The pitfalls of Yugal Bhajan, Part I

One of the verses that struck me when reading the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā was the following

tatra vastu-dvayaṁ vakṣye durlabhaṁ yasya kasyacit |
kṣīraṁ caikaṁ dvitīyaṁ tu nārī ca vaśavartinī ||
I will now tell you of two things that are very rare for anyone in this world. One is milk. The other is an cooperative woman. (HYP 3.84)
I found the verse a little troublesome, first of all because milk does not seem all that hard to find, not like a spiritual partner for bhajan, and also because this word vaśa-vartinī seems to indicate a kind of patriarchal model of male-female relations, which I as a worshiper of the female deity, Radharani, i.e., as a worshiper of the Divine Feminine, Shakti, felt was philosophically incompatible. After all, Radharani is known as the one who controls Krishna through bhakti, indicating a primacy of the feminine.

My position has always been that of the spiritual complementarity of the sexes, a position that is closer to the Shakta philosophy than to the renunciate schools of Indian spirituality, whether those of the jñāna patha or those of bhakti. I still do not think, like many on both sides of this debate, that this is a zero-sum power game.

I have preached openly the concept of mutual guruship, and I still believe in this idea for those who would attempt Yugal Bhajan, but if one understands the idea of mutuality here, one will see that it does not mean that there is a constant power struggle going on as to who is the boss of whom. In fact I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in emphasizing the guru-role rather than that of the disciple, so I should have used the expression "mutual discipleship." Service is fundamental to bhakti. Even the guru is doing nothing more than serving through wisdom and charity; he does not do so out of a desire for personal benefit:

bhaktiḥ sevā bhagavato muktis tatpadalaṅghanam
ko mūḍho dāsatāṁ prāpya prābhavaṁ padamicchati
bhava-bandha-cchide tasyai spṛhayāmi na muktaye
bhavān prabhur ahaṁ dāsa iti yatra vilupyate
Devotion means service to the Lord.
Liberation means the transgression of His lotus feet.
What fool who has attained the position of a servant
would seek to become Lord and Master?
I aspire not to liberation, which would cut the bonds of material life,
but where the awareness that I am servant and You are Lord would be lost.
The spirit of service is the sine qua non of bhakti. Any sādhanā that loses sight of this is not bhakti and will certainly not lead to prema.

I intend to reflect on this subject for the next few articles.

One of the chapters I love in the Bhāgavatam 11.14 where some of the most ecstatic utterances found in this great scripture are enjoined. Including this verse, which I have quoted before on this blog,

vāg gadgadā dravate yasya cittaṁ
rudaty abhīkṣṇaṁ hasati kvacic ca
vilajja udgāyati nṛtyate ca
mad-bhakti-yukto bhuvanaṁ punāti
He whose voice is broken with emotion,
whose mind melts and who cries constantly,
who sometimes laughs, shamelessly sings aloud and dances,
such a person endowed with devotion to me
purifies the entire world. (11.14.24)
However, at the end of this section, Krishna concludes with a few well-known verses that stand as a direct contrast to what has gone before, a warning as it were:

viṣayān dhyāyataś cittaṁ viṣayeṣu viṣajjate |
mām anusmarataś cittaṁ mayy eva pravilīyate ||
tasmād asad-abhidhyānaṁ yathā svapna-manoratham |
hitvā mayi samādhatsva mano mad-bhāva-bhāvitam ||
The mind that dwells on sense objects becomes attached to sense objects. The mind that constantly remembers me becomes absorbed in me. Therefore, give up meditation on the impermanent, which is like the flight of fancy in a dream, and fix your mind on me in samādhi, keeping it always inundated with love for me. (SB 11.14.26-27)
And then, from the general into the specific:

strīṇāṁ strī-saṅgināṁ saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dūrata ātmavān |
kṣeme vivikta āsīnaś cintayen mām atandritaḥ ||
na tathāsya bhavet kleśo bandhaś cānya-prasaṅgataḥ |
yoṣit-saṅgād yathā puṁso yathā tat-saṅgi-saṅgataḥ ||
One who is in possession of himself should keep far from the company of women or those who keep the company of women. Sitting in a secluded and peaceful place, he should meditate on me without lassitude. There is no greater distress or bondage arising from any other association than that of woman or those who are attached to the company of women. (11.14.28-29)
Vishwanath precedes his brief remarks here with the sentence: viśeṣato vātsyāyanādy-uktāḥ kāma-mārgās tyājyāḥ. "In particular, the Kāma-śāstra as taught by Vatsyayana and others is to be rejected."

