yoga, haTha yoga, nAtha yoga, aghora, tantra and kriyA yoga


22. yoga, haTha yoga, nAtha yoga, aghora, tantra and kriyA yoga


Let’s understand the basic difference between different types of yoga-s


22.1. yoga


The basic or classical text of yoga is ‘patanjali yoga sUtra’. There are other books like Siva sUtra and dattatraya sUtra. yoga is an ancient meditative technique practised along wtih vedAnta and vedic karma kANDa. Though yoga was an integral part of life, wise say, it was maharShi patanjali who had complied basic principles of yoga into a systematic structure.


Many are of the opinion that the word ‘yoga’ means as some sort of physical exercise. However this definition is not true. maharShi patanjali in his sUtra-s has defined yoga in his patanjalI yoga sUtra (P.Y.S 1.1) as ‘chitta-vritti-nirodha’. vritti means tendencies, behavior, or thoughts and desires. vritti is mental agitation that is caused while meditating. chitta means ‘mind’ or antakaraNa. nirodha means ‘to negate’


The sUtra (aphorism) ‘chitta-vritti-nirodha’ means - yoga is to negate or remove tendencies of mind. In other words, yoga is to still the mind and make it free from thoughts and emotions.

yoga is derived from root word ‘yuj’ meaning ‘to join’. Hence yoga means ‘union’, union of incarnated soul with God i.e. union of jIvAtman (जीवात्मन् ) with paramAtman (परमात्मन् ). Merging of jīva into paramātman results into enlightenment. Empirically yoga means meeting of two or more people or objects.


haTha yoga pradIpikA (haṭha yōga pradīpikā) and in general all yoga schools, gives high importance to guru and his grace, without whom, the kunDalini cannot be activated and the yogic process (of union of jīvātman with paramātman) cannot be completed.


Preservation of semen is also necessary to progress spiritually. Hence celibacy (brahmacharya) and austerity (tapa, sādhanā) are given importance. Adherence to these qualities becomes strict as one progresses on the path of yoga.


22.1.1. The path


Unlike popular belief that yoga includes practice of āsana-s (body postures), maharṣi (maharShi) patanjali has not mentioned any āsana-s. āsana-s are found in manuals of haTha yoga. maharShi has just mentioned, ‘Sit in a posture that is comfortable’. yoga is control of mind and body via prāṇa (physical breathing and breath of energy) as, mind and breathing are connected. Later, mind is directly controlled. Any yogic process is not fully explained in books. They are to be learned only through an adept in yoga, a yogī who has achieved mastery over mind. Still further, a yogī becomes aware of various subtle bodies and tatva-s. By tuning with them achieves mastery over them and then transcends them to rise above māyā and merges in brahman resulting in enlightenment.


In this process, a yogi, according to the mental make-up and impressions of past lives achieves siddhi-s (super natural powers), maharShi patanjali cautions yogī-s against getting overwhelmed by siddhi-s as they cause hindrance to the spiritual progress.


The reason why āsana-s are given importance is due to the fact the yoga believes that for healthy mind, a healthy and strong body is necessary. āsana-s and banḍha-s (blocking of psychic nerves called as naḍī-s) help build strong body that is capable to withstand the divine outpour of divine energy that flows through the entire body. This energy is used for yogic process and then stored in prāṇmaya kośa (kosha) or energy body.


Surrender to īshvara and having firm faith in him is also mentioned in yoga sūtra-s, though no particular form of Isvara is mentioned.


To a sādhaka (meditator) this world is real, but for the siddha (Self Realised / God Realised), this world is unreal says patanjali in his sūtra P.Y.S. 2.22


Note: Here siddha means ‘ātma siddha’ meaning ‘God realised’ and not the master of siddhi-s, the supernatural powers.


22.2. haTha yoga (haṭha yoga)


haṭha generally means ‘stubbornness’, here it means strict discipline. The most popular manual for haṭha yoga is ‘haṭha yoga pradīpikā’. It is in haTha yoga that various āsana-s (body postures), bandha-s (blocking of subtle energy channels) and breathing patterns are mentioned. Though not compulsory, haTha yoga is generally taught to all neophyte yogi-s.


Āsana-s and prāṇāyam-s help one’s body to become strong, healthy and disease free. It also helps cleanse nāḍī-s, activates chakra-s and cleanse subtle  bodies. Mostly it is prāṇāmaya kosha (energy body / aura) that is cleansed, as beginners are not aware of other subtle bodies. Hence they may not be cleansed to the extent that prāṇamaya kosha is cleansed. It makes body ‘ready’ for meditation.


But before practising meditation, certain kriyā-s are practised. These are breathing techniques to cleanse subtle bodies and cleansing of chakra-s by directing energies. After the body becomes sufficiently pure, and mind calms down and turns introvert, meditation on supreme brahman is practised. The ways might be bhakti marga, Jṇāna marga (philosophical enquiry or meditation on OM ॐ) or kuṇḍlini yoga i.e. activating kuṇḍalini shakti from mulādhāra chakra and raising her to sahasrāra chakra via three main nāḍī-s, initially through iḍā &  pingalā and later on through suShumNa. Subtle bodies, chakra-s, nāḍī-s and kuṇḍalini are explained later.


