The Restless River of Yoga (Intro)

Over the next two weeks, I will be giving my attention back to Yoga-taraṅginī commentary to Gorakṣa-śataka as this project needs to be completed, and all that is left to do is a final redaction of the text and translation, and writing an introduction. So I will try to communicate those portions that I think are important or which affected me as I was doing the work.

I must confess that there has been a considerable change in lifestyles between the way I was living in Rishikesh at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama and the way I am right now in Vrindavan. The three months at SRSG were fairly intense. Most of that time I spent in at least verbal silence, although I still used the internet. But even in that I was far more disciplined than I am now, as I kept my personal computer internet free. Besides that, I regularly meditated three hours a day and did hatha-yoga on a regular basis, including many of the disciplines that are described in the book I was working on.

Since coming back, one of the major problems -- besides this opening out to the external world through the internet, etc. -- has been the return of my knee problem. I was sitting for up to an hour in padmasana at SRSG, but here I twisted my knee and that has made it impossible to even sit in siddhasana. Although theoretically one should be able to do pranayama and meditation while sitting on a raised platform, for me it is really a complete letdown and disappointment. It has meant that the intensity of practices has really just fallen tremendously. Chanting japa while pacing, etc., is really not as effective, as I have been saying for years and years now. The situation has forced me to coast in terms of sadhana and turn to more serious writing, which is God's will I suppose.

In one sense I am trying to come to terms with my experience in SRSG and as I as I go through this final redaction of the text and composition of the introduction, I will try to describe how I engaged in those practices and what I got from them.

Before I do that, I would like to say a word or two about the mixing of mellows that comes from being a bhakta in the Vaishnava tradition and combining it with yoga. The Bhagavata Purana contains a great deal of material from various strands of the yoga school, and indeed the yoga school is universal enough within Hinduism that it can barely be separated. Practically speaking the reciprocal influences of the different practices and philosophical systems are so universal that it is often hard to unravel them.

At the same time, there are clear lines of difference. The Bhagavata also clearly states that no system of spiritual practice is as effective in pleasing God as bhakti:

na sādhayati māṁ yogo na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma uddhava
 na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo yathā bhakti mamorjitā

My dear Uddhava, the unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control. I cannot be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Säìkhya philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity or renunciation. (SB 11.14.20)
So what kind of faithless apostate am I that I have taken to a non-devotional practice, or at least have accommodated and adapted yoga practices into my bhakti sādhana

To some extent these questions have been answered here and there on this blog. Maybe this blog written early in my stay in Rishikesh will answer somewhat how I had been thinking about it then. Therefore be a yogi, O Arjuna. Or another discussion of the Sixth Chapter of the Gita. And since this is one of the least read articles on my entire blog, I will include it here, Mindfulness

A couple of others: A few words about sitting. And one last Rasika Bhakti and Yoga.

Of course there are many more, as over the past six years I have spent considerable time in Rishikesh and had a great deal of opportunity to associate with the very learned and gentle yogi, Swami Veda Bharati, who is truly a unique individual whom I much admire and from whom I have learned a great deal. I worked on re-editing his first volume of Yoga-sutra, and indeed he is still asking me to help him do the third and fourth volumes, which as a scholar, I really should, for my own personal edification.

The principal point, I think, is that whatever one's particular spiritual practice, the goal is to control the mind, to focus it and quieten it down. Essentially, you want to focus the mind on God, however you conceive of God. And yoga is the science of perfecting the control and concentration of the mind. If one thinks that concentrating on externals is the most effective way of doing so, he will eventually find out, in my opinion, that all yoga is about the "internal organ" (antaḥkaraṇa). Though the bhakti-yoga methods tend to differ in certain fundamental ways, the yogic techniques are quite useful and, in my opinion, complementary -- if one has a clear sense of what one is doing.