The dangers of womanly association are not minced with in the Bhāgavatam or the Charitamrita. The last of these verses are actually a repetition of an earlier verse found in the teachings of Kapila.

From the time that I was preparing to take sannyasa, and long before I was "infected" by the Sahajiya virus, these were some of my favorite verses in the Bhāgavatam, which inspired me to attempt for this ideal of complete isolation from womanhood.

I had been married and there was a time in Iskcon when the matrimonial state was considered an honorable one, but by 1975, when I came to India, the pendulum swing to sannyasa had reached at its apogee. When I started reading Bengali, in particular the Chaitanya Bhagavata, I was very impressed by the multiple page commentary by Siddhanta Saraswati coming near the very beginning of the text, which quoted numerous verses in the same vein as these:

satyaṁ śaucaṁ dayā maunaṁ buddhiḥ śrīr hrīr yaśaḥ kṣamā |
śamo damo bhagaś ceti yat-saṅgād yāti saṅkṣayam ||
teṣv aśānteṣu mūḍheṣu khaṇḍitātmasv asādhuṣu |
saṅgaṁ na kuryāc chocyeṣu yoṣit-krīḍā-mṛgeṣu ca ||
na tathāsya bhaven moho bandhaś cānya-prasaṅgataḥ |
yoṣit-saṅgād yathā puṁso yathā tat-saṅgi-saṅgataḥ ||
One should avoid at all costs association with those lamentable creatures who have become the playthings of women. They are lacking in peace, are constantly bewildered, and their concept of self is fragmented. Indeed there is no enchantment more powerful, no bondage for a man surer than that which comes through the association of women and through that of the womanizer. By keeping such company, one loses one's quality of truthfulness, cleanliness, mercy, gravity, intelligence, modesty, beauty, reputation, forgiveness, control of the mind and senses and good fortune. (SB 3.31.34-36)
[3.31.36 is the same as above-quoted 11.14.29.]

prajāpatiḥ svāṁ duhitaraṁ dṛṣṭvā tad-rūpa-dharṣitaḥ |
rohid-bhūtāṁ so'nvadhāvad ṛkṣa-rūpī hata-trapaḥ ||
tat-sṛṣṭa-sṛṣṭa-sṛṣṭeṣu ko nv akhaṇḍita-dhīḥ pumān |
ṛṣiṁ nārāyaṇam ṛte yoṣin-mayyeha māyayā ||
Lord Brahma himself was overcome by the beauty of his own daughter and shamelessly ran after her, taking the form of a stag when she took that of a doe. If this could happen to Lord Brahma, then what man in the universe created by him and his agents -- other than Narayana Rishi -- would not have his intelligence disturbed by the illusory potency in the form of woman?
balaṁ me paśya māyāyāḥ strī-mayyā jayino diśām |
yā karoti padākrāntān bhrū-vijṛmbheṇa kevalam ||
Just behold the power of my Maya in the form of woman, who places the conquerors of all the directions under her feet with the mere movement of her eyebrows.
Vishwanath here gives an example of how a woman is able to control the powerful man. The king who is returning from an adventure conquering an empire comes into the chambers of his queen is chastised. She says in  a fit of jealous anger, "You only go off on these adventures in order to sleep with women of another country. Shame on you." And before long she has even him under her heel.

This verse has a parallel in the writing of Bhartrihari, who puts it this way:

nūnaṁ hi te kavi-varā viparīta-vāco
ye nityam āhur abalā iti kāminīs tāḥ |
yābhir vilolitara-tāraka-dṛṣṭi-pātaiḥ
śakrādayo'pi vijitās tv abalāḥ kathaṁ tāḥ |
Surely the poets are confused when they call woman the "weaker sex," for even the king of the gods is overcome when the playful pupils of a woman's eye turn to them. How then can they be called weak? (Śṛṅgāra-śataka 10)
Now bringing the issue more directly into line with the transcendentalist's motives.

