Does anyone else find any or all of the below.... uncomfortable?
- The subtle body physiology of 72,000 channels (nadis) with 10 primary channels, of which three are the most important (the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna)
- The analogizing of those three primary channels to the three radiances of the sun, moon, and fire.
- The explanation of the functions of the ten vital energies (prana-vayus)
- The installation and activation of mantras in the subtle centers of the body.
- The mantra of the “recitation of the Self” (hamsa, so’ham) occurring naturally 21,600 times a day
- The opening of the heart center analogized to a blossoming lotus
- The ascension of the soul through the central channel (sushumna) by means of pranayama, dharana, and dhyana.
- The description of the primal Goddess who affects this process as the “coiled power”
- The fructification of yoga-sadhana, known as the experience of “nectar-pervasion.”
Recently I've been struggling to get my head around questions concerning the Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipka. Both texts have been constantly recommended in the Krishnamacharya Ashtanga Vinyasa traditions and, for want of a better word, lineages. And yet I tend to find them if not contradictory then... at odds. This is not surprising, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras appear to be at least 500 years earlier than the Hatha texts and is generally assumed to be a collection or summery and commentary ( Vyasa and Patanjali are often equated) on practices that reach back much further and into the mists of oral tradition. Raja Yoga it seems did quite nicely thank you very much for perhaps as long as a thousand years before the Hatha practices came along ( although there is the suggestion that Raja yoga was lost and rediscovered by the Hatha yogi's).
Hatha yoga, it seems to be argued, derives from two threads, Tantra on the one hand and Raja yoga on the other or at least Patanjali's Raja yoga is still assumed to be the ultimate goal of hatha but practices based on and developed along tantra lines are assumed to be required in preparation for the attainment of Raja yoga.
Do I think I will 'encounter (or rather liberate ) Purusha' as indicated in Patanjali, I have no idea nor am I the least bit interested one way or the other, it's enough to focus on working towards ceasing the fluctuations of the mind, I'll worry about what is or is not then discerned should that ever happen for an extended period. Yoga, and Samkhya was and is to my mind radical enquiry and in that sense I seem to lean more towards Patanjali than Svātmārāma.
But where does that leave us as Ashtangi's, is Ashtanga Vinyasa a Hatha or a Raja Yoga practice... or both? Interestingly Krishnamacharya would often indicate which approach to certain asana was the Hatha approach and which the Raja. Krishnamacharya seems to have been quite happy to bring in certain hatha ideas or descriptions/instructions where and when it suited or when he felt them to be beneficial, and yet at the same time he was prepared to reject others. For Krishnamacharya the Yoga Sutras seems to be be the most important text. As long as other texts didn't go against Patanjali he seems to have been prepared to consider and often employ them. Hatha yoga however seems to play a greater role in Pattabhi Jois' presentation perhaps or am I imagining it.
"Sri Krishnamacharya taught Yoga Sutras, Hatayogapradipika, Yoga Yagnyavalkya and other lesser known hatayoga texts like suta samhita, siva samhita, gherunda samhita and a few others with equal facility. However he held the Yoga sutras as the 'bible' of Yoga. Most of the hatayoga texts especially Yoga Yagnyavalkya fall inline with the yogs sutras but some procedures- some hatayoga procedures in other hatayoga texts- create a conflict in the mind of the yogi vis a vis the Sutras. Hatayogapradipika has some procedures that appear glaringly obnoxious to the Rajayogi, like Vajroli and some exaggerated claims according to my Guru. So he would ask the students to be watchful and eschew those practices that violate the basic tenets of Rajayoga.I thought he found both Hatayoga pradipika and Yogayagyaavalkya very useful in their own way. The yoga sutra does not explain many aspects of the yogasadhana like asanas pranayama in as much detail as the other hatayoga texts. YS if it starts explaining every aspect of yoga including the hundreds of asanas and pranayama it would have become very voluminous and so Patanjali leaves it to other texts. "anuktam anyato grahyam" If something is not explained in one text it should be obtained from other complimentary texts-- that is the rule. And sutras aim at brevity". from Anthony's Nudge - Ramaswami's Feb 2015 Newsletter
I came to Yoga through meditation and a background in philosophy. Eight years ago I'd started meditating again and decided I need some help with improving my flexibility for sitting. Ashtanga just happened to have the least offensive cover in the library. For a time the practice was just exercise before sitting but I came to find the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice meditative in and of itself... up to a point ( I still firmly believe that despite the focus on breathing while practicing, the Ashtanga vinyasa Sequences are no substitute for pranayama or despite the meditative aspect, no substitute for sitting). I was unsure about the concepts of bandhas, prana, sushumna and nadis, the subtle body but came to terms with bandhas as having subtle muscular effects rather than anything esoterically energetic.