Since March, Swami Veda has been in silence after taking a vow to not speak for five years, but he told me several times (in writing) that he never wants to speak again. He was 80 years old when he took the vow, and as he says, he has been speaking publicly, lecturing and teaching, since he was seven years old. He continues to write, but his lecturing days are finished.

I can tell you quite honestly that in the three months I was in Rishikesh this time, I could person observe and experience the depth of interiorization to which his silence has taken him. I meditated for one hour and took my evening meal with him each day during this period, besides which I worked in his personal library, often at the same time that he did. He has always shown great affection for me, making the entire six years, and particularly these three month at SRSG particularly memorable.

When I said to Swamiji that with all the responsibilities of a worldwide organization of disciples and managing the Rishikesh ashram, what to speak of his duties as chancellor of the HIHT University in Dehra Dun, he answered that he had been planning to go into silence since he was a child. He has, it is true, always been an outspoken (!) advocate for silence, and visitors to the ashram are encouraged to take short vows of silence of one, three or ten days. Experienced disciples are often asked to undergo longer vratas of 21, 40 or 90 days.

But in all the years that I was there, I resisted silence to the point that I was even considered by some people there to be something of a nuisance. This time, though, it became clear to me early on in my stay that it would be tremendously helpful to me in getting the translation work done and in order to get a bit scientific here and personally investigate to the extent I could the practices that are spoken of in Gorakṣa-śataka and Yoga-taraṅgiṇī, that it would be best to avoid socializing as much as possible. The hot season is a quiet time at SRSG, with only the most serious and full-time residents on-site, so it was an easy decision to make, though not always easy to follow. The idea was to remain in mauna until the work was finished. Although I did not do so as perfectly as those who attempt it usually do, I can say that I got a little insight into the benefits of keeping my mouth shut for an extended period of time.

I wrote a few reflections of the silence as I was going through it back at the time, none of which are particularly insightful: Silence (1)Silence (2)Silence (3) 

Introduction to the Text

Gorakṣa-śataka is a a small book of 200 verses, an early text from the Nātha-yoga tradition. Gorakṣanātha is one of the early founders of this particular branch of yoga, called haṭha-yoga, which has since developed and become a widely popular set of practices in the Western world, though generally speaking it is limited to its aspect as a kind of physical culture, i.e., dealing with physical postures or āsanas. But its influence had already spread throughout India well before coming west, as well as Nepal and Tibet and beyond, primarily as a specific development or refinement in the older yoga systems that are far more ancient.

The Nepali Gorkhas take their entire jati name from Gorakṣanātha or Gorakhnath. Descendants of his line in Bengal are called jugis or jogis and have the surname Nath or Debnath. In many other parts of India, the weaver caste, to which Kabir belonged, also have a connection with the yogi line descended from him, the influence of which is felt in many other ways also. Although currently the Nath sampradaya is much smaller and less influential and has little to do with the current interest in hatha-yoga, it does seems to be experiencing something of a revival. The miraculous powers and adventures of Gorakṣanātha and his guru Matsyendranātha are the stuff of legend that kept the mythology of yogic siddhis alive throughout the centuries to even the present day.

The Gorakṣa-śataka, being an early text from this tradition, has therefore attracted some scholarly attention and various translations have been made. More recently, renewed attempts have been made to establish what the original Gorakṣa-śataka is or was, as there are several books carrying that name, which differ considerably from each other. I myself noticed this many years ago when I first read through the book and typed it out for the Grantha Mandir in two different versions. But I did not delve into the problem or make any attempt to resolve it at the time.

These variants of this same work also go under the names Gorakṣa-paddhati, Gorakṣa-saṁhitā and Viveka-mārtaṇḍa. In particular, Gorakṣa-paddhati (GP), having been published several times from the Venkateshwar Press in Mumbai, has more or less become the dominant version of the text and most resembles the Gorakṣa-śataka used by our anonymous YT author, even though there are significant differences of verse order and reading. The most important problem being that though the book is widely known as a śataka, i.e, a work of 100 verses, it nearly always contains 200, or two śatakas. Briggs in his Goraksha and the Kanphat Yogis (1933) translated the first hundred of Gorakṣa-paddhati and called it Gorakṣa-śataka. Researchers at the Lonavla Yoga Institute in Pune claimed on studying a large number of manuscripts to have solved the mystery and in 1987 published a version of 100 verses that they claimed to be the original.