saṅgaṁ na kuryāt pramadāsu jātu
yogasya pāraṁ param ārurukṣuḥ |
mat-sevayā pratilabdhātma-lābho
vadanti yā niraya-dvāram asya ||
One who wishes to attain the highest rungs of the yoga ladder or one who has attained the Self through service to me should keep out of the intoxicating company of woman, which is said to be the door to hell.
And Kavi Karnapura's calque of this verse, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu refusing to see King Prataparudra--
niṣkiñcanasya bhagavad-bhajanonmukasya
pāraṁ paraṁ jigamiṣor bhava-sāgarasya |
sandarśanaṁ viṣayiṇām atha yoṣitāṁ ca
hā hanta hanta viṣa-bhakṣaṇato py asādhu ||
For a renounced person who has made attaining the Supreme Lord the goal of his life and wishes to traverse to the other side of the ocean of material being, to simply see a sensual man or a woman is, alas alas, worse than drinking poison. (CCN 8.24, CC 2.11.8)
The theme of woman being the "door to hell" is also stated elsewhere in the Bhāgavatam:

mahat-sevāṁ dvāram āhur vimuktes
tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam
mahāntas te sama-cittāḥ praśāntā
vimanyavaḥ suhṛdaḥ sādhavo ye
It is said that the gateway to liberation is service to the great souls or Mahats, while the door to darkness and ignorance is the association of those who are overly attached to sex. The great souls are equanimous, peaceful, free from pride and anger, friends and all round good people. (SB 5.5.2)
Vishwanath here mentions that the word woman here includes one's own wife (pramadāsu svīyāsu) and also points out that this instruction is for jnanis and bhaktas, omitting the karmis. So it is not a problem for them, and indeed the next chapter (3.32) is about grihastha life, which is associated with varnashram dharma, i.e., as something that has to be ultimately given up, either for knowledge or bhakti. From this it appears the according to the Bhāgavatam, grihastha life indicates that one has eligibility for karma.

yopayāti śanair māyā yoṣid deva-vinirmitā |
tām īkṣetātmano mṛtyuṁ tṛṇaiḥ kūpam ivāvṛtam ||
Maya in the form of woman was created by the Lord, but as she slowly approaches a man, he should look upon her as his own death, as dangerous as a blind well covered with grass.(SB 3.31.40)
Vishwanath here describes the woman "coming slowly." She approaches the man whom she knows to be disinterested and pretends to be free of desire herself, offering to perform different kinds of service with an air of piety. The well covered with grass does not announce itself or perhaps even think of its purpose being to entrap a forest creature, and is perhaps completely indifferent to whether anyone comes there or not, similarly a woman might be a devotee, knowledgeable and renounced, but even a woman who is unconscious or sleeping or even dead, should be kept at a distance.

Then the shoe is put on the other foot, in case someone should say this is only about men fearing women:

yāṁ manyate patiṁ mohān man-māyām ṛṣabhāyatīm |
strītvaṁ strī-saṅgataḥ prāpto vittāpatya-gṛha-pradam ||
tām ātmano vijānīyāt paty-apatya-gṛhātmakam |
daivopasāditaṁ mṛtyuṁ mṛgayor gāyanaṁ yathā ||
A man becomes a woman in his next life due to his attachment to woman, and then Maya takes the male form for her as the husband who gives her wealth, children and home. This woman should also know that Maya in the form of husband, children and home is her own death, just like the enchanting song of the hunter attracts the deer to its capture and slaughter. (3.31.41-42)
So in these verses, though details are somewhat sparse, make it clear that woman has power over a man, manipulating him through her sexuality, her service and her jealousy. She in turn sees him as the source of her protection, her wealth and influence, and material enjoyment.

These verses are hated by feminists and indeed, most male interpreters will immediately admit that it is not really women who are the problem. It is man's susceptibility to woman that is problematic and this is what the Bhägavatam is warning against. If the man gives her a chance, if he allows himself to be controlled by a woman through the manipulative tools she has at her disposal, any self-discipline that he had for spiritual life will be lost and with that, all the other good qualities that arise as a part of that discipline.

There may be cases where the woman's spiritual acumen is greater than a man's. Indeed it may often be the case that this is so. How then can the statements be so strong and slanted against the women? Indeed, it is significant that women are mentioned repeatedly as having the eligibility for bhakti. Bhakti is not closed off to women, so a basic acceptance of humanity itself as the qualification for bhakti, which is universal, is an important basic principle of this practice.

