The History of Yoga

The fundamental aim of all Yogic methods is the diversion of the Prana (breath) which normally circulates in the Ida and Pingala channels into the central Sushumna channel, as was elucidated in a previous post.  Numerous yogis across the Indian sub-continent over several centuries perfected a multitude of methods to achieve this common goal.  If you ever wanted to read all about it in one place, the “History of Yoga” (editor: Satya Prakash Singh) is for you.  This is a massive work comprising 40 chapters spanning about 900 pages written by 19 subject experts which traces the origins and development of Yoga starting from the Vedas to the modern times.  It is not possible to do justice to such a large comprehensive volume in a short article.  Instead, I will present some interesting tidbits that I gained from the book.

History of Yoga (editor: Satya Prakash Singh)

First Section

There are four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), each consisting of four sections – the Samhita, the Brahmana, the Aranyaka and the Upanishads.  References to Yoga are scattered through these texts.  The first section of this book discusses the Yoga described in the Samhita section of the Vedas.

It may be recalled that Sri Aurobindo had unlocked an esoteric interpretation of the Vedas on the basis of his spiritual experiences, but due to his preoccupation with yogic practice, he did not have the time required to scan the entire Vedas and test if his interpretation held consistently across the text.   His work was continued by his disciples Kapali Sastry and A.B. Purani (See “Vedas”). This book builds on this prior work by applying Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation wherever possible.  Here, we find a description of various Vedic methods of realization such as Angiras’s meditation on the primeval sound Om (called Pranava Sadhana); Atharvan’s meditation on the highest centre in the human body (“churning fire out of the lotus fire in the head”); the Madhu-Vidya of Dadhyan through which the honey that lies latent within the consciousness is unlocked; Bhrigu’s discovery of the spiritual fire; Bhrigu Varuni’s discovery of the five sheaths of the human personality; Vishwamitra’s devotion to the Agni fire; Bharadvaja’s yoga of self-purification and devotion to the Divine; Gritsamada’s devotion to Agni; the Vak-Sadhana of Dirghatamas in which one becomes aware of the hidden forms of speech vibrations which arise from the heat (tapas) conserved in the body;  and several other methods which I am omitting here.  Some of these Vidyas have been discussed in two earlier posts : here and here.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, the crux of Yoga is to gather the unruly Prana (breath) and divert its flow into the central Sushumna channel.  There is a symbolic reference to this idea in the Rig Veda (X.189), which has three mantras that recount how Surya determines the process of breathing-in and breathing-out with Sarparajni, the queen of serpents, as the witness of these mysterious acts.  This finding is important because it has been conventionally assumed that the idea of Kundalini has its root in the Tantric tradition rather than the Vedas[1].

Explorers and scholars have sought to determine the identity of the Soma plant mentioned in the Rig Veda as well as the Zend Avesta of the Zoroastrians.  Soma is supposed to be some secret elixir which can confer immortality.  Such investigators are oblivious to Rig Veda (10.85.3-4) which avers that the real Soma is not any plant on earth but the ambrosial juice which one tastes after attaining success in Yoga: “They think, when they have crushed the plant, that they have drunk the Soma’s juice; Of him whom Brahmans truly know as Soma, no one ever tastes” [2].  Sri Aurobindo also alludes to the Soma wine flowing through the body quite a few times in his spiritual diary: “The whole mental consciousness is now beginning to be pervaded by a sense of substantial light (jyotih) and the body with a sense of the flowing of a wine, an ecstatic subtle liquor of delight, Soma. The sense of will as a fire, Agni, is sometimes present.”[3].

Sri Aurobindo spoke of an ascent experience whereby one experiences oneself rising above the physical body.  It seems that this idea was alluded to in the Atharva Veda (X.2.26): “Having tied together the head and the heart of this (body), Atharvan, undergoing the process of purification, made himself rise above the brain in the head.” [4].