We were quite fortunate that while our work was going on, we had a visit from Prof. Mark Singleton, who had come to India to do some research on the Viveka-mārtaṇḍa (VM), particularly investigating a manuscript in Rajasthan that he had caught wind of. He put me in touch with James Mallinson who has also done research in the matter of the original Gorakṣa-śataka and has come up with quite a different conclusion than that of the Lonavla researchers.

Mallinson's conclusions are based primarly on the evidence of the earliest manuscript of the text, which he identifies with VM. In his estimation, verses were added to the other versions, which were then given a variant of the name Gorakṣa-śataka. Then since the problem arose of too many verses, abbreviated versions were made, such as the Lonavla edition. Mallinson's original GŚ is a completely different text from this set of texts and bears greater similarity to the Yoga-kuṇḍalī Upaniṣad, with which it has some 80 verses in common. As the content of the two works diverges, we have not preoccupied ourselves with this GŚ, even though it would be tempting to attempt an in-depth comparison. But I will leave such work to Prof. Mallinson, who is no doubt far better equipped for such a task than I.

The popularity and influence of VM can be seen in the number of verses drawn from it that found their way into some of the Yoga Upanisads, particularly the Yoga-bindu and Yoga-cuḍāmaṇi, as well as in the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā (HYP) in both its four-chapter and expanded ten-chapter version, published simply as Haṭha-pradīpikā (HP). We have given a concordance of the verses from these various sources in an appendix at the end of this book.

As is to be expected, the variants in the readings between these various versions are considerable, but since our primary objective has been to establish the correct reading of the YT and to give a translation of it, we have only commented on the reading of the verse when it was felt that our author had unfortunately been saddled with an incorrect or distorted reading of the original that corrupted his understanding. In some cases, this has forced him to make somewhat convoluted interpretations that would have easily been avoided had a better text been available to him.

* * * * *

When I began teaching Sanskrit at SRSG, I learned from Swami Veda Bharati of his attempts to collect a commentary on the Gorakṣa-śataka called Yoga-taraṅgiṇī. His guru, Swami Rama, had praised this commentary and asked him that if he ever could manage to publish it, he would be most appreciative. Swami Veda had been working on this project for some time and had finally managed to find four manuscripts in various libraries—from Benares, Nepal, Mysore and Bengal. Of these four, I looked at the one from Benares, which in actual fact was a fairly recent (1930) Devanagari copy of a Telugu script held in the Adyar library in Chennai. Of our four manuscripts, this was the only one that was complete, covering the full 200 verses. One of the evident problems related to the Gorakṣa-śataka is that there are not 100 verses as the title suggests, but twice that number. Briggs, for instance, who published a version of the work in his book on the Gorakh Panthis, took the first hundred verses as being the entire text. It seems that others also followed this instinctive approach to the book.

I also typed out the Benares manuscript several years ago, but it was full of mistakes that were difficult for me on a quick reading to decipher. Finally, through the work in particular of Bibek Banerjee of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, three of the manuscripts were collated and variant readings noted. These three manuscripts only covered the first śataka, but the fourth, the one from the Nepali government collection happily provided alternate readings for the second śataka, without which it would have been very difficult to establish correct readings.

* * * * *

So my first task was to come up with a clear and correct text. One of the first things that was noticeable about the YT was that there was clearly an ur-text which had taken two directions due to the emendations and additions of later scribes. Most of these are not major, but in some cases they are not in agreement.

Thus we had three MSS for the first śataka, only two for the second. Our D manuscript (from Nepal) was a terrible mess, yet somehow or other it often was correct exactly in those places where our A text was confusing. If not correct, it was mistaken in ways that complemented A and made it possible to extract a decent reading.

