The Gheranda Samhita - Part 2

Sunday, May 30, 2010

by Suleiha Suguna

In my last article, I covered the first 3 lessons of the Gheranda Samhita. This treatise on Hatha Yoga is divided into 7 lessons or chapters. Today I will attempt to bring you through the remaining 4 lessons.

Pratyahara

Pratyahara is the restraining of the mind. Gheranda tells Chanda in the opening of this lesson, that the practice of Pratyahara destroys lower passions like lust. The method for restraining the mind as expounded by Gheranda, is to withdraw the "Chitta" or the thinking principle.

In order to be successful at Pratyahara, you have to withdraw your sense of:

1. Sight
2. Hearing
3. Smell
4. Taste

Details on performing Pratyahara can only be thought by a Guru.

Pranayama

Also known as restraint of breath, its practice elevates men to greatness. In this lesson, Gheranda is explicit on where, when and how pranayama should be praticed. He says that 4 things are necessary in the practice of pranayama:

1. A good place
2. A suitable time
3. Moderate food
4. Purification of the nadis or channels for the flow of energy.

There are 8 types of Pranayama that should be practiced. It is of little use to go into the details of the different pranayama practices in this post.

Dhyana

Dhyana yoga is contemplation. Gheranda says that there are 3 levels of contemplation. The 1st level is contemplation on form and it is known as Sthula or Gross Contemplation.

The 2nd level is contemplation on light. This is called Jyotish.

The 3rd level of contemplation is called Sukshama or Subtle Contemplation. This is contemplation without attaching any form to it.

Samadhi

Gheranda refers to Samadhi as great Yoga. Samadhi is a state of being where you are liberated from any form of attachment. The prerequisites to achieving Samadhi is:

1. Confidence in knowledge
2. Faith in your guru or teacher
3. Faith in yourself
4. A mind that is awakened to intelligence

Attaining samadhi will free you from excessive desire and passion.

Conclusion

The seven steps ascribed to Chanda Kapili, is meant to bring the average person through a journey of purification, physical fitness, contemplation and inner peace. It is a well-designed system for total wellness that engages the individual's mental and physical states.

Although the Gheranda Samhita is the most encyclopedic of the 3 sources on hatha Yoga, caution must be observed in trying to follow the book without the guidance of an expert teacher. The knowledge presented in this treatise is not complete. It is only complete when taught by an expert teacher.

To illustrate, read the translation below for the Fetus Posture (Guptasana):

"Hide two feet under the two knees, and place the anus on the feet. This is known as Guptasana"

You will realize that this explanation on Guptasana is open to interpretation by the average reader. How should you be breathing when performing this posture? What is meant by "hide two feet under the two knees"? This posture also requires that the forehead touches the floor but it is not stated in the Gheranda Samhita.

These blanks can only be filled in by an expert teacher who has learn from a proper guru who in turn has learned from a proper guru and so forth. In other words, the blanks are filled by knowledge that is passed down from teacher to teacher.

How will you know if you are learning Yoga from an expert teacher? The answer is simple. You will not experience any pain, discomfort or injury. The asanas or postures must be stirre and sukha or sturdy and comfortable.

3 comments:

Dato Jawhar said...

The simple explanation is well written for any layman to understand yoga. The choice is left to the learner to choose the right teacher. I wonder how many yoga trainers or teachers explain this fundamental understanding of yoga before the practice is imparted to their students. No trace of any religion or rituals are mentioned by the great sage Gheranda Samhita. May this true knowledge of yoga spread for the benefit of mankind. Thank you. May God bless you.

Shareeza said...

Wonderful explanation of a very diverse subject matter. I especially like the last line. Choosing a yoga guru cannot be made anymore easier!

Anonymous said...

Great work! Keep writing

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