Yoga to constipation

We can conclude that the unnamed hatha-yoga practices slowly became integrated into a Saivite and elite yoga discourses. As we shall see, the more they were included in the cultural field of liberation and yoga, the more they lost their independence and Tantric low caste character.

The goals and meanings of hatha-yoga (1) – siddhi

The hatha-yoga discourse – a cluster of various discourses – created new and dissimilar social identities. Let us investigate those categories further, as they reflected the numerous intentions and milieus behind hatha-yoga.

