by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Characteristics of Yoga which is chapter 55 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the fifty-fifth chapter of the Kaumarika-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
2-3. After praising him for a long time, he spoke to Nārada: “O sage, hearing the greatness of the Guptakṣetra (‘well-guarded holy spot’) from you, I am not fully contented. It behoves you to recount it again.
7. After attaining perfection (and consequent powers) in Yoga, a Liṅga named Gautameśvara was installed here by the noble-souled Gautama.
8. A devotee should bathe this great Liṅga and smear it with sandal paste. After worshipping it with various kinds of flowers, he should burn in front of it the aromatic gum-resin. He shall be liberated from all sins and he will be honoured in the world of Rudra.
9. I wish to know correctly an outline of the general features of Yoga, O Nārada. All people praise Yoga since it is better than even the most excellent (paths to liberation).
10. I shall explain (to you) the truth about Yoga succinctly, O leading scion of the family of Kuru. One becomes free from impurities even by (merely) listening to it. What to say when it is practised!
12-13. The limbs (of Yoga) are abstention (yama), observance (niyama), restriction (regulation) of breath (prāṇāyāma) the third, withdrawal of the senses (pratyāhāra), fixed attention (dhāraṇā), the object of meditation (dhyeya), contemplation (dhyāna) the eventh and perfect concentration(samādhi)—(Thus) Yoga is glorified as having eight limbs.
Listen, O son of Pāṇḍu, to the characteristic features of those eight severally.
14-20. By practising these in due order a man attains Yoga.
Abstinence from taking possession of other people’s properties, even in cases of emergency, whether it be mental, physical or verbal, is called Asteya (‘non-stealing’).
Abstinence from sexual intercourse mentally, verbally and physically in the case of ascetics is called Brahmacarya (‘vow of celibacy’). In the case of householders, having sexual intercourse during the period after the four days of menses is (not opposed to) the ‘vow of celibacy’.
This (the following) is said to be Aparigraha (‘non-acceptance of gifts’): Renunciation of everything mentally, verbally and physically is Aparigraha in the case of ascetics. In the case of householders mental renunciation is Aparigraha. Thus the Yamas have been recounted to you. Listen to the five Niyamas (‘observances’).
22. Śauca (‘cleanliness’) is said to be of two kinds—the external and the internal. Cleansing with clay and water is said to be the external one and the purification of the mind is the internal one.
23. Perpetual mental satisfaction with the means of subsistence one has (adopted) legitimately, or by alms, or by agricultural and other occupations is called Tuṣṭi (‘contentment’).
26. Only after practising and mastering these observances and abstentions should the clever (devotee) endeavour to get ready for controlling the breath. The aspirant of Yogic practice should not do it otherwise.
27-28. Since wind (Vāyu) will get irritated (resulting iṇ gastric disorders) in an unclean body and since one contracts leprosy(?), sluggishness etc. on account of the disorder of wind, a clever aspirant for Yogic achievement shall first make the body pure and then endeavour for the next (step, viz. breath-control). O son of Pāṇḍu, listen, I shall describe the characteristics of the control of breath.
29-30. The regulation of Prāṇa and the Apāna (inhalation and exhalation while breathing) is called Prāṇāyāma. It is mentioned by Dhīras (the wise persons who have realized the soul) that Prāṇāyāma is of three types: Laghu (short), Madhya (medium) and Uttarīya (or Uttama) (superior). That which has twelve Mātrās (measures of time) is Laghu. The time required for opening and closing the eyes once is called a Mātrā. The Madhya (type of prāṇāyāma) has twice that (Le. 24 Mātrās) and Uttama is said to be having (measures) three times (of Laghu) (i.e. 36 Mātrās).
31. One shall overcome defects gradually thus: By the first one (i.e. Laghu), one shall overcome sweating; by the middle one shall eliminate tremor. He shall conquer sorrow and fatigue by means of the third.
33-35. It is proclaimed as Prāṇāyāma because there is a restraint on the Prāṇas (vital airs). Just as the impurities in the minerals and metals brought from mountains are burnt when they are put in fire, so also the defect of sense-organs is burnt by means of Prāṇāyāma.
Hence a knower of Yoga should always restrain the vital airs. The divine (powers) Śāntī etc. are gradually achieved by means of Prāṇāyāma.
36-39. (Divine faculties e.g.) Śānti, Praśānti, Dīpti and Prasāda are obtained in the due order. The first good thing (i.e. result) is the subduing of the impulse to indulge in sins, congenital or acquired. After completely dispelling the defects of greediness and delusion power of penance is obtained. Thus what is called Vāsanā Śānti (‘cessation of impulsiveness’) comes first.
