The Gheranda Samhita: An Illustrated Guide to Purification, Asanas, Mudras, Pratyahara, Pranayama, Dhyana and Samadhi for Your Yoga Classes, Yoga Studio, Yoga Center and Yoga Teacher Training Paperback – Jan 15 2004
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From the Publisher
From Chapter Six
The yogi should visualize a sublime ocean of nectar in his heart, with an island of jewels in its middle whose sand is made of gemstones. In every direction there are kadamba trees with abundant flowers. Bees and cuckoos buzz and call there. He should steady himself and visualize a great jeweled pavilion . . .
Table of Contents
Introduction Purification Asanas Mudras Pratyahara Pranayama Dhyana Samadhi
About the Author
Residing in Oxford, England, James Mallinson is a graduate of Eton and Oxford, holds a master's from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and returned to Oxford University for his doctorate.
"Smooth and accurate, this translation of the Gheranda Samhita is a very welcome addition to recent work on Yoga."
--George Cardona, University of Pennsylvania
"Mallinson's translation of the Gheranda Samhita includes the Sanskrit Devanagari script paired with clear, succinct English verses. The translation is lucid, making the threads of the teaching easy to understand. . . . For illumination, Mallinson includes a collection of full-page photographs demonstrating the asana or mudra as described in the text. These photos are an asset to this version. . . . This new translation of the Gheranda Samhita is invaluable for students seeking an accessible entry into the written tradition of Yoga practice."
--Felicia M. Tomasko LA YOGA Magazine
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Some years ago I read a translation of this work published by the Kaivalyadhama Institute (Lonavla, India) in 1978 which included critical commentary by the editors, Swami Digambarji and M. L. Gharote, and upon which Mallinson has some acknowledged reliance. What we have here is the text in Sanskrit followed by Mallinson's English translation. The often cryptic text is augmented by photos of a buff and supple woman demonstrating the asanas and mudras. Mallinson also provides an introduction setting the work historically and noting influences, such as the Vedantic. He eschews commentary, he writes, because "commentary and elucidation are for the practitioner's guru." (p. xvi) Indeed the Gheranda Samhita is written in such a terse manner that a guru's elucidation would be required for all but the most experienced practitioners.
Mallinson also notes that the Gheranda Samhita is a work of ghatastha yoga not hatha yoga. "Ghatastha" refers to the body; and while hatha yoga is also concerned with the body there are important distinctions, most significantly the absence of the ethical considerations, the niyamas and the yamas as presented in Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga and as required by most modern teachers, including the illustrious B.K.S. Iyengar. However the practice and the goal of both hatha yoga and the yoga presented in the Gheranda Samhita are the same: the union of the individual soul (atman) with the ineffable (brahman)--i.e., samadhi, or transcendence. Instead of the niyamas and the yamas Gheranda begins with the purification techniques. One gets the sense in reading these that the practitioners of India were plagued by parasites (as indeed they were). Consequently it was a first order of business to get rid of them or at least reduce their numbers so that the yogi could practice without distraction or discomfort.
But what is this concentration on the body all about? To really appreciate hatha yoga (as opposed to karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and tantra yoga--the other classical yogic ways to liberation) it is necessary to understand that the body is at once the mantra, the mandala and the palace to the hatha yogin, a fit vehicle for contemplation and study, although not quite right for worship. It is at once the manifestation of the food sheath--the level on which we live, where we are both the eater and the eaten--and the holder of the soul, the atman which is to the ineffable brahman as a drop of water is to the ocean.
But more than this the body must be in shape, free of disease and discomfort so that the aspirant might achieve meditation and samadhi and enter into the union with brahman. Or perhaps it is enough to say that hatha yoga or ghatastha yoga leads to meditation. Where one goes from there is usually understood as being beyond words (as in Zen Buddhism, for example). Mircea Eliade writes in his Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (1958) that this concentration on the body (which is part of the tantric tradition and is the core of the Gheranda Samhita) is paradoxically "the most reliable and effective instrument at man's disposal for 'conquering death.' And since liberation can be gained even in this life, the body must be preserved as long as possible, and in perfect condition, precisely as an aid to meditation." (opus cited, p. 227)
Mallinson comments that Gheranda seems at times a follower of Shiva and at other times a devotee of Vishnu. One sees in this the somewhat garbled and patchwork nature of this nonetheless important work. It is my belief that the text we have to work with is a rather imperfect copy of a larger work that may or may not have existed in manuscript.
Mallinson and the people at YogaVidya are to be commended for bringing this text to the attention of the modern yoga practitioner since all other translations that I know of are out of print and hard to come by. I have one small complaint. While it is traditional to use the word "secret" in such phrases as "The great Vatasara..." or this great dhauti" or (some other) practice "is to be kept secret," it would be more nearly correct to write that the practice in question is "private." The practices are not secrets, per se, but things that should be done in private. This is in tune with the idea that the hyperbole used by Gheranda or Svatmarama such as "destroys all diseases" or "allows the yogi to escape death" could more realistically be qualified with the phrase "while the practice is maintained."
One other quibble: in the 22nd verse Mallinson has, "Standing in water up to the navel, draw out the shakti nadi...," wash it and "put it back in the stomach." Actually, I believe what is supposed to be drawn out and washed is the intestine. "Shakti nadi" is a euphemism and so is "stomach." On the other hand, I suspect that even the most accomplished practitioner of old never actually achieved the practice (or long survived it!), so perhaps Mallinson's expression is as correct as is necessary for this largely symbolic practice.
The Ghermanda Samita, as translated by James Mallinson, is a valuable reference for serious students of yoga. There are the seven chapters, corresponding to the seven ways to perfect onself, from physical practices and health to meditation and enlightenment (samahdi) at the end.
In addition to photos of the asanas next to the text that discusses them, the chapter on Dhyanas (meditations) has some visually stunning paragraphs. These could be of help to someone who is meditating and needs a kernel of something to focus on, or even an artist who wants to tap a side of the unconscious with visual meditations.
There is also a chapter on yogi breathing, and from what I am told, one can never have enough information on this important aspect of practicing yoga.
This is a relatively late work of Hatha Yoga (from the 1800's?) and is translated as directly from the Sanskrit as the author was able, while retaining the meaning and beauty of the passages. If you are a student of yoga, this is a valuable source book and quite interesting reading, as well.
A few things caught my eyes
This book is very similar to Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
#4)The chapter of Pratyahara is pretty condense and its somewhat similar to the Vipassana meditation (Goenka Style)
#5)It talks about Japa Pranayama
#6)Lot of Visualization. Similar to Tibetian Ngondro stuff.
#7) Four major technique of inducing Samadhi
Bhranvir Pranayama(Ear stuck with finger/Observe inner sound)
It talks about spring and fall are the best season for practice as it is not too hot and too cold
It is very good book as a bird eye overview of all the practice.
Perhaps one needs to consult with a qualified teacher (Guru?)
Or read a lot more and do a lot of experiments on oneself (which can be the most unpresent) if one hasnt done any of those practice.