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Yoga Tattva Upanishad: Translation

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Yoga Tattva Upanishad

Introduction

Yoga Tattva Upanishad is the Upanishad of yoga philosophy. It is the forty-first Upanishad among the 108 Upanishads and forms part of Krishna Yajur Veda. Yoga Tattva Upanishad contains 142 verses.

The term Yoga Tattva Upanishad is the combination of three Sanskrit words: Yoga, Tattva, and Upanishad. Tattva means Philosophy. Hence Yoga Tattva Upanishad means Upanishad of Yoga Philosophy.

Yoga Tattva Upanishad is one of the ancient upanishad that belongs to first century CE or a period before that.

Most of upanishads are dialogue between the Guru and Disciple. Yoga Tatva Upanishad also in the form of a conversation between Lord Brahman and Lord Vishnu.

Yoga Tattva

I (the author of Yoga Tattva Upanishad) hereby present the philosophy of yoga (yoga tattva) for the benefit of yogis. By hearing and learning this yoga, the yogi will get released himself from all the sins.

The great yogi by name Vishnu, the Supreme Being known for his spiritual austerities, stands as the beacon of light in the path of yoga tattva. The Pitamaha (Pitamaha means grandfather. It here refers to Lord Brahman, the deity) approached Lord Jagannath (the other name for Lord Vishnu. Jagannath means the Lord of the universe) paid him respects and asked him to explain the philosophy of Astanga Yoga (yoga of eight limbs or stages).

Samsara

“Let me explain the philosophy,” said Lord Hrisikesha (the other name of Lord Vishnu. It means the Lord of senses). All people are ensnared in the trap of worldly pains and pleasures by illusion. The only way available for them is to cut asunder the snare of illusion. It is the Salvation, the supreme abode which destroys old age, disease, death, and the vicious life cycle. Even the philosophical experts are at delusion by the knowledge of the scriptures.

Atman and Paramatman

Even the celestial bodies could not describe the self- illuminating Atman correctly. How could the scriptures explain? The Indivisible-One-Essence (Paramatman) which is serene and free from impurities and decay manifests as Jiva (Atman) according to its past karma.

How could Paramatman, the eternal existence which transcends all, manifest as Jiva? How could the Supreme Being Which is in the form of wisdom and devoid of any attachments become Jiva?

First, there is the manifestation of a thing like water. Thereupon Ahamkara (self-consciousness) manifests. Then the five subtle elements followed by five gross elements, manifest. When it associate itself with pains and pleasures, it becomes known as Jiva. This is how the name Jiva applies to the all-pervading Paramatman.

Jiva which is devoid of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, joy, sloth, delusion, passion, birth, death, hunger and thirst is Paramatman only. These defects are the results of Karma. I explain the means of destroying Karma.

Jnana

Jnana (wisdom) is the bestower of salvation. How could Jnana alone without yoga will benefit the aspirant? Or how could yoga alone without Jnana give the result? Hence a seeker of salvation should resort to both Jnana and yoga.

Ignorance (Ajnana) is the cause of worldly illusion and its associated pains and pleasures. Jnana only will lead one to salvation. At first, Jnana gives knowledge of the path that leads to salvation. It gives the knowledge of ever blissful Indivisible-One-Essence.

Yoga

I now proceed to explain the details of yoga.

Kinds of Yoga

Though yoga is one, we can classify into many types according to its usage and practice. The four primary types of yoga are

  1. Mantra Yoga
  2. Laya Yoga
  3. Hatha Yoga
  4. Raja Yoga.

Stages of Yoga

There are four stages (Avasta) of yoga which are common to any type of yoga. They are

  1. Aramba Avasta (Preliminary Stage)
  2. Ghata Avasta (Stage of effort)
  3. Parichaya Avasta
  4. Nisphati Avasta

Mantra Yoga

I (says Lord Vishnu) will give the summarised form the yoga. He who chants the mantra of alphabets for twelve years will gradually attain wisdom and special powers. The practitioners of dull wit should resort to this yoga. (Matrika Mantra Japa is the Japa that involves the chanting of 51 Alphabets of Sanskrit in a prescribed manner. According to this Upanishad [ Yoga Tattva Upanishad ], this Japa is the superior Japa)

Laya Yoga

Laya yoga is the dissolution of the mind. One can obtain it in many ways. The practitioner should meditate upon the Lord, the Indivisible-One-Essence while doing all day-to-day activities like standing, walking, sitting and sleeping. The mind should be completely preoccupied or immersed in one thing irrespective of any activities. This is Laya Yoga.

