Saturday, 24 June 2017



A sage, Vyāsa?
Maharashtra, 18th century. Painted on paper.
According to register, Recto Album Leaf, Folio 38. 1974,0617,0.14.37.
The Trustees of the British Museum.

Over the last hundred years, various scholars have noted evidence indicating that the Sūtra and the Bhāṣya sections of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra were compiled by a single author called Patañjali. In recent years, Dr Philipp Maas has found further evidence in the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and other Sanskrit works, and has argued convincingly for it.1

However, the claim that the Sūtra was composed by Patañjali and the Bhāṣya by Vyāsa became the predominant view after the composition of the fourteenth-century Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha, which is the first source that clearly states the separate authorship of Patañjali and Vyāsa.

A good example of this view being expressed in a work on yoga is seen in the following two verses of an unpublished commentary on the Yogatārāvalī called the Rājatarala by Rāmasvāmipaṇḍita:
I meditate on the primal, boundless lord Śeṣa (i.e., Patañjali), who is born from the consciousness conceived by multitudes of the best yogins. The dirt of his feet is greatly honoured, his eyes are wide like lotuses, he composed the venerable Yogasūtra and his special abode is the heart lotus.

We praise Vedavyāsa, whose dwelling is the heart. He arose as a partial incarnation of Viṣṇu, composed the Yogabhāṣya and his feet should be worshipped by multitudes of yogins.2
The Rājatarala (The Central Gem on Rājayoga) quotes the Śivayogapradīpikā (circa late 15th century) by name, which means it was composed after the 15th century. The fact that it synthesises teachings on Patañjali’s yoga with those of Haṭha and Rājayoga traditions suggests that it was written sometime during the 16th - 18th centuries, which was the era when this synthesis appears in other compilations on yoga, such as the Yogacintāmaṇi, the Yogasārasaṅgraha, the Yogasiddhāntacandrikā and so on. 

Nearly all yoga compendiums of the 16th - 18th centuries, which we have consulted, mention Vyāsa as the author of the Bhāṣya. A possible exception is the seventeenth-century Yuktabhavadeva (1.297 – 300), which quotes a passage from both the Sūtra and the Bhāṣya as the work of Patañjali.

Krishna and the Pandavas being told by the sage Vyāsa
where to obtain the horse for the sacrifice (aśvamedha).

British Library Manuscript: Or12076 f4v
The Razmnāmah, the Persian translation by Naqīb Khān of the Mahābhārata.
Sub-imperial Mughal, 1598.


1 See Philipp Maas, "A Concise Historiography of Classical Yoga Philosophy" in: Eli Franco (ed.), Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy. Vienna: Sammlung de Nobili, Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde der Universität Wien, 2013. (Publications of the De Nobili Research Library, 37), p. 53-90.

2 Rājatarala
yogīndravṛndaparikalpitacitprasūnaṃ saṃpūjitāṅghrikamalaṃ kamalāyatākṣam ||
śrīyogasūtrakṛtam ādyam anantam īśaṃ śeṣaṃ viśeṣanilayaṃ kalaye hṛdabje ||9||
vedavyāsaṃ hṛdāvāsaṃ vāsudevāṃśasaṃbhavam |
yogabhāṣyakṛtaṃ yogivṛndavandyapadaṃ numaḥ ||10||

R1 = Yogatārāvalīvyākhyā (Rājataralaḥ), ms. B378 (f. 2), Oriental Research Institute, University of Mysore.
R2 = transcript of ms. 72330, Adyar Library and Research Centre, Chennai. See Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts, Vol 8, Compiled by Parameswara Aithal, 1972, p. 311.
‘+’ = missing letter.
9a prasūnaṃ ] emend. : prasūna R1, R2. 10c saṃbhavam ] R2 : saṃbava+ R1. 10d vandyapadaṃ ] emend. : vandyaṃ padaṃ R2 : vandyaṃ pa++ R1. 10d numaḥ ] R2 : +++ R1.


The Yamas and Niyamas: Patanjali's View

The Yamas and Niyamas: Medieval and Modern Views

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Visual Evidence for Sun Worship in Mughal Court Painting

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Fig. 1: Folio 36r from the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ,
(Collected poems of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Shīrāzī).
British Library, Manuscript Or 14139.

Ever since the Sun has cast a shadow on the land that is now India, it seems that people have offered their reverence in worship of its brilliance, sustenance and cyclical presence. Terracotta plates and medallions from the Mauryan dynasty1 (circa 321–185 B.C.) provide the earliest anthropomorphic representations of Sūrya, the Sun god. Sculptural representations appear on a railing of the Bodhgayā Stupa.2 There is abundant inscriptional as well as textual evidence to testify to the prevalence of Sun worship from the Gupta period onward. Several architectural temples in honour of a Sun god still exist, although often in ruins, such as the majestic 13th century Sun Temple of Koṇārka that sits in the jungle on the coastline of Orissa.

