The purpose of Hatha Yoga
Miguel Homem
Também disponível em português

Where is Hatha Yoga supposed to lead? The Hatha Yoga Pradípiká says: 

      “Yogi Swátmáráma, after solemnly welcoming the diety and his guru, establishes, right from the start, that the teaching of Hatha Yoga is only a means to the attainment of Raja Yoga.” (I-2) 

And the Gheranda-Samhitá

      ““I bow before Ádíshvaráya, who teached the science of Hatha Yogain the beginning, the science that represents the first step of the leadder leading to the supreme highness of Rája Yoga.” (introduction verse for chapter I)

When we read these passages, a doubt naturally arises: isn’t Hatha Yoga at the same level as other Yogas? Is it an inferior Yoga? The following Hatha Yoga Pradípiká passage may clarify these questions:


  •             “Rája Yoga, samádhi, unmaní, manomaní, amaratava, láyá, tattva, shúnyashúnya, paramapáda, amanaska, advaita, niralámba, nirañjana, jívanmukti, sahaja e túrya are synonims.” (IV, 3-4).

    This passage seems especially relevant for me for various reasons. First, it helps us understand the meaning of the initial verses of the Hatha Yoga Pradípiká and the Gheranda Samhitá. The reference to Rája Yoga as the purpose of Hatha is not related to the method, but to the aim, the final state to achieve. Then it shows us the identity between a number of concepts of states which, at first, may seem different. So, Rája Yoga and samádhi are taken as equivalent. Among the cited, let’s see others with further interest to our study. 

    Unmaní, manomaní are typical concepts of the nátha sampradáya and they define the mind’s state of denial (un-maní) or, put in another way, the conscious state beyond the mind (mano-maní). These are different names to designate what Patañjali called asamprajñáta samádhi or nirvikalpa samádhi. Look at Hatha Yoga Pradípiká (IV, 60-62).           

    Tattva, the reality, is a composition of the Vedánta mahávakhya Tat tvam asi, that is, one of the great affirmations of the Upanishads, you are this, the identity between jíva and Brahman. “I am Brahma, I am nothing else, Brahma is certainly Me; I will not participate in sadness, I am existence, conscience, happiness, always free, with one single essence”, says the GheraŠda Samhitá (VII, 4), one of the classic texts of Hatha Yoga.           

    Advaita, no duality, is the qualifier of the monist doctrine taught by ´´Adi Shankarachárya, according to which there is only one independent and eternal reality, BrahmanBrahman is satyam, everything else is mithyam. Brahman is absolutely real, everything else depends on it for its existence.

    Turíya was described in the Mándukhya Upanishad (7) as what is beyond the three avasthás, vigil, sleep and deep slumber, the átman. The consciousnesse related to those states, seen from its own perspective, without any reference to name or form (námarúpa), is called turíya. Turíya is the name for pure consciousness.  

    Hence, the search of Hatha Yoga is also the search of knowledge Aham Brahma’smi, I am Brahman, and its techniques seek nothing more than this knowledge.

    “Only Knowledge (Jñána) is eternal. It doesn’t have beginning nor end. There is nothing else. The apparent diversity in the world is a result of the limitation of the senses. When this limitation disappears, only Knowledge shines.” Shiva Samhitá (I,1).

    Finally, I will leave this passage from the Gorakshabodha, a text presumably written by Gorakshanátha in the form of a dialogue between him and his master Matsyendranátha[1]:           

    “Gorakshanátha: How can someone reach the samádhi? How can someone be free from disturbing factors? How can someone acquire turíya? How can someone make his body immutable and immortal?         

    Matsyendranátha: The young person reaches the samádhi through his mind; he frees himself from disturbances through the spirit; he acquires turíya through attention and knowledge (jñána) and by obeying and turning to his Guru he reaches immortality.” (67,68).  


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    [1] The tradition of the Sanatana Dharma relates the creation of Hatha Yoga to Matsyendranátha and to his disciple Gorakshanátha.

    Tradução de Andreia Pereira. Dharmabindu wishes to thank the translation of Andreia Pereira from the original Portuguese Text to English.




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