Yoga-sutras (with Bhoja’s Rajamartanda)

by Rajendralala Mitra | 1883 | 103,575 words

The Yoga-Sutra 2.46, English translation with Commentaries. The Yogasutra of Patanjali represents a collection of aphorisms dealing with spiritual topics such as meditation, absorption, Siddhis (yogic powers) and final liberation (Moksha). The Raja-Martanda is officialy classified as a Vritti (gloss) which means its explanatory in nature, as opposed to being a discursive commentary.

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of Sūtra 2.46:

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥ २.४६ ॥

sthirasukhamāsanam || 2.46 ||

46. Posture (is that which is) firm and pleasant.

The Rajamartanda commentary by King Bhoja:

[English translation of the 11th century commentary by Bhoja called the Rājamārtaṇḍa]

[Sanskrit text for commentary available]

Having described the restrictions and the obligations, he now proceeds to describe posture.

[Read Sūtra 2.46]

“Posture” (Āsana) is that whereby one sits, such as Padmāsana, Daṇḍāsana, Svastikāsana, &c. When that seat becomes “firm” (sthira) or devoid of agitation, and “pleasant” (sukha) or not uncomfortable, then it is reckoned as an accessory of the Yoga.

Notes and Extracts

[Notes and comparative extracts from other commentaries on the Yogasūtra]

[The word āsana ordinarily implies the material adapted for sitting upon, such as a rug, a mat, a board, a chair, or the like, but here it has been used for particular modes or attitudes of sitting, and therefore I have translated it into posture and not seat. The aphorism recommends such postures as ensure steadiness and comfort; but the postures as described in other works do not convey to a worldly understanding any such idea. Brahmānanda, in his commentary on the Haṭhapradīpikā, says that Vaśiṣṭha, Yājñavalkya and other ancient sages had described 84 postures as appropriate for Yogīs, and that Śiva, the greatest of Yogis, was their author. He adds that Gorakṣanātha, a Yogī of a later date, but of great renown, reckoned the total number of appropriate postures at 84,00,000. (Caturasitīlakṣāṇi [Caturaśītilakṣāṇi?] ca taduktam Gorakṣanāthena.) Of the 84 some are common, some are more important. Svātmārāma, in the Haṭhapradīpikā, describes ten as “more important” for the performance of the Haṭhayoga. These are called, 1. Svastika; 2, Gomukha; 3, Vīra; 4, Kūrma; 5, Kukkuṭa; 6, Uttāna-kūrmaka; Dhanuḥ; 8, Matsyanātha; 9, Mayūra; 10, Sava. The most important ones are: 1, Siddha alias Mukta alias Gupta; 2, Padma; 3, Siṃha; 4, Bhadra alias Gorakṣa. The Pātañjala Bhāṣya does not enter into any detail, but names the following as examples, viz., 1, Padma or lotus; 2, Vīra or heroic; 3, Bhadra or decent, 4, Svastika or the mystic diagram so called; 5, Daṇḍa or staff-like; 6, Sopāśraya or self-reliant; 7, Paryaṅka or bedstead-like; 8, Krauñca-niṣīdana or like the posture of the seated heron; 9, Hasti-niṣīdana or seated elephant; 10, Uṣṭra-niṣīdana or seated camel; 11, Samasaṃsthāna or evenly poised. The following are brief accounts of the ways in which the postures are assumed.

1. Padmāsana. The right foot should be placed on the left thigh, and the left foot on the right thigh; the hands should be crossed, and the two great toes should be firmly held thereby; the chin should be bent down on the chest; and in this posture the eyes should be directed to the tip of the nose. It is called Padmāsana, and is highly beneficial in overcoming all diseases.[1]

2. Vīrāsana. Place each foot under the thigh of its side, and it will produce the heroic posture Vīrāsana.[2]

3. Bhadrāsana. Place the hands in the form of a tortoise in front of the scrotum, and under the feet and this is Bhadrāsana.[3]

4. Svastikāsana. Sitting straight with the feet placed under the (opposite) thighs is called Svastikāsana.[4]

5. Daṇḍāsana. Seated with the fingers grasping the ankles brought together and with feet placed extended on the legs.[5]

6. Siṃhāsana. Let the ankles be placed under the testes, the left ankle on the right side of the suture (the mesian line) and the right on the left side of the suture; let the hands placed on the knees, and the fingers extended; let the mouth be wide open, and the sight be directed to the tip of the nose while one is in deep contemplation; and it will produce the lion posture Siṃhāsana, the adored of all Yogis.[6]

7. Put the right ankle on the left side of the chest, and similarly the left ankle on the right side, and the posture will be Gomukha, or of the shape of a cow’s mouth.[7]

8. Closing the anus with the two ankles crossed while the mind is under control, produces, say the knowers of Yoga, the tortoise posture, Kūrmāsana.[8]

9. Having established the lotus posture, if the hands be passed between the thigh and the knees and placed on the earth so as to lift the body aloft, it will produce the Fowl seat, Kukkuṭāsana.[9]

10. Having assumed the fowl posture, should the two hands be placed on the sides of the neck it would make the posture like that of the tortoise upset; it is called upset tortoise posture, Uttānakūrmakāsana.[10]

11. Hold the great toes with the hands, and draw them to the ears as in drawing a bowstring, and this is called the bow posture, Dhanurāsana.[11]

12. Place the right foot on the roof of the left thigh, surround the right knee with the left, foot, and sit with the body twisted, and it will result in the Matsyanāthāsana or posture Matsyanātha.[12]

13. Mayūrāsana. Hold the earth with both hands placing the elbows on the sides of the navel, and keep the body erect like a staff: this is called the Mayūrāsana or peacock posture.[13]

