Monday, 28 March 2016

Some Advice on the Practice of Āsana from a Medieval Jain


Rishabhanatha seated in Two Stages of Meditation, Five Auspicious Events in the Life of the First Jina
Panchakalyanaka (ca. 1680)
Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, The San Diego Museum of Art

In the Jain text called the Jñānārṇava (circa 11th century), Śubhacandra gives advice on the practice of Āsana:

"On a wooden or stone slab, on the earth or sand, the wise [yogin] should adopt a very steady āsana for attaining Samādhi.

Sages should perform that agreeable āsana by which they, sitting comfortably, can make the mind still.

The rules concerning place and āsana are the foundation of success in meditation.

Without either [the proper place or posture], the sage's mind will immediately be distracted.

Now, the yogin whose senses have been subdued should master āsana.
Those whose posture is very steady do not tire at all in Samādhi. However, because of a weakness in the practice of āsana, steadiness of the body is not experienced. Because of [such] a weakness in their body, [those people] certainly tire at the time of Samādhi.
The yogin who has accomplished mastery of āsana does not tire even if afflicted repeatedly by wind, heat, cold, etc., and by [various] types of insects."

Translation by Jason Birch (2016).

Śubhacandra's Jñānārṇava

dārupaṭṭe śilāpaṭṭe bhūmau vā sikatāsthale |
samādhisiddhaye dhīro vidadhyāt susthirāsanam ||26.9||

yena yena sukhāsīnā vidadhyur aniścalaṃ manaḥ |
tat tad eva vidheyaṃ syān munibhir bandhurāsanam ||26.11||

sthānāsanavidhānāni dhyānasiddher nibandhanam |
naikaṃ muktvā muneḥ sākṣād vikṣeparahitaṃ manaḥ ||26.20||

athāsanajayaṃ yogī karotu vijitendriyaḥ |
manāg api na khidyante samādhau susthirāsanāḥ || 26.30||
āsanābhyāsavaikalyād vapuḥsthairyaṃ na vidyate |
khidyante tv aṅgavaikalyāt samādhisamaye dhruvam || 26.31||

vātātapatuṣārādyair jantujātair anekaśaḥ |
kṛtāsanajayo yogī khedito 'pi na khidyate ||26.32||

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


Pārvatī and Sadhus on a steep hill
approached by Vishnu, Śiva, Brahma, and others who climb up towards the shrine.
Drawing in black ink on European watermarked paper (c. 1801 - 1805)
British Museum (1940,0713,0.243)

Forthcoming article, due out early April:


By Jason Birch and Jacqueline Hargreaves
Yoga Scotland Magazine, Issue 50 (April 2016)

"Most early traditions of Haṭha and Rājayoga omitted the Yamas and Niyamas from their teachings. A striking example is the fifteenth-century Haṭhapradīpikā, the manuscript transmission of which does not contain verses on these behavioural guidelines. Their omission begs the question of what moral code the practitioners of early Haṭha and Rājayoga were expected to follow. One possible answer is that these practitioners followed the moral code of their own religious tradition. Some of the texts indicate that Haṭha and Rājayoga were practised by a wide variety of people."

Topics covered:

• The Changing Enumeration of Yamas and Niyamas

• The Omission of Yamas and Niyamas

• The Ongoing Influence of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra

• Ahiṃsā

• Brahmacarya

• Tapas

"The Liṅgapuraṇa allows a Brahmin to live as both a householder and a yogin. On the one hand, he could practise this Purāṇa’s eightfold system of Aṣṭāṅgayoga, which was for the most part the same as Patañjali’s Aṣṭāṅgayoga. In so doing, he abides by the Yama of Brahmacarya by abstaining from sex at those particular times of the month prescribed by the Dharmaśāstras. On the other hand, he may also fulfil his Brahmanical responsibility to reproduce by having sex with his wife at other prescribed times of the month.

Seeing that most of the gurus who transmitted yoga to the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Brahmins, it is no surprise that the householder view of Brahmacarya has been so widely disseminated."