Raja Yoga

The eight stages of yoga are

  1. Yama
  2. Niyama
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana of Lord Hari
  8. Samadhi

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga involves the following twelve practices

  1. Maha Mudra
  2. The Maha Bandha
  3. Maha Vedha
  4. Kechari Mudra
  5. Jalandhar Bandha
  6. Uddiyana Bandha
  7. Mula Bandha
  8. Dirgha Pranava Sandhana
  9. Siddhantha Sravana
  10. Vajroli Mudra
  11. Amaroli Mudra
  12. Sahajoli Mudra

(Yoga Tattva Upanishad does not clearly differentiate Hatha Yoga from Raja Yoga. According to this Upanishad, the Goal of Raja Yoga is achieved through Hatha Yoga. According to this upanishad, Raja Yoga is an umbrella term that includes Hatha Yoga).

Important Aspects of Raja Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga)

Mithakara (Temperate food) is more important Yama than other Yamas. Ahimsa (non-violence) is a more important Niyama than other Niyama-s. Among the innumerable Postures, eighty of them are important. Of them, four Postures are more important. They are Siddha Asana, Padma Asana, Simha Asana, and Bhadra Asana.

Obstacles of yoga

While practising yoga in the earlier stages, the aspirant will face obstacles like lethargy, ego, bad company, lust, necromancy, and alchemy. The aspirant should overcome these troubles by exercising his virtues and wisdom.

Place

One should select a monastery with small entrance devoid of apertures for doing yoga. The place should be well cleaned by cow-dung water or lime washed. It should be free from bugs, lice, and mosquitoes. Daily it should be swept with a broom and perfumed with a sweet smell. The seat should be neither too elevated nor low-lying and covered with a cloth, deerskin or grass spread one over the other. Having seated on that in Padma Asana, the yogi should commence Pranayama.

Pranayama

First, the yogi should salute his tutelary deity with his body erect and palms closed in Anjali Mudra.

With the thumb obstructing the Pingala Nadi (right nostril), he should slowly fill in the air (Puraka) through the Ida Nadi (left nostril) and retain the air (Kumbhaka) to the best of his capacity and slowly exhale (Rechaka) through the same nostril. Again slowly drawing in the air through the right nostril and making Kumbhaka to his best ability, he should exhale through the other nostril. Then inhaling through the nostril exhaled, he should repeat the process.

The time taken by the palm of the hand to circumnavigate the knee and to snap the fingers neither slowly not quickly is one Matra.

The time taken for Puraka should be sixteen matra-s. The Kumbhaka time should be sixty-four matra-s. The time for Rechaka should be thirty-two matra-s. This time aspect of Pranayama should be applied to the practice mentioned earlier. The yogi should practice four times, up to eighty Kumbhakas, daily at daybreak, noon, sunset and midnight.

Nadi Shuddhi

Three months of such practice will give Nadi Suddhi (cleansing of all Nadis in the body). When one attains Nadi Suddhi, the external symptoms like lightness and slimness of the body, lustre and good complexion, the absence of restlessness, an increase in digestive power will manifest.

Diet

Yogi should avoid foods that are detrimental to yoga. Foods like salt, mustard, asafetida, dishes that are acid, hot, astringent and pungent, bitter vegetables and the like.

He should avoid the proximity to fire, sexual intercourse and travel. He should abstain from early morning baths, fasting and all activities that involve bodily exertion. During the early stages of yoga, milk and ghee are appropriate. Cooked rice, wheat, and green gram are beneficial to yoga.

Kevala Kumbhaka

Then the yogi will get the power to retain the breath as long as desired. Kumbhaka without Rechaka and Puraka is Kevala Kumbhaka. Kevala Kumbhaka is accomplished when the yogi is capable of retaining the breath as long as desired. Once accomplished this feat, there is nothing in the three worlds that cannot be achieved by the yogi.