During the time of the Mughal court, we find evidence of a reasonably liberal religious policy3 where the 16th-century Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (1556 - 1605) adopted a sunrise practice of presenting himself at the jharokha-i-darshan,4 an ornate balcony window from which his subjects were able to view him at first light after bathing in the river and performing their own Sun observance practices.

Apart from the representation of the Sun as a deity and object of worship, very little iconographic evidence of the devotees themselves has survived the passing of time. However, one such piece of evidence appears in paintings from the Mughal court. In the decorative marginal borders of an illustrated manuscript of the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ, ‘The Collected poems of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Shīrāzī',5 two naturalistic images depict Sun worshipers.

According to a note in this manuscript,6 these poems have been scribed by the renowned calligrapher Sulṭān ʻAlī Mashhadī in circa 1470 AD. The whole work was refurbished during the reign of the 4th Mughal Emperor Jahāngīr7 (son of Akbar) and thus provide an accurate date for the outer margins at circa 1605 AD. These illuminated borders (fig. 1) contain elaborate cartouches with precise depictions of flora, fauna, landscapes, Persian musicians, hunters, fakirs, a Nath yogi and even Europeans.

Fig. 2: Detail of a Sun worshiper from folio 36r
of the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ,
(Collected poems of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Shīrāzī).
British Library, Manuscript Or 14139.

The first of the Sun worship scenes is in a small golden cartouche centred on the right-hand border of folio 36r (fig. 2). It features a male figure standing in a garden with floral and cloud-like decorations around him. He is wearing a simple dhoti and a cloth (aṅgavastra) wrapped over his shoulders. His hands are raised above his head clasping mālā beads and his gaze is upwards towards the Sun, which is shining brightly overhead. The man’s shoulder-length hair is sleekly combed, as if oiled, and although he appears to be a Brahmin, it is somewhat uncertain because his sacred thread (yajnopavita) is not visible and no other sectarian marks are displayed. The prominent feature of mālā beads suggest that he could be performing japa (i.e., mantra recitation) to the Sun, which is a Brahmanical practice described in the Veda. His dhoti is tied in the style that is typical of South India, and this is affirmed by the accompanying aṅgavastram. The remainder of the margin for this folio pictures birds and plants in similarly elaborate gold painted frames.

Fig. 3: Detail of a Sun worshiper from folio 45r
of the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ,
(Collected poems of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Shīrāzī).
British Library, Manuscript Or 14139.

The second scene of Sun worship is centred on the right-hand border of folio 45r (fig. 3) and is similarly positioned in a golden cartouche. It features a youthful male figure standing with his hands in a gesture of reverence (generally called añjalimudrā) towards the Sun. The scared thread (yajñopavītam) over his bare right shoulder is clearly visible in the fine details of the figure, marking him as a Brahmin. His hair is long and worn in a bun at the crown of the head, and he has bracelets on both wrists as well as beaded necklaces around his neck. His dhoti is worn at full length and gathered at the front. The brass accoutrements, that are typically used for pūjā, sit to his left. A mountainous landscape is detailed faintly in the background. The remainder of the outer margin for this folio contains similarly framed gold-painted cartouches with fine drawings of birds, a rabbit and a deer-like animal.

These two Sun worship scenes are remarkable because not only do they focus on Sun worshippers, rather than the Sun as a deity or image accompanied by consorts and devotees, but they are, as far as I am aware, the earliest naturalistic painted evidence of Sun worshipers themselves.

One other painting of significance can be found in the Gulshan Album8 (circa 1590-95) from the Mughal artist studio of Lahore or Delhi (fig. 4). Attributed to Basawan and dated to a similar period as the outer borders of the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ, it depicts a woman worshiping the Sun with a child at her feet. Both figures in the painting are rendered with three dimensional perspective forming a realistic outdoor scene. Draped fabric in vibrant blue and red is given weight and movement through the use of shading. The distant landscape is seen through an atmospheric haze. The figures and landscape are an example of the fully developed naturalistic style of the Mughal studio. Based on the woman’s head dress, costume and golden hair, it is likely that this painting is representing an imagined European rather than a Hindu or Brahmin sun worshiper. This painting demonstrates the significant influence European art was having on Mughal artists of the time.9 The representation of mother and child harps to Christian imagery that entered the Mughal artistic milieu during the second half of the 16th century through European prints and illustrated Bibles gifted by Jesuit missionaries and other European travellers to Emperor Akbar’s court.

Fig. 4: Woman Worshiping the Sun:
Page from the Gulshan Album, (Muraqqa-i Gulshan, Tehran).
Attributed to Basawan, circa 1590-95.