As with most of us I became obsessed with asana for a time and pranayama practices also but more and more recently I've wanted to simplify my practice, drastically reduce the number of asana and stay in those I do practice longer (Ashtanga Vinyasa only became fixed sequences when Pattbhi Jois was asked to present a four year college syllabus based on Krishnamacharya's table of more flexible groups of asana and subroutines, around 1940), explore the breath more, the mental focus. A few asana, one or two pranayamas (mainly nadi sodhana) and a longer sit have become more attractive to me and I've begun to wonder if I actually find any of the practices from Hatha Yoga Pradipka (other than a penchant for Mudra) necessary for my practice and/or conception of what yoga as a methodology is for me.
The question is often asked, why did Patanjali include so few asana in his Yoga Sutras, but perhaps the question should rather be, why did later texts feel the need to include so many.
I've started to wonder more and more if we can strip it back, separate the Hatha practices or at least those influenced by tantra ideas off and return to a less conceptually cluttered Patanjali Raja Yoga. The second extended quote/passage below suggests that it might be, that no other than Swami Hariharānanda Aranya, who wrote my favourite go-to commentary on the Yoga Sutras may have managed it.
Of course I also find Patanjali's yoga and Samkhya philosophical problematic but it feels more like an ongoing discussion, hermeneutics whereas Hatha seems to be more based on (tantric) ideas that one is seemingly supposed to take as given.... I struggle with that.
Of course this seems to put me into conflict with Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi jois...the whole Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition (or does it and if so to what extent). It may be a misguided and fruitless enquiry, throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water but then the history of yoga is often confused and contradictory. To even begin to explore and discuss this no doubt requires a great deal of scholarship when all I ( and perhaps you) really want to spend my/our time doing is to breathe and sit. However this is an excellent site http://theluminescent.blogspot.jp/ for dipping toes in.
This is very much work in progress and below are just two extensive quotes that I've come across this week that give some kind of horizon to the enquiry and save me pulling out quotes I've saved here and there all overt he place, it's a first post but perhaps part of my Developing a home Practice series ( part 35?).
"The subtle body physiology was taken directly from the Kaubjika tradition of Tantra
The practices of hatha yoga and modern yoga (other than concentrative meditation) can`t be found in the Yoga Sutra except for the brief mention of pranayama, whereas in Tantric texts we have a detailed description of many pranayamas. Yoga scholar Christopher Tompkins has done a ground-breaking study in which he documents dozens of passages in the Hundred Verses of Goraksa that are drawn from much earlier scriptures of Tantric yoga (specifically the influential Transcendence of Time). Material currently thought by some scholars (and the general public) to originate in hatha yoga that Tompkins proves comes from Tantric yoga includes the following:
The subtle body physiology of 72,000 channels (nadis) with 10 primary channels, of which three are the most important (the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna).
The analogizing of those three primary channels to the three radiances of the sun, moon, and fire.
The explanation of the functions of the ten vital energies (prana-vayus).
The installation and activation of mantras in the subtle centers of the body.
The mantra of the “recitation of the Self” (hamsa, so’ham) occurring naturally 21,600 times a day
The opening of the heart center analogized to a blossoming lotus
The ascension of the soul through the central channel (sushumna) by means of pranayama, dharana, and dhyana.
The description of the primal Goddess who affects this process as the “coiled power”
The fructification of yoga-sadhana, known as the experience of “nectar-pervasion.”
The subtle body physiology was taken directly from the Kaubjika tradition of Tantra
The subtle body physiology was taken directly from the Kaubjika tradition of Tantra
All of these concepts are taken by Gorsaka (the founder of Hatha Yoga) directly from The Transcendence of Time or from an intermediate source that faithfully transmitted them, such as the Kubjika Tantras.
There is NO direct connection between Patanjali’s pre-tantric yoga and the discipline of hatha-yoga, whose respective periods of ascendency are separated by well over a thousand years. In fact, many of the hatha-yoga traditions explicitly see themselves as inheriting practices from the tantric tradition. The Tantra itself had absorbed Patanjali’s practice teachings early on, though rejecting its philosophical dualism. In Patanajli’s system, there is a metaphysical dualism, which means that human beings are considered to be separate from God/dess. This contrasts starkly with Tantra’s assertion of non-dualism, which states that we are, in fact, co-existent with God/dess and direct embodiments of that same source. Additionally, in Patanjali’s system, the goal is to transcend the body and the world (kaivalya) in a kind of transcendenatlist escapsim. This again constrasts with Tantra’s goal, which is union with God/dess (mukti) and the enjoyment of earthly life and pleasure (bhukti). Such a distinction is important when considering the goal of your spiritual practice.
Though quotes from the Yoga-Sutras are very rare in tantric literature, none of the techniques the Yoga-Sutra taught were forgotten by the tantric tradition. The part of the Yoga-Sutra that appears again and again in the medieval period is its formulation of the eight primary practices of yoga (astanga-yoga). All eight were absorbed by the Tantra and passed on to hatha-yoga.