According to haṭha yoga pradīpikā, four upadesha (fourth section), samādhi-upadesha says,  


राज-योगः समाधिश्छ उन्मनी छ मनोन्मनी |

अमरत्वं लयस्तत्त्वं शून्याशून्यं परं पदम || ३ ||

अमनस्कं तथाद्वैतं निरालम्बं निरञ्जनम |

जीवन्मुक्तिश्छ सहजा तुर्या छेत्येक-वाछकाः || ४ ||


rāja-yoghaḥ samādhiścha unmanī cha manonmanī |

amaratvaṃ layastattvaṃ śūnyāśūnyaṃ paraṃ padam || 3 ||

amanaskaṃ tathādvaitaṃ nirālambaṃ nirañjanam |

jīvanmuktiścha sahajā turyā chetyeka-vāchakāḥ || 4 ||


Raja Yogī, Samādhi, Unmani, Mauonmanī, Amarativa, Laya, Tatva, Sūnya, Aśūnya, Parama Pada, Amanaska, Advaitama, Nirãlamba, Nirañjana, Jīvana Mukti, Sahajā, Turyā, are all synonymous. 3-4.


सलिले सैन्धवं यद्वत्साम्यं भजति योगतः |

तथात्म-मनसोरैक्यं समाधिरभिधीयते || ५ ||


salile saindhavaṃ yadvatsāmyaṃ bhajati yoghataḥ |

tathātma-manasoraikyaṃ samādhirabhidhīyate || 5 ||


As salt being dissolved in water becomes one with it, so when Âtmâ and mind become one, it is called Samâdhi.


यदा संक्ष्हीयते पराणो मानसं छ परलीयते |

तदा समरसत्वं छ समाधिरभिधीयते || ६ ||


yadā saṃkṣhīyate prāṇo mānasaṃ cha pralīyate |

tadā samarasatvaṃ cha samādhirabhidhīyate || 6 ||


When the Prāṇa becomes lean (vigourless) and the mind becomes absorbed, then their becoming equal is called Samādhi. 6.


तत-समं छ दवयोरैक्यं जीवात्म-परमात्मनोः |

परनष्ह्ट-सर्व-सङ्कल्पः समाधिः सो|अभिधीयते || ७ ||


tat-samaṃ cha dvayoraikyaṃ jīvātma-paramātmanoḥ |

pranaṣhṭa-sarva-sangkalpaḥ samādhiḥ so|abhidhīyate || 7 ||


This equality and oneness of the self and the ultra self, when all Saṃkalpas cease to exist, is called Samādhi.


Credits and Source


22.3. nAtha yoga, aghora yoga and tantra (Sakta, shakta)


nAtha yoga is an ancient yoga which was popularized by the great mahA siddha-s Guru maChChinder nAtha (also spelled as maChChindra nAtha, matsyendra nAtha) and his great disciple Guru gorakhanAtha (also known as gorakshanAtha). They are worshippers of Adi guru bhagavAn Siva. There are 9 mahA-siddha-s called as navanAtha-s (navnaths) and 84 siddha-s who are highly revered in nAtha sampradAya (tradition).


Guru gorakshanAtha had given to the world laya yoga, which is merging in brahman by tuning with the divine sound often heard in right ear like sound of damaru or flute. In general, it can be any mantra too. Mind merges (laya) into brahman by tracing the origin of these divine sounds. Sounds themselves establish yogi into samAdhi and thereby one realizes brahman (paramAtmA or patamAtman).


There are many works attributed to Guru goraksha nAtha / gorakh nAtha like gorakh bodh, gorakh shaTak but one of the most important work is siddha siddhAnta paddhati.


22.3.1. sAbara mantra-s - simplification of sanskrit mantra-s, grace of mahAdeva


The Legend, according to ShrI goraksha mahApurANa, a revered scripture of the order of nAth yogi-s which describes lives of 9 great nAtha-s of the tradition, says once Siva and Sakti were roaming and found one tAntrika chanting mantra-s that were formulated by Siva himself in a wrong way. Siva concluded that this tAntrika will be doomed due to the ill effects of improper chanting (as vibrations produced by his chanting will downgrade his consciousness). Adi Sakti, the compassionate mother, blamed Siva for formulating such hard mantra-s and she said that Siva should give mantra-s in simpler form. Agreeing to Adi Sakti, Siva took form of aghori and went into the cave where tAntrika was chanting mantra-s in wrong way. He corrected him and gave him mantra-s in a simplified way. By chanting these mantra-s the tAntrika become a siddha and the first nAtha of the navanAtha sampradAya (‘nava’ means nine). These mantra-s came to be known a shAbara mantra-s. shAbara mantra-s are not in sanskrit. Many are in Hindi or it’s dialects.