The Marut deities described in the Vedas, according to Sri Aurobindo, are the “nervous or vital forces of our being which attain to conscious expression in the thought”[5].  Rudra is said to be the father of the Maruts.  The Satapatha Brahmana (XI.6.3.7) contains a verse which seems to strengthen this observation: “How many are the Rudras? They are the ten pranas operating in the human body.  This is what he pointed out and continued ‘Atman is the eleventh one’ “[6].

Second Section

The second section of the book details references to Yoga in the Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad sections of the four Vedic texts.

The word “yajna” is commonly understood to imply the rituals which are conducted by priests in front of the sacrificial fire.  The real “yajna”, as Sri Aurobindo explained, is the kindling of the inner fire through the individual consecration to the Divine.  The Aitereya Aranyaka (II.3.4) seems to back this interpretation: “What is known as yajna, that is simply the alternate action of vak and citta undertaken in coordination with each other”.   The inner sense of “yajna” is transparent in this verse.  Vak is the product of an organ of action, and citta is the result of the operation of manas(sense-mind) in coordination with the sense organs[7].

The Aitareya Aranyaka enumerates the centers in the human body on which meditation can be done: the spot between the eyebrows, the region of the heart, and the center of the belly [8].  [Personal note: I don’t think center in the belly is advisable because it may generate excessive heat.]

In the Taittiriya Aranyaka(VI.11), we find a description of the psychic being which resides in the heart of all human beings.  There is said to be a lotus flower turned downward and lying nine inches below the throat and a few inches above the navel.  It is a treasure-chest hanging on a cluster of nerves.  In the center of the heart is a hole which holds a compressed form of the entire Universe and within this hole, there burns a fire.  It is this fire which keeps the whole body warm and alive. Within this fire is a flame that shines like a streak of lightning.  This flame is the abode of the Supreme Being. [9].

Meditation can be done in two ways: by concentrating on internal body centers or by contemplating on external objects like the sky, the ocean, etc. This has been described in the Maitrayaniya Aranyaka [10].

Patanjali is normally credited with formulating the eightfold path of Yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharana, and samadhi.  We find an earlier version of this formulation in the Maitrayaniya Aranyaka (VI.18) which enumerates six steps: pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharana, tarka and samadhi [11].

Third Section

Section three enumerates discussions on Yoga present in the traditional epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  Here, we learn of exchanges on Yoga which occurred between various characters in the epics (e.g. Bhisma gave instruction to Yudhisthira on Dhyana-Yoga in the Mahabharata) [12].

Fourth Section

Section four elucidates on the Yogic practices in Buddhism and Jainism.  These are well-known and can be found in other books as well.

Fifth Section

Section five concerns the systematization of Yoga which has occurred via Hatha Yoga and through the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Sixth Section

Section six discusses the Yoga-Vasistha and the teaching of the southern Vedantic metaphysicians such as Shankaracharya, Bhaskaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Nimbarkacharya and Vallabhacharya.

Seventh Section

Section Seven covers the life of several medieval sages.  It describes the life and teaching of the twelve Tamil Alvar saints from Southern India; Narasimha Mehta from Gujarat who wrote the song “Vaishnava Jana to tene Kahiye”(“He who understands the pain of others is one of God’s own”) which was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi; Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Bengal; the poet-mystic Kabir who was revered by Hindus and Muslims; Tulsidas who lived in Northern India; Swami Haridas; and Jnaneshvara of Maharashtra who belonged to the Nath tradition.

This section also relates the content of Narada Bhakti Sutras and other similar Sutras developed in that era.

Eighth Section

Section Eight covers the Yogic methods enunciated in Tantra, Saivism (both southern and the northern Kashmir types) and Sufism.

