Sri Aurobindo on Hatha Yoga

May 13, 2020
Hatha Yoga


“Hatha yoga is a powerful, but difficult and onerous system whose whole principle of action is founded on an intimate connection between the body and the soul. The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality. The body is not to the Hatha yogin a mere mass of living matter, but a mystic bridge between the spiritual and the physical being.
Although, however, he speaks always of the physical body and makes that the basis of his practices, he does not view it with the eye of the anatomist or physiologist, but describes and explains it in language which always looks back to the subtle body behind the physical system. “
Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga


SELECTED QUOTES


1.

“The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


2.


“There is a link between mind and body which Western science is now acknowledging. This link has been known and utilized for millennia by the practitioners of Hatha Yoga to bring about changes in the state of consciousness through changes made to the physical body through a series of modifications known as mudras (gestures), bandhas (locks or holds) and specific placement of the body’s limbs to facilitate specific flow or holding up of energy (asana), combined with control of the vital force, most notably through breath control as the means (pranayama).”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


3. 

“Much of what we see and hear of “yoga” in the modern world is the practice of the physical poses, asanas, utilized for their secondary benefits of health, energy and wellness, without paying attention to the deeper significance and use of these practices.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


4.

“The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30

5.

“The body is not to the Hathayogin a mere mass of living matter, but a mystic bridge between the spiritual and the physical being…”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30



6.

“The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality. The body is not to the Hathayogin a mere mass of living matter, but a mystic bridge between the spiritual and the physical being…”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


7.

“In fact, the whole aim of the Hathayogin may be summarized fro mour point of view, though he would not himself put it in that language, as an attempt by fixed scientific processes to give to the soul in the physical body the power, the light, the purity, the freedom, the ascending scales of spiritual experience which would naturally be open to it, if it dwelt here in the subtle and the developed causal vehicle.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


8.

“The pure Hathayoga is the means of the fulfilment through the body. Its processes are physical, strenuous, colossal, complex, difficult. They centre in Asana, Pranayam and the purification of the body16. “

  • EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS

(1890 — 1910)

Part Six. The Chandernagore Manuscript


9.

“The Asana means simply a particular21 position of the body and is perfect or “conquered”, in the technical language, when a man can stay in a single posture, however strained or apparently impossible, for an indefinite period without being forced by strain to remember the body.”

  • EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS

(1890 — 1910)

Part Six. The Chandernagore Manuscript


10.

“Hathayogins have numerous others such as the extraordinary means by which they clean out daily all the physical52 impurities of the body53. By these numerous and difficult physical practices54 they attain an extraordinary power, vitality, virility, longevity, and are also able to attain knowledge transcending the ordinary human bounds, leave the body in Samadhi and, in one word, exercise every mere power that comes by Yoga.”

  • EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS

(1890 — 1910)

Part Six. The Chandernagore Manuscript


11.

Pranayam34 is the mastery of the vital force, the mobile energy which35 keeps the universe going. In the human body the most noticeable36 function of the prana or vital force is the breathing, which is in ordinary men necessary to life and motion. The Hathayogin37 conquers it and renders himself independent of it

  • EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS

(1890 — 1910)

Part Six. The Chandernagore Manuscript


12.

“Hatha yoga is a powerful, but difficult and onerous system whose whole principle of action is founded on an intimate connection between the body and the soul. The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of yoga


13.

“Hatha yoga is a powerful, but difficult and onerous system whose whole principle of action is founded on an intimate connection between the body and the soul.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of yoga


14.

“The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality.”

  • Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of yoga



————————


1. The Principles Underlying the Practice of Hatha Yoga

https://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/the-principles-underlying-the-practice-of-hatha-yoga/



There is a link between mind and body which Western science is now acknowledging. This link has been known and utilized for millennia by the practitioners of Hatha Yoga to bring about changes in the state of consciousness through changes made to the physical body through a series of modifications known as mudras (gestures), bandhas (locks or holds) and specific placement of the body’s limbs to facilitate specific flow or holding up of energy (asana), combined with control of the vital force, most notably through breath control as the means (pranayama). The seeker following the path of Hatha Yoga undertakes strenuous and disciplined practices in order to control and direct the flow of energy, and with it the conscious awareness, to eventually bring about a state of higher awareness, and the development of the facility of the yogic trance.