Unfortunately, by the passage of time, due to selfish nature of human beings, these mantra-s were corrupted. Indians must have seen a fakir or a beggar who roams door-to-door with a dhoop (incense releasing lots of smoke) and waves peacock feathered broom chanting weird mantra-s. These are corrupted form of shAbara mantra-s. Originally, these mantra-s were used as an act of compassion by the siddha-s and nAtha yogi-s for the good of all. There are mantra-s to ward off evil effects, mantra-s for protection and well being of all, mantra-s for removing poison injected by scorpion bite (also found in atharva veda), and so on. gosvAmI tulsidAsa has also glorified sAbara mantra-s in one of his chaupai (four line verses in avadhi, a dialect of Hindi)


अनमिल आखर अरथ न जापू ।

प्रगट प्रताप महेस प्रतापू ।।

कलि बिलोकि जगहितहर गिरिजा ।

साबर मंत्र जाल जिन सिरिजा ।।


chaupai says, that for the good of mankind, maheSa (Siva), gave Sabara mantra-s.


An example of corrupted SAbara mantra in Hindi is


हनुमान पहलवान, बारह बरस का जवान

हाथ में बूंदी मुख में पान ।

हा! हा! हा!


It would be difficult to translate in proper English. Nevermind, lets try -


Hanuman, the body builder, 12 year old youth

bundI (boondi) [1] in hand, pAna (Paan) [2] in mouth

Haa! Haa! Haa!


[1] bundI or boondi is an Indian sweet. It is orangish coloured small balls either spicy or sweet. They are eaten as balls or are pressed together to form a bigger ball (laDDu, Laddoo). It is a generally seen as being offered to Lord gaNesha. boondi Ladoos are a common sweets distributed while celebrating good occasions like finalizing date of marriage, birth of child, passing in exams or scoring good marks in exams, celebrating graduation, becoming doctor, inaugurating a shop or a factory or office or clinic. etc.


[2] pAna or Paan is an ethnic Indian chew usually served at the end of an Indian meal and ceremonies such as weddings, receptions. Paan can be bought in nearly every street corner in India. They are believed to help in digestion of curried foods and also act as mouth fresheners. It may or may not contain tobacco.


You could see the rubbish in this verse. Did Hanuman ji ate Paan during the days of Ramayana :)


Lets see another example, which is actually a slang language, in fact giving bad words to the refugee who has come at your door to solve his personal problems.


रे भाई तू कहा से आया ?

तुझे किसने बुलाया ? तू किसका जाया ?

तेरी मां बहन की जिना करूं ... ।


Can’t translate this so-called SAbara mantra. First two lines enquire about the person who has approached a nAtha or an aghorI. Last line is a slang word.


There are even many muslims who practice these mantra-s and have got dikshA in nAtha or aghorI lineage. Now you must have understood the level of corruption and what kind of mantra-s are SAbara mantra-s.


SAbara mantra-s were meant to ward off evil influence, evil spirits and bad fortune. In addition to these, there are mantra-s to relieve pain in tooth, eyes or in general body pain, to cure diseases, heal wounds, removing of poison, protecting the womb (of pergrant women), vashikaraNa (controlling the mind of another person), etc.


Fortunately, there are some yogi-s who have protected the real mantra-s and are engaged in the spiritual quest for Self Realization. They rarely use these mantra-s, as they are not central part of yogic kriyA-s. Rightly, these true nAtha yogi-s stay away from society and live in isolated places like jungles.


(Note: Many may not agree with such practices and may discard them as primitive, nevertheless, we thought these mantra-s should be displayed not with the aim of practising, but just to get an idea of the nature of SAbara mantra-s)


The author finds it difficult to translate the mantra. Hence they are typed in Hindi.


An example of correct SAbara mantra is


Mantra for healing the wound


सार-सार बिजैसार बांधूं सात बार, फुटे अन्न उपजे घाव, सार राखे श्री गोरखनाथ ।


This mantra is to be chanted 31 times and then one has to blow air on the wound. It is expected that the pain should vanish and wound begins to heal.


Mantra for mahAlaxmI (Mahalaxmi)


श्री शुक्ले महाशुक्ले कमल दल निवासे भी महालक्ष्मी नमो नमः लक्ष्मी माई

सत की सवाई आओ चेतो करो भलाई, भलाई नाकरो तो सात समुद्रों की दुहाई,

ॠद्धि उखगे तो नौ नाथ चौरासी सिद्धों गुरु गोरखनाथ की दुहाई ।


A businessmen just after opening the shop, before sitting on his chair should recite this mantra and then start his work, then s/he can benefit from this mantra and may find increase in his business.


Credits: The above mantra-s are listed by Tantrik Bahal, Page 370 and 371 in Goraksha Mahapurana. Tantrik Bahal worked hard for years to find correct SAbara mantra-s.