It is traditionally believed that the Tantras were developed in opposition to the Vedas.  In chapter 28, the book lays out several points of coincidence between the Tantras and the Veda.  It points out that there are in reality two types of Tantras: pro-vedic (astika) and anti-vedic(nastika). The Kularnava Tantra, the Mahanirvana Tantra, and the Prapancasara Tantra bear remarkable similarities with the Vedas.  Some of these Tantrik practices are also adumbrated in the Vedic literature. The concept of Diksa (initiation) is found in the Aitareya Brahmana (chap. 1) and the Taittiriya Aranyaka (chap. 2).  The monosyllabic bija mantras known to Tantra are also found in the Vedas.  The use of the Phat sound is mentioned in the Rig Veda and is also found in the Vajasaneyi Samhita (7.3).  The Taittiriya Aranyaka (4.27) mentions chanting of root sounds such as Khat, Phat and Kat. [13].  This information is pertinent to an earlier post which discussed connections between the Vedas, Upanishads, Tantra and Puranas.

In popular mythology, Lord Shiva is depicted with a blue throat.  It is said that he stained his throat when he swallowed the poison that had been released from the cosmic ocean during the battle between the gods and the demons (see Halahala).  In Chapter 33, which narrates the life of the Tamil sages, Tirumular and Bogar, we find a novel interpretation of Shiva’s blue throat.  Tirumular states in verse 521 of his work, the Tirumandiram:

He (Siva) sports the garland of white skulls,
His spreading locks are matter;
He supports the Universe vast,
He fills Space in directions eight,
On the throat of his Downward-directed Face
Darkness suffuses;
They say, “He swallowed poision;”
They are ignorant; they know not the truth

What Tirumular implies is that when the sex-energy is directed below the throat, it is dark but when the sex-energy is sublimated above the throat, it becomes amrita (nectar) and it illuminates the body-space above the throat.  “Siva has swallowed the poison” means that he has prevented the sex-energy going downward [14].

All Yogis who have transmuted their sexual energy are able to experience this sweet nectar in the throat.  Sri Aurobindo also seems to have experienced it, as per his diary note on Feb 6, 1911: “Felt the sweet taste of the amrita in the throat and noticed the struggle ibidem of the impure rasa causing nausea with the amrita”.  A few days later, he wrote, “Sweetness of amrita much stronger, denser and more frequent and continuous, the mixture of phlegm less frequent.”[15].  This is a good illustration of how the body gets physiologically transformed through Yoga; one begins to experience a sweetness and tranquility within the body.

In the chapter on “Elements of Yoga in Sufism”, we get a detailed correspondence between Sufi and Yogic disciplines.  It is written by Mohd. Sanaullah (Aligarh Muslim University) who has intimate knowledge of Yoga as well as Sufi practices.  There have existed at least four major schools of Sufis in India (Chisti, Suhrawardy, Qadiri, Naqshbandi) going back several centuries. Some of these orders seemed to have incorporated yogic methods into their practice while others did not. The chapter names several Sufi practices and traces them to their yogic origins.  Mulla Shaida(??-1669), a celebrity poet during the reign of Mughal Emperors Jehangir and Shah Jahan, is reported to have written in his memoir:

They (the yogins) are the guides of Sufis in performing and learning breath-control (Paas-i-Anfaas). They treat the physical ailment through breath control and such other methods prescribed by their sages. Those who are perfect in this science can raise themselves in air and walk on water. They also possess remarkable knowledge about the nature of things (herbs). They also exert themselves in the pursuit of gnosis; according to the compiler of Hauz al-Hayat, they believe in the unity of God as well as the existence of Prophets from time to time.  They call Hazrat Khizr Gorakhnath in their language[16].

Gorakhnath was an ancient seer of the Nath tradition discussed in an earlier post.

The Hauz al-Hayat (“Pool of the water of life”) mentioned in the above passage is the name given to the Persian translation of the Amrutakunda(“Pool of nectar”), a Sanskrit text on Yoga which is now lost.   According to Carl Ernst:

“This eclectic Persian text contained breath control practices relating to magic and divination, rites of the yogini temple cult associated with Kaula tantrism, and the teachings of hatha yoga according to the tradition of the Nath yogis (popularly called jogis)….at least forty-five copies (of this manuscript) are found in libraries in European and Arab countries, the majority being in Istanbul. None of the manuscripts is older than the late sixteenth century….Sufis from the Qadiri, Mevlevi, and Sanusi orders in Sind (Pakistan), Turkey, and North Africa continued to refer to The Pool well into the nineteenth century. The Arabic text was twice translated into Ottoman Turkish, and Muhammad Ghawth’s Persian translation was itself rendered into Dakhani Urdu.  The Arabic version is still in use today; a Damascene Sufi shaykh who is an expert on the works of Ibn al-Arabi regards it as a very important treatise.” [17].