What immediately became apparent is that any hope of finding an ur-text was not tenable with the materials at hand.

It is clear that the Mumbai Gorakṣa-paddhati mentioned above, which the Lonavla editors call the "Vulgate" edition, made use of the Yoga-taraṅginī and Bāla-prabodhinī in its Hindi translation. Some of those details are imported from an external source other than Yoga-taraṅginī in this translation, such as the description of a meditation on Nārāyaṇa in one verse, but we did not have access to this Bāla-prabodhinī, which I suspect has some common ground with the YT. This is admittedly another lacuna in the research done on this project.

Nevertheless, even within the MSS that we do have of YT, there are sufficient variants that we can recognize independent interpolations made on an earlier text. So it is quite possible that an original document was elaborated on and emended by various subsequent copyists. In view of that and because we had limited materials to work with, we determined that the best way forward was to simply come up with a text that scanned, i.e., yielded syntactically comprehensible language that added the most insight into the original GŚ  Thus we have adjudged each individual variant reading for the one that fits this description.

A second major problem in editing and translating the text and commentary comes from the clear inadequacies in the text that the commentator was using. It is clear from the variegated destinations that the GŚ has known (please see the appendix: Concordance of texts of GŚ), that a wide variety of variant readings can be collected, not simply from the VM or GŚ, but also from the texts that directly quote or copy these sources, such as YCU, HYP and HP. I have refrained from providing all these alternative readings.

At any rate, we have not gone into this tangled web of trying to establish an original reading for GŚ. Nevertheless, here and there we have commented on the verses to point out that the reading our commentator was dealing with was clearly not the best or most appropriate reading.

* * * * *

We know absolutely nothing about our commentator, nor can we make anything more that the most general conclusions about his time nor place. The only indications that we can use to divine anything about him are the texts he quotes here and there in his commentary. These are the following:

Gobhila-gṛhya-sūtra and Nirṇayāmṛta. In probably the only digression from the subject of yoga, the commentator goes into a discussion of the compound word sūryācandramasau, refering to Pāṇini and these two works on karma-kāṇḍa to make a somewhat arcane point. In discussing mantras, he makes it clear that he does not approve of non-Brāhmaṇas chanting the Sāvitrī-mantra, recommending that they chant the mantras of their own sect, but other than there is no particular bias to Brāhmaṇism. (Cf. 2.2), though it seems clear that he was himself a Brāhmaṇa.

Mānasollāsa: The work of this name is a commentary on the Dakṣiṇāmūrti-stotra attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, written by Sureśvarācārya, one of the four direct disciples of the founder of the Advaita school. We were able to trace these verses.

Besides these citations of Sureśvarācārya, there are two references to Ācārya-caraṇa and one to Śāṅkarācārya, as well as a verse introduced as Krishna speaking to Nanda, none of which we have been able to identify.

Nāradīya-purāṇa: Only one verse which we could not find in our edition.

Nitya-nātha-paddhati: This text is not available to our knowledge. It clearly covers the same territory as texts like Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati and Siddha-siddhānta-saṅgraha. The YT seems to assume that this work, also being ascribed to the Nath tradition (SSP is usually attributed to Gorakhnath himself) is in agreement with GŚ, which is not the case. The fragments that our author cites from NNP also reveal some minor differences between these three paddhati texts.

Other yoga works to which our author refers are Yoga-cintāmaṇi, Yoga-sāra and Yogi-yājñavalkya. Of these three, we were only able to get access to the last. YT only refers to this work to discuss the ten yamas and ten niyamas, making up for their absence in the GŚ. Other than one verse fragment, nothing from later texts like the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā are to be found here (see GŚ 1.82). This particular verse is likely not original to HYP, which is a compendium drawn from numerous extant sources including GŚ itself, than which it is later. There are of course occasional quotes from the Yoga-sūtra (1.89) as well as the occasional paraphrase.