The clarity of all the sense-organs (is called Praśānti), that of the intellect (is called Dīpti) and that of the winds (respiration) is called Prasāda. Thus the four good things should be attained. A Yogin should always practise Prāṇāyāma that has such a benefit.
40. On being served (regularly), lions, tigers and elephants become gentle. So also Prāṇa when restrained, regulated by practice becomes controlled.
41-42. Prāṇāyāma has been recounted; listen to Pratyāhāra (‘withdrawal of the senses’). The withdrawal of the mind pursuing objects of sensual pleasures is pointed out as Pratyāhāra. It is its complete restraint.
Pratyāhāra has been explained. Now listen to the characteristic features of Dhāraṇā (‘retention’).
43-45. Just as those who seek water drink it through leaves or hollow tubes etc. slowly, so also the Yogī takes and leads the wind which he has controlled.
The wind enters through the nostrils at the outset and comes to the heart, then to the palate and then to the region between the eyebrows. By means of compression, the practitioner of Yogic exercises takes the (vital) wind up slowly to the four-petalled and six-petalled (lotuses?) as well as to the twelve-petalled and thirty-two petalled. Then he successfully retains the Prāṇa in the Brahmarandhra (‘the aperture at the crown of the head’).
47. Listen to the characteristics of what should be the Dhyeya (‘object of meditation’) of one who maintains Dhāraṇā, O son of Pṛthā. Dhyeya is of many kinds. Its end is not seen. (It is unlimited.)
49. One gets merged with what one meditates upon. Hence one should always remember Lord Śiva, Hara of five faces.
50-53. Hara should be meditated upon as follows: He is seated in the lotus posture; He is white in complexion; He has a pomegranate in his hand; He remains in a state of meditation; He has ten hands; His face beams with spiritual delight. The object of meditation has been recounted to you. Hence one should perform Dhyāna (meditation). The characteristic feature of meditation is this: He who has resorted to Dhāraṇā does not become separate from the object of meditation even for half a moment. After coming to this stage that is very difficult to climb (attain), the devotee conversant with Yoga does not think about anything else. This is proclaimed as Samādhi (concentration). Listen even as I clearly explain the characteristics of Samādhi.
54. One who has attained the supreme Puruṣa devoid of (objects of sense such as) sound, touch, taste, smell and colour, is glorified as one abiding in Samādhi.
55. After attaining is (the Samādhi stage) a man is not at all assailed by distractions. One who adheres to Samādhi is never shaken even by a great pain.
56. He will never hear any external sound even if hundreds of concḥs were blown or Bherī drums were beaten near his ears.
57. He will never experience any external touch even if he be struck with a whip, if his body be burnt or if he be placed in a terrible place that is extremely chill.
58-60. What to say of such objects of senses as colour, smell and taste in regard to such a man!
Again, neither thirst nor hunger harass that person at all who sees the Ātman through the Ātman and obtains the state of Samādhi.
It is neither in heaven nor in the nether worlds nor in the mortal world that that (supreme) happiness is seen which a man obtains after reaching the state of steady Samādhi.
61. To a person who has achieved the Yogic power thus, O scion of the family of Kuru, there are five very terrible obstacles. Listen to them:
62. Prātibha (intellectual), Śrāvaṇa (auditional), Daiva (divine), Bhrama (whirling) and the terrible Āvarta (revolving). When his intellect has grasped all scriptural texts, the Prātibha defect occurs. It is of Sattva nature.
63-65a. Thereby the Yogin quickly becomes highly conceited in his mind.
Śrāvaṇa is the ability to hear (sounds) thousands of Yojanas away. This is the second Sāttvika defect. One who is haughty on account of this, perishes. The next one, Daiva, is the ability to see eight species of Devas, viz. Vidyādharas, Apsaras (celestial damsels), Yakṣas, Rakṣasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Guhyakas, Siddhas, Bhūtas. This also is a Sāttvika defect. He perishes on account of this conceit.
65b-69. He will become agitated in the surging mass of people, as though in a whirlpool of water. This is the defect called Āvarta. It is of Rājasa nature causing great terror. If the mind of the Yogin whirls and whirls without any basis, because all supports have been taken away, it is the defect called Bhrama. It is a quality of Tāmasa nature.
All the Deva species have had their Yogic power destroyed on account of these obstacles that are extremely terrible. They revolve again and again. Hence a Yogin must cover himself with the pure mental blanket and contemplate on the Supreme Brahman. He must direct his mind towards Brahman. Foodstuffs of Sattva nature should be resorted to by one who aspires for Siddhi.