It is significant to observe this cross-religious assimilation in the light of contemporary concerns about the compatibility of Yoga to people of other religious traditions.

Ninth Section

Section Nine covers the modern sages : Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda; Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala; Sri Aurobindo; Mahavatara Babaji and the school of Kriya Yoga which was popularized by Yogananda; Visuddhananda’s Akhanda Mahayoga and lastly, Gopinath Kaviraj.

Tenth Section

Section Ten is philosophical in nature. It presents the Nyaya-Vaisheshika argument on the validity of knowledge acquired through yogic means.


There is a lot of information that I have omitted in this condensed review. I might post another article on this book later.  (Update: See part 2 now posted).  One helpful feature of the book is that at the end of every chapter, it lists the Sanskrit verses from the ancient scriptures which were alluded to within that chapter.  This is the table of contents from


I. Innovation of Yoga in Vedic Samhitas

1    Traces of Yoga in the Vedic Samhitas (Satya Prakash Singh )     3
2    Yogic Sadhana of Vedic Seers ( Satya Prakash Singh )     21
3    Yoga of Devotion in Vedic Samhitas (Satya Prakash Singh)  73
4    Vedic Yoga of Knowledge (Satya Prakash Singh)     101
5    Karma and other Miscellaneous Yogas (Satya Prakash Singh)    121
6    Yogic Motifs in Indus Seals (Satya Prakash Singh)     141

II. Elaboration of Yogic Thought and Practices in Brahmanas Aranyakas and Upanisads

7    Recapitulation of Elements of Yoga in the Brahmanas and Aranyakas (Satya Prakash Singh)    155
8    Crystallization of Yoga in the Early Upanisads (Satya Prakash Singh)    171
9    Consolidation of Yogic Sadhana in the alter Upanisads (Satya Prakash Singh)    197

III. Continuation of the Tradition in The Ramayana and the Mahabharata

10    Tradition of the Yogic as reflected in Valmiki’s Ramayana (Satya Prakash Singh)    215
11    Status of Yoga in the Mahabharata (Satya Prakash Singh)    223
12    Revival of tradition of Yoga in the Bhagavadgita (Satya Prakash Singh)    237

IV. Deviation from the Vedic Tradition in Jainism and Buddhism

13    Jaina concept of Yoga (Dayananda Bhargava)    255
14    Yoga in Buddhism (Satya Prakash Singh)    285

V. Systematization of Yoga in Patanjali and Hatha Yoga Yoga

15    Yoga in Patanjali (Satya Prakash Singh)    307
16    Hatha Yoga (Satya Prakash Singh)    327

VI. Yoga of Vedantic Acaryas and Yoga Vasistha

17    Yoga of Acarya Sankara (Satya Prakash Singh)    345
18    Bhakti-Yoga of Post Sankara Vedantic Acaryas (Satya Prakash Singh)    359
19    Yoga-Vasistha and its View of Yoga (Satya Prakash Singh)    371

VII. Bhakti Yoga of Medieval Saints

20    Yogic system and Sadhana of Alvars (Prema Nandakumar )    383
21    Yogic Sadhana of Narasimha Mehta (Bharati Jhaveri)    405
22    Yoga of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Chandtasekhar Rath)    429
23    Yoga of Kabira (Chandtasekhar Rath)    445
24    Yoga of Tulasi (Satya Prakash Singh)    455
25    Swami Haridasa and the Mode of his Yogic Sadhana (Sukh Ram Singh )    465
26    Yoga of Jnanesvara (Shubhada Joshi )    475
27    Yoga of Bhakti Sutras (Satya Prakash Singh)    489