Nevertheless, let us say that the social situation of that time did not give women the right to express their spirituality through renunciation in the way that men did. Though early Buddhists had their Theris and there were women sadhvis in Jainism also, it would appear that the experiment was not considered a success and with the receding of these heterodox religions from the Indian scene, nuns and convents also disappeared. Perhaps it is time to revive them.

But whatever the case may be, whether it was nature that dictated the terms or whether it was evil patriarchy, let us say that spiritual leadership in Hinduism was always dominated by males, even where female leadership may occasionally have been exceptionally present.


Anonymous said…

My person looked up James Mallinson’s English translations of chapter three, verse 84 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika this morning.

“For this I will list two items not everyone can obtain: one is milk (see note), the second is a female partner.”

Note: For drinking after intercourse

And also Swami Muktibodhananda’s (under the guidance of Swami Satyananda Saraswati) English translation:

“There are two things hard to obtain, one is milk and the second is a woman who can act according to your will.”

Milk & Female Partner/ a woman who can act according to your will (The accumulation stage – paricayāvasthā)

As you know brother Jagadananda Das, Jālandhara bandha is employed to prevent the downward loss of sákti from the skull, verse 84 of the HYP describes this sákti as milk; milk is of course obtained from a “cow”, the practicing yogin must become that metaphorical cow and regularly milk the sublimated sákti from himself, the body is “milked” by use of Mūla Bandha, Uḍḍiyāna Bandha and Jālandhara bandha, the sublimated sákti (milk from the cow) may then be drunk from the bowl of the skull (drinking of Milk [sákti] is described in the Dattātreya Yoga Śastra as the accumulation stage – paricayāvasthā). The sexual intercourse is with one’s own female partner (spiritually “in vivo”), all exoteric practice is for the paśu of Saṃsāra.

Verses 138 -141 and 151 – 160 of the Dattātreya Yoga Śastra (English Translation by James Mallinson).

The Jālandhara Lock (jālandharabandha)

(138) [The yogin] should constrict the throat and firmly place the chin on the chest. This is the jālandhara lock. It prevents loss of the nectar of immortality (amṛta). (139) As long as it keeps drinking the nectar of immortality that has dripped from the thousand[-petalled] lotus in the skull of embodied beings, the fire at the navel burns brightly. (140) And so that the fire might not drink that nectar of immortality, [the yogin] should drink it himself. Through constant practice in this way, it goes by the rear pathway (141) and makes the
body immortal. For this reason one should practise jālandhara.


I shall teach Vajroli, which is kept hidden by all yogins, (151) for it is a great secret, not to be given to all and sundry. But one surely should teach it to he who is as dear to one as one’s own life. (152). The yogin who knows Vajroli is worthy of success, even if he behaves self-indulgently, disregarding the rules taught in yoga. (153) I shall tell you the two things(necessary) for it which are hard for anyone to obtain, [and] which are said to bring about success for a [yogin] if he does obtain them: (154) Milk and Āngirasa. Of the two, the first is [readily] available. The second is hard for men to get; they must use some stratagem to procure it from women. (155-156) A man should strive to find a woman devoted to the practice of yoga. Either a man or a woman can obtain success if they have no regard for one another’s gender and practise with only their own ends in mind. If the semen moves then [the yogin] should draw it upwards and preserve it. (157) Semen preserved in this way truly overcomes death. Death [arises] through the fall of semen, life from its preservation. (158-160) All yogins achieve success through the preservation of semen. The method of practice by which Amaroli and Sahajoli arise is taught in the tradition of the Adepts (siddhānāṃ saṃpradāyataḥ).

Kind regards,

Anonymous said…

James Mallinson's English translation of the Dattātreya Yoga Śastra may be found here:

And now its time for my person to go and take a garden gate off its hinges...

Kind regards,

Anonymous said…

It is as my person stated in reply to your Blog post (05/08/15) entitled "Erotic sculptures on Jagannath temple."

See your readers Comments at:

And also in reply to your Blog post (16/12/16) entitled "The Science of God and Literalist Belief in the Post-Truth World."

See your readers Comments at:

And also in reply to your Blog post (26/10/16) entitled "Gadadhar Pran Das: Sri Gaurasundar’s Main Activity (I)."

See your readers Comments at:

And in reply to your Blog post (23/08/15) entitled "Sri Chaitanya’s Sikshastakam: Comparing the original with two translations."