70-72. A Yogin will not at all achieve anything through Rājasa and Tāmasa (types of food).
Alms should be begged and taken by the Yogin from noble-souled learned Brāhmaṇas who have faith and control over sense-organs. The alms should be: cooked barley, rice, buttermilk, milk, gruel, fully ripened fruits and roots, grains, oil-cake and flour. These are the items of food well-known as the causes of the achievement of Siddhis by Yogins.
73. A devotee who practises Yogic exercises should know the time of death by omens. He should then take Yogic exercises with mental purity and concentration in order to elude the god of Death.
74-78. I shall mention the omens whereby one conversant with Yogic knowledge knows (the impending) death.
If a chaste woman wearing red or black garments and singing leads a person to the southern quarter in the course of a dream, he will not live (long).
If anyone sees in dream a naked Jaina mendicant laughing and leaping, he should know that death has arrived in his form.
If a person sees himself in a dream as stationed in a vehicle with bears or monkeys yoked to it, goes south singing and gets immersed in a well, marshy place or cow-dung, he will not live (long thereafter).
If one sees in a dream a dry river filled with one of these, viz. hair, coal, ash or serpents, one shall not live (long).
If in a dream a man is hit or struck with stones by dreadful, hideous, coarse and rough men with weapons uplifted, that man shall die immediately.
79-81. If at sunrise a howling vixen rushes in front of a man, or in the opposite direction or all round him, he meets death immediately.
If a person does not cognise smell after the light (of the oil-lamp) has been put out, if a person spits out fire at night, if a person does not see his reflection in another mail’s eyes, he will not live for long.
On seeing the weapon of Indra (? rainbow) at mid-nigḥt or eclipse during day time, one shall know that one has approached the decline of one’s own life.
82-87a. If any person’s nose becomes crooked, if the ears are (partially) depressed and (partially) lifted up, if water oozes out from the left eye, his life is (as good as) extinct.
When the face gets a reddish tinge, the tongue becomes black, an intelligent man should know that his own death is imminent.
If a person goes to the south in a vehicle drawn by a camel or a donkey, in the course of a dream, if he does not hear any (inner) sound even after closing the ears, he does not live long.
If a person sees in a dream that he falls down and the door is closed against him, that bright vision has become red, if a person in the course of a dream enters fire but does not come out again, or does not come out after entering water, his life is only thus far.
87b-92a, If at night or during day time, a person is hit or struck by wicked spirits simple or distorted, Yama and Death have approached him.
If a person (ordinarily) after being devoted to them, censures or insults deities, elders, parents or others or learned persons, he does not live long.
On seeing such adverse omens, the person conversant with Yoga should resort to Dhāraṇā perfectly and remain motionless in concentration.
If he does not want death, he does not meet it. If he desires salvation, he should let off the vital airs through Brahmarandhra at the crown of the head. There are obstacles assailing the Yogin even when the body is being liberated. Listen to them also, O son of Pāṇḍu.
92b-96. In the city of Īśāna, in that of Rākṣasas, in the region of Yakṣas, of Gandharvas, of Indra, of Soma, of Prajāpati and of Brahmā—in these eight regions, there are eight Siddhis each. Listen to them.
They may be those belonging to the Earth, to Tejas, to Vāyu, to Ether, mind, or the intellect born of the ego. Each of them is of eight types, having each double of the previous one(?) and in due order. At the outset there are eight and in the end there are sixty-four. Listen how it is so.
There are eight Siddhis pertaining to the Earth, viz. stoutness, shortness, childhood, old age, youth, the forms of the different castes and ability to assume bodies with the help of four (elements) excluding the part of the Earth.
97-99. When the principle of Earth is conquered, these eight Siddhis occur in Aiśānya (north-east, the city of īśāna).
There are sixteen Siddhis known in the city of Rākṣasas, eight mentioned before and further eight as follows: ability to stay in water as on the ground; not being sick; he will be able to drink up the ocean; ability to get water everywhere—even dry (things) become liquid; the ability to assume body by means of the three (elements); he will be able to place rivers in his hand; absence of wounds and the splendour of the body. These are the eight (Siddhis) mentioned.
100-102a. In the abode of Yakṣas, there are twenty-four Siddhis, the sixteen mentioned before and the eight Siddhis of Tejas, viz. ability to create fire from the body; elimination of the fear of being scorched by it; ability to offer power to the worlds (people); ability to make fire burn in the middle of water; picking fire by hand; sanctifying by means of mere recollection; recreating what is reduced to ash and ability to assume body of two (elements).