India, Mughal court at Lahore or Delhi. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper.
Lent by Museum of Islamic Art, Doha to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Dasgupta, P. C., Early Terracotta from Chandraketugarh, Lalit Kala No.6. Oct. 1959. p. 46. Vide also Indian Archaeological Review, 1955-56. Pl. LXXII B., also Modern Review, April, 1956. The terracotta image of Sun-god from Chandraketugarh. This terracotta was collected by S. Ghosh, and is now preserved in Asutosh Museum, Calcutta (T. 6838).  Also see Bindheswari P. Singh, Bharatiya Kala Ko Bihar Ki Den, (Hindi) JISOA, Vol. III, No. 2. 1935. P. 82, 125; Photo No. 46.

Pandey, Lalta Prasad, Sun Worship in Ancient India. Shantilal Jain at Shri Jainendra Press, Delhi. First Edition 1971. Plate 5, Figure 1 Bodhagayā sun image.

3 Proceedings – Indian History Congress. Indian History Congress (1998), p. 246.

Eraly, Abraham, The Mughal World: Life in India's Last Golden Age. Penguin Books India (2007), p. 44.

5 Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ (Collected poems of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Shīrāzī). British Library, Manuscript Or 14139. Accessed:

6 The catalogue record at the British Library provides the note by Shah Jahan of 1037/1628 (f.1r) that identifies the calligrapher as Sulṭān ʻAlī Mashhadī and that the manuscript was copied at Herat or Mashhad ca. 1470. It appears that the source of this catalogue record is J. P. Losty, The 'Bute Hafiz' and the Development of Border Decoration in the Manuscript Studio of the Mughals, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 127, No. 993 (Dec., 1985), p. 856. Losty gives a clear account of his study of the marginal notes on the manuscript that have enable him to precisely date the outer borders to 1014/1605. This includes an accidentally studio mark that has remained on the margin as well as a minute inscription on a scroll bearing a date of 1014/1605 in the hands of a Portuguese gentleman painted on f.18r.

7 Fourth Mughal Emperor Jahāngīr was born on 31 August 1559 and died on 28 October 1627. Jahāngīr - Emperor of India, Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Published 1998 and revised 2015. Accessed:

Muraqqa-i Gulshan (Gulshan Album) is dated 1599-1609 and is mostly in the former Gulistan Palace Library, Tehran. The painting of concern for this article: Woman Worshiping the Sun: Page from the Gulshan Album, has been lent by Museum of Islamic Art, Doha to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Losty, J.P., The 'Bute Hafiz' and the Development of Border Decoration in the Manuscript Studio of the Mughals, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 127, No. 993 (Dec., 1985), pp. 855-856+858-871.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

The Unsupported Pose from the 'Splendour of the Mind'

Nirālambanāsana of the Mānasollāsa


An assembly of Hindu gods, ascetics and worshippers.
Deccan, Hyderabad or Bidar. Early 18th century.
Gouache with gold on paper inscribed with the name in modi script 'Kakoji Ram'.
Painting size 41 x 33.6cm.
Sotheby's Catelogue, The Sven Gahlin Collection
, Lot 51.

The Mānasollāsa, which literally means ‘the mind’s splendour’, is a text attributed to Sureśvarācārya, a student of the great advaitavedāntin Ādiśaṅkara, who is generally ascribed to the eighth century CE. This text, otherwise called the Dakṣiṇāmūrtistotrabhāvārthavārttika, has an interesting chapter on yoga (i.e., chapter 9), which utilises the standard system of eight auxiliaries known as aṣṭāṅgayoga, consisting of yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, etc.

Some scholars have claimed that the Mānasollāsa was written more recently than the eighth century.1 Our research suggests that chapter nine, at least, was probably written after the twelfth century because the definitions of its auxiliaries contain references to techniques specific to Haṭhayoga, such as the internal locks employed during prāṇāyāma and several complex āsana.

A striking feature of the Mānasollāsa’s aṣṭāṅgayoga is its discussion on āsanas. Unlike yoga texts of the preceding period that provide simple lists of āsanas, such as the  Pātañjalayogaśāstra and the Dharmaputrikā, the Mānasollāsa divides its āsanas into five categories according to the deities Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Śakti and Śiva.

As far as we are aware, this categorisation of āsanas is unique to the Mānasollāsa.

Mānasollāsa 9.24cd–25cd
Brahmā’s āsanas are called Svastika, Gomukha, Padma and Haṃsāsana. 
Viṣṇu’s āsanaare Nṛsiṃha, Garuḍa, Kūrma and Nāgāsana. 
Rudras are Vīra, Mayūra, Vajra and Siddhāsana. 
[Yogins] know Śakti’s āsana as Yonyāsana and Śiva’s as Paścimatānāsana. 
svastikaṃ gomukhaṃ padmaṃ haṃsākhyaṃ brāhmam āsanam ||24|| 
nṛsiṃhaṃ garuḍaṃ kūrmaṃ nāgākhyaṃ vaiṣṇavāsanam | 
vīraṃ mayūraṃ vajrākhyaṃ siddhākhyaṃ raudram āsanam ||25|| 
yonyāsanaṃ viduḥ śāktaṃ śaivaṃ paścimatānakam |

The author of the Mānasollāsa does not describe these āsanas nor does he divulge the reasons for this classification. This raises the question of why particular āsanas have been associated with each of these deities. When worshipping, should a devotee adopt an āsana associated with the deity worshipped? Or, in some cases, might the reason be more obvious? For example, Garuḍāsana might be considered a vaiṣṇava posture because of Garuḍa’s role as the vehicle of Viṣṇu in vaiṣṇava mythology. 

