Purpose of Hatha Yoga
There are many misconceptions about Hatha Yoga. Many believe that a Hathayogi
is attached to his body excessively. He aims primarily at looking after his
body, attaining miraculous powers, mastering the most difficult Yogic postures
and so on. It would not be fair to assume so by pointing fingers at some
pakhandis or deluded Hathayoga practitioners.
The beginning of Hathayoga Pradipika presents the real purpose of Hatha Yoga.
Yogi Swatmarama says :
श्रीआदिनाथाय नमोस्तु तस्मै येनोपदिष्टा हठयोगविद्या।
I bow down to Shri Adinatha i.e. Lord Shiva who has
expounded Hatha Yoga as a means to attain the supreme Raja Yoga.
Lord Shiva is regarded as the originator of the art and science of Yoga. The
entire knowledge of Yoga was first revealed by Lord Shiva to his consort Parvati.
In Natha sect he is known as Adinatha. Adi means the oldest or original and
Natha means owner or controller. Natha sect is Shaivite and considers Lord Shiva
as the symbol of Supreme Truth. So for a Natha Yogi Brahman, Paramatman are
synonymous to Shiva. For our devotees He appears in human Saguna form.
Lord Shiva is the ageless being. He is beyond birth and death. He is the first
Natha. That is why one of the names of Shiva is Akula i.e. the one who
do not have any ancestors. Yogi Swatmaram starts his work by saluting Lord
Shiva. Natha sect being Shaivite that's quite natural and adhering to
This first verse itself clearly indicates why Lord Shiva taught Hatha Yoga to
Parvati and this purpose is very important. Shiva taught Hatha Yoga to Parvati
for the sake of attaining Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga means King of all Yogas. Raja
Yoga aims at controlling and stilling the mental fluctuations with the help of
meditation alone. Patanjali Yoga Sutras say - Yoga is restraint of mind stuff.
There are several ways to restrain the mind. Every Guru recommends his own path.
Some say devotion is the best and some say Knowledge is supreme. Some say Japa
is the easiest whereas some others say Karma Yoga is good. As per Natha
doctorine Hatha Yoga is the best way to attain success in Raja Yoga.
As everybody is aware, controlling mind is extremely difficult (especially at
the beginning stages). Those who have practiced meditation or similar
disciplines will agree to this wholeheartedly. One needs to employ several
clever tricks to rein the outward going mind. As per the science of Yoga Mind
and Prana (the vital life force) are two sides of the same coin. If Prana is
under control mind comes under control. Similarly, if mind is under control
Prana too comes under control. Since controlling mind directly is extremely
difficult Hathayogis control Prana first. Once Para is controlled gradually mind
also comes under control. The point to remember is that the primary purpose of
Hatha Yoga is attainment of Raja Yoga and a practitioner should not be under any
misconceptions about it.
प्रणम्य श्रीगुरूं नाथं स्वात्मारामेण योगिना।
केवलं राजयोगाय हठविद्योपदिश्यते॥
By saluting Shri Guru I, Swatmaram Yogi, expound the knowledge of Hatha Yoga
purely for the sake of attaining Raja Yoga.
After bowing down to Lord Shiva, Swatmarama is now saluting his Guru. All
spiritual disciplines emphasis the importance of Guru. In Natha sect role of
Guru is even more emphasized. There are three reasons to it. First one is that
Natha sect has important place for Shaktipata. An able Guru bestows
Shakti to an eligible disciple and awaken his kundalini so as to achieve quicker
progress meditation. Secondly, the path of Hatha consisting of Pranayama,
Bandhas and Mudras is better learned directly from some expert. If you wish to
learn how play flute then you must learn it from some able teacher. You cannot
learn it merely by reading books. Similarly, not all practices of Hatha Yoga can
be learned from books. Imagine, in ancient days when means of sharing knowledge
were limited how important Guru must have been. The third reason is that, one
needs some role model to walk a path of Yoga. If a practitioner has such role
model in front of him he can quickly and effectively absorb the values need to
walk the path of Yoga. Then he won't get too much doubts. Even if doubt arises
he can get it clarified from his Guru.
Yogi Swatmaram, here, once again has reminded us of the ultimate aim of Hatha
Yoga. He wants to indicate that if your practice of Hatha Yoga is not taking you
closer to Raja Yoga then it is futile. This verse is a lesson to those who blame
Hatha Yogis to be body centric.
भ्रांत्या बहुमतध्वांते राजयोगमजानताम।
हठ प्रदीपिकां धत्ते स्वात्मारामः कृपाकरः॥
Due to delusion cause by various opinions Raja Yoga remains unattainable.
That's why graceful Swatram is throwing light on the science of Hatha Yoga.
Several are the ways to attain Samadi i.e. Raja Yoga. The fact is unless one
takes the path of Yoga he cannot attain Samadhi. Today we see that so called
Gurus are extremely rigid about their own teachings. Every Guru feels that his path
alone is supreme. That's quite obvious. However, such Gurus often neglect the
fact that his path may not be suitable for each and every person. Not everyone
can follow every spiritual discipline. That is precisely why India has so many
spiritual disciplines and variations. In ancient times a Guru never used to
accept a disciple unless he tests his ability to walk a particular path. He used
to suggest a path based on the ability of the disciple. Today that rarely
happens. Especially so with Yoga organizations and institutes from cities.
As per Yogi Swatmaram Hatha Yoga is the best path to attain Raja Yoga. Now,
some readers may feel that even Swatmaram is rigid in making this statement. We
should remember, however, that Hathayoga Pradipika is not written for any
ordinary individual. It is meant for those who are new initiates of Natha sect.
Swatmaram has specific audience in front of him for his work. So, when Swatmaram
says that Hatha Yoga is the best, he is telling so for new disciples who have
already made up their mind to walk this path. In Shiva Samhita this has been
explained by Lord Shiva to Parvati in ample details. Summary of that explanation
is as follows :
(Lord Shiva says) I am giving away the knowledge of Yoga to those who have
deepest devotion in me for the sake of liberation. Some say Truthfulness is the
best whereas some others suggest austerities and cleanliness. Some recommend
Forgiveness whereas some others say Control of Senses is best and yet some
others laud straightforwardness. Similarly, some praise charity and oblation.
Some others laud karma and yet some others laud detachment. Some believe in Jana
and some others in Shunya. Some others accept Purusha and Prakriti. Devoid of
real understanding of Supreme Reality people talk about salvation in several ways. They
all are but deluded and never attain liberation. By contemplating again and
again about all these ways it becomes clear that science of Yoga alone is the supreme path.
Thus Swatmaram is expounding the knowledge of Hatha to all such new initiates
of Natha Yoga.
Here, the word "krupa" i.e. grace is important. Only a person who has reached
certain level of spiritual progress can shower grace on others. Not everybody is
capable of doing that. Unlike many so called Gurus of today, Swataram has not
acquired his knowledge by mere reading of books but by tireless practice