102b-105. Speed and velocity of the mind; ability to penetrate other living beings; ability to bear heavy weights sportingly even of mountains etc.; lightness; weightiness; prevention (stopping) of the wind with the pair of hands; making all parts of the earth quake by touching down with the tip of fingers and ability to assume a body of a single element—these are the special Siddhis in the world of Gandharvas. There are altogether thirty-two Siddhis in the world of Gandharvas, the twenty-four mentioned before and these eight.
106-108a. In the world of Indra (eastern quarter) there are forty Siddhis, thirty-two mentioned before and eight Siddhis of the nature of wind, viz. production without shadow; non-perception (invisibility?) of the sense organs; ability to go through the sky; perpetual subdual of the senses etc.; perception of sound from afar; ability to understand all sounds; understanding Tanmātra symbolism; and insight into all living beings—these are the eight Siddhis.
108b-110a. Ability to acquire (everything) as desired; ability to go to any desired place; predominance everywhere; viewing of all hidden things; seeing all the world—these are the eight(?) mental Siddhis. (These are in addition to) the forty Siddhis mentioned before. These are known (as the Siddhis) in the world of Soma.
110b-111. Ability to cut; ability to heat; ability to bind; (ability of) changing the world; delighting all living beings and the victory over Death and over Time—these are the eight Siddhis(?) originating from Ahaṃkāra (Ego) in the world of Prajāpati. The Siddhis mentioned before (should also be included).
112-114. Ability to create the universe by one’s facial expression; (ability of) blessing it; power of annihilating it; the variegated functioning of the world; the explicit dissimilarity(?); extinction one by one of what is other than auspicious and the state of being the maker—these are the eight (Siddhis) originating from Buddhi (‘Intellect’). Along with the previous fifty-six Siddhis there are altogether sixty-four Guṇas (Siddhis). These function in the region of Brahmā.
It is a secret that has been spoken to you.
115. These Siddhis can be achieved by Yogins even when they are alive or when the bodies change.
He should not have any contact (i.e. attachment to them) because of the possibility of downfall.
116. In the case of a Yogin who practises Yogic feats after dispelling these qualities (i.e. powers mentioned above), all the eight Siddhis that bring about Yogic achievement function.
117-120. They are Aṇimā, Laghimā, Mahimā, Prāpti, Prākāmya, Īśītva, Vaśitva and Kāmāvasāyitā. These Siddhis are stationed (expressed) in the world of Maheśvara. Aṇimā (‘atomatization’) is minuteness of all minute things. Laghimā (‘lightness’) is remembered because of its quickness; Mahimā (‘greatness’) because of the state of being venerable to the remaining (people); Prāpti (‘ability to get’) because there is nothing inaccessible to him; Prākāmya (‘pervading’) because he can pervade (everything); Īśitva (masterliness) because he is a master of everything; Vaśitva (‘ability to win over’) because he is able to conquer and win others. It is the excellent seventh Siddhi. Kāmāvasāyitā is the ability to stay wherever one wishes to remain.
121. These Siddhis occur in one who attains the status of Īśvara (Lord). Thereafter, he is not reborn nor does he grow or perish.
122-123. He who attains salvation in this manner is said to be liberated.
Just as water poured into water gets merged with it, so also the soul of the Yogin becomes identified with the Supreme Soul.
After realizing the benefit thus, the Yogin should always practise Yoga.
124-131a. In this context of Yogic merging, Yogins free from impurities cite this simile. The solar stone, when in contact with the rays of the moon, does not become one with it, nor does it emit sparks of fire. Kapiñjala bird, mouse and mongoose stay in a house like its masters. When it is destroyed, they go elsewhere. They have no sorrow (for its destruction). This is an example for the ascetic (to emulate).
With its very small mouth, the earthworm gathers heaps of clay. This is instructive unto the Yogin.
Realizing that a tree equipped with leaves, flowers and fruits can be destroyed by animals, birds, human beings etc. Yogins achieve Siddhi(?)
If a Yogī observing the tip of the horn in the body of the Ruru deer of the shape of the religious mark on the forehead, should grow along with it, he attains Siddhi.
A person walks up a lofty gradient with a vessel full of (liquid) materials. Do not the Yogins understand the deep concentration required on seeing this?
That is his abode where he stays. That is his food whereby he lives. That is his wealth whereby his Yogic achievement is realized.
131b-134a. The Yogin should take up only that knowledge which is conducive to his work on hand (i.e. Yoga). The multiplicity of knowledge (i.e. objects that should be known) causes obstacles in the achievement of Yogic power.