In addition to the five categories another āsana, namely, Nirālambanāsana (The Unsupported Posture) is mentioned. It is associated with Sadāśiva, who is a mild form of Śiva worshipped in the Śaivasiddhānta, a normative tradition of Śaivism which still exists in south India. Nirālambanāsana appears to transcend the other āsanas just as Sadāśiva transcends the five other gods.

Mānasollāsa 9.26cd–27ab
For the unsupported yoga (nirālambanayoga), there is the unsupported āsana [called Nirālambanāsana]. Because [this āsana] is not supported, meditation [arises]. Sadāśiva is the unsupported [state of meditation]. 

nirālambanayogasya nirālambanam āsanam ||26|| 
nirālambatayā dhyānaṃ nirālambaḥ sadāśivaḥ |

The ‘unsupported yoga’ (nirālambanayogalikely refers to a meditative state without a point of focus, much like the ‘seedless’ samādhi of Pātañjalayoga. It’s possible that the author of the Mānasollāsa had no particular āsana in mind when referring to a Nirālambanāsana because it remains undefined. In other words, the transcendent Nirālambanāsana is simply that posture which enables the yogin to realise the unsupported state, that is Sadāśiva, in meditation.

However, a posture by the name Nirālambanāsana is described in a seventeenth-century yoga text called the Haṭharatnāvalī.

Haṭharatnāvalī (17th century)
Now, the Unsupported Āsana: 
Having made a lotus with the hands, the wise yogin remains on the elbows while raising up the face. [This is] Nirālambanāsana. Meditation is the state of being unsupported [just as this] āsana is unsupported.

atha nirālambanam 
karābhyāṃ paṅkajaṃ kṛtvā tiṣṭhet kūrparayoḥ sudhīḥ | 
mukham unnamayann uccair nirālambanāsanam ||3.61|| 
nirālambanatā dhyānaṃ nirālambanam āsanam |3.62|| 
emend: kūrparayoḥ : kūrparayā Ed. 2

Śrīnivāsa, the author of the Haṭharatnāvalī, does not suggest that Nirālambanāsana is superior to any other āsana nor does he give it a prominent place in his list of eighty-four āsanas. Nonetheless, this Haṭhayogin, who claimed to be an expert in tantric and vedāntic scriptures among others, appears to have known the yoga of the Mānasollāsa because verse 3.62 of the Haṭharatnāvalī seems to have been borrowed from the Mānasollāsa (9.26cd–26ab).3 In fact, it looks like Śrīnivāsa attempted to rewrite the verse, somewhat  incoherently, to remove the reference to Sadāśiva. 

It is unlikely that Śrīnivāsa’s description of Nirālambanāsana was ever that intended by the author of the Mānasollāsa. Like other Haṭha and Rājayoga texts, the the Haṭharatnāvalī is an act of bricolage. The source of its eighty-four āsanas remains unknown. 

Nirālaṃbanāsana as illustrated in Haṭharatnāvalī (a treatise on Haṭhayoga) of Śrīnivāsayogī.
Lonavla : Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), 2009, pp. 152 - 153.


1 See, for example, Karl H Potter, Encyclopaedia of Indian philosophies. Vol. 3 (Advaita Vedānta up to Śamkara and his pupils). Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1981, pp. 550-51.

2 Śrīnivāsayogī; M L Gharote; Parimal Devnath; Vijay Kant Jha, Haṭharatnāvalī (a treatise on Haṭhayoga) of Śrīnivāsayogī. Lonavla : Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), 2009.

3 Note that Gharote’s critical edition of Haṭharatnāvalī 3.62 has, nirālambanayogī syān nirālambanam āsanam | nirālambanatā dhyānaṃ nirālambanam āsanam. However, 3.62ab is somewhat redundant and does not occur in six of the seven manuscripts used in Gharote's critical edition (2009: 117 n. 2, 4). Therefore, Śrīnivāsa, the author of the Haṭharatnāvalī, may have added only 3.62cd (nirālambanatā dhyānaṃ nirālambanam āsanam = Mānasollāsa 9.27a and 9.26d).

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Visual Evidence for Posture as Punishment in Indian Schools


 A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments.
Benares, circa 1860. Artist unknown.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:7/(IS).

Since writing the article Postural Punishments in Indian Schools,1 I have recently come across a series of eleven paintings depicting schools in 19th-century India held in the South & South East Asia Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

In this series, the painting entitled 'A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments' contains naturalistic representations of a school teacher (likely a guru-mahashay) and nine children. The guru is wielding a stick (daṇḍa) while six male students, wearing white and green skullcaps, sit on a raised platform. They appear to be listening and studying from their books. One of the boys has his hand raised as if wanting to ask a question. 