It is to be noted that one may not find any effect of these mantra-s if one tries it. We are not nAtha yogI-s nor were we initiated into nAtha sampradAya. The mantra-s are displayed only for educational purposes for getting a feel of nature of SAbara mantra-s.


SAbara mantra-s cannot be pronounced by anybody. The basic principle is - Energy Follows Thoughts. Energy forms a particular shape in manomaya kosha (mental body). More concrete and clear the thought, better is the shape of thoughts and more is the energy in them. As the person raises his / her consciousness and progresses in spirituality, s/he can generate more powerful thoughts. These thoughts are then directed towards the target which they reach and then make our wish to manifest.


So the process of chanting mantra can be divided into two parts


  1. Creating a thought or an idea or a wish

  2. Directing it to it’s target


The in between part can be energizing the thought. This can be done by repeating the thoughts or chanting certain mantra-s several times or simply passing the energy in them. This is a complex science and a yogI is cautioned not to practice without getting initiated, as a guru is necessary to cover your mistakes and imperfections while chanting the mantra or directing them. Hence it is strongly recommended NOT to practice them even though they look simple.


These mantra-s are first to be mastered. One must be initiated by a nAtha yogI, who is an adept in such practised and also is an enlightened master.


22.4. The philosophy of nAtha yoga


SAbara mantra-s used for welfare of mankind do not form the core of nAtha philosophy. The path of a nAtha yogI is an inner journey, a kind of inner engineering.  Practicing it results in control of 5 elements (air, water, etc) and transformation of physical body into body of light, creation of indestructible spiritual body. This achievement is called as pinDa siddhi.


The philosophy of nAtha yoga is similar to Kashmir Saivism. Though a dualist school, it ends in non-duality. Brahman of the upanishads is referred to as Siva or para sAmbit, or para bhairava. Siva and Sakti are inseparable. Siva cannot do anything without Sakti. Sakti is the dynamic potency of Siva. The world is considered as real and as an extension of Siva himself via his potency, Sakti. Siva who is unchanging and formless and Sakti, the dynamic power interpenetrate each other. This ultimate state is called as sAmrasya. This is something different than sAnkhya and vedAnta which says that the reality or Brahman is untouched by prakriti (or Sakti or mAyA) and one has to transcend or sublate prakriti (mAyA) to experience it. The path of nAtha yoga is not only to experience this non-dual state, but to permanently stay in it without ever coming down to the dual plane. The process involves strengthening of physical body and the subtle bodies, activating chakra-s and raising kunDAlini to sahasrAra. Intense yogic practises are taught to select few which result into transformation of our body into indestructible spiritual body. In the process, a nAtha yogI comes across many siddhi-s, masters them and proceeds further. nAtha yogI, may also experience and, in his subtle body, even enter into subtle higher worlds like Indra-s heaven or even visit nether world by his own wish and return back to earthly plane and return to his physical body. After achieving perfection, a nAtha yogI roams the whole world (bhArata) for the good of mankind spreading peace and Siva’s grace on all, while continuously enjoying the divine play of Siva-Sakti. nAtha yogI also experiences and explores the relation between microcosm and macrocosm and the effect on each other. Every microcosmic event has it’s reflection in macrocosm and vice versa. A nAtha yogI is in constant communion with Siva, the supreme reality.


There are differences between the yogic schools of patanjalI, kriyA yoga and tantrika buddhism. The difference lies in the method used to reach the highest truth.


After understanding nAtha yoga, lets understand who are aghori-s.


22.5. aghori-s


aghori-s are branch of nAtha yogi-s. They are worshippers of Siva. Due to contemplative nature of nAtha yoga, many yogI-s who had divine experiences, which depends upon one’s own understanding, spiritual evolution of consciousness and temperament, began spreading the teachings based upon their experience. During course of time, many nAtha yogi-s began teaching yoga in their own way and in process they ended up creating their own sects. gorakhnAtha in order to distinguish his lineage from other nAtha yogi-s made piercing ears compulsory as a distinguishing mark. nAtha yogi-s generally wear ear rings. Since their ears are pierced, they are called as ‘kan-phaTA yogi-s’ (Kanphata Yogis). ‘kAna’ means ear and phADanA means to tear or pierce. phaTA means torn or pierced. Hence kan-phaTA yogi-s would translate as ‘Yogis with pierced ears’.


Aghori-s do not pierce their ears. Every nAtha yogI is an aghori before piercing his ears. matsyendranAtha and gorakhanAtha pierced their ears and hence they were known as kanphaTA yogI-s while jAlandharanAtha remained aghori for the life time (as he did not pierced his ears and wore earrings).