VIII. Yogic Sadhana in Tantra Saivism and Sufism

28    Yoga in Sakta Tantra (Suparna Chatterjee)    507
29    History Of Yoga of Saiva Siddhanta (R. Gopalakrishnan )    529
30    Sivayoga of Virasaivism (M. Sivakumara Swamy )    543
31    Yoga in the Monistic Saiva Traditions of Kashmir (Navijivan Rastogi)    559
32    Yogic Significance of Sri Yantra (Pavitrananda Brahmachari)    581
33    Yogic Sadhana of Tamil Siddhas with Special Reference to Tirumular and Bogar (T.N. Ganapathy)    601
34    Elements of Yoga in Sufism (Mohd. Sanaullah)    629

IX. Revival of the Spirit of Yoga in Modern India

35    Yogic Sadhana of Maharishi Ramana (A.R. Natarajan)    655
36    Yogic Sadhana of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda (Satya Prakash Singh)    681
37    Philosophy and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo (Kireet Joshi)    695
38    Mahavatara Baba and his School of Kriya Yoga (Satya Prakash Singh)    707
39    Alhanda Mahayoga of Shri Vishnudhnanda and Gopinath Kaviraj (Suparna Chatterjee)    717

X. Yogic capability in the estimation of Logic

40    Nyaya-Vaisesika Argument in Favour of the validity of Yogic knowledge (Raghunath Ghose)    735

Appendix I: Exploring the Legend of siddhasrama Jnanganj (A.K.Sen Gupta)     755
Appendix II: Prospects of Application of Yogic Wisdom to Medical Science (Prakash Chintamani Malshe)     805


  1. Satya Prakash Singh(ed).  History of Yoga, New Delhi : Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2010  p 203
  2. ibid., p 329
  3. Sri Aurobindo, Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, p 937
  4. Satya Prakash Singh(ed).  History of Yoga, p 13.
  5. Sri Aurobindo.  Secret of the Veda, CWSA vol. 15, p 412.
  6. Satya Prakash Singh(ed).  History of Yoga, p 150.
  7. ibid., p 161.
  8. ibid., p 163.
  9. ibid., p 166.
  10. ibid., p 167.
  11. ibid., p 168.
  12. ibid., p 226.
  13. ibid., p 509.
  14. ibid., p 613.
  15. Sri Aurobindo, Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, p 38
  16. Satya Prakash Singh(ed).  History of Yoga, p 644
  17. Carl Ernst, “The Islamization of Yoga in the Amrtakunda Translations”.  Journal of the. Royal Asiatic Society, ser. 3, 13, no. 2 (2003): 199–226.

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26 thoughts on “The History of Yoga

  1. V. Arvind

    Very interesting post on what sounds likes a very good book. A small typo: The ancient tamil yogi’s name is Tirumular (pronounced as Tirumoolar) , not Tirumalar.

  2. Alok

    What is the difference between Kriya yoga as mentioned by Swami Yogananda and the Integral Yoga revealed by Sri Aurobindo since both talk about evolution of the soul and give a sense about the immortality of the Body?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      I am not conversant with the details of Kriya Yoga but Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is different because seeks transformation through the descent of Shakti rather than the ascent of Kundalini.

      I am also not aware of what Yogananda said on immortality of the body, but as far as I know the supramental transformation does not exist in Yogananda’s teaching. Sri Aurobindo spoke not just of individual evolution through self-realization but also the evolution of the earth-consciousness.

  3. Anjan Sen

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing all the information here. I found the description of the psychic being as per the Taittiriya Aranyaka very interesting

    1. Sandeep Post author

      There seems to be a typo. The book says the heart centre is described in verse VI.11 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, but Section VI deals with rituals related to disposal of the dead body. Maybe the citation should be section VII, VIII or IX.

