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Mahanirvana Tantra


Worship with the panchatattva generally takes place in an assembly called a chakra, which is composed of men (sadhaka) and women (shakti), or Bhairava and Bhairavi. The worshippers sit in a circle (chakra), men and women alternately, the shakti sitting on the left of the sadhaka. The Lord of the chakra (chakrasvamin, or chakreshvara) sits with his Shakti in the centre, where the wine-jar and other articles used in the worship are kept. During the chakra all eat, drink, and worship together, there being no distinction of caste. No pashu should, however, be introduced. There are various kinds of chakra, such as the Vira, Raja, Deva, Maha – Chakras productive, it is said, of various fruits for the participators therein. Chapter VI. of the Mahanirvvana Tantra deals with the panchatattva, and Chapter VIII. gives an account of the Bhairavi and Tattva (or Divya) chakras. The latter is for worshippers of the Brahma-Mantra.


This word, derived from the root Yuj (“to join”), is in grammar sandhi, in logic avayavashakti, or the power of the parts taken together, and in its most widely known and present sense the union of the jiva, or embodied spirit, with the Paramatma, or Supreme Spirit, and the practices by which this union may be attained. There is a natural yoga, in which all beings are, for it is only by virtue of this identity in fact that they exist. This position is common ground, though in practice too frequently overlooked. “Primus modus unionis est, quo Deus, ratione suæ immensitatis est in omnibus rebus per essentiam, præsentiam, et potentiam; per essentiam ut dans omnibus esse; per præsentiam ut omnia prospiciens; per potentiam ut de omnibus disponens.” The mystical theologian cited, however, proceeds to say: “Sed hæc unio animæ cum Deo est generalis, communis omnibus et ordinis naturalis . . . illa namque de qua loquimur est ordinis supernaturalis actualis et fructiva.” It is of this special yaga, though not in reality more “supernatural” than the first, that we here deal. Yoga in its technical sense is the realization of this identity, which exists, though it is not known, by the destruction of the false appearance of separation. “There is no bond equal in strength to maya, and no force greater to destroy that bond than yoga. There is no better friend than knowledge (jnana), nor worse enemy than egoism (ahangkara). As to learn the Shastra one must learn the alphabet, so yoga is necessary for the acquirement of tattvajnana (truth).” The animal body is the result of action, and from the body flows action, the process being compared to the seesaw movement of a ghatiyantra, or water-lifter. Through their actions beings continually go from birth to death. The complete attainment of the fruit of yoga is lasting and unchanging life in the noumenal world of the Absolute.

Yoga is variously named according to the methods employed, but the two main divisions are those of the hathayoga (or ghatasthayoga) and samadhi yoga, of which raja-yoga is one of the forms. Hathayoga is commonly misunderstood, both in its definition and aim being frequently identified with exaggerated forms of self-mortification.

The Gherandasanghita well defines it to be “the means whereby the excellent rajayoga is attained.” Actual union is not the result of Hathayoga alone, which is concerned with certain physical processes preparatory or auxiliary to the control of the mind, by which alone union may be directly attained. It is, however, not meant that all the processes of Hathayoga here or in the books described are necessary for the attainment of rajayoga. What is necessary must be determined according to the circumstances of each particular case. What is suited or necessary in one case may not be so for another. A peculiar feature of Tan-trika virachara is the union of the sadhaka and his shakti in latasadhana. This is a process which is expressly forbidden to Pashus by the same Tantras which prescribe it for the vira. The union of Shiva and Shakti in the higher sadhana is different in form, being the union of the Kundalini Shakti of the Muladhara with the Vindu which is upon the Sahasrara. This process, called the piercing of the six chakra, is described later on in a separate paragraph. Though, however, all Hathayoga processes are not necessary, some, at least, are generally considered to be so. Thus, in the well-known ashtangayoga (eight-limbed yoga), of which samadhi is the highest end, the physical conditions and processes known as asana and pranayama (vide post) are prescribed.