Among sub-sects of aghori-s, aughaDa (औघड), sarvaMgI (सर्वंगी) and dhurai (धुरै) (pronounced dhurei) are known. Most of the information that is written about aghori-s is that of aughaDa-s. aughaDa-s by nature are angry. Due to this reason, common people stay away from them as the common perception is that if they are displeased and get angry, they are capable of destroying their futures and bring bad fortunes in their life. Hence whenever they beg for alms, they are not allowed to leave empty handed. However, the reason of their anger is to keep away people for mainly two reasons - (1) to stay in solitude and (2) to keep secret meditative procedures secret so as to avoid the danger of them falling in wrong hands. They do not intend to harm people. Anger is constructively used, as it is like fire which can give life (cook food and give warmth) or give death (burn to ashes). It all depends upon how the fire of anger is used. They do not want to get carried away with respect and following of leymen which they begin to get as people experience their divine power to transform their life.


aghori-s are like kapAlikA-s. They achieve siddhi-s and are believed to use them for the good of all. aghori-s live in cremation grounds, as they can get all their requirements from cremation grounds. They are not allowed to have any connection with their family or with society. They do not have their homes. They eat anything fresh or rotten, animal and human flesh, animal and human feces, and finally human brain, as they believe that, ‘nothing exists which is not Siva’. Hence there is nothing like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘permissible’ and ‘forbidden’. aghori-s take this philosophy to the extreme. For them, veg or non-veg is just a matter. A dead animal body and a dead human body are one and the same. Whatever we eat, finally becomes blood. A person requires very strong mind to follow the path of aghori-s. They do not represent mainstream Hinduism and are not interested much in veda-s meaning they do not apply them in their daily life.  


gora means ‘fear’ or ‘terrifying’. a-ghora means that which is not ghora i.e. ‘that which lacks fear’ or ‘that which is not terrifying’.  aghori-s are taught to detach themselves to the processes they do, especially those which are forbidden by civilised society and considered as taboo. They break the barrier between ‘shishTAchAra’ (good behaviour) and ‘durAchAra’ (bad behaviour). By the grace of guru and Siva, they are themselves not affected by them, as they say that they can see through the illusion (of good and bad) and stay focused on the supreme truth ‘Siva’. They are masters of energy and kuNDalini. A famous aghori kenArama was believed to have powers to control 5 principle elements like air, water, fire, etc. They use their powers for good of humanity. However these sects are the most feared ones by society and no one wishes to mess with them.


True aghori-s never does evil on others and are always immersed in meditation on Siva. True aghori-s are ‘inner scientists’.


22.5.1. nAgA sAdhu-s are not aghori-s


nAgA sAdhu-s are well known in India as haTha yogI-s and martial monks. nAgA sAdhu-s are different than aghori-s. The difference is in their spiritual practice and philosophy they follow. nAgA sAdhu-s follow traditional advaita vedAnta and haTha yoga. They are ardent practitioners of haTha yoga. nAgA-s do not eat rotten flesh or human flesh. nAgA-s follow their own rules which were set up by great sankarAcArya-s like madhusudan sarasvatI. aghorI-s roam anywhere and live in cremation ground, whereas nAgA-s live collectively in their akhADA-s. Few roam in the outside world. While living outside their akhADA-s, they are forbidden to roam completely naked. They have to wear 3.5 meter cloth as SishTAcAra (good moral conduct as expected by the society) is necessary when they are roaming in society.


Birth of nAgA-s was to provide military assistance to kings. They are Hindu martial monks trained in combat skills, Guerrilla warfare, fighting in open, conducting surprise raids on enemies and fighting in extreme conditions like desert or in cold weather like himAlaya-s. aghorI-s are not martial monks, though nAtha yogI-s also practice martial arts, the very purpose of creation of nAgA sAdhU-s was to defend the attacks on sanAtana dharma in 14-15th century. There may be martial monks prior to madhusudan sarasvatI, but may be they were scattered. It was madhusudan sarasvatI who is credited to bring them under one roof and give a definite structure to their way of life.


Life of nAgA sAdhu-s is discussed later.


22.6. tAntrika-s (Sakta-s)


While aghori-s and some nAtha-s are worshippers of Siva, tAntrika-s are the worshippers of SAkti. They consider Adi Sakti as Brahman and all Gods and avatAra-s comes under her sway.


The most popular and also the most difficult tAntrika sAdhanA is ‘SrI vidyA upAsanA’. It is said that only a handful of people (around 12-14) in entire world, all living in India, have full knowledge of SrI vidyA and SrI yantra. SvAmI brahmAnanda of jyotir maTha (also known as joShI maTha) was considered as an authority on SrI vidyA upAsanA.


A yantra is used as it is difficult for new practitioners to directly meditate on chakra-s, kunDalini, and perform intense tAntrika practice.


An accomplished SrI-vidyA upAsaka in his forward to a book, which is an english translation of saundarya-lahiri by Swami Tapasyananda of Sri Ramakrishna Mission has written much about the shAkta cult. Please find an extract from the same.


bhAskarAya mAkin, has written commentary ‘setu bandha’ on nitya-SoDaSikArNava of vAmkesvara tantra, lalitA-sahasranAma bhAshya, a commentary on lalitA-sahasranAma and varivasyA rahasya. These three texts are called as prasthAntrayI (three most important starting points) of shakti worship.