  4. mike

    l believe there is something in one of the ‘letter’s on yoga’ that mentions Babaji and Yogananda. Someone asked about whether the ‘immortality’ of Babaji was the same thing as ‘supramentalisation’ of the body [l think that’s right]. SA said it wasn’t and that Babaji appeared to be living in some subtle-physical form rather than a ‘supramental’ one.
    The letter doesn’t actually confirm that it’s the same yogananda, but the use of the two names suggests it is.

  5. Sandeep Post author

    There are a couple of other books on this topic, though not as comprehensive as the book discussed above.

    Edward Crangle. The origin and development of early Indian contemplative practices, Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz Verlag, 1994.
    Table of Contents
    chapter 1 : introduction
    chapter 2 : early vedic contemplative practices
    chapter 3 : contemplative practices in the upanishads
    chapter 4 : contemplative practices in the pali suttas

    Vivian Worthington. History of Yoga. London ; Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.
    Table of Contents
    The Principal Upanishads
    The Bhagavad Gita
    The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
    Yoga as Philosophy: The Six Systems
    Mahayana Buddhism
    Laya yoga
    Tibetan yoga
    Hatha yoga

  6. Pingback: History of Yoga – part 2 | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  7. Pingback: Art of Living « Life is Mysterious

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  9. Sandeep Post author

    The text above says

    It is traditionally believed that the Tantras were developed in opposition to the Vedas. In chapter 28, the book lays out several points of coincidence between the Tantras and the Veda. It points out that there are in reality two types of Tantras: pro-vedic (astika) and anti-vedic(nastika).

    That concurs with the Devi Bhagavata Purana, Book 7, Chapter 39

    My worship is of two kinds :– External and internal. The external worship is again twofold: one is Vaidik, and the other is Tântrik. The Vaidik worship is also of two kinds according to the differences in My forms…In those Tantra S’âstras, there are some passages in conformity with the Vedas and there are other passages contradictory to the Vedas. If the Vaidik persons resort to passages in conformity with the Veda, then there cannot arise any fault in them.

  10. Sandeep

    There is an exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington DC on Yoga’s 2000 year-old history

    The ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ exhibition at the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. will run from October 19th to January 26th. Its opening was delayed due to the government shutdown, but now things are back on track at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.

    “This exhibition looks at yoga’s ancient roots, and how people have been trying to master body and spirit for millennia,” said Julian Raby, The Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art in the press release. “By applying new scholarship to both rarely seen artworks and recognized masterpieces, we’re able to shed light on practices that evolved over time—from yoga’s ancient origins to its more modern emergence in India, which set the stage for today’s global phenomenon.”

    The exhibition will feature over 130 objects from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe, and the U.S.

  11. Al

    Correction: [Patanjali is normally credited with formulating the eightfold path of Yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharana, and samadhi.]

    This sequence should be …dharana, dhyana, samadhi, which is the triad of Samyama in Patanjali.

  12. Al

    Alok wrote: ‘What is the difference between Kriya yoga as mentioned by Swami Yogananda and the Integral Yoga revealed by Sri Aurobindo since both talk about evolution of the soul and give a sense about the immortality of the Body?’

    As I was initiated by Swami Hariharananda in person into the Kriya Yoga (1st and 2nd kriyas) that was revived by Yogiraj Shri Shri Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahashay (Lahiri Baba), I can give some input on this. Hariharanandaji was a direct disciple of Swami Shriyukteshwar of Serampore, this Swami was a disciple of Lahiri Baba, that makes the latter my param param param guru.

    But first, Swami Yogananda made that Kriya Yoga known in the US, but he changed it quite a bit to conform to the requirements of his western disciples.

    That Kriya Yoga, as given to Lahiri Baba by Babaji Maharaj, is Tantric in approach and Kundalini Yoga-oriented although usually the Kundalini part is somehow rarely mentioned. It is Tantric and Kundalini because the aspiration is an ascend from below to above, to the Sahasrara and the Guru Chakra above the fontanel. Its relationship to Kundalini Yoga comes from the many asanas and mudras (Kechari, Shambavi, Maha, Yoni, and others) incorporated by Lahiri Baba into his kriya sequences, as detailed in Swami Gorakhnath’s “Hatha Yoga Pradipika”, which is, in essence, a Kundalini Yoga treatise.