All of Patanjali`s practices get adopted and developed further in tantra. They clearly know his Ashtānga Yoga, they cite his Ashtānga Yoga, they discuss it and give much more elaborate instruction on it, as well as other practices that are not found in Patanjali, mainly visualization, subtle body practices and energy practices; that`s what Tantra adds that is very different from Patanjali. Tantra incorporates all of Patanjali`s methods but not his philosophy. Of course Tantra does incorporate the 25 tattvas (of Samkhya), but that became part of a much more elaborate philosophical system, that is very different from Patanjali, focusing on unity. There is no duality, not only in terms of spirit and matter, because of course the Tantra says this matter is just a denser form of energy, which Einstein ended up proving — so matter and energy are one and both are forms of spirit, a single divine consciousness in the Tantra philosophy. So, what we find quoted in Tantra is always just Patanjali`s practices, not his philosophy".
"...and for example Swami Hariharānanda did this commentary on Yoga Sutra in the early 20th century published by SUNY press. He is a rare example of somebody interpreting Patanjali and Sankhya with no tantric influence".
Ilya: My next question is about the Yoga Sutras and Tantric Yoga. It`s a very interesting question, because Yoga Sutras is the most well-known scripture in the West and most of the people, including modern Indian teachers use this scripture as the main philosophical text of yoga tradition, even teachers of Hatha Yoga, which is not described in Sutras. I`ve read that these are two completely different systems - like yoga of Rishis and Munis is close to the Vedic tradition and tantric yoga, which is different. I have doubts about this. There is an opinion that Sutras is a dualistic text - about division of Prakriti from Purusha and Tantric texts are about union. Do you think these are completely different traditions or merely two points of view on one subject?
Hareesh: This is a very important question that almost nobody understands the answer to, because of lack of research, lack of investigation, of real evidence. First of all we have to note that the modern interest in Patanjali`s Yoga Sutra is artificial in a certain sense and it comes from not realizing that the sources for modern yoga are to be found ultimately in Tantric yoga. The practices of hatha Yoga and modern yoga (other than concentrative meditation) can`t be found in Yoga Sutra, as you have pointed out, except for the brief mention of pranayama, whereas in Tantric texts we have a detailed description of many pranayamas. So if you look for the roots of modern practices it`s Hatha yoga type traditions and tantric yoga before that - but the problem is that by the time of the 19th century Tantra had an extremely bad reputation, because the original wisdom had been forgotten and Indians thought Tantra meant some kind of black magic. And British thought Tantra meant some kind of a weird sex and black magic. Nobody wanted to look at those texts, which are so many and so hard to read and they thought there is nothing valuable to read in them anyway. So, there is an artificial revival of Patanjali when modern practitioners looked for a scriptural authority in 19th and 20th century, and this revival obscures what really happened historically.
What happened was this - all of Patanjali`s practices get adopted and developed further in tantra. They clearly know his Ashtānga Yoga, they cite his Ashtānga Yoga, they discuss it and give much more elaborate instruction on it, as well as other practices that are not found in Patanjali, mainly visualisation subtle body practices and energy practices, that`s what Tantra adds that is very different from Patanjali. But they incorporate all of Patanjali`s work and they don`t incorporate his philosophy. Of course Tantra does incorporate the 25 tattvas (of Samkhya), but that became part of a much more elaborate philosophical system, that is very different from Patanjali, focusing on unity. There is no duality not only in terms of spirit and matter, because of course the Tantra says this matter is just a denser form of energy, which Einstein ended up proving -- so matter and energy are one and both are forms of spirit, a single divine consciousness in the Tantra philosophy. So, what we find quoted in Tantra is always just Patanjali`s practices, not his philosophy. Result -- we get to the Hatha Yoga period and what is actually being taught in the times of Hatha Yoga is Patanjali`s eight limbs plus more, such as a 15-limb yoga, with the sources for the additional seven limbs being Tantras. Moreover, we can prove that people in the 16th-18th centuries didn`t differentiate between Patanjali and Hatha Yoga, because we have sources that say Patanjali`s yoga and Hatha Yoga are synonyms. What I`m trying to say is that Patanjali does not survive at all as a separate school, nobody is preserving Patanjali`s practices apart from the Tantra-influenced Hatha Yoga schools.
Ilya: But could it be the case that Patanjali didn`t even mean to establish a separate school but merely wrote a book on the subject?
Hareesh: Well, it`s hard to say now, records are too early, but what we do have is a list of 6 shad-darshanas, including Sānkhya and Yoga.
Ilya: But this shad-darshana list was created by Max Muller, some other darshana could also be found.
Hareesh: Yes, we do find this shad-darshana list in original sources, but you are right to say that this was not a dominant theme before Max Muller. In sources of the 16th century (like the Sarva-darśana-sangraha) we find mentions of Pātanjala school, but what I`m trying to say is that it was preserved by historians but is no longer practiced as a separate school. Let me correct myself, of course there were a few lineages that still kind of preserved Patanjali`s original dualistic spirit and matter separation and for example Swami Hariharānanda did this commentary on Yoga Sutra in the early 20th century published by SUNY press. He is a rare example of somebody interpreting Patanjali and Sankhya with no tantric influence. My point is that in general all these practice and ideas were being interpreted under Tantric influence, even Vedanta came under tantric influence, this is how powerful tantra was.