Much of what we see and hear of “yoga” in the modern world is the practice of the physical poses, asanas, utilized for their secondary benefits of health, energy and wellness, without paying attention to the deeper significance and use of these practices.

Sri Aurobindo describes the background and principles that underpin the practice of Hatha Yoga in its original sense: “The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality. The body is not to the Hathayogin a mere mass of living matter, but a mystic bridge between the spiritual and the physical being…”

“In fact, the whole aim of the Hathayogin may be summarized fro mour point of view, though he would not himself put it in that language, as an attempt by fixed scientific processes to give to the soul in the physical body the power, the light, the purity, the freedom, the ascending scales of spiritual experience which would naturally be open to it, if it dwelt here in the subtle and the developed causal vehicle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 27, Hathayoga, pg. 507

———————————


2.The Limitations of the Path of Hatha Yoga

https://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/the-limitations-of-the-path-of-hatha-yoga/



As we would expect from any process that relies primarily on the physical body and its operations, Hatha Yoga tends to require enormous input of time and focus in order to achieve the ultimate results. Those who practice Hatha Yoga simply for the general health and wellness effects may be able to find a “cost/benefit” payoff in the practice, and certainly, applying the science of how the body operates on an energetic level, and gaining partial mastery over some of its processes, is certainly a benefit for helping to optimize the outer life in the world. However, to achieve the end result of union with the Divine through Hatha Yoga tends to involve substantially more focus and time and effort because the body, at the lowest plane of our action, has very little “leverage”, and thus, those who are called to practice this path in earnest will wind up not having time to realistically balance the activities of the outer life effectively, nor therefore be able to provide any effective benefit to others through that activity.


Sri Aurobindo describes the concern: “But the weakness of Hathayoga is that its laborious and difficult processes make so great a demand on the time and energy and impose so complete a severance from the ordinary life of men that the utilisation of its results for the life of the world becomes either impracticable or is extraordinarily restricted.”


He points out further that the inner development that can be achieved through this effort can likely be attained by other paths that provide greater “leverage” for the inner life with much less cost of time, effort and focus.


“On the other hand, the physical results, increased vitality, prolonged youth, health, longevity are of small avail if they must be held by us as misers of ourselves, apart from the common life, for their own sake, not utilised, not thrown into the common sum of the world’s activities. Hathayoga attains large results, but at an exorbitant price and to very little purpose.”


Within the general limits, Hatha Yoga can be a starting point, and provide some general benefits to provide a foundation and basis for more intensive spiritual practices. We are asked, however, to keep in mind the limits within which it can be a benefit to the larger goals.


Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30


Notes: Sahasrara has 1000 bulbs/lights

Sahasrara is trigunatirth - beyond 3 

—————————

3. 

https://www.aurobindo.ru/workings/sa/37_01/0116_e.htm#2_


EARLY CULTURAL WRITINGS

(1890 — 1910)

Part Six. The Chandernagore Manuscript

Hathayoga

The evolution of man has been upwards from the body to the spirit, and there are three stages in his progress. He bases himself upon body1, rises through soul2 and culminates in spirit. And to each stage of his evolution belong certain kinds of sadhana, a particular type of Yoga, a characteristic fulfilment. There was no aeon in man’s history, no kalpa, to use the Indian term, in which the Yoga was withheld from man or fulfilment denied to him. But the fulfilment corresponded to his stage of progress, and the Yoga corresponded to the fulfilment. In his earlier development he was realising himself in the body and the divinity of the body was his fulfilment. He is now realising himself in the heart and mind, and the divinity of the heart and mind will be his culmination. Eventually he will realise himself in the spirit and the divinity of his true spiritual self will round off his history.