This yoga prescribes five exterior (vahiranga) methods for the subjugation of the body – namely (1) Yama, forbearance or self-control, such as sexual continence, avoidance of harm to others (ahingsa), kindness, forgiveness, the doing of good without desire for reward, absence of covetousness, temperance, purity of mind and body, etc. (2) Niyama, religious observances, charity, austerities, reading of the Shastra and Ishvara Pranidhana, persevering devotion to the Lord. (3) Asana, seated positions or postures (vide post). (4) Pranayama, regulation of the breath. A yogi renders the vital airs equable, and consciously produces the state of respiration which is favourable for mental concentration, as others do it occasionally and unconsciously (vide post). (5) Pratyahara, restraint of the senses, which follow in the path of the other four processes which deal with the subjugation of the body. There are then three interior (yogangga) methods for the subjugation of the mind – namely (6) Dharana, attention, steadying of the mind, the fixing of the internal organ (chitta) in the particular manner indicated in the works on yoga. (7) Dhyana or the uniform continuous contemplation of the object of thought; and (8) that samadhi which is called savikalpasamadhi. Savikalpasamadhi is a deeper and more intense contemplation on the Self to the exclusion of all other objects, and constituting trance or ecstasy. This ecstasy is perfected to the stage of the removal of the slightest trace of the distinction of subject and object in nirvikalpasamadhi, in which there is complete union with the Paramatma, or Divine Spirit. By vairagya (dispassion), and keeping the mind in its unmodified state, yoga is attained. This knowledge, Ahang Brahmasmi (“I am the Brahman”), does not produce liberation (moksha), but is liberation itself, Whether yoga is spoken of as the union of Kulakundalini with Paramashiva, or the union of the individual soul (jivatma) with the Supreme Soul (paramatma), or as the state of mind in which all outward thought is suppressed, or as the controlling or suppression of the thinking faculty (chittavritti), or as the union of the moon and the sun (Ida and Pingala), Prana and Apana, Nada and Vindu, the meaning and the end are in each case the same.

Yoga, in seeking mental control and concentration, makes use of certain preliminary physical processes (sadhana), such as the shatkarmma, asana, mudra, and pranayama. By these four processes and three mental acts, seven qualities, known as shodhana, dridhata, sthirata, dhairyya, laghava, pratyaksha, nirliptatva (vide post), are acquired.

Shodhana: Shatkarmma

The first, or cleansing, is effected by the six processes known as the shatkarmma. Of these, the first is Dhauti, or washing, which is fourfold, or inward washing (antar-dhauti), cleansing of the teeth, etc. (dantadhauti) of the “heart” (hriddhauti), and of the rectum (muladhauti). Antardhauti is also fourfold – namely, vatasara, by which air is drawn into the belly and then expelled; varisara, by which the body is filled with water, which is then evacuated by the anus; vahnisara, in which the nabhi-granthi is made to touch the spinal column (meru); and vahishkrita, in which the belly is by kakinimudra filled with air, which is retained half a yama, and then sent downward. Dantadhauti is fourfold, consisting in the cleansing of the root of the teeth and tongue, the ears, and the “hollow of the forehead” (kapalarandhra). By hriddhauti phlegm and bile are removed. This is done by a stick (dandadhauti) or cloth (vasodhauti) pushed into the throat, or swallowed, or by vomiting (vamanadhauti). Mudadhauti is done to cleanse the exit of the apanavayu either with the middle finger and water or the stalk of a turmeric plant.

Vasti, the second of the shatkarmma, is twofold, and is either of the dry (shuska) or watery (jala) kind. In the second form the yogi sits in the utkatasana posture in water up to the navel, and the anus is contracted and expanded by ashvini mudra; or the same is done in the pashchimottanasana, and the abdomen below the navel is gently moved. In neti the nostrils are cleansed with a piece of string. Lauliki is the whirling of the belly from side to side. In trataka the yogi, without winking, gazes at some minute object until the tears start from his eyes. By this the “celestial vision” (divya drishti) so often referred to in the Tantrika upasana is acquired. Kapalabhati is a process for the removal of phlegm, and is threefold – vatakrama by inhalation and exhalation; vyutkrama by water drawn through the nostrils and ejected through the mouth; and shitkrama the reverse process.

These are the various processes by which the body is cleansed and made pure for the yoga practice to follow.

Dridhata: Asana

Dridhata, or strength or firmness, the acquisition of which is the second of the above-mentioned processes, is attained by asana.

Asana are postures of the body. The term is generally described as modes of seating the body. But the posture is not necessarily a sitting one; for some asana are done on the belly, back, hands, etc. It is said that the asana are as numerous as living beings, and that there are 8,400,000 of these; 1,600 are declared to be excellent, and out of these thirty-two are auspicious for men, which are described in detail. Two of the commonest of these are muktapadmasana (“the loosened lotus seat”), the ordinary position for worship, and baddhapadmasana. Patanjali, on the subject of asana, merely points out what are good conditions, leaving each one to settle the details for himself according to his own requirements. There are certain other asana, which are peculiar to the Tantras, such as munddasana, chitasana, and shavasana, in which skulls, the funeral pyre, and a corpse respectively form the seat of the sadhaka. These, though they may have other ritual objects, form part of the discipline for the conquest of fear and the attainment of indifference, which is the quality of a yoga. And so the Tantras pre-scribe as the scene of such rites the solitary mountain-top, the lonely empty house and river-side, and the cremation-ground. The interior cremation-ground is there where the kamik body and its passions are consumed in the fire of knowledge.

