The Śiva Samhitā Pt.2
Within the lotus of the heart, Prāna, the life force, is said to have its seat. It is covered by the subtle operations (Vāsanas) of the Jīva and this life force, Prāna is further subdivided into ten principles modification of energy, being responsible for various operating forces within the body. This life force is subtly joined to the Jīva which is adorned with various desires accompanied by its past karmas and hence one will develop an Ego, Mind and Intellect accordingly.
To learn the subtle science of yoga this text, like most other texts on Hatha Yoga, stresses the importance of finding a proper Guru who can impart this Knowledge. Since there is no speculative theory of truth, but rather and active participation in how to purify ones inner awakening to greater spirit, it is highly recommended that the seeker find a Guru that will transmit this knowledge. The guru is therefore to be served and honored, because it is by his/her Grace one will avoid the many pitfalls in the world of Samsāra and awaken the receptivity to the higher self. Any person may of course begin the practice of Yoga, but the true adept will first learn to control his senses and then practice the yoga with faith, care and perseverance. There is no mentioning of the Yamas and Niyamas in this text, but the importance of sensual control and levels of restrain are repeatedly recommended for any success of yoga to come about.
When we come to the practice of Prānayāma no other practices are mentioned apart from Nādī-śhodhana (alternate nostril breathing, lit. purification of the nādis). We may allure to the fact that the text stress the importance of keeping the subtle science of Hatha Yoga a secret if it is to become fruitful (ŚS 5.207 & HYP 1.11). However when the text describes the four stages of Prānayāma (the Ārambha, Ghata, Paricaya and Nispatti Avastha) we can only assume that the text conveys real experiences rather than mere speculation. It is impossible to say, but it is noteworthy to observe that the gradual immersion into greater absorption of spirit, when the fluctuation of air is finally restrained into the center of the spinal column, that all karmas are annihilated, the mystical union of inner sound takes place and the Jīva finally drinks its own nectar of immortality.
The chapter concludes by stating that there are 84 postures of various modes, but only refers to it in a passing and then mentions only four postures of principal importance with their respective benefits. There is no mention of any krīyas or āsanas as a means of purification. We may safely assume that the four āsanas (Siddhāsana, padmāsana, Ugrāsana, and Svastikāsana ) are primarily mentioned for the purpose of Prānayāma and meditation.
The purpose of the mudras is to seal the energy from within, gradually direct ones Prāna towards the base of the central axis, and then make the dormant Kundalinī enter the Brahmārandhra, the inmost hollow of the Susumnā channel. As the Prāna moves up through the spine and one is able to pierce all the knots and energy centers, the body and mind eventually experience a new support from within that is not subject to external conditioning, but is rather centering and harmonizing to ones being. Each of the Chakras is associated with various physical, psychological, emotional and psychic patterns and as these centers fully blossom with their inherent power, the individual will experience a heightened state of bliss and refinement. The final destination of the Prāna is the Sahasrāra Cakra, to unite the dynamic Goddess Kundalinī n with the Pure Consciousness of Shiva. When this union is finally experienced, the Jīva merges with the Paramātman and is free from the cycle of life and death.
According to all texts, these mudras are to be kept secret, like a box of jewels, and will only awaken successfully under the grace of a Guru. There are indeed many mudras, but the ones mentioned here are the same ten as in HYP. We may assume the names of the mudras are mentioned according to difficulty: Mahāmudra, Mahābandha, Mahavedha, Kechari, Jālāndhara, Mūlabandha, Viparītakārana, Uddyāna, Vajroli and Śakticālana.
Interestingly enough, there is a detailed explanation on how to perform each mudra, but always under the grace of ones beloved Guru. There is further elaboration on the subtle effects of the life force when it is harnessed through the practice of mudras. Explanations are also given on the rewards that await the practitioner when he learns to master each one of the mudras. The Vajroli mudra is conveniently left out and no explanation is given. Each of the mudras are associated with levels of purification and as this process becomes more internalized, no matter what the practitioner engages with, s/he is suppose to see divinity in all that is rather than in mundane existence.
In the final chapter, a warning is given about some of the obstacles of yoga. In the traditional manner, men are urged to watch out for the company of women and not to engage in excessive enjoyments through an extravagant lifestyle. It is noteworthy that they also discuss obstacles that may arise from too shallow a knowledge of yoga or from obsessions with the practice in general or from being too fundamentalist in any matter. Balance is what is strived for. In krīyas (acts of purification) as well as in performing rituals, a coy attitude is recommended to avoid attachment to our own aspirations and desires. We are advised to become more aware of how the practice may serve the practitioner rather than just attempting the practice without thinking. This is indeed an interesting point and we may infer there was a great diversity of styles even then. It is indeed difficult to come to any depth of understanding without trying the practice over a significant time yet, if there is no awareness of what one is doing then the respective benefit that may come from that practice may be equally as shallow.