The worship of SrI-chakra is set forth by SrI Adi SankarAchArya in his prapanchasAra tantra and saundarya lahiri and this form of worship as described in these texts occupies high places in the traditions of the matha-s organized by him through his disciples. In Tamil, we have expositions of shakti mantra-s and upAsanA-s in great works like thirumandiram of a siddha thirumUlAra nAyanAra. shakti worship is spread throughout India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. In Kashmir she is called as ambA. An entire city, Srinagar (SrI-nagar) is named after devi. as viSAlAkshI in Varanasi, as gaurI in kanya kubja, as bhavAnI in Maharashtra, and as kAlI (Kali) in Bengal. In Madhurai, she is worshipped as mInAkshI, mantrinI or SyAmlA, at Jambukeshvaram as akhilANDeSvarI or dandinI and at Kanchipuram as kAmAkshI or mahA-tripurAsundarI. She is worshipped in Sringeri as SAradA or SAradAmbA or simply ambA (generally in form of sarasvatI, but more as a fusion of all three). In Kanyakumari, which is extreme south of bhArat varsha, she is worshiped as bAlA. One of the main Hindu festival, navarAtrI, festival of nine nights is dedicated to the worship of all three devI-s, kAlI, laxmI and sarasvatI.


Some are of the opinion that shakti worship is relatively new. However this is not true. Traces of shakti worship is found in veda-s. There are stotra-s dedicated to female form of God like bhu-suktam, devi-suktam and durgA-suktam. lalitA-sahasranAma is found in brahmANDa purANa, devi-mahAtmyam is found in mArkeNDeya purANa. An entire purANa srimad devi-bhAgavat mahApurANa is dedicated to the glories of the divine mother, who is not only the feminine power of mAyA, the creative power of God, but she is verily the formless nirguNa brahman, the substratum of entire universe. All avatAr-s including rAma and krShNa are under the sway of tipurAsundarI, the divine mother.


shaiva-s worship devi, Adi shakti, as the creative power of God, as kunDalini shakti or kunDalini devi and arouse her from mulAdhAra chakra until she meets and is in communion with Siva, in the sahasrAra chakra. It is Siva who is supreme brahman according to them. Both Siva and Sakti are inseparable. Siva has divided himself into two parts for the purpose of creation and works through shakti. In reality, they both are one.  


The process of worship of a shAkta consists of bhuta siddhi nATha sampradAya-s try to achieve piNDa siddhi). several kinds of nyAsa, prANa-praTisThA, japa, mAnasa-pujA, AvaraNa-pujA, archanA, dhUpa, pIpArAdhanA, naidedya, nIrAjana, stotra, kAmakalA-dhyAna, homa, balidAna, suvasini-pujA, samayikA-pujA and tatva-Sodhana. The worship is done in the imafe of the devI as well as in the SrI-chakra otherwise known as SrI-yantra.


SrI-vidyA upAsaka should follow certain disciplines. He should not find fault with other paths or criticize them, while being steadfast in his own. The practice of japa should go on as an under-current at all times. He should not ask for favours or accept them. He should do his duties in the world and the worship of the deity without attachment to fruit. He should be fearless. He should not acquire wealth and possessions with the motive of selfish enjoyment and she should consider nothing as higher than realization of the Self.


22.7. Saivism - vedic and yogic (tAntrika, Agamic)


Saiva-s are the devotees who worship Siva as the Supreme Brahman.. There were many prominent Saiva (shaiva) saints from bhakta-s (nAyanAra-s, Nayanars) to vedic (SrikAntAcArya) to Agamic / tAntrika Acharya-s (Abhinavagupta of Kashmir Shaivism). AcArya-s of Saiva order are called as either ‘SaivAcArya’ or ‘SivAcArya’. Those having mastery over Saiva Agama-s and engaged in either teaching Saiva Agama-s or practising procedures of temple worship, according to Saiva Agama-s are called as AgamAcArya or Siva yogI. Siva yogi-s are the temple priests of Siva temple.  


Though Saivism has its support in veda-s, most of the Saiva-s adhere to 28 Agama shAstra-s. There are independent works like thirumandiram and kural which are highly revered by Saiva-s of South India, especially Tamil Speaking people. siddhAnta Saiva-s (Saiva siddhAnta is a kind of Saiva philosophy) have been extensively dependent upon thirumandiram written by a great siddha, thirumulAra (Thirumoolar, Thirumular). The legend says he wrote one verse every year when he descended from samAdhi only for one day during the whole year. Thirumandiram contains more than 3000 sUtra-s of yogic-devotional genre. While patanjali’s yoga sUtra-s asks yogI to believe in ISvara, but does not specify the form of ISvara, Thirumandiram contains verses devoted to glorifying Siva.