14. Siddhāsana. Place the left ankle on the membrum virile, and thereupon put the right ankle, and it completes the Siddhāsana.[14]

Besides these Āsanas, Yogis have a great many postures or gestures which they reckon under the name of Mudrā, to which, however, no mention is made here in the text. In Tantric rituals the technical difference between an Āsana and a Mudrā depends upon the organs employed. An Āsana or seat is by its very nature connected with the disposition of the lower limbs, whereas the Mudrā depends upon the motion of the upper limbs; and in the Tantras all symbols produced by twining the fingers or placing the hands in particular positions are recognised as Mudrās. The Yogis have also some Mudrās of the same kind; but in their more important Mudrās the distinction is entirely lost sight of, and hands and feet alike come into play to produce the Āsanas as well as the Mudrās. The great and most remarkable distinctive character of the Mudrā appears, however, to be its connection with the regulation of breath. The Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā describes in all twenty-five Mudrās, and the Haṭhadīpikā recognises ten of these as the most important “in warding off decay and death,” (jarāmaraṇanāśanam.) These are—1 Mahāmudrā; 2, Mahābandha; 3, Mahāvedba; 4, Khecarī; 5, Uḍḍīyāna; 6, Mūlabandha; 7, Jalandhara; 8, Viparitakaraṇī; 9, Vajroṇī; 10, Śakticālana.[15] The following are brief descriptions of these gesticulations and of the advantages to be derived from them:

1. Mahāmudrā Pressing the perinaeum by the heel of the left foot, the right foot should be extended, and then held fast by the two hands. Then closing the throat the wind should be held above. Even as a snake struck by a staff stretches like a staff, so the coiled Śakti (breath) suddenly becomes straight, for then she is in a state of dying in the two nostrils. Then the wind should be discharged steadily, but not forcibly. The wisest of the wise call this Mahāmudrā.[16]

2. Mahābandha. Let the heel of the left foot be put under the perinœum, and the right foot on the left thigh, and, having drawn in breath, let the cbm be pressed hard on the chest, and the wind be held fast in the heart. After holding the wind as long as one is able, let it be slowly expired. When the expiration is complete, let the operation be repeated on the right side. (This shows that the breath in the first instance should be drawn by the left nostril.)[17]

3. Mahāvedha. While performing the Mahābandha should the Yogi effect the suppression of the breath in the Khecari style by closing the passage of the wind by the throat Mudrā, and then, putting the hands evenly on the ground, drive the wind slowly towards the buttocks, it is Mahāvedha.[18]

4. Khecari. When the tongue is reversed and pressed into the liollow of the head and the sight is fixed at a spot in the middle of the two eyebrows, the posture is called Khecarī.[19]

5. Udḍiyānabandha is that posture in which the wind flies upwards by the suṣumnā vessel from the right side of the belly above the navel.[20]

6. Mūlabandha. When the heel is pressed against the perinæum, the anus is contracted, and the Apāna wind is by force directed upwards, it is Mūlabandha.[21]

7. Jālandharabandha. When the throat is contracted and the chin is pressed hard on the chest it is Jālandhara posture, the destroyer of decay and death.[22]

8. Viparitakaraṇī. Place the sun (expiratory air) above, just below the bard palate, and the moon (inspiratory air) below, just above the navel, and the Viparitakaraṇī is completed. It promotes hunger, &c., &c.[23]

9. Vajroṇī. The exercise by which the several secretions are drawn upwards is so called.[24]

10. Śakticālana. Seated in the Vajrāsana posture, let the feet be held firm by the hands and the anus be pressed by the heels, then putting the air in motion by the bellows of the chest, let it be suddenly stopped, and, contracting the forehead, let the wind be directed that way for two muhūrtas and when it comes to the susumnā vessel, stop it and this is Śakticālana, (Loosely translated.)[25]

According to some the Bandhas, on distinct form the Mudrās. (Cf. N. C. Pāl’s treatise on the Yoga.)

Treating of a system of philosophy Patañjali has not thought proper to enter into details, regarding age, sex, caste, food, dwelling, &c. as bearing upon Yoga, but other works supply information about them to a considerable extent. A few notes derived therefrom may not be unfitly added here. The first question that would arise would be—who are fit to perform the Yoga? On this subject the Haṭhapradīpikā fixes no limit. It says, “by the practice of Yoga, every one may attain perfection, whether he be youthful, or old, or very old, or diseased, or decrepit.”[26] The next point is the selection of a proper place. “A small monastery, a dwelling not larger than a cube of six feet, situated in an out-of-the-way place where there is no danger within a circuit of a bow, of hail, fire and water, in a country abounding in food and free from danger of wars and the like, where religion prevails, in a thriving kingdom,” is the most appropriate. The cell or maṭhikā should have a small door and no window; it should be free from holes, cavities, inequalities, high steps and low descents; it should be smeared with cow-dung, devoid of dirt, not infested by vermin, with a terrace in front, a good well, and the whole surrounded by a wall. Dwelling in such a place, avoiding all anxieties, the Yogī should follow the path pointed out by his teachers in the exercise of the Yoga.[27] He should avoid all excess of food, violent exertions, and vain disputations. His food should consist of wheat, sāli rice, barley, śaṣṭi rice (or that which matures in six days), the syāma and the nivāra grains, milk, clarified butter, coarse or candied sugar, butter, honey, ginger, palval, fruits, five kinds of greens, mung pulse, and water,” and all soothing sweet things in a moderate quantity, avoiding flesh-meat and too much salt, acids, and all stale, putrid, decomposed or acrid substances. The quantity of food taken should be such as to leave one-fourth of his appetite unappeased.[28]

He describes the means of making the seat firm and pleasant.

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