Siddhis

During the early stages, the yogi will have prolific perspiration. He should massage them back into the body. Then the yogi will experience tremor in the body. By increased practice, he will experience the hollowness between his body in Padma Asana and the seat. In that hollowness, some leaps and bounds are experienced. By increased practice, the yogi in Padma Asana will rise from the ground. Superhuman feats are achieved by further practice. He should not disclose this feat to the outside world.

The yogi will not suffer from miseries of trivial nature. The amount of urine and faeces will be of smaller quantities. He will sleep for a lesser time. Sweat, bad smell of the mouth, spittle, rheum of eyes and rheumatic afflictions of joints won’t come ever.

By increasing the practice further, the yogi will attain Bhu-Chara siddhi (power to wander over the earth at will). He will be strong enough to conquer any creatures on earth by mere blow of his hand. He will become the most attractive one and most women will seek to have intercourse with him. Having intercourse with women is wastage of semen. Avoiding such a wastage, he should intensely betake in yoga. A sweet smell is generated in the body of the yogi by retention of semen.

Securing a seat in a secluded spot, the yogi should chant the Pranava mantra in a high pitch to annihilate the accumulated sins. This Japa will remove the obstacles and defects. The Japa of this type should be taken as the first step for successful advancement towards the final stage in yoga.

Aramba Avasta and Pranava Japa

Securing a seat in a secluded spot, the yogi should chant the Pranava mantra in a high pitch to annihilate the accumulated sins. This Japa will remove the obstacles and defects. The Japa of this type should be taken as the first step for successful advancement towards the final stage in yoga.

Ghata Avasta

Ghata Avasta is the next stage of yoga that requires effort on the part of the aspirant. Yogi should unite Prana, Apana, Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Atman and Paramatman without disturbing their mutual relationships. This is called the Ghata Avasta. I will explain the symptoms. Here it is enough to practice just one-fourth of the duration mentioned earlier at least once daily either during daytime or during the night for a period of one Yama  (three hours). Kevala Kumbhaka should be practised once daily.

Pratyahara

The withdrawal of sense organs from the objects of pleasure by the performance of Kumbhaka is Pratyahara. Whatever the yogi sees with his eyes, he should conceive it as Atman. He should conceive whatever he hears with his ears as the voice of Atman. Whatever he smells with his nose, he should conceive it as Atman. He should conceive whatever he tastes with his tongue as Atman. Whatever he touches with his body, he should conceive it Atman. By doing this, he holds himself on Atman always irrespective of the activities of the sense organs.

He should perform this practice for a period of three hours daily without laziness. By doing this, some extraordinary powers like Clair-audience, Clairvoyance, ability to transport himself to the remote distances with no time, psychic power of speech, the power of transforming himself to any form, the power of becoming invisible and power of transmuting iron into gold by smearing with his excretion will be attained. By consistent practice, the power of levitation is achieved.

The yogi should consider this smaller Siddhi-s as impediments in the progress towards Great Siddhi, the liberation. The man of wisdom will not go for them. He won’t demonstrate his power to anyone whosoever. He will make himself aloof from the external world like a fool or deaf by keeping the secret of his powers.

Disciples will, without doubt, ask for them for the gratification of their own senses. Any attempt to comply with their request will distract the yogi from his progress. Leaving aside the worldly matters, he should practice day and night without forgetting the words of his Guru. Ghata Avasta is passed like this. Without efforts on his part to practice, nothing is achieved. Hence he should make these efforts to practice yoga.

Parichaya Avasta

By constant practice, Parichaya Avasta is achieved. By the effort of the yogi, Prana and Agni (Fire: kundalini) enter Susumna without obstruction. When the mind enters Susumna along with Prana and Agni, it will reach the highest abode (call it Sahasrara).

Dharana

Prithvi (earth), Apas (water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akasa (etherare Pancha Bhuta-s. There is five-fold Dharana on Pancha Bhuta-s.

Prithvi Dharana

From foot to knee is the region of PrithviPrithvi is quadrilateral and is of yellow colour. The Bija mantra is Lam.  One should attain the mastery over Prithvi by forcing the Prana in the region of Prithvi andmeditating along with the Bijamantra for a period of five Ghatika-s (2 hours: 5*24 minutes) on Brahman (the deity) who is of golden complexion, four-faced and four hands. By Prithvi yoga, the power of conquering death is obtained.

