In Saivite Tantra the hatha sign figured far less and was used in connection with the word sadhana’ – not with the word yoga’ – again in the meaning of being an efficacious and forceful Tantric technique. Hatha-sadhana according to the Brahmayamala-tantra (and I am sure that the following quote will amuse most modern hatha-yoga students) refers to a practice where the Sadhaka digs a hole (garta) and fills it with five products of cow (pancagavya) (i.e. cow urine, cow dung, milk, purified ghee, and cow flesh), sexual fluids (picu), wine (madya), bits of sinew and bile (snayupitta) and human flesh. He covers the hole with a cow’s hide or elephant skin, assumes the eight mudras, salutes Bhirava, makes boisterous laughter (attahasa), and the howl of a jackal ((sivarava), plays a bell (ghanta) and drum (damaru), and waves about a tall-feather (pincchakam). He then enters the hole and meditates (vicintayet). (Quote taken from Birch 2011, footnote 93).
So the term hatha’ had been in frequent use for centuries in various milieus giving it disparate meanings. It was not seen as an independent discipline but rather as a set of vigorous techniques. Mostly such energetic techniques were included and discussed as secondary and subordinate to existing techniques (Birch 2011) – which was typical of the strategies of inclusion practised among India’s holy men and theologians.
The first text to give a comprehensive technical overview of the hatha-yoga sign arrives late in this process. It is Hatha-yoga Pradipika, dated to the middle of the 15 century, if not later. So at this point in time a group of techniques is selected among various and numerous practices – energetic and vigorous techniques (hatha like techniques) – and given the umbrella name hatha-yoga. This text became the bible of hatha-yoga. It marked the entrance and acceptance of subversive Tantric cultures into the prestigious cultural field of liberation. The Hatha-yoga Pradipika became very influential in Muslim India and was often quoted in later theological texts. As we shall see it made a compilation of some of the many various hatha-yoga signs and texts we have investigated. In this process it mainly drew on texts from the Gorakhnath genre, which already consisted of a mixture of various discourses.
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