In the foreground of the painting, three more boys are illustrated: one is squatting while pointing his finger at something, another is squatting with his wrists tied in front, and another boy is reclining on his back with his arms bound in front of his legs and his legs bound behind his head. The inscription on the back of the painting reveals that this is a "Native Hindu school exhibiting native punishments".

Detail of the bound postural punishment.
A Hindu school exhibiting native punishments.
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:7/(IS).

This figure (shown in detail above) is supporting evidence for the account of bound punishments described by Rev. Alexander Duff in his article 'The System of Discipline' in the Calcutta Review.2

In my previous article, I considered the similarities between several of these punishments and some āsanas of yoga. In this case, some of the attributes of the reclining punishment are similar to those of the Haṭhayogic posture named yoganidrāsana, which is described in the 17th-century Haṭharatnāvalī (3.70).3

Once again, this raises the issue of the intersection between postural punishments, yoga and tapas, as I previously surmised:
Here, the line between a corporal punishment and a yoga posture becomes as thin as the historical one between tapas and yoga. The distinction is a matter of context and interpretation. Nonetheless, one might infer that using such postures as a form of punishment in schools may stem from their association with ascetics (tapasvin). 1

The remaining ten paintings in this intriguing series are featured below.

Gymnastic Exercises. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:9/(IS).

A Muslim school - the teacher smoking a huqqa. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:10/(IS).

Sword playing. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:6/(IS).

An arithmetic lesson. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:1/(IS).

A Sanskrit school - a pandit instructing five Brahmin students. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:3/(IS).

Fakirs of various sects attending a lecture on Vedanta philosophy. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:2/(IS).

A missionary school - some students wearing European-style trousers. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:5/(IS).

A writing lesson-a teacher with six students. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:8/(IS).

Children playing goli dunda. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:11/(IS).

Children playing kabaddi. 
Benares, circa 1860.
Gouache on mica (14cm x 19 cm).
Indian Company Paintings, 
South & South East Asia Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4674:4/(IS).


1 Jacqueline Hargreaves, Postural Punishments in Indian Schools, 9 January 2017.

2 Haṭharatnāvalī 3.70:
atha yoganidrāsanam -  
pādābhyāṃ veṣṭayet kaṇṭhaṃ hastābhyāṃ pṛṣṭhabandhanam |  
tanmadhye śayanaṃ kuryād yoganidrā sukhapradā ||
Having wrapped the legs around the [back of the] neck and binding the back with both hands, the yogin should sleep (śayana) in this [posture]. Yoganidrāsana bestows bliss.
   Haṭharatnāvalī of Śrīnirvāsayogī, Ed. M. L. Gharote, P. Devnath, and V. K. Jha. Lonavla: Lonavla Yoga Institute, 2002.

3 Alexander Duff (Editor), Art. I The state of Indigenous Education in Bengal and Behar, No. IV, Vol. II, Second Edition, Calcutta Review Vol. II, October - December, 1844, Third Edition, Calcutta: W. Thacker and Co.; London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1846.  (p. 334)

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

THE YOGAPRADĪPA : A Premodern Jain ‘Light on Yoga’

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Three Jain Monks Discuss Scripture
India, Rajasthan, Marwar or Jaisalmer, mid-18th century.
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper. Image size: 20.3 x 17.7 cm.
Private English Collection, 2010 (Sotheby’s New York, March 2017)

We have recently spent much of our time searching methodically for yoga texts in the Endangered Archive at the British Library. The Endangered Archive Programme offers grants to institutions for the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. Several Indian institutions have been successful in receiving these grants. This has enabled the conservation of valuable material from private collections, libraries and temples, while also making this material available to researchers and scholars worldwide.

One such example is the preservation of ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts archived at the Chinmaya International Foundation in Kerala, India. It is said to hold 3,600 rare paper manuscripts and 200 palm-leaf manuscripts in its collection on a wide range of topics, dating back to the late 16th century. So far, 1472 manuscripts in their collection have been catalogued and digitised.

A manuscript entitled the Yogapradīpa (British Library, EAP729/1/2/660) caught our attention. This short work written in Sanskrit (Devanāgarī script) on eleven paper folios has been catalogued and described simply as a “text on Yoga philosophy.” No date or authorship has been attributed.

Authorship and Dating

In an attempt to identify this text, we consulted the New Catalogus Catalogorum of Madras University (2011 Vol. 22: 80-81), which indicates that there are four different works by the name Yogapradīpa.2 One of these, which is identified as a Jain work and has eight manuscripts reported in various catalogues, corresponds with the Yogapradīpa in the Endangered Archive. It is described more fully in the Descriptive Catalogue of the Amer Shastra Bhandar (Ed. Kasturchand Kaslival, 1949), which is a large Jain repository of manuscripts in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Kasturchand (1949: 118) notes that the author is unknown, the language is Sanskrit, the number of folios is seven, the topic is 'yogaśāstra' and the text is complete with 141 verses. The number of verses is particularly telling here, because the Yogapradīpa manuscript available on the Endangered Archive has 142 verses.