Apas Dharana

From knee to anus is the region of ApasApas is crescent in form and is of white colour. The Bija Mantra is Vam. One should attain the mastery over Apas by forcing the Prana in the region of Apas andmeditating along with the Bijamantra for a period of five Ghatika-s on Lord Narayana of bright crystal complexion with four hands and with a crown and silk robe. The mastery over water will destroy all the sins and there is no fear or death because of water.

Agni Dharana

From anus to the heart is the region of Agni. Agni is triangular in form and is of red colour. The Bija Mantra is Ram. One should attain the mastery over Agni by forcing the Prana in the region of Agni andmeditating along with the Bijamantra for a period of five Ghatika-s on Lord Rudra of Sun-like complexion with three eyes and his body fully besmeared with ashes. By having mastery over Agni, he will not be burned even if he enters into the fire.

Vayu Dharana

From the heart to the middle of eyebrows is the region of Vayu. Vayu is Sat-gona (two isosceles triangles placed one above the other with their bases parallel to each other and their apexes pointing one upwards and the other downwards)  in form and is of black colour. The Bija Mantra is Yam. One should attain the mastery over Vayu by forcing the Prana in the region of Vayu and meditating along with the Bijamantra for a period of five Ghatika-s on all-knowing Lord Iswara facing all directions. By having mastery over Vayu, he can move like air in the ether. He will not experience fear or death by air.

Akash Dharana

From the middle of the eyebrows to the crown is the region of Ether. Ether is circular in form and is of smoke colour. The Bija Mantra is Ham. One should attain the mastery over Ether by forcing the Prana in the region of Ether and meditating along with the Bijamantra for a period of five Ghatika-s on Lord Sadasiva of crystal complexion with five faces holding the crescent in his head with three eyes and ten arms equipped with all weapons and half of the body shared by Goddess Uma. He should be meditated as the prime cause of all the causes and the bestower of the boons. By having mastery over Ether, he can move any part of ethereal space. Where ever he is in, there is immense bliss around him.

These are the five Dharana-s that should be practised. He becomes strong and never meets death even when merging with Brahman.

Dhyana

Then he should practice Dharana for six Ghatika-s by meditating on the bestower of boons and forcing the Prana in the region of Ether  in the manner prescribed earlier. By this practice, he acquires powers of Anima (attenuation) and the like. This is called Saguna Dhyana (Meditation with the object of meditation).

Samadhi

Samadhi is the merger of Atman and Paramatman. By Nirguna DhyanaSamadhi is obtained. Within twelve days he will attain Samadhi. The yogi who is restraining Prana becomes Jivan-mukta.

If the yogi desires to give up his own body, he himself will do it. If not, he can go over the worlds with his powers of attenuation and like. He can be a Yakhsa (demi-god) of his choice or he can be a tiger, lion, horse, and elephant of his choice and attain the state of Maheswara. It depends on the various degrees of the practice, but the results are the same.

Bandhas and Mudras

Maha Bandha

The yogi should place the left foot pressing the premium, stretch out the right foot and hold it firmly with both the hands. Placing the chin on the chest, he should draw in the air, make Kumbhaka to the best of his ability and exhale it. Having practised with the left side, he should practice on the right side. Whichever foot is stretched out, he should mount it on the thigh of another leg. This is Maha Bandha and it should be practised on both sides.

Maha Veda

The yogi in Maha Bandha, having inhaled the air, restrains it with Kanta Mudra (Jalandhara Bandha), the Prana completely filling the two Nadis (Ida and Pingala) enters Susumna quickly. It is Maha Veda which is practised continuously (after Maha Bandha) by the adept.

Kechari Mudra

Turning back the tongue into the cavity of the cranium and holding it there with the eyes pointing towards the middle of the eyebrow is Kechari Mudra.

Jalandhara Bandha

Contracting the muscles of the throat and placing the chin on the chest is Jalandhara Bandha. It is the lion to the elephant of death.

Uddiyana Bandha

The Bandha by which the Prana flies into Susumna is called Uddiyana Bandha by yogis. (It is not explicitly mentioned here in Yoga Tattva Upanishad. It is performed by constricting of lower abdomen muscles).