If a person were to run after things thirsting for knowledge like “This is to be known; this is to be known”, he will never realize his object of knowledge even if he were to live for a thousand Kalpas.
He shall abandon all attachment. He shall conquer anger. He shall take in only small quantity of food (light food). He shall subdue all sense organs. After closing all doors (sources of perception) by means of the intellect, he should engage his mind in meditation.
134b-137. He shall resort to a diet of Sattva nature. He shall never take in that whereby he will become senseless. Consuming that, he shall become a favourite guest of the Raurava hell.
The general public loves him. Even in his absence his qualities are glorified. Even the animals are not afraid of him.
The characteristic feature of Siddhi is told here:
138. Absence of lustfulness, good health, non-harshness, auspicious smell of faeces and urine, splendour, vividness and gentleness in tone—this is the first indication of the Yogic functioning.
139. One who has concentration ami mental purity, one who is devoted to Brahman, one who does not err, one who is pure, one who takes interest in solitude and who has conquered the sense-organs is the lofty-minded one who attains the Yogic power. Thereafter, by means of Yogic practice, he attains salvation.
140. On account of him, the family becomes sanctified. The mother becomes blessed and contented and the Earth fortunate. His mind is immersed in the ocean of happiness and engaged in the great Brahman of no external path(?).
141. The ascetic whose intellect is pure, who considers a lump of clay and a block of gold as equal, who views all living beings alike, goes to the eternal region that never perishes. He is not born again.
142. Thus the secret of Yoga has been explained by me. Gautama attained Yoga of thts type. It was by him, O son of Pṛthā, that this Liṅga was installed. It destroys sins on being visited and worshipped.
143-144. A devotee should worship this Liṅga on the night of the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina after taking bath in the most important lake Ahalyāsaras. He should perform all the rites with sincerity, faith and devotion. On account of this great rite, he shall be freed from all sins. He goes to the place where Gautama the sage dwells.
145-146. Thus the greatness of the Guptakṣetra has been succinctly recounted by me. He who listens to this completely becomes pure. What more shall I say?
He who devoutly listens to this excellent narrative of Gautama obtains sons, grandsons and everything desired. He goes to the everlasting region.
Footnotes and references:
Akṣapāda Gautama and Gautama (the husband of Ahalyā) are two different persons. VR knows the latter and does not even hint at his being the author of Nyāya Sūtra.
As noted previously VR does not mention Gautama having ever visited the Mahī-Sāgara-Saṅgama.
Yogaścitta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ | YS 1.2.
Our text omits posture (āsana) mentioned in the lists of limbs (Yoga-Sūtra II. 29) and adds dhyeya instead (not mentioned in YS) to make the number eight.
Vide YS 11.30.
Vyāsa-bhāṣya on YS 11.30 echoes the same in similar words.
Cf YS 11.32. For Svādhyāya (Vedic study) and Īśvara-Praṇidhāna (Devotion to God) our text substitutes Japa and Guru-bhakti (Devotion to Guru).
Cāndrāyaṇa—The expiation based on the waxing and waning of the moon. Therein on the first day of the dark half of the month, 15 morsels are to be eaten and one morsel less is taken on succeeding days (tithis) so that on the New Moon (Amāvāsyā) only one morsel is taken. Then on the first day of the bright half two morsels are taken and one is added on each day; thus on the 14th day 15 morsels are taken and a complete fast is observed on the Full-Moon day.
There are 5 varieties of Cāndrāyaṇa. It is an expiation for all lapses of a general nature. But it is also a penance as well as a way to accumulate merit. Here it is treated as Penance (Tapas).
VV 29-40 deal with Prāṇāyāma or breath control.
VV 61-72 deal with obstacles of Samādhi.
VV 74-89a enumerate different omens and signs indicating impending death. Similar ideas are found in Jaina works like Maraṇa-kaṇḍikā, Riṣṭa-samuccaya of Durgadeva and the like.
VV 92-114. The siddhis working as obstacles to liberation are detailed.
What follows is mostly obscure.
The stage of life called Kaumāra from birth to the age of five appears to be left out. The following are further stages: Śiśu ‘under eight’, Pogaṇḍa ‘up to the 16th year’—MW p. 728 C.
Vyāsa in YS in.45 explains these Siddhis (‘supernatural powers’) differently. Thus:
Prāpti—Extension, seen when the Yogin touches the moon with a mere finger’s tip.
Kāmāvasāyitva—The capacity to will actual facts so that the elements which are the evolving causes remain as he wills.