Sthirata: Mudra

Sthirata, or fortitude, is acquired by the practice of the mudra. The mudra dealt with in works of hathayoga are positions of the body. They are gymnastic, health-giving, and destructive of disease, and of death, such as the jaladhara and other mudra. They also preserve from injury by fire, water, or air. Bodily action and the health resulting therefrom react upon the mind, and by the union of a perfect mind and body siddhi is by their means attained. The Gheranda Sanghita describes a number of mudra, of which those of importance may be selected. In the celebrated yonimudra the yogi in siddhasana stops with his fingers the ears, eyes, nostrils, and mouth. He inhales pranavayu by kakinimudra, and unites it with apanavayu. Meditating in their order upon the six chakra, he arouses the sleeping Kulakundalini by the mantra “Hung Hangsah,” and raises Her to the Sahasrara; then, deeming himself pervaded with the Shakti, and in blissful union (sanggama) with Shiva, he meditates upon himself, as by reason of that union Bliss itself and the Brahman. Ashvinimudra consists of the repeated contraction and expansion of the anus for the purpose of shodhana or of contraction to restrain the apana in Skatchakrabheda. Shaktichalana employs the latter mudra, which is repeated until vayu manifests in the sushumna. The process is accompanied by inhalation and the union of prana and apana whilst in siddhasana.

Dhairya: Pratyahara

Dhairya, or steadiness, is produced by pratyahara. Pratyahara is the restraint of the senses, the freeing of the mind from all distractions, and the keeping of it under the control of the Atma. The mind is withdrawn from whatsoever direction it may tend by the dominant and directing Self. Pratyahara destroys the six sins.

Laghava: Pranayama

From pranayama (q.v.) arises laghava (lightness).

All beings say the ajapa Gayatri, which is the expulsion of the breath by Hangkara, and its inspiration by Sahkara, 21,600 times a day. Ordinarily, the breath goes forth a distance of 12 finger’s breadth, but in singing, eating, walking, sleeping, coition, the distances are 16, 20, 24, 30, and 36 breadths respectively. In violent exercise these distances are exceeded, the greatest distance being 96 breadths. Where the breathing is under the normal distance, life is prolonged. Where it is above that, it is shortened. Puraka is inspiration, and rechaka expira-tion. Kumbhaka is the retention of breath between these two movements. Kumbhaka is, according to the Gheranda Sanghita of eight kinds: sahita, suryyabheda, ujjayi, shitali, bhastrika, bhramari, murchchha, and kevali. Pranayama similarly varies. Pranayama is the control of the breath and other vital airs. It awakens shakti, frees from disease, produces detachment from the world, and bliss. It is of varying values, being the best (uttama) where the measure is 20; middling (madhyama) when at 16 it produces spinal tremor; and inferior (adhama) when at 12 it induces perspiration. It is necessary that the nadi should be cleansed, for air does not enter those which are impure. The cleansing of the nadi (nadi-shuddhi) is either samau« or nirmanu – that is, with or without, the use of vija. According to the first form, the yogi in padmasana does gurunyasa according to the directions of the guru. Meditating on “yang,” he does japa through Ida of the vija 16 times, kumbhaka with japa of vija 64 times, and then exhalation through the solar nadi and japa of vija 32 times. Fire is raised from manipura and united with prithivi. Then follows inhalation by the solar nadu with the vahni vija 16 times, kumbhaka with 64 japa of the vija, followed by exhalation through the lunar nadi and japa of the vija 32 times. He then meditates on the lunar brilliance, gazing at the tip of the nose. and inhales by Ida with japa of the vija “thang” 16 times. Kumbhaka is done with the vija vang 64 times. He then thinks of himself as flooded by nectar, and considers that the nadi have been washed. He exhales by Pingala with 32 japa of the vija lang, and considers himself thereby as strengthened. He then takes his seat on a mat of kusha grass, a deerskin, etc., and, facing east or north, does pranayama. For its exercise there must be, in addition to nadi shuddhi, consideration of proper place, time, and food. Thus, the place should not be so distant as to induce anxiety, nor in an unprotected place, such as a forest, nor in a city or crowded locality, which induces distraction. The food should be pure, and of a vegetarian character. It should not be too hot or too cold, pungent, sour, salt, or bitter. Fasting, the taking of one meal a day, and the like, are prohibited. On the contrary, the Yogi should not remain without food for more than one yama (three hours). The food taken should be light and strengthening. Long walks and other violent exercise should be avoided, as also – cer-tainly in the case of beginners – sexual intercourse. The stomach should only be half filled. Yoga should be commenced, it is said, in spring or autumn. As stated, the forms of pranayama vary. Thus, sahita, which is either with (sagarbha) or without (nirgarbha) vija, is, according to the former form, as follows: The sadhaka meditates on Vidhi (Brahma), who is full of rajoguna, red in colour, and the image of akara. He inhales by Ida in six measures (matra). Before kumbhaka he does the uddiyanabandha mudra. Meditating on Hari (Vishnu) as sattvamaya and the black vija ukara, he does kumbhaka with 64 japa of the vija; then, meditating on Shiva as tamomaya and his white vija makara, he exhales through Pingala with 32 japa of the vija; then, inhaling by Pingala, he does kumbhaka, and exhales by Ida with the same vija. The process is repeated in the normal and reversed order.