Yoni Bandha

Pressing by heels and constricting the anus will force the Apana upwards. This is Yoni Bandha.

Mula Bandha

Prana, Apana, Nada, and Bindu are united in Mula Bandha. It will give success to the yogi in his progress, there is no doubt about it.

Viparita Karani Mudra

With heads down and feet up, he should remain for a minute for the first day. Gradually adding the time by minute by minute, he should practice Viparita Karani. Within three months wrinkles and grey hair will go away. He who wants to get rid of death should practice this for one Yama (144 minutes). All diseases of body and mind will be destroyed. Jataragni (Fire that digests the food or digestive power) will increase. One should take care of the quantity of the foods of all sorts. Otherwise, the fire will eat away the body.

Vajroli Mudra

One who practises Vajroli deserves to attain the psychic powers. Yoga siddhi (success in yoga) and Kechari mudra (alternatively interpreted as the power of moving in the air) are at his hands. He knows the past and future (The practice is not explicitly mentioned in the Upanishad. It is the drawing the semen back from the genital organ of the female along with Sronita discharged by her. Mastery of this mudra can be achieved by repeatedly drawing up cow’s milk from a cup and dropping in. It is said that Lord Krishna had mastery over Vajroli).

Amaroli Mudra

Of the first urine passed in the morning, one should leave one-fourth of first flow and one-fourth of the last flow and drink the one fourth keeping aside the other one-fourth for nasal douche. If this is practised along with Vajroli, it is Amaroli. (Vajroli, Amaroli, and Sahajoli are called as Oli mudras in general. Normally Oli mudras are given in the scriptures in a recondite and roundabout way, because of their obscene nature. Sahajoli is not mentioned here. Amaroli without drink and douche is called Sahajoli).

Raja Yoga Siddhi

Then he attains siddhi in Raja yoga. He won’t face any impediments thereafter. He attains the discrimination and indifference to objects. The Supreme Being Lord Vishnu who is the great yogi, sage, and devotee himself will lead as a beacon in the path of yoga.

Discrimination and indifference to objects

The breast of his wife, which he presses and obtain pleasure is the same one of his mother, which he suckled in the earlier births. The genital organ he enjoys is the same one from which he was born earlier. She who is now his wife was his mother once and she who is now his mother was his wife once. He who is now his father will be his son again and he who is now his son will be the father again. Thus revolves the cycle of life and death in the womb like a pot in the wheel of a well.

Pranava Worship

The worlds are three in number: Bhur, Bhuvar, and Suvar. The Veda-s are three in number: Rig, Yajur, and Sama. Sandhya-s are three: Dawn, Noon, and Twilight. Fires are three in number. Guna-s are three. All these rest on three letters of Pranava: A, U, and M. He who knows this secret along with Ardha-matra from the mouth of his Guru is none other than Brahman who has the universal consciousness. Om tat sat: That alone is the truth. That pervades all existence.

As fragrance resides in the flower,As ghee resides in the milkAs oil resides in the sesamum seedAs gold exist in the quartzStands a lotus in the region of the heartIts stalk up and Petals facing down.

Bindu is there in the nether portion of the lotus. In the middle of Bindu is Consciousness. With letter A, the lotus moves up. It blloms with letter B. With letter M, Nada manifests and with Ardha-matra, motionless is the result. The Yogi attains the state of indivisible Brahman and all sins are destroyed.

Like a tortoise draws in the hands, legs, and head inside its body, the yogi should restrain the nine orifices of the body and inhale Prana and then exhale. When the nine orifices stand restrained, the Prana will open the door of Susumna in Muladhara like a lamp placed in a pot. By doing Kumbhaka with nine orifices closed altogether, the yogi attains the conviction that Atman alone is left and Videha Mukti is obtained.

Thus ends Yoga Tattva Upanishad.

Om Tat Sat.

Reference: Yoga Tattva Upanishad Sanskrit Text Reference

Thirunavukkarasu Sivasubramaniam

He has got 40 years of experience in traditional yoga philosophy and practice. He is well versed in Classical Sanskrit and Classical Tamil texts. His other area of proficiency includes Tantra and South Indian Astrology.

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9 thoughts on “Yoga Tattva Upanishad: Translation

  1. Yoga for a healthy life style. Thanks for sharing much valuable information through this article.

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