Further research led to the discovery of a printed edition (1960) of the Yogapradīpa in question at the Jain e-library, which is an enormously valuable online resource that has digitised many Jain books and catalogues, some of which are very rare. This published work, by Amṛtlāl Kālidās Kośī, contains a critical edition of the Yogapradīpa, which is based on four manuscripts and two earlier printed editions (publ. 1922 and 1911), with a Gujarati translation and commentary. Its readings are mostly good and we have used it to correct many of the scribal errors in the manuscript of the Endangered Archive.

The introduction to the published edition of the Yogapradīpa rightly notes that this text is cited, with attribution, in the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā composed by Nemidāsa.3 The editor dates the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā to 1709 CE (VS 1766).4 If this is correct, then the Yogapradīpa predates the eighteenth century. The author of the Yogapradīpa remains unknown.

We will now consider some of the content of this premodern Jain work, the ‘Light on Yoga’ (Yogapradīpa).

The Holy Place in the Body

The Yogapradīpa begins by criticising pilgrimage, which is somewhat surprising given that pilgrimage has been popular with Jains for centuries as it allows laypersons to combine religious practice with recreation. On the one hand, a Jain pilgrim is supposed to live like an ascetic but, on the other hand, the pilgrimage is a social event that may be organised by a wealthy patron who pays for lodgings, travel expenses and community feasts (Dundas 2002: 218-19). The Yogapradīpa argues that god and the Self (ātman), which reside in the body, cannot be seen by visiting holy places:
People desire a holy place [but] what's the point of holy places that cause anguish? The holy place of religion is situated in the body and it is considered superior to all pilgrimage sites.5 
The opening section of the text sometimes adopts a disparaging tone. For example:
Ignoramuses wander from place to place in order to see god. They do not see the god located in the body.6 
People notice a thief, when even a small thing is missing. Those idiots (i.e., pilgrims) do not [even] slightly see the Self, which steals everything.7 

The salient theme of the Yogapradīpa is to see the Self (ātman) in the body by means of meditation. The goal of this meditation is liberation and the text does not mention the attainment of any supernatural powers (siddhi).
Those desirous of liberation should meditate on the untainted Self alone, which is free from all bodily constituents and actions, and has the form of gnosis.8 
Yogins see the Self located inside the body, just as it is, by means of practising this meditation thus.9 

A Trans-sectarian Truth

Despite the criticism of pilgrims, the Yogapradīpa advocates the ecumenical idea that the Self is a trans-sectarian truth. The author states that the supreme Self (paramātman) is the lord of gods (deveśa), and asserts that the supreme Self underlies all religions regardless of the different names they call it:
This untainted [Lord] alone is perceived as Brahmā by Brahmins, Viṣṇu by mendicants in yellow robes and it is seen as Rudra by ascetics. Having been made Buddha by the Buddhists, this eternal [Lord] is the Lord of the Jinas praised by the Jains and it is called Śiva by the Kaulas. Just as a crystal has many forms and is [yet] free from any characteristics, so is this one [Lord] named variously by these six religions. Just as water has many forms according to the different colours of the world [around it], so [the Lord] is called many things according to the differences in [people's] dispositions. Just as the five sense objects are located in one place, [namely,] the body, so the lord should be known as the one god, who is aspectless, free from worldly connections, peaceful, omniscient, powerful and untainted.10 

Eight Auxiliaries (aṣṭāṅga) of Jain Yoga

The Yogapradīpa goes on to teach a yoga with eight auxiliaries (aṣṭāṅga), which are sequenced differently to the usual Aṣṭāṅga format as seen, for example, in Pātañjalayoga:
In this system, the wise should know the eight auxiliaries of yoga are Samyama, Niyama, Karaṇa as the third, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Samādhi, Dhāraṇā and Dhyāna. When this yoga is being practised with all of its auxiliaries, it results in liberation for the wise.11 
Minimal explanation is given of the first seven auxiliaries. 
Samyama is fivefold in this system. These vows are: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing, celibacy and non-attachment. Niyama is [also] fivefold; cleanliness, asceticism, contentment, self-study and remembering the deity. Furthermore, Karaṇa is yogic posture (āsana). Prāṇāyāma is the steadiness (sthairya) of the in- and out-breaths. Pratyāhāra is the removal of sense objects and focusing the senses. Samādhi is the contemplation (cintana) of the meaning of statements which destroy worldly life. Dhāraṇā is harnessing the mind on a meditation object in order to bring about stability. If one meditates on a coarse, subtle, formed or formless [concept], the mind becomes steady when it is united with one of these concepts (pratyaya). Yoga is thus, along with its eight auxiliaries, beginning with Saṃyama.12 
The defining of Karaṇa as posture may have been inspired by the notion of Karaṇa in earlier Śaiva works, such as the Mataṅgapārameśvaratantra, in which it refers specifically to the position of the hands, head, eyes, jaw, etc., in a seated yogic posture. Although Prāṇāyāma, Dhāraṇā and Samādhi are included here, the Yogapradīpa does not describe them further nor does it mention any techniques. 