    Now to Sri Aurobindo, a way to explain his radical departure from the ascend is by quoting the beginning of “Yogic Sadhan”, as expounded in SA’s “Record on Yoga”, which reads:

    “The proper course of the Sadhan is just the opposite of the thing most people do and you have also done. People begin with the body and the prana, go on to the chitta and the manas, and finish up with the buddhi and the will. The real course is to start with the will and finish with the body. There is no need of Asana, Pranayama, Kumbhaka, Chittasuddhi, or anything else preparatory or preliminary if one starts with the will. That was what Sri Ramakrishna came to show so far as Yoga is concerned. “Do the Shakti Upasana first,” he said, “get Shakti and she will give you Sat.” Will and Shakti are the first means necessary to the Yogin. That was why he said always, “Remember you are Brahman,” and he gave that as a central message to Swami Vivekananda.”

    SA departs from the regular approach to yoga, and later on proposes a descend as the primary way to effect the spiritual evolution of the being (although always acknowledging the value of the more classical ascend).

  13. mike

    Al, thanks for that info about Yogananda – interesting.

    “What Tirumular implies is that when the sex-energy is directed below the throat, it is dark but when the sex-energy is sublimated above the throat, it becomes amrita (nectar) and it illuminates the body-space above the throat. “Siva has swallowed the poison” means that he has prevented the sex-energy going downward [14].

    All Yogis who have transmuted their sexual energy are able to experience this sweet nectar in the throat. Sri Aurobindo also seems to have experienced it, as per his diary note on Feb 6, 1911: “Felt the sweet taste of the amrita in the throat and noticed the struggle ibidem of the impure rasa causing nausea with the amrita”. A few days later, he wrote, “Sweetness of amrita much stronger, denser and more frequent and continuous, the mixture of phlegm less frequent.”[15]. This is a good illustration of how the body gets physiologically transformed through Yoga; one begins to experience a sweetness and tranquility within the body.”

    Thanks for explaining this sandeep. l’ve been wondering what the ‘nectar’ or ‘amrit’ was for a while now.
    Satprem mentions it too, but this ‘nectar’ which is apparently produced by a ‘Bindu’ at the back of the head (where the brahmin knot is, l think), is obviously not the Ananda, from what l understand.
    Satprem describes in His ‘notebooks of the apocalypse’ two different experiences:

    “First, that flow of Nectar in all the veins, the fibers, the cells − like a marvellous balm, an ointment for all the wounds of Matter. And it streamed and streamed, filling the thousands and millions of alveoli of the body with a Youth – the body was drinking that as if after thousands of years of thirst. It is strange, it is miraculous, it cannot be told. For one hour, the body drank that with a divine ecstasy. At one point, I felt or it felt: it will be that, the next food and the new breathing − perhaps even the new irrigation of the body. My words flatten everything, I force myself to note down. And so powerful! If there is a “summit” of terrestrial bodies, it can only be that.”

    And the Amrit one:

    “May 4, 1989

    Strong heart pains for a quarter of an hour, twenty minutes (I worked lying on my back). I sat up, and after fifteen minutes or so (I was calling Mother), a strange salivation came, very fluid and very abundant, which went down and flowed into my throat and… the pain stopped.
    … I spoke of that salivation to Sujata, she told me immediately: is this not the nectar? (amritam?)
    I don’t know, it had no particular taste (as far as I could be aware of it in that state), but it was surprisingly fluid. And very abundant: it flowed down the throat.
    … I also note that when the heart pain stopped, the ‘saliva’ stopped as well. But as soon as that ‘saliva’ went down, I noticed immediately (the body immediately realized or felt) that it was not ‘natural’, it was something ‘particular.’ If that ‘saliva’ flowed all the time, the functioning would not be the same (in the whole usual mechanism of the body, perhaps even in the old necessities of food).
    The sustentation of the body would probably be different and the pains would not be able to come. ‘That” would prevent them from coming − it would not come ‘after the event’ but before the event, if I may say so.
    Finally, I really believe that it is that famous ‘nectar’ of the Indian tradition. But I always distrust ‘labels’ − I prefer facts. This afternoon, it was a fact.
    We only know the animal mechanisms of the body, but perhaps there are divine mechanisms (!).”