"As a Kaula, reading about the akṣayasarovara (page 511) was especially interesting; although the author has not realised (page 512) that the perfect prema, the stainless and pure spiritual love that bonds Rādhā and Krsna is by the uniting both masculine and feminine of the self within the self (by breath) and piercing the skull in this union to impregnate the void with the spurting seed of this union.

No physical (external) partner is required for this practice, it is purely tantric (a phallus of energy raised above the skull)."

See your readers Comments at:
Prem Prakash said…
First, the link doesn't work: "Including this verse, which I have quoted before on this blog"
Second, more "women are maya?" Really? Haven't we been down this destructive road for thousands of years? The explanations that this is all a warning about kama, not women, fall short. If this were the case, the scriptures and acharyas should have written more clearly.
Maybe the primary pitfall of yugal bhajan is fear of women disguised as religious piety.
Anonymous said…
It is worth remarking, that the lowering of the head is also accompanied by jālandharabandha on the out breath during gotiká (ghoTika) bandha.

If gotikaa bandha ever happens, in this Kriyā-like state one will do these things automatically (without any conscious thought or prior knowledge).

So pick your bow, mount your chariot, hurry your horses and let loose those arrows...

See reply comment Monday, 17 October 2016:


Gorakh Bani – Śábda 49

चालत चंदवा षिसि षिसि पड़ै ।

§ 49(1) A strong stirring tremulous (up and down) motion, rising and falling in waves, surging, swelling, overflowing with passionate desire which gives a footing to stand out above, establishing one ready to ride (firmly) mounted above (as if upon a horse).

बैठा ब्रह्म अगनि परजलै ।।

§ 49(2) Seated, moving in a repeated back-and-forth motion (circulate, spin the sublimated procreative force) causes (one) to be brought near (to) the supreme fire (when) the absolute highest point of the sap springs out (of the top of the head) like a fountain.

आडै आसणि गोटिका बंध ।

§ 49(3) Remaining seated, in (this) union (work hard to) pull and draw (up the sublimated procreative force, churning it around repeatedly) to lead (the) wild horse (to) run (and rise up).

जावत प्रथिमी तावत कंध ।।४९।।

§ 49(4) In this manner, drive this on faster, pressing forwards (and backwards) quickly to excite and make (the sublimated procreative seed) flow upwards (above the skull); stretching, extending the swelling (energy upwards) sprouting above the head and spraying out (like water).

यहु मन सकती यहु मन सीव।

§ 50(1) By the minds will, direct ones aim (repeatedly) towards the target, the purpose of ones desire to push rapidly without and stand outside swelling and growing upwards to (allow the sublimated seed to) flow, run and fly (out); repeatedly striking upwards from inside, strongly stretch up extending (as from internal pressure) (the energy above the top of the head) allowing the sap to pass through and fly upwards.


The yogin will "ride" himself in this ecstasy - it will happen naturally - the yogin will need no prior knowledge to be able to do this - when the time comes he will know what to do, and will do it naturally. In this state, the yogin will raise a phallus of energy (held in the mouth of the 10th gate) above his head which will shoot out his (sublimated) seed into the void.

In this (Kriyā-like) state of ghoTika-bandh ([wild] Horse (f) [mare] – Bandh [position of the body]) the yogin experiencing this tantric Kriyā - his body movements will actually look like he is riding a horse (both horse and rider being the yogin’s own self).

The practicing yogin remains seated, rocking backwards and forwards in a rotational horse-riding-like movement, the yogin will also repeatedly lower and raise his head (just like a horse) and breath fast (through both nostrils) sounding just like a horse.
Anonymous said…

Then, smiling, Prabhu showed to him his true form: Rasaraja (Kṛṣṇa) and Mahabhava (Rādhā), the two in one form. And when he saw this, Ramananda was faint with joy; he could not control his body and fell to the earth. … Embracing him Prabhu comforted him. “Except for you, no one has seen this form. It is because of your perception of the tattva of the rasa of my play (lila) that I have shown this form to you. The golden-coloured body is not mine but is the touch of the body of Radha: she touches no one except the son of Gopendra. I experience in my heart and soul everything she feels; then I taste the rasa of the sweetness of myself.

Caitanya Caritamrta
Anonymous said…

My person has to smile, not one comment in regard to this beauty on the landscape of Vrindavan (shown in this satellite image):

Did you and your readers know about this Jagadananda Das?

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