Kashmir Shaivism of SrI Abhinavgupta (AG) is also called as kaula or trikA or spandan kArikA is another Saiva philosophy. AG has written a masterly treatise on tantra by the name tantraloka, a mystical, cryptic text containing more than 55000 verses suited for practice by advanced tAntrika-s. AG has also written a commentary on it. This unique Acharya has given 3 different interpretations of same verse which are experienced by tAntrika-s and yogI-s who has raised their consciousness to that particular level. Only a practising tAnrika can actually understand tantraloka or rather experience the teachings of tantraloka.


It was AB who had given the now popular symbolic interpretation of the battle of kurukshetra, mahAbhArata, in his gItA commentary ‘gItArtha samgrah’ on chapter 1 verse 1. Acharya has defined kurukshetra as ‘mind’, pANDava-s (Pandavs) as positive divine qualities and kaurava-s as negative qualities. It is the war inside every one of us.


Agama-s are called as tantra-s. There are Agama-s for Saiva-s, Sakta-s, Saura-s, gaNapatya-s and vaiShNava-s. Though vaiShNava-s have adopted pure bhakti to reach the supreme Godhead, there are vaiShNava Agama-s which talk about yogic processes. The most famous popularised by SrI rAmAnuja and SrI mAdhva is pancharAtra Agama. Another Aam considered close to veda-s is vaikhAnAsa Agama. Like veda-s Agama-s too have a karma kANDa (rituals) and philosophical part.


Conventionally, Saiva-s though they adhere to Agama-s (tantra-s) are simply called as Saiva-s. Sakta-s are called tAntrika and nAtha yogi-s are called as ‘nATha-s’.


It must be mentioned that there are vaiShNava-s who also practice tantra. Not much is known about them. They prefer to practice in secret.


22.8. kriyA yoga


kriyA yoga is an ancient yoga, revived by a deathless saint Mahavatar Babaji, an immortal yogi, who initiated some great yogi-s like Lahiri Mahashay, considered as ‘fountainhead of Kriya Yoga’. There are great yogi-s like Yukteshwar Giri, Paramhansa Yogananda, Sanyal Mahashay, Paramhansa Hariharananda and his disciple Paramhansa Prajnanananda (paramahansa praGYAnanda, परमंहन्स प्रज्ञानन्द).


Mahavatar Babaji - An immortal Saint


It will not be off topic to describe about a shining example of kriyA yoga, the survivor and revivalist of kriyA yoga Mahavatar Babaji. The word ‘Babaji’ means respect in Indian language. ‘Mahavatar’ means the great avatar. Marshall Govindan in his book, ‘Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition’ writes that Mahavatar Babaji controls and directs the activities of avatars or siddha-s.


Mahavatar Babaji is said to have transformed his physical body into light body and achieve immortality. He is believed to be more than 1800 years old as on 2010. Mahavatar Babaji or Nagaraj (his childhood name) practised intense meditations and did a penance for many months so as to have the great rishi agastya as his guru. Finally agastya rishi appeared in front of him and taught him advanced kriyA-s and yogic practices which he was told to practice in himalayas as the energy generated due to these processes would be too much to handle by the people living in vicinity. At the age of 16, Mahavatar Babaji says that Siva made his physical body immortal i.e. Siva freezed the life of his physical body. Babaji says, ‘Siva never made me 17’. His physical body stopped aging any further making Babaji to remain eternally young. He then continued his spiritual practice to successfully transform his physical body into light body. Babaji wished to leave his spiritual body, but upon intervention of his sister, who herself is a great kriyA yogI and a siddhA of the stature of Babaji, he decided to stay till earth exists and help guide souls ready to progress on spiritual path.


Mahavatar Babaji was first introduced to this world by Paramhansa Yogananda, an exponent to Kriya Yoga and founder of Divine Life Society through his autobiography, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.  After that many have claimed to have seen or met this great siddha yogI.


Let’s understand the meaning of the word ‘kriyA yoga’ as said by masters themselves.


22.8.1. ‘kri’ and ‘yA’


Generally kriyA is understood as ‘action’, but kriyA yogI-s explain the word kriyA (kri+yA) as kri = action and yA = (indwelling) soul. yoga means ‘to unite’.


We, incarnated soul / jIva / jIvAtmA are separated from the Supreme Self (Cosmic Self / God / Brahman / paramAtmA) and trapped in the cycle of birth and death. Our journey is to return back to the original source of our creation i.e. jIvAtmA returns to paramAtmA.


Hence kriyA yoga could mean the journey of incarnated soul back to it’s source and merge in it.


