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PREFACE

 

In 1935, after the grand tour I submitted to a course of traditional training in Hatha Yoga, taking notes and making critical observations in order to appraise the results in the light of experience rather than of theory. I was, in fact, induced to make this practical trial of Yoga because of the disappointments I experienced in. connection with Yoga theory. The theories, about which there is an abundant literature, were confusing rather than informative regarding the practical content and discipline of Hatha Yoga. To this end I became the sincere disciple of a highly esteemed teacher and settled down at his retreat in the hills near Ranchi. Under his supervision and guidance I adhered to the rigid discipline imposed upon one who wishes to practice Hatha Yoga.

In order to further my studies, it was suggested by my teacher that I go to Tibet. According to him, what has become mere tradition in India is still living and visible in the ancient monasteries of that isolated land of mysteries. Immediately I set forth. My first intimate contact with the training as it is found in Tibet was through a renowned hermit on the Tibetan border in. northern Sikkim. With him, by means of an interpreter, I was able to converse about the doctrines and literature of Tibetan Lamaism. Through him I was able to make a general inventory of the literature of the Kargyüpa sect, which contains the earliest material taken into Tibet from India from the seventh to the eleventh century. My travels culminated in a pilgrimage to the holy city, Lhasa, where I was accepted as an incarnation of a Tibetan Saint.

 

This removed all obstacles and enabled me to take part in the religious ceremonies of the Jo-Wo Kang and the Ramoche, the two sacred temples in Lhasa, in rites held at the tomb of the last Dalai Lama in the Nam Gyal Choide of the Potala, as well as to attend the services held in many of the smaller shrines of that great palace. Opportunity was given for me to participate in ceremonies and discuss the teachings with some of the leading lamas of the famed monasteries of Drepong, Sera, Ganden, Dochen, Dra-Yarpa, Palkor Choide, at Gyantse, Tashi-Lumpo, in. Shigatse, and Saskya, the Oxford of Asia, which was the original seat of learning in Tibet and today houses one of the largest libraries of the land.

During my stay in. Lhasa, a learned geshe from the Sera monastery lived with me. He helped me to find and classify the literature I sought and instructed me as well in the religious practices used in the monasteries of the Gelupa sect, the ruling sect today. At the same time I was able to have the guidance of another lama, who was the head of a small Kargyüpa monastery a few days distant from Lhasa. He was with me daily for some time, and we discussed Kargyüpa beliefs and practices as contrasted with those of other sects. Throughout my entire stay in Tibet I was constantly in touch with other lamas of good repute, checking what I had heard and read. A survey of this sort could only scratch the surface, but it helped me to interpret my practical discipline and to obtain a sense of what Yoga means in their lives. I do not report my Tibetan experience here, because it was merely background for my training in India.

Any attempt to prove the merits of the art of Yoga would be futile. If a thousand volumes were quoted in its favour and all the rules of logic and sophistry were employed, the doubts and scepticism of modern man would still remain. Therefore this study is not an attempt to prove the merits of Yoga or to explain its results. Instead, I here present a report of my personal experiences in learning and practising the basic techniques of Hatha Yoga, in order to give the Western reader an accurate account of the conduct of a typical oriental course in that Yoga; and I accompany my description, with references to the relevant passages from the classic texts in order that the critical reader may estimate the extent to which tradition is followed and may more readily correlate theory and practice. The chief texts I have used for this purpose are, for obvious reasons, the most familiar translations: Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, translated by Pancham Sinh; Gheranda Samhitã, translated by Sri Chandra Vasu; Siva Samhitã, translated by Rai Bahadur Sria Chandra Vidyarnava. Where there seemed to be a questionable interpretation of the text I have taken the liberty, for the sake of consistency, to make a few minor corrections.