Samādhi as Contemplation versus No-Mind

The idea of Samādhi as contemplation in the Aṣṭāṅga system above is somewhat at odds with teachings on the no-mind state of meditative absorption elsewhere in the text. The Yogapradīpa uses no-mind terminology, such as unmanībhāva, sahaja and laya, which was introduced into the Jain tradition by Hemacandra in his Yogaśāstra (12th c.). Hemacandra borrowed it directly from a Śaiva text called the Amanaska (11th c.). It is possible that the Yogapradīpa’s teachings on the no-mind state were inspired by Hemacandra. However, the fact that Samādhi is not defined as the no-mind state in this Aṣṭāṅga system suggests that this system was borrowed from a different source.

The unusual order of the eight auxiliaries and the odd definition of Samādhi indicate that the Aṣṭāṅga format has been rather awkwardly inserted into this text, which only emphasises  Dhyāna. In particular, it teaches śukladhyāna (pure meditation) for seeing the Self (svātman). The term śukladhyāna is  associated with Jaina meditative practice in canonical texts, such as the Uttarajjhāyāṇa (chapter 29) and Tattvārthasūtra, and post-canonical ones, such as Śubhacandra's Jñānārṇava and Hemacandra's Yogaśāstra.

Apart from śukladhyāna, the Yogapradīpa contains other terms that clearly identify it as a Jain text, such as the mention of the three jewels (ratnatraya), which are given as knowledge (jñāna), faith (darśana) and conduct (caritra), the eight types of karma (aṣṭakarma) and the Jain saint Pārśvaprabhu (also known as Pārśvanātha). Nonetheless, the scarcity of Jain doctrine in the Yogapradīpa suggests that it was intended to appeal to yoga practitioners of various sectarian affiliations, which is somewhat further implied by its trans-sectarian view of the Self.

As far as we are aware, no English translation of the Yogapradīpa is currently available. It would make a welcome addition to scholarly literature on Jain Yoga as well as provide enriching material for Yoga practitioners. So, we do hope to produce a critical edition and translation of this text at some future date.

Yogapradīpa (British Library EAP729/1/2/660: f. 1)
CC 4.0. CC-BY-ND-NC. Sourced and preserved at Chinmaya International Foundation.


1 We would like to thank Giles Hooper, Vina Shah, Tim Lubin, Ulrich Timme Kragh, Dominik Wujastyk and Paul Dundas for answering our questions on specific matters to do with this blogpost.

2 The first is a work on Āyurveda and the second is a text otherwise called the Vivekamārtaṇḍa, a 12th-13th century work that teaches a yoga with six auxiliaries and some Haṭhayoga techniques. It is unlikely that the Vivekamārtaṇḍa was ever widely referred to as the Yogapradīpa, because only one of its manuscripts is reported in catalogues as having the name Yogapradīpa. The New Catalogus Catalogorum identifies the third and fourth Yogapradīpas as works on Jainism. The third is more commonly known as Śubhacandra's Jñānārṇava, which is a large work on yoga with forty-two chapters, composed probably in the 11th century. There are at least five manuscripts reported in catalogues with the name Yogapradīpa and the author Śubhacandra (Kaivalyadhama 2005: 244-45). The confusion over the names Jñānārṇava and Yogapradīpa appears to derive from the colophons of the Jñānārṇava. In the critical edition of the Jñānārṇava (1977: 85) the colophons have the format iti jñānārṇave yogapradīpādhikāre [...]prakaraṇam (i.e., 'here ends the chapter on [...] in the Jñānārṇava, which has the aim of illuminating yoga'). Perhaps, in the manuscripts reported as having the title Yogapradīpa and the author Śubhacandra, the word adhikāre was omitted in the colophons, which confused the cataloguers. It is also possible that jñānārṇave was omitted.

3 See the Introduction (p. 13) of the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā, ed. Bhadraṅkaravijay and Amṛtalāl Kālidās Dośī. Mumbaī: Jaina Sāhitya Vikāsa Maṇḍala, 1971. We would like to thank Vina Shah for her invaluable help in reading the Gujarati introductions of the Yogapradīpa and the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā.