The Sādhaka (seeker of truth) is divided into four levels: mild, moderate, intense, and more intense. The first level is for men of small enterprises, finding faults with their teachers and who are of a weak character. The second level is for those of a more moderate nature, who are liberal minded, merciful, virtuous and sweet in their speech. The third level is for those that are more steady-minded, independent, full of energy and faith, and worship the lotus feet of their guru. The highest level is for those that have heroic amounts of energy, are enterprising, know the śāstras (sciences), are moderate in their diet, and are rulers of their senses. The time recommended for success in the practice is merely three years for the highest level while twelve years is suggested for the lowest level. Thus, we see a decrease by three years for each consecutive level. Mantra Yoga and Laya Yoga are recommended to the first two levels, Hatha Yoga for the third level, and all types of yoga for the final level.
The attainment of Rāja Yoga should of course be the goal for any practitioner, but this requires that the practitioner progress through certain levels of purification. Without proper mind control and a certain governing of the senses, rising to the higher levels of yoga will simply be impossible. Strong will, discipline and enthusiasm is always welcomed, but what is most important is the awakening of ones inherent intelligence. This intelligence is certainly more than the mere projection of our desires! What is of the greatest value in the practice of yoga is the refined skill and sensitivity to awaken a greater receptivity from within. When that takes place, in alignment with proper practices, the purification from within will be felt on all levels.
Having a Guru, genuine teacher that has penetrated into the subtle science of yoga and further gained a practical experience of it is of paramount importance. Yoga is the purification of the body, mind, and senses; it is the gradual liberation from these afflictions rather than continued imprisonment by them. One who has already walked the path and knows the many pitfalls of the Ego is thus the safest companion through the jungle of worldly suffering. The paths of liberation are many, but with steady guidance from practices that have been proven to work one may begin to learn to restrain the wandering mind and senses, then a proper practice of āsana may follow. When that is steady and comfortable, one may have the endurance and stamina to begin prānāyāma to sit for longer periods of time and control the subtle movements of the breath. Then, gradually, one may learn to take the practice to higher levels of concentration.
When the above is established, the Śiva Samhitā suggests certain places to focus ones energy for the ascent to higher states of Yoga. The first point of focus is the cavity in the throat, then the Kūrma Nādī, followed by the third eye, and finally visualizing the fire that burns within that. From this centering, an awakening to the dormant forces within the body may naturally come about. Because the practice of yoga is never about becoming anything, but rather to become more established in ones true nature and what is already there, it's just a matter of how we can remove our many layers of ignorance. For this we are dependent on proper practices that will purify our many shortcomings, failings, ignorance, confusion and shallow patterns of behaviors. Gradually, as one becomes more centered in the effulgence of the self, all these shortcomings loosen their grip on us and the light of purity and true knowledge will shine through. (ŚS 5. 43-50).
This esoteric journey through the dark jungle from within will first take flight ones the subtle patterns of the life force, Prāna has been restrained from the many pathways of the external body and entered the Susumnā channel. There, the inner luminous force of the Kundalinī may guide the journey of the practitioner through new subtle landscapes. The next point of concentration to be highlighted in our textual study is the six cakras. One by one they are listed out, according to color, size, letters, seed mantras, inherent qualities, presiding deities, and the various siddhis (perfections) that comes when the energy within them are balanced. When the Kundalinī has finally risen to the Ajña Cakra, a few inches above the eyebrows, and the opposing forces of Idā and Pingalā have become balanced, concentration may enter into the Sahasrāra, the thousand-petal lotus, where one enters the last secret portals that unveil the mystery of this enigmatic worldly existence. As one learns to contemplate the inner mystery of the sacred bindu (moon), the sacred sound (nada), and the sacred power (śakti) that are the gate keepers of this thousand-petalled lotus, one may eventually experience the great cosmic light of the Paramātman and finally enter into that space where one is no longer caught up in the duality of the world, but becomes established, realized, and awakened to the innermost nature of light and immanent bliss.
Once established in this space, the modifications of the mind are finally suspended, no matter how active they may be. Once the modifications of the thinking principle are finally poised, one becomes a Yogi, a person united from within and established in ones true nature. What shines forth in this place is the light of the world, the unobstructed being that just is and has no agenda of its own. Yet the very purpose of creation is for us to realize this that we are that light, that unconditional being and as we become immersed in it our outlook on the world will change forever. This is the secret of Rāja Yoga, to become one with the highest luminosity from within.
