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Canto XXXIX - Yoga, or Religious Devotion

Dattatreya continues his exhortation—Final emancipation from, existence is attained through yoga or religious devotion,—and the means are restraint of the breath, mental abstraction, restraint of the senses, and deep meditation. These means are analyzed and explained at length. What circumstances are inimical to yoga. The improper performance of yoga entails bodily ailments. How such bodily ailments may be cured. The signs of the proper performace of yoga.


Dattātreya spoke.

A yogi’s removal of ignorance by the attainment of knowledge is ‘mukti this is union with Brahma, and separation from the three qualities of Nature. ‘Mukti,’ or final emancipation from existence, comes from religious devotion; and religious devotion comes rightly from knowledge, O king; knowledge comes through suffering; suffering is the lot of those whose minds are engrossed with self. Hence the man who desires final emancipation should strenuously discard every association; when associations drop, the designation ‘it is mine’ disappears. Freedom from selfishness tends indeed to happiness; the perception of faults comes from passionlessness j and passionlessness comes indeed from knowledge; knowledge is preceded by passionlessness. That is one’s house, where one resides; that is food, by which one lives; that which tends to final emancipation is described as knowledge or ignorance. By consuming merits and demerits, O king, and through not doing voluntarily constant acts that ought to be done, through not amassing subsequent acts, and through diminishing acts that have been previously amassed, the body never again falls into the bonds of action.

This I have declared to thee, O king! Listen also to this religious devotion from me, by adopting which the religious devotee may attain to an eternal identity with Brahma.

First indeed the soul must be conquered by soul; it is indeed a hard victory for religious devotees. He should put forth effort in that victory. Hear from me the means thereto. He should burn up his faults by restraining his breath,[1] and his stains by steady mental abstraction,[2] his sensual enjoyments by restraining his senses,[3] and his unbridled qualities by deep meditation.[4] Just as impurities are burnt out of metals when they are melted, so the faults wrought by the organs of sense are burnt out by restraining the breath. The religious devotee should first accomplish the regulation of his breath.

Now stopping the inhalation[5] is designated prāṇāyāma, ‘restraining the breath.’ Prāṇāyāma is of three kinds, which are named the ‘slight,’the ‘medium’ and the ‘intense.’[6] I will describe its measure; hear it of me, O Alarka! The ‘slight’ extends during twelve mātrās or prosodial instants, and the ‘medium’ is double that, and the ‘intense’ is well-known as containing thrice that number of instants. The time of a mātrā is that of the winking and opening the eyelids once. The measure of twelve mātrās is fixed for the reckoning of the prāṇāyāma. With the first he should overcome perspiration, and with the second agitation, and with the third dejection; he should gradually overcome his faults. Now as lions, tigers and elephants, when kindly treated become mild, so the breath falls within the control of the religious devotee. As an elephant-driver brings a rutting elephant under control according to his wish, even so a religious devotee who has the wish brings his breath to perfect control. For as the proud lion when tamed does not attack deer, so the obstructed wind destroys men’s guilt but not their body. Therefore the religious devotee while engaged in devotion should pay good heed to the restraining of his breath.

Hear its four conditions that bestow the result of final emancipation. They, are cessation[7] of the consequences of action, and the power of obtaining everything,[8] harmony[9] and serenity,[10] O king! Hear also their nature as I describe it in order. Where the fruits of good and bad actions die away, and the mind attains pellucidity,[11] that is called ‘dhvasti.’ When the religious devotee himself always continuously resists the desires of this world and of the next world, such as covetousness and infatuation, that is ‘prāpti’ everlasting. When the religious devotee possessed of equal power perceives, by the advantage of his knowledge, the past and future remotely concealed meanings of the moon, sun, stars and planets, and gains success, then occurs the condition of prāṇāyāma called ‘saṃvid.’ The state by which his mind, and his five vital airs, his organs of sense and the objects of those organs become serene, is called ‘prasāda.’

Hear also, O king, the characteristics of jirāṇāyāma, and what kind of seat is enjoined for one who always practises yoga.

Adopting the padma half seat, and the svastika sitting posture, he should utter the syllable Om! in his heart and practise his religious devotion. Sitting evenly on an even seat, drawing in both his feet, and firmly fixing his thighs rightly in front, he should cover his mouth; he should sit without touching his private parts with his heels, with his senses under control; he should raise his head slightly; he should not close his teeth together. Gazing at the tip of his own nose and not looking around, the religious devotee should conceal the activity of darkness with passion, and that of passion with goodness, and taking his stand in unsullied goodness should practise devotion. He should hold in his organs of sense from their objects of sense, and his breath and other faculties and his mind, he should advance to abstraction with a steadfast cohesion. But he who should draw in his desires, as a tortoise draws in all its limbs, always delighting in soul and self-collected, sees soul in soul. The wise man after purifying himself externally and internally, and filling out his body from the navel to the neck, should advance to abstraction. A ‘dhāraṇā,’ or steady mental abstraction, is called twelve prāṇāyāmas. Two kinds of dhāraṇā are known in religious devotion by devotees who are conversant with the truth. Moreover when a religious devotee is steeped in devotion and controls his soul, all his faults perish, and he becomes whole; and he sees supreme Brahma and the qualitieś of Nature separately, the sky and the primordial atoms and the unsullied soul.