  14. mike

    SA also mentions this ‘nectar’ in Letters On Yoga:

    The Flow of Amrita
    It [a flow of sweet liquid in the mouth] is a form of the flow of
    Ananda from above—when it takes a quite physical form the
    Yogins call it Amrita.
    Sudh¯a is nectar or Amrita, the food or drink of the gods. It is
    applied in Yoga to something that flows down from the Brahmarandhra
    into the palate when there is strong concentration.
    But this is psychological, so it must be the psychic sweetness
    flowing into the system.

      1. mwb6119

        *I found this description: “When the supply of cerebro-spinal fluid exceeds the volume of the cerebro-spinal canal, the ventricles of the brain and the meningeal structures, it seeps out and bathes the nerves, resulting in the experience of an intense sense physical/spiritual bliss.”

        *I find this kind of description/s quite vague. Did SA describe this experience in poetic form, for instance, in Savitri?

      2. mwb6119

        Sorry Mike, found this (no more questions):

        Amrita, the liquid of immortality is like nectar…
        It exudes from the Chandra center
        in the center of the head, deep behind the eyebrows…
        The juice is saltish, similar to ghee,
        with the consistency of honey.

        Who swallows this clear liquor
        dripping from the brain into the heart
        and obtained by means of meditation,
        becomes free from disease
        and tender in body like the stalk of a lotus,
        and will live a very long life.

        -Hatha Yoga Pradipika

      3. mwb6119

        Here is a brief conversation on the topic between SA and a disciple:

        “In the meantime it was brought to Sri Aurobindo’s notice that this man had tried to practise Hathayoga with­out a Guru and had begun with Khechari Mudra, Tratak and Uddiyan accompanied  by Kapal  Bhati Pranayama and ended by being sick. Raghunath was all along thinking that Sri Aurobindo was a great Hathayogi, because he meditated with open eyes and was able to do Uthāpana, levitation.
        Disciple : Raghunath says that he has made up his mind.
        Sri Aurobindo : Yes, but I have not made up my mind.
        Disciple : In Khechari Mudra the lower connecting line of the tongue is to be cut.
        Sri Aurobindo : I think Keshavananda at Chandod also had his tongue freed by cutting it for Khechari.
        Disciple : What is, after all, the result of Khechari Mudra?
        Sri Aurobindo : I believe it leads to a kind of trance which may give a certain Ananda.
        Disciple : The idea seems to be to invert the freed tongue so as to close the passage of breathing. The two nostrils are called the Ida and Pingala currents of Prana. The third is Sushumna on the crown of the head. When these two are stopped, by inverting the tongue and blocking the passage of breathing, then Sushumna begins to function. The theory is that Nectar – Amrita – is dropping from the Sushumna even now but as the tongue dose not  
        Page – 51

        taste it man does not enjoy the nectar. There is also a tradition that in Khechari Mudra one is able to fly.
        Sri Aurobindo : It only gives a kind of trance and a conse­quent Ananda :  I do not know what else it does.”

        *I read something yesterday [Norodbaran, A Purani, SA]stating that Khechari Mudra can be dangerous. Sorry, I lost the source.

        **I have yet to find SA (and M) recommending this practice.

  15. mike

    Thanks for the quotes mark.
    No, l don’t thik that tongue-cutting method was ever recommended by SA and M.

    The only thing l’ve seen in Savitri that might refer to ‘nectar’ is this:

    Delight shall drop down from my nectarous moon,
    My fragrance seize thee in the jasmine’s snare,
    My eye shall look upon thee from the sun.


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