A longer version of the classic Haṭha manual is now available in English and includes chapters on a variety of subjects, some of which may seem somewhat bizarre to modern practitioners!
The ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ (Light on Hatha Yoga) was composed by Swami Swatmarama in around 1380CE. This text is widely regarded as a seminal classic on Hatha Yoga and is a synthesis of the various yoga techniques that evolved from earlier Tantric practices. Many of the techniques taught in today’s yoga studios can be traced directly to the Pradipika.
Up until 2001, published editions of the Pradipika contained around 389 stanzas divided into 4 or 5 chapters. These were based on translations of various medieval manuscripts scattered around the libraries of India. For some time, researchers had suspected that the complete Pradipika originally contained ten chapters but they were unable to locate the missing stanzas.
Then in 2001, after 25 years of searching, the Lonavla Institute, located a text in the Maharaja Mansingh Library, Jodhpur, containing the full ten chapters. In 2006 the institute published the first english edition of the complete text, entitled “Hathapradipika of Svatmarama (10 Chapters.)” The new text contains 626 stanzas and includes a translation of a commentary authored by Yogi Balakrishna. (Intriguingly, the publishers also found an even longer Pradipika manuscript containing 1553 stanzas with descriptions of 100 asanas, not found in any other traditional texts. This version remains unpublished at present.)
The newly published Hathapradipika contains additional information on:
- Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi Krama
- Chakras, Nadis and the arousal of Kundalini Shakti
- Yoga Nada: the inner sound
- Chanting of the sacred mantra “OM”
- Cultural context and lineage of medieval Hatha Yoga
- There is also a slightly bizarre chapter on “Arista”: omens and portents of impending death.
Some Yoga scholars have criticized modern Hatha Yoga schools for their focus on asana-based practice and what some have described as an over-emphasis on the body. However, this edition of the Pradipika makes it clear that our Yogi predecessors also considered the physical practices a vital component of yoga.
“According to the Yogis, the human body stands out as the foremost of all instruments:” (1:12)
Early Hatha Yogins placed primacy on asana practice, which was undertaken as the first stage in a broad spectrum of physical techniques.
“The asanas being the first part of the Hatha Yoga Curriculum, are being discussed here
.” (2:1) “Asanas are considered the first part of Hatha Yoga
.” (Balakrishna Commentary)
The author Swatmarama states that there are 8400 000 postures from which Adinath (Shiva) selected 84 as being the most important. Fifteen key asanas are then discussed as well as several mudras that are effectively practised as asanas: e.g. ‘Vipareeta Karani’ - the half shoulder stand.
‘Yama’ (mastery) of an asana was accomplished after the holding of a posture for up to 3 hours. This suggests that a significant amount of time was spent practising asana.
Asana and Shatkarma (cleansing) are described as the means by which to purify and strengthen: or “bake” the body. Pranayama was practised in order to prepare the mind and nervous system for meditation and the awakening of Kundalini Shakti. The body was seen as a vehicle and tool by which the Jiva (individual soul) was able to achieve moksha (liberation) within this lifetime: Jivanmukti.
‘Hathapradipika - 10 chapters’ is a brilliant addition to the growing body of Hatha Yoga literature. It offers us an increased understanding of the complete system of Hatha Yoga as practised in India at this time. It is sure to be of great interest to serious Yoga students and
‘Pradipika’ can be translated as ‘self-illuminating.’
“Hathapradipika - 10 chapters” is Published by the Lonavla institute by Dr M. L. Gharote
For more information on this and other works on Hatha Yoga, visit the Lonavla institute’s website. www.lonavalayoga.org