Yoga is the realisation of one’s capacity of harmony, communion or unity with God. Whatever religious standpoint, creed or philosophy one adopt3, Yoga is possible, so4 long as God’s existence or omnipresence is admitted, whether it be as a Personality, a Presence, a Force5 or a Condition of Things. The Infinite in some form or idea must be admitted. To be in tune with the Infinite, that is harmony. To be in touch with the Infinite, that is communion. To be one in kind, extent or self-realisation with the Infinite, that is unity. But fulfilment is not possible unless the So Aham, “He am I,” is recognised6 and practised as the ultimate truth of things. The realisation of God in self with the eye on the body is the fulfilment of the tamasic or material man. The realisation of God in self with7 the eye on the antahkaran or heart and mind8 is the fulfilment of the rajasic or psychic man. The realisation of God in self with9 the eye on the spirit is the fulfilment of the sattwic or spiritual man. And each fulfils himself by rising beyond himself. When the material man fulfils the divinity of the body, he does so by rising into the psychic part and finding his strength in the ahankara or psychic10 principle of egoism. The psychic man fulfils the divinity of the soul by rising into the spirit and finding his strength in the superpsychic Will or Intelligent Force in things. The spiritual man fulfils the divinity of the spirit by rising beyond the human spirit, the Jivatman, and finding his strength in the Parameswara and Parabrahman, the Sa and the Tat, God revealed and unrevealed, the Universal11 and Supreme Spirit who supports and contains the individual. To put it in language easier but more capable of misconception, the material man realises himself by identifying God with his own ego; the psychical12 man by identifying God with passionless, intelligent, blissful Will in himself; the spiritual man by identifying God with the All in whom everything abides. The first is the Rakshasa or the Asura13 of the lower order; the second is the Deva or the Asura of the higher14 order; the third is the Siddha15 or Siddha Purusha, the perfect being.

The pure Hathayoga is the means of the fulfilment through the body. Its processes are physical, strenuous, colossal, complex, difficult. They centre in Asana, Pranayam and the purification of the body16. The number of Asanas in the modern or mixed17 Hathayoga is limited, but18 even then they19 are numerous and painful; in the ancient or pure Hathayoga, they were innumerable and the old Hathayogins20 practised them all. The Asana means simply a particular21 position of the body and is perfect or “conquered”, in the technical language, when a man can stay in a single posture, however strained or apparently impossible, for an indefinite period without being forced by strain to remember the body. The first object of the Asana is to conquer the body, — for the body must be conquered before it can become divine, — to be able to lay any command upon it and never be commanded by it. The second object was22 to conquer physical nature, by developing the four physical siddhis, laghima, anima, garima, mahima. By perfect laghima man can rise into the air and tread the winds as his natural element; by perfect anima he can bring the nature of the subtle body23 into the gross body, which the fire will no longer burn, nor weapons24 wound, nor want of air stifle, nor the waters drown; by perfect garima he can develop an adamantine steadiness which the25 shock of the avalanche26 cannot27 overbear; by perfect mahima he can, without muscular development, outdo the feats of a Hercules. These powers in their fullness are no longer visible in men, but in some degree they belong to all adepts in Hathayoga. Their existence no one can doubt who has gone deep into Yoga at all or had28 any personal experience of siddhis29. The third object is to develop in the body Yogic force, which is called tapah or viryam or the30 fire of Yoga. The fourth object is to become urddhwaretah, that is to say, to draw up the31 whole virile force in the body into the brain and32 return so much of it as is needed for the body purified and electricised33.

Pranayam34 is the mastery of the vital force, the mobile energy which35 keeps the universe going. In the human body the most noticeable36 function of the prana or vital force is the breathing, which is in ordinary men necessary to life and motion. The Hathayogin37 conquers it and renders himself independent of it. But he does not confine his attention to this38 single39 vital operation. He distinguishes five major vital forces and several minor, to each of which he has given a name, and he learns to control all the numerous pranic currents in which they operate. As there are innumerable asanas, so there are a great number of different kinds of Pranayam40, and a man is not a perfect Hathayogin till he has mastered them all. The conquest of the Prana confirms the perfect health, vigour and vitality gained by the Asanas; it confers41 the power of living as long as one pleases and it adds to the four physical siddhis, the five psychical, — prakamya or absolute keenness of the mind and senses42 including telepathy, clairvoyance and other43 faculties commonly supposed to be supernormal; vyapti or the power of receiving other men’s thoughts, powers and feelings and projecting one’s own thoughts, feelings, powers44 or personality into others; aiswaryam or control45 over events, lordship, wealth and all objects of desire; vashita or the power of exacting implicit and instantaneous obedience to the spoken or written word; ishita, the46 perfect control over the powers of nature and over things inert or47 unintelligent48. Some of these