Initially, mind is not prepared to meditate on the Supreme Self. Hence it must be purified. Breath, mind and body and interconnected. Breathing and physical heart are also connected. Calmer the breath, slower and rythmic is the pulse, faster and shorter the breath, faster is the pulse. Both heartbeat (and so pulse) and breath are with us from birth till death. But getting hold of heartbeat and controlling it is not very easy. Breathing is easy to feel and control. Hence in yoga, breathing exercises, called as prANAyam, and later on energy based kriyA-s are taught. They help yogī to calm mind and purify mind, gross and subtle bodies. Mind cannot stay without work. Hence kriyA-s help one to achieve concentration and purity. They keep mind engaged. They directly do not lead a yogi to ultimate state. Until one gets sufficient purity to hear inner sound, or the cosmic divine sound OM and find it’s source or one can be aware of the entire yogic process like being aware of kuNDalini, chakra-s and subtle bodies and observing the whole working of this cluster of mind-body as a witness, one has to do kriyA-s. Later through the grace of God and Guru and through the power of discrimination, dispassion and ability to be a witness of everything that is going around, one can merge into paramAtmA. kriyA-s help cleanse and integrate bodies, synchronize them, remove blockages in subtle energy channels (nāḍī-s)  and chakra-s. By being witness and awareness fixed to the source of breath, thoughts or the mantra OM, one can unite with paramAtmA. This is the common approach of yoga schools.


Here is the definition of the word kriya yoga given on one website


Kri and Ya


The word Yoga comes from the root yuj. It has 32 meanings in Sanskrit, but the most appropriate here is to unite. The union of the individual Self with the Cosmic Self, the child of God with God, the Father. Therefore, the union Soul with God is Yoga.

Kriya Yoga is a supreme science of Self-realisation. It is a scientific technique of action with constant God-consciousness, which ultimately leads to realisation - going beyond the body, mind, intellect, thought, and even the world, to Soul-consciousness.

To perceive the Soul in every breath, in every moment, in every action, in everything and every being is Kriya Yoga. By the practice of Kriya Yoga meditation, one aspires to lead a life of divine consciousness, which ultimately brings love, purity and joy.


“You are to reach God in two steps, kri and ya.

Remain concentrated at the top and observe your own work from morning till you go to bed”

  • Paramahamsa Hariharananda


"Meditation is the silent art of withdrawing yourself into the source of life. It is as if your body is completely burnt to ashes. Meditation is going beyond mind, thoughts, ego and body sense; it is going to the supreme state, the formless state.”

        - Paramahamsa Hariharananda



22.9. Difference between nAtha yoga and kriyA yoga


The difference between nAtha yoga and kriyA yoga is that kriyA yoga is not a mantra sAdhanA. As per our knowledge, there are no various mantra-s taught to achieve various siddhi-s. siddhi-s come unexpected. In nAtha yoga, there are mantra-s are specifically aimed at achieving siddhi-s like ability to protect oneself from negative or malice effect of others thoughts or from Planetary Gods, ability to destroy enemies, protect against ghosts and ways to control them, mantra-s to help people prosper, mantra-s to spread peace and harmony to all, power to mesmerize, etc. These type of siddhi-s often obstruct spiritual path. Hence there is greater risk of falling. Learning these mantra-s may not be compulsory and only highly purified nAtha yogi-s use them for good of mankind, still the risk of being diverted from spiritual path remains.


While nAtha yogI-s surrender to Siva, kriyA yoga does not adhere to any particular form of God. The choice is left to the individual.


kriyA yogI-s as per our knowledge do not practice SrI yantra upAsanA, nor do they roam naked or smear ash on their body. kriyA yoga is not known to have any off shoots that practice vAmmArga, the left hand paths.


Mahavatar Babaji knew that there are many souls in the west who are ready for spiritual upliftment but do not have guidance. Hence one of his mission was to send kriyA yogI-s to the west. A notable work in this respect is a book written by Sri Yukteshwar Giri, ‘The Holy Science’ In which the great Yogi has written similarities between bhagavad gItA and Bible.  There attempts made to bridge the gap between the two philosophies and bring in the harmony of east and west through the principles of yoga.


In yoga and tantra, there are secret ways to enter into other worlds, different types of heavens and hells and other higher spiritual worlds like meher loka, tapa loka, siddha loka, rishi loka, etc in their subtle bodies.


Great yogi-s achieve great siddhi-s and they can choose to use them for the benefit of mankind or not to use them at all. In order to stay oneself focused on spiritual path, we have vedAnta and gItA (bhagavad gItA) which warns us against dangers of acquiring siddhi-s. vedAnta re-establishes a yogi-s focus on paramAtmA as the only goal of life.  patanjalI also warns against getting obsessed with such siddhi-s and asks us to move forward in our spiritual progress in his yoga sUtra-s. However, it is vedAnta that gives us the clear description of Brahman and shows us the straight path towards the supreme in a pure way.


Note: rAja yoga is often understood to be another name of patanjali’s yoga. patanjali’s yoga is simply termed as yoga. rAja yoga, as mentioned by svAmI vivekAnanda is different than traditional patanjali yoga. rAja yoga is laya yoga as mentioned in haTha yoga pradIpikA.


According to traditional scriptures, we have five subtle bodies. Let's have a brief overview of them.
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