman is infinite in nature, no matter what energies emanate from Him, they close on Him forming reverse or circular motions. This also has the principle of movement, repetition – japa in Sanskrit. Since this is natural for Śakti and Brahman, it can be called ajapa-japa. The circle symbolises infinity, it evenly embraces all sides, without emphasis on any one relative to the rest, hence probably, the principle of vairāgya, or liberation from fetters (pāśa) comes. Uniformity is possible only when there is a center in a circle or bindu, which means Ātman. Accordingly, if you take the cakras in the subtle body, then these are different spheres or levels of comprehension of Ātman. For example, Gorakṣanāth, in the Gorakṣa-vacana-saṃgraha (93-100), gives the practice of comprehending the Ātman in each cakra of your body. Not only cakras are arranged by the circle principle, but also channels of the subtle body, the movement of prāṇa in the iḍā and piṅgala occurs in a spiral. The circular movements are harmonious, they generate and accumulate prāṇa, while all “broken” and “ragged” ones (that are reflection of weak control and awareness) – destroy and waste power. Therefore, the cakra or cakras are essential elements of our spiritual development.

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.

 

About Bhuvaneśwari

On the Bhuvaneśwari jayantī I want to write something about her famous and very significant mantra ह्रीँ (hrīm̐), which is sometimes called Mahāmāyabīja (the seed syllable that includes all dimensions). According to the Vedas, the first sound of the original yajña and creation was the famous praṇava Om. Out of it three mātras () three worlds arose, it is also a form of anāhatanāda creating or absorbing the creation. The practice of nāda is very significant for layayoga. However, each tradition has its own forms of praṇava, for example, in the Śаivasampradāya it is the bīja हुं (huṃ), in the Kaulasampradāya it is the bīja ऐँ (aim̐), in the Trika tradition it is the bīja सौः (sauḥ), and for the Śаktas the praṇava will be ह्रीँ (hrīm̐). Since so many do not at all distinguish the concept of tantra with śaktiupāsanā, in India praṇava is often associated with tantrism. Thus, the Goddess Bhuvaneśwari is the Mother of all worlds, of different dimensions (bhuvanas) and is very significant for Śaktism in general.

Alternative view on Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa

Speaking of Rādhā, we cannot leave out her śaktimānKṛṣṇa. As you know, a number of Tantras correlate Kṛṣṇa with Kālī, who is manifested through him. However, Tantras are an immense ocean of the most diverse possibilities, multidimensional perception of apparently one and the same phenomenon. So for example, according to the Tantra-rāja-tantra (34/11), the Goddess Lalitā Tripurasundarī is also manifested through Kṛṣṇa:

कदाचिदाद्या ललिता पुंरूपा कृष्णविग्रहा |
kadācidādyā lalitā puṃrūpā kṛṣṇavigrahā |

Sometimes (kadācit) the primordial (ādyā) Lalitā appears in the masculine form of Kṛṣṇa (puṃrūpā kṛṣṇavigrahā).

It may seem contradictory for those, who are used to dividing the  worshipping of Lalitā and Kālī in a strict way, but Kālī  could also be a part of Śrīkula. When through Śrīkula you obtain the experience of fullness, you come to the liberation from limitations of time, for which Kālī is responsible. Therefore, she is also inseparable from Tripurasundarī. We can say that Kāmakalā Kālī (the highest form of Kālī), worshiped in Urdhvāmnāya (of Kālī–kula krama), is most strongly associated with Tripura. Or, we can consider Tripurasundarī itself as Rakta Kālī (Red Kālī). Thus, we can see one reality from different perspectives.

The unity of Śrī and Kālī-kula is  revealed in the story described in the kaula text the Rādhā Tantra. In short, it describes a long story of how Viṣṇu with the blessings of Tripurasundarī is embodied in the form of Kṛṣṇa, and Lakṣmī in the form of Rādhārānī (in fact, she herself is considered as a manifestation of Tripurasundarī). They both worshiped Kālī and also Kāmākhya, where Kṛṣṇa invokes Kālī into the Rādhā’s body. The first part of the Rādhā-tanra describes the famous mantra of Lalitā Pancadaśī, it also speaks of Ten Mahāvidyās, of which Tripurasundarī is the main one (tasmād daśasu vidyāsu pradhānaṃ tripurā parā). These Mahāvidyās are worshiped in a special way in Śrīyantra by experienced practitioners. The Rādhā Tantra speaks of her as giving realisation of the four puruṣarthas (dharmārthakāmamokṣadāyinī), and because of her worship in kaula-sādhana, Kṛṣṇa realised all siddhis. We know many stories about the successes of Kṛṣṇa, and all His siddhis, according to the Rādhā Tantra, were achieved through this upāsana. The text also frequently mentions  the term ‘yoga’ in relation to tantric sādhana; in the second part of the RT (ślokas 3-4), the union of Kṛṣṇa and Śakti (Rādhā) is called Śakti Yoga. The famous Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra can also be found in there. There is also a description of the preliminary practice of purification (karṇa-shuddhi), the ability to purely hear the tantric mantras of Mahāvidyā. Periodically, recommendations for contemplating sacred places in one’s own body are given there (Ch. 5, ślokas 11-12 or Ch. 14, ślokas 1-2), for example, Govardhan Hill in sahasrāracakra, etc. It also refers to the kula-kuṇḍalinī awakening through yoni-mudrā (Ch. 15 / 19-21). Apparently, the text speaks of yoni-mudrā as the body of the Goddess, rather than the technical practice of haṭha-yoga in the likeness of ‘ṣaṇmukhi–mudrā’. Although, for a long time, it is no secret that the essential elements of tantra are also connected with many practices of the well-known and popular haṭha–yoga, the essence of which is currently understood by  a very small number  from millions of practitioners.

From my point of view, Gaudiya Vaiṣṇavism was once influenced  exactly by vāmācāra, but in a Vaiṣṇava Śakti format. In the  course of time, most likely, everything came down to formal substitutions (anukalpa) and symbolism, so the doctrine became more refined.

Today is the Rādhāṣṭamī festival associated with Śrī Rādhika, Śakti of Kṛṣṇa.

My congratulations and blessings to everyone. Jay Śrī Rādhe!