Thus a religious devotee, who restricts his food and who is intent on restraining his breath, should occupy ground, which has been thoroughly and gradually reclaimed, as it were his house. Unreclaimed ground when it is taken possession of increases faults, diseases and foolishness, therefore he should not occupy unreclaimed ground.

‘Prāṇāyāma’ or restraining the breath is so called from the restriction[12] placed on the breath; and this is called ‘dhāraṇā’ or mental abstraction, by which the mind is abstracted; since the organs, which are occupied with words and other actions, are restrained by religious devotees by means of devotion, that is called ‘pratyāhāra,’ or restraining the senses.

And the means for this is declared by paramarṣis who were religious devotees, so that diseases and other faults may not spring up in a religious devotee. Just as the thirsty may drink water gradually by vessels, pipes and other means, so a religious devotee who has overcome his distress may drink air. First in the navel, and next in the heart, and thirdly in the breast, then in the neck, the mouth, the tip of the nose, in the eye, eye-brows, and the middle of the head, and in what is there-beyond, is known the highest mental abstraction. By attaining to these ten mental abstractions he reaches equality with the imperishable. Not puffed up, nor hungry, nor wearied, and undisturbed in mind, the yogi should practice his yoga respectfully in order to attain final occupation, O king!

When it is neither very cold nor warm, when there is no strife, when it is not windy, at these times the ascetic who is deep in meditation should not[13] practice yoga. In a place where there is a noise, or fire, or water, or where study is going on, in a decayed cow-shed, at a place where four roads meet, amid a collection of dry leaves, in a river, in a burning-ground, in a place infested by snakes, in a place of fear, or on the edge of a well, amid a number of funeral piles or ant-hills—in these places a learned man should avoid practising yoga. And if there is no appearance of goodness, he should avoid the place and time. There should be no sight of evil during the practice of yoga; hence he should avoid that. Whoever disregards these places and in his infatuation practises yoga, verily his faults tend to his hindrance. Hearken to me in this. Deafness, stupidity, failure of memory, dumbness, blindness and fever— those several evils straightway befall him who practises yoga in ignorance.

If a yogi should have these faults through inadvertence, yogis should attend to their cure in order to destroy them. Hearken to me in this. He should engage in mental abstraction, after eating rice-gruel, mingled with oil and very warm. In the diseases of rheumatism, flatulence, and enlargement of the abdomen, circulation of the internal or obstructed wind of the body should be regulated by a diet of rice-gruel.[14] In tremor[15] a yogi should fix his mind on a mountain as it is steady, in dumbness on the faculty of speech, and in deafness on the ear; just as one whose tongue is parched with thirst should meditate on a mango fruit. In whatever respect the body is disordered, in that very respect he should think steadily of whatever thought may remedy the disorder, such as, a cooling thought amidst heat, and a heating thought amidst cold. He should place a stake on his head and beat wood with wood.

In that way memory immediately recurs to a yogi who has lost his memory. He should think steadily of the wind and fire which indeed pervade the heaven and the earth. These injuries are cured through what is non-human or what springs from goodness. If goodness that is non-human should enter within a yogi, he should utterly bum out the sin that dwells in his body by steady thought of the wind and fire.

Thus must every soul that is wise in yoga compass its preservation, O king, since the body is the means of attaining righteousness, wealth, love and final emancipation from existence. The yogi’s knowledge perishes through perplexity at the narration of the marks of the activities, therefore the activities must be hidden. Tranquillity,[16] perfect health, gentleness, a pleasant odour, scanty excretions, a fine complexion, benignity, and softness of voice, are indeed the first indications of the activity of yoga. A loving person proclaims one’s virtues in one’s absence. That creatures do not fear him is the chiefest sign of complete perfection. He who is not injured by excessive cold, heat, or other natural agents, and does not fear other persons, has attained complete perfection.

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Footnotes and references:










Ā-pāna, a meaning not in the dictionary.


Uttarīya, a meaning not in the dictionary.










Apa-kaṣāya-tva; not in the dictionary.


Upa-sam-rodha; not in the dictionary.


For na yogam read sa yogam, he should practice yoga?


This is the translation of the Pandit of the Bengal Asiatic Society: the text seems obscure.


For kalpe read kampe; so a MS. in the Sanskrit College.


A-lolya; not in the dictionary.

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