When I went to India, I did not present myself as an academic research student, trying to probe into the intimacies of ancient cultural patterns; instead, I became a disciple and in this way one of the Yogîs in body and spirit, without reservation, for I wanted to taste their teachings.[1]  

[1] The relation of guru and disciple is discussed in Siva Samhit„, iii, 10-19: "Now I shall tell you how easily to attain success in Yoga, by knowing which the Yogis never fail in the practice of Yoga. Only the knowledge imparted by a Guru, through his lips is powerful and useful; otherwise it becomes fruitless, weak and very painful. He who is devoted to any knowledge, while pleasing his Guru with every attention, readily obtains the fruits of that knowedge. There is not the least doubt that Guru is father, Guru is mother, and Guru is God even; and as such he should be served by all with their thought, word and deed. By Gurus favour everything good relating to ones self is obtained. So the Guru ought to be daily served; else there can be nothing auspicious. Let him salute his Guru after walking three times round him, and touching with his right hand his lotus feet.

"The person who has control over himself attains verily success through faith; none other can succeed. Therefore, with faith, Yoga should be practised with care and perseverance. Those who are addicted to sensual pleasures or keep bad company, who are disbelievers, who are devoid of respect towards their Guru, who resort to promiscuous assemblies, who are addicted to false and vain controversies, who are cruel in their speech, and who do not give satisfaction to their Guru never attain success. The first condition of success is the firm belief that it (vidy„) must succeed and be fruitful; the second condition is having faith in it; the third is respect towards the Guru; the fourth is the spirit of Universal equality; the fifth is the restraint of the organs of sense; the sixth is moderate eating, these are all. There is no seventh condition. Having received instructions in Yoga, and obtained a Guru who knows Yoga, let him practise with earnestness and faith, according to the method taught by the teacher."

This required that I take part in many religious ceremonies, for everything in India is steeped in the formalities of rites and rituals. However, such forms theoretically are not recognized as an essential factor in the practice of Hatha Yoga.

Success cannot be attained by adopting a particular dress (Vesa). It cannot be gained by telling tales. Practice alone is the means to success. This is true, there is no doubt. Asanas (postures), various kumbhakas (breathing techniques), and other divine means, all should be practised in the practice of Hatha Yoga, till the fruit Rãja Yogais obtained.[2][2] Hatha Yoga PradÓpik„, i, 68-69.

 

However, in order to learn I submitted myself completely to the traditional customs of each teacher, for I was anxious to learn everything that would contribute to a fuller understanding of Yoga.

My principal literary guide has been Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã; hence I shall adopt its sequence in relating my personal experiences in learning and practising these techniques. In order that this study may be self-contained and that the reader shall not be burdened to search elsewhere for the other texts, which are extremely difficult to obtain, I quote at length from all of them. This will show how much they are in accord and at the same time will acquaint the student with the style of Hatha Yoga literature. When comments can contribute to an understanding of the question under consideration, I make them briefly; if, on the other hand, obscure statements are not of immediate concern, I disregard them. Many strange statements concerning the supernatural and the miraculous become clearer as the student progresses in his studies; it is best to ignore those which do not relate to the practice of Hatha Yoga.

As far as it is possible to do so by still photography, the various postures and disciplines which I have learned are illustrated by the thirty-six photographs appended. These are for the most part ãsanas; a few mudrãs are shown. The most elementary postures are omitted, not needing illustration. It is obviously impossible to show adequately by such photographs the performance of purification practices and breathing exercises. The photographs of the author here included were recently taken. The illustrations are arranged and numbered in the order in which the postures are treated in the text, with a few exceptions, which are referred to only in the footnotes. These photographs can be compared with the eighty-seven lithographs in Richard Schmidts Fakire und Fakirtum in alten und modernen Indien, which illustrate the same postures and in. addition some of the most elementary postures, which I have not included. More recently there have appeared other illustrations of the postures, notably those in Kuvalayãnandas Ãsanas.

To my teachers of India and Tibet, who, shunning public acclaim, must perforce remain anonymous, I am deeply indebted. Thanks are due to Professor Herbert W. Schneider, for his constant encouragement and helpful in preparation of the manuscript, and to Professor Henry Zimmer, for his valuable guidance and technical assistance.

THEOS BERNARD