4 Paul Dundas believes that this date of Nemidāsa is plausible; “I tracked down in [Desai and Kothari's Jain Gurjar Kavīo] Vol 5, 1988, pp. 231-32 an entry for Nemidās Śrāvak, the author of the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā, where amongst other information, including the fact that he was a pupil of Jñanavimalasūri, the vs 1776 dating is given. Probably this simply derives from the first edition, but the date is perfectly plausible. There was a Tapā Gaccha monk called Jñānavimalasūri who lived in the middle of the vs 18th c. who seems to fit the bill for a relationship with Nemidās, and while it might at earlier times have been improbable for a monk to teach a layman and write a commentary on his work, by this late time I suspect we're dealing with a representative of the domesticated type of renunciant called yati, interested in mantra, tantra and vernacular composition rather than older-style Sanskrit- and Prakrit- based śāstra (this is a a broad generalisation, of course).” (p.c. 6.3.2017)

5 Yogapradīpa 3 (puruṣās tīrtham icchanti kiṃ tīrthaiḥ kleśakāraṇaiḥ | dharmatīrthaṃ śarīrasthaṃ sarvatīrthādhikaṃ matam ||3|| 3b tīrthaiḥ ] Ed. :  tirthaiḥ Codex).

6 Yogapradīpa 10 (sthāne sthāne bhramantīha devadarśanahetave | śarīrasthaṃ na paśyanti devam ajñānabuddhayaḥ).

7 Yogapradīpa 6 (lokair vilokyate cauro gate svalpe 'pi vastuni | sarvasvaharam ātmānaṃ manāk paśyanti no jaḍāḥ).

8 Yogapradīpa 11 (sarvadhātuvinirmukto jñānarūpo nirañjanaḥ | ātmaiva karmanirmukto dhyātavyo mokṣakāṅkṣibhiḥ).

9 Yogapradīpa 16 (evam abhyāsayogena dhyānenānena yogibhiḥ | śarīrāntaḥsthitaḥ svātmā yathāvastho [']valokyate).

10 Yogapradīpa 32 - 37 (brāhmaṇair lakṣyate brahmā viṣṇuḥ pītāmbarais tathā | rudras tapasvibhir dṛṣṭa eṣa eva nirañjanaḥ ||32||
jinendro jalpyate jainair buddhaḥ kṛtvā sa saugataiḥ | kaulikaiḥ kola ākhyātaḥ sa evāyaṃ sanātanaḥ ||33||
sphaṭiko bahurūpaḥ syād yathaivopādhivarjitaḥ | sa tathā darśanaiḥ ṣaḍbhiḥ khyāta eko 'py anekadhā ||34||
yathāpy anekarūpaṃ syāj jalaṃ bhūvarṇabhedataḥ | tathā bhāvavibhedena nānārūpaḥ sa gīyate ||35||
bhāvabhedān na gacchanti darśanāny ekavartmanā | ekatrāpi sthitāḥ kāye pañcaite viṣayā yathā ||36||
niṣkalo nirmamaḥ śāntaḥ sarvajñaḥ sukhadaḥ prabhuḥ | sa eva bhagavān eko devo jñeyo nirañjanaḥ ||37||
36a gacchanti ] Ed. : ma sthanti Codex. 36c kāye ] Ed. : kārye Codex).

11 Yogapradīpa 50 - 51 (saṃyamo niyamaś caiva karaṇaṃ ca tṛtīyakam | prāṇāyāmapratyāhārau samādhir dhāraṇā tathā ||50||
dhyānaṃ cetīha yogasya jñeyam aṣṭāṅgakaṃ budhaiḥ | pūrṇāṅgaṃ kriyamāṇas tu muktaye syād asau satām ||51||
50c pratyāhārau ] Ed. pratyahārā Codex. 51c pūrṇāṅgaṃ ] Ed. : pūrṇāṅga Codex).

12 Yogapradīpa 134 - 139 (ahiṃsā satyam asteyaṃ brahmacaryam asaṅgataḥ | ity etāni vratāny atra saṁyamaḥ pañcadhā smṛtaḥ ||134|| śaucaṃ tapaś ca santoṣaḥ svādhyāyo devatāsmṛtiḥ | niyamaḥ pañcadhā jñeyaḥ karaṇaṃ punar āsanam ||135||
svāsapraśvāsayoḥ sthairyaṃ prāṇāyāmo bhavet punaḥ | pratyāhāro viṣayadhvaṃsa indriyāṇāṃ samāhitam ||136||
samādhir bhavahantṛṇāṃ vākyānām arthacintanam | sthairyahetor bhaved dhyeye dhāraṇā cittayojanā ||137||
sthūle vā yadi vā sūkṣme sākāre ca nirākṛtau | dhyānaṃ dhyāyet sthiraṃ cittaṃ ekapratyayasaṅgate ||138||
evaṃ yogo bhaved aṅgair aṣṭadhā saṃyamādibhiḥ ||139ab||
137c dhyeye ] conj. : dhyeyo ] Codex, Ed. aṅgair ] conj. : yogair Ed.). It appears that all manuscripts have the reading evaṃ yogo bhaved yogair. It is possible the author may have understood yoga and aṅga as synonyms. However, I (Birch) am not aware of a precedent for this. I have emended the text simply because I cannot see how yogaiḥ could be understood other than as referring to the auxiliaries.

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