Pratyaksha: Dhyana

Through dhyana is gained the third quality of realization or pratyaksha. Dhyana, or meditation, is of three kinds: (1) sthula, or gross; (2) jyotih; (3) sukshma, or subtle. In the first the form of the Devata is brought before the mind. One form of dhyana for this purpose is as follows: Let the sadhana think of the great ocean of nectar in his heart. In the middle of that ocean is the island of gems, the shores of which are made of powdered gems. The island is clothed with a kadamba forest in yellow blossom. This forest is surrounded by Malati, Champaka, Parijata, and other fragrant trees. In the midst of the Kadamba forest there rises the beautiful Kalpa tree, laden with fresh blossom and fruit. Amidst its leaves the black bees hum and the koel birds make love. Its four branches are the four Vedas. Under the tree there is a great mandapa of precious stones, and within it a beautiful bed, on which let him picture to himself his Ishtadevata. The Guru will direct him as to the form, raiment, vahana, and the title of the Devata. Jyotirdhyana is the infusion of fire and life (tejas) into the form so imagined. In the muladhara lies the snake-like Kundalini. There the jivatma, as it were the tapering flame of a candle, dwells. The sadhaka then meditates upon the tejomaya Brahman, or, alternatively, between the eyebrows on pranavatmaka, the flame emitting its lustre.

Sukshmadhyana is meditation on Kundalini with sham-bhavi mudra after She has been roused. By this yoga (vide post) the atma is revealed (atmasakshatkara).

Nirliptatva: Samadhi

Lastly, through samadhi the quality of nirliptatva, or detachment, and thereafter mukti (liberation) is attained. Samadhi considered as a process is intense mental con-centration, with freedom from all sangkalpa, and attachment to the world, and all sense of “mineness,” or self-interest (mamata). Considered as the result of such process it is the union of Jiva with the Paramatma.

Forms Of Samadhi Yoga

This samadhi yoga is, according to the Gheranda Sanghita, of six kinds. (1) Dhyanayogasamadhi, attained by shambhavi mudra, in which, after meditation on the Vindu-Brahman and realization of the Atma (atmapratyaksha), the latter is resolved into the Mahakasha. (2) Nadayoga, attained by khechari mudra, in which the frenum of the tongue is cut, and the latter is lengthened until it reaches the space between the eyebrows, and is then introduced in a reversed position into the mouth. (3) Rasanandayoga, attained by kumbhaka, in which the sadhaka in a silent place closes both ears and does puraka and kumbhaka until he hears the word nada in sounds varying in strength from that of the cricket’s chirp to that of the large kettledrum. By daily practice the anahata sound is heard, and the jyotih with the manas therein is seen, which is ultimately dissolved in the supreme Vishnu. (4) Layasiddhiyoga, accomplished by the celebrated yonimudra already described. The sadhaka, thinking of himself as Shakti and the Paramatma as Purusha, feels himself in union (sanggama) with Shiva, and enjoys with him the bliss which is shringararasa, and becomes Bliss itself, or the Brahman. (5) Bhakti Yoga, in which meditation is made on the Ishtadevata with devotion (bhakti) until, with tears flowing from the excess of bliss, the ecstatic condition is attained. (6) Rajayoga, accomplished by aid of the manomurchchha kumbhaka. Here the manas detached from all worldly objects is fixed between the eyebrows in the ajnachakra, and Kumbhaka is done. By the union of the manas with the atma, in which the jnani sees all things, rajayogasamadhi is attained.

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