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Yogic Treatises

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Many of the Yogis of yore were quite illiterate. There was, of course, oral teaching.  It may be interesting enough to know something about the following four:

  • Goraksha Shataka
    This text has been attributed to Goraksha or Gorakhnath, a leading exponent of the religious order known as the Natha Pantha, also called the Kanphatas. He was a Yogi par excellence and was regarded as greater than his Guru, Matsyendranath. His fame as a religious leader and reformer seems to have caught the fancy of people all over India and thus led to a cluster of contradictory legends about him. Popular belief took him to be a representative of Shiva or even a form of that God himself. The early stories connected with his name might have been inspired by fancied etymology and gathered round his head after his death. It seems Gorakknath has to be placed somewhere around the 10th century.
    This text is generally looked upon as a fundamental text of the Nath Cult. It appears that the book is mainly intended to serve as a  kind of "Students' Handbook of Instructions in Yogic Disciplinary Practices".It opens with a statement of the goal of human life and immediately proceeds to deal with the steps (six) leading to that end. The six steps are calculated to secure absolute control of mind which alone is said to result in the final emancipation.

  • Hathayogapradipika
    This is a Tantric Hatha Yoga treatise written by Cintamani, who as a hermit took the name of Swatmarama and attained the title 'yogindra'. In the opening verses of his work - which he himself called
    Hathapradipika and not Hathayogapradipika - he mentions a long list of Yogis who preceded him, more than 24 in all. This suggests that his book is fairly late, and one might perhaps assign it to the 15th century. Swatmarama's work is certainly not completely original, for in it you can find quite some verses from other works. This raises the hypothesis that Hathapradipika is a compilation, a so-called Samhita. His work has been held in great esteem both by scholars and practising yogis, for it is he who points out that the yogic processes form a continuum. He did not consider Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga to be different compartments of yoga, but stressed their interdependence (2.76).
    Several translations into English were published:

    • in 1915 by Pancham Singh and printed at Allahabad in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus";

    • in 1933 the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras (it was translated by Yogi Shrinivasa Iyangar in 1893)


  • Gheranda Samhita
    This work is very similar to the preceding, from which it borrows. It gives much attention to dhauti and more details of 'personal hygiene'. Its author was an adept named Gheranda, a Vaishnavite of Bengal. His shishya or pupil was Chanda Kapali.
    In 1877 the work was edited by Bhuvana Chandra Vasaka, at Calcutta. There are several English translations:

    • in 1895 by Shri Chandra Vasu, Bombay;

    • in 1914 by Rai Bahadur Shrisa Chandra Vasu and printed at Allahabad in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus";

    • in 1933 the Theosophical Publishing House at Adyar re-issued the latter.


  • Shiva Samhita
    This is also a Tantric treatise on Yoga, but much more difficult than the two preceding works, and also much longer. It is Vedantic in its philosophical outlook. Chapter Five is assumed to be of independent origin. There are several English translations:

    • in 1884 by Shri Chandra Vasu, Lahore, in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus";

    • in 1914 by Rai Bahadur Shrisa Chandra Vasu and printed at Allahabad, also in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus".


Where to find these books?

Motilal Banarsidass, 41 U.A. Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi - 110 007, India
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Last modified: April 06, 2011