powers have recently been discovered in Europe as phenomena of hypnotism or will-force; but the European experiences are feeble and unscientific if compared with the achievements of the ancient Hathayogins or even with those of some of the modern. The will power developed by Pranayam49 is, it should be noted,50 psychical and not51 spiritual.

Besides these two great practices the Hathayogins have numerous others such as the extraordinary means by which they clean out daily all the physical52 impurities of the body53. By these numerous and difficult physical practices54 they attain an extraordinary power, vitality, virility, longevity, and are also able to attain knowledge transcending the ordinary human bounds, leave the body in Samadhi and, in one word, exercise every mere power that comes by Yoga. But the practice of unmixed Hathayoga generates a colossal egoism and the Yogin seldom exceeds it. The modern Hathayoga is mixed with the Rajayoga55 and, therefore, neither56 so virile and potent nor so dangerous as the ancient. The modern Hathayogin often falls a prey to egoism but he knows he has to transcend it. The ancient embraced it as a fulfilment; only he managed and directed it by the use of the psychical57 will-power which he identified with the Force of Nature and the supreme Will of God58.

 

Earlier edition of this work: Sri Aurobindo Birth Century Library: Set in 30 volumes.- Volume 3.- The Harmony of Virtue: Early Cultural Writings — 1890-1910.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Asram, 1972.- 489 p.

1 1972 ed.: upon the body

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2 1972 ed.: through mind and soul

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3 1972 ed.: adopts

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4 1972 ed.: as

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5 1972 ed.: Personality, a Force

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6 1972 ed.: recognized

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7 1972 ed.: that with

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8 1972 ed.: mind

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9 1972 ed.: that with

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10 1972 ed.: or the psychic

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11 1972 ed.: Universe

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12 1972 ed.: psychic

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13 1972 ed.: or asura

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14 1972 ed.: highest

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15 1972 ed.: pūrṇa

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16 1972 ed.: physical purifications

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17 1972 ed.: modern mixed

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18 1972 ed.: and

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19 1972 ed.: even they

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20 1972 ed.: yogin

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21 1972 ed.: simply particular

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22 1972 ed.: is

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23 1972 ed.: subtlety

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24 1972 ed.: weapon

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25 1972 ed.: no

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26 1972 ed.: of even an avalanche

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27 1972 ed.: can

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28 1972 ed.: or who had

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29 1972 ed.: of the Siddhis

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30 1972 ed.: force, the Tapah or the Viryam, the

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31 1972 ed.: draw the

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32 1972 ed.: brain up and

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33 1972 ed.: electrified

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34 1972 ed.: Pranayama

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35 1972 ed.: that

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36 1972 ed.: notable

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37 1972 ed.: Yogin

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38 1972 ed.: the

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39 1972 ed.: simple

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40 1972 ed.: Pranayama

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41 1972 ed.: confirms

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42 1972 ed.: and the senses

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43 1972 ed.: the

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44 1972 ed.: thoughts etc.

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45 1972 ed.: or the control

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46 1972 ed.: or the

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47 1972 ed.: and

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48 1972 ed.: intelligent

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49 1972 ed.: Pranayama

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50 1972 ed.: is said to be

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51 1972 ed.: psychical, not

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52 1972 ed.: all physical

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53 1972 ed.: impurities.

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54 1972 ed.: difficult practices

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55 1972 ed.: with Rajayoga

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56 1972 ed.: and neither

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57 1972 ed.: of psychic

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58 1972 ed.: Will-power.

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