To be continued.


Subrata said…
Jay Nitai,

Dear Jagat Ji, just curious about intermixing on Advaita ( Shankar ) tradition with Yoga philosophy in Swami Veda's tradition. Historically Sankhya / Yoga system belongs to dualist nature. From any pure Sankhya / Yoga unaltered tradition would deny Shankar's Mayavada Philosophy as much as any Vaishnava tradition would do. Sankhya/ Yoga tradition would use same arguments, citations & conclusions against Shankara's are much like the same as any other Non-Shankar's tradition ( including various Vaishnava tradition ) would use. Even pure Shankhya / Yoga tradition historically refer Shankara as Prachchanno Budhdhist. I am curious to know your thought of intermixing of Shankara's advaita doctrine into Swami Veda's lineage or vice versa.

On other note have to had a chance to go through Patanjal Yogasutra explanation by Shankhya Yogacharyya Swami Hariharananda Aranya. He was one of the authority in Sakhya Yoga School. This book is one of the text book followed in Master degree program in different Indian University including Calcutta University.

Jay Nitai

Anonymous said…
Any reply Jagat Ji for my Query posted above? Would like to know your view.

BTW, can you do an analysis between Yogic Dhyan ( including dharana,dhyan, drubanusmriti, Samadhi ( both sabikalpa & nirkalpa ) with LilaSmaran what we Gaudiya's do. In Yogasutra the highest state has been referred as Nirbikalpa, whereas our Goal is to enter Nityalia which is Swabikalpa Samdhi. So how highest state as explained by Patanjali can be reconciled with Bhakti Goal. Because as per the Patanjali at the level of Nirbikalpa the chitta annihilated ( loya of chitta ) whereas we need chitta to take part in premseva. As BramhaSutra states all Tattwa has to be reconciled, how do we view this two opposite stages of Samadhi.

Jay Nitai

Jagadananda Das said…
Anonymous said…
Ādeśa - Dear Jagadananda Das,

May one ask if you are still working on the Gorakṣa-śataka, or have completed editing and translating, and will you be publishing your 200 verse compilation of the Gorakṣa-śataka?

Thank you for your kind help.

In the love of truth,

Jagadananda Das said…
Motilal Banarsidass should be releasing the book in March.
ā-deśa - Dearest śrī Jagadananda Das,

Using (the twighlight language of) saṃdhā-bhāṣā (in the same spirit of the Gorakṣa-śataka) here is the (true) introduction (from the mouth of the guru) of the Gorakṣayogaśāstra translated to English.

namo ādināthāya ||

"First unbroken (identical) knower (of the light), protected and preserved (from the effects of time) by abandoning (the body) and attaining the light (of the) womb (of all creation)."

īśvara uvāca ||

"Master of the air (breath) possessing the motion of amorous (love) play (which) gives bright (shining) splendour (of the great light); (the) pure (one) (mouth open wide) blowing (out air) from the mouth with (a loud) roaring (sound)."


संधाभाषा saṃdhā-bhāṣā - “to join together (oral syllables of speech) to generate (compound) language.”

One must break up the Sanskrit compound words to their constituent syllables; each (and every) syllable which makes up a compound word must be separately translated to find the esoteric meaning hidden within the compound word.

compound = exoteric

syllable = esoteric

संधा saṃ-√ dhā “to place or hold or put or draw or join or fasten or fix or sew together, unite; to use, employ, to be put together or joined or connected.”

सम् (sám) “to join together:”

धा (dhā) “to make, produce, generate; putting, placing:”

भाषा bhāṣā (listed in the third column on page 755 of Monier Williams as Bhāshā) “speech, language:”

भा (bhā) “to shine, be bright or luminous; to shine forth, appear, show one's self; light, brightness, splendour:”

ष (ṣa) “final emancipation; heaven, paradise etc.:”

Yours in truth,
śrī maccidānanda nātha

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