Until this final awakening dawns within the practitioner, the suggested practice of this highest yoga - once one have cleared the many paths of ignorance and established the flow of Prāna in the middle channel - is to contemplate on the fact that the Jīva is independent and self supported. It does not stand, nor will ever stand, in need of anything; it just is. So when the seeker allows the mind to become self supported and contemplates this effulgence from within, he becomes that. A true practicing yogi will never use the word "I", they always find themselves filled up with the Atman (spirit). One may contemplate "What is bondage? What is emancipation"? But for the true yogi all is one and he pierces through Maya, the great delusion of the world, peoples numerous karmas, and sees the Spirit of God everywhere. Then, he will finally come to realize that the Jīvātman and the Paramātman are related to each other like the "I" and "am". The Yogi renounces the false Ego he has created for himself since numerous births as well as the false idea he has of "the other" people around him. What remains is the presence of the One and all dramas are dissolved as he becomes free from attachment to the external world. (ŚS 5.170-74).
As long as one is connected to this body there is still the danger of falling back into ignorant patterns and of allowing the senses to run away with you. But, a restrained yogi will keep consistent in his practice so there is no room for defilement of this inner presence, the self-luminous nature, the most sacred of Knowledge. How we define this Knowledge will always be dependent on how it is being reflected in our body mind senses. This inner light will always be different to all the patterns on the mind, and yet simultaneously is the very illuminator of them. To prove this point the text borrows a line from the Taittirīa Upanisad (2.4), adding its own ending:
That Gnosis from which the speech and mind are unable to grasp, and turns back baffled, is only to be obtained through practice; then this pure Gnosis may burst forth by itself. (ŚS 5. 180)
Practice is thus the key to attaining yoga as well as to maintaining its proximity. For the highest essence of Rāja Yoga to be experienced, one is dependent on balancing out the lower nature so that the highest essence of spirit may shine more unobstructed from within. In the following verse we can thus read:
Hatha Yoga cannot be obtained without Rāja Yoga, nor can Rāja Yoga be attained without Hatha Yoga. Therefore, let the Yogi first learn the Hatha Yoga from the instructions of a wise Guru. (ŚS 5.181)
The text finally states that the very purpose of life is Yoga (5.182), without that we are merely living for the sake of sensual enjoyments. The final instructions given to the seeker is thus to seek out a suitable place to quietly get on with the practice. Be sparing and vigilant in diet at all times and keep our duties towards society, offering them up as an instrument of service to the Lord (ŚS 5. 186).
The summary of the last verse is a strong indication that this yoga is not merely for the recluse seeking to escape the world, but that it is a practice equally for those that are in the world. As it is said in the Bhagavad Gītā, "Yoga is skill in the midst of activity" (BG 2. 50); and as we go about our daily duties of life, without merely seeking the fruits of our desires but actively taking part in the world and manifesting our duty towards our family and society, all our activities will becomes the spring board that will help us to forget about ourselves and discover a greater presence of Yoga.
As we approach the end of the text we may finally ask ourselves: "For what purpose is the text written? Was it a road map about the subtle transitions from within that happen to the Sādhaka (seeker of truth), as he transverses through his many layers of delusion?" Up to now, there has indeed been much talk of practice but very little practical information has been given on what to do and how to go about the practice. For this, we probably need to seek the advice of a guru, because yoga is not mere wishful thinking or projection of thoughts, but rather an experience that grows in solidity from within, a light that becomes more manifest in its own being and is free from the many layers and obstructions that comes from the fluctuations of thought.
In the last thirteen verses of the text, a new subject is suddenly brought up. The practice of Japa (, repetition of a Mantra) and it is as if the author suddenly makes a jump on us to convey a direct method of how to go about the practice. Three sacred syllables are conveyed, but they are of course to be learnt from a Guru to provide ample results. According to how many times they are repeated, from a few thousand to a few million, so will be the results with various blessings.
The text concludes that this sacred teaching of Śiva is to be kept secret and so should the wise people who come to learn it. As if to further validate their argument, they quote another verse from the HYP (1. 11):
A Yogi desirous of success should keep the knowledge of Hatha Yoga secret; for it becomes potent by concealing and impotent by exposing. (ŚS 5. 207).
Then follows the traditional Phala stutih, where the reader is reminded of the many benefits that will come from the study and recitation of the text.
In conclusion we can only surrender to the practice; if we are lucky to find a Guru, a genuine teacher, they will guide us through the delusion of worldly existence and help us to awaken the inherent sweetness of the self that is eternally stored up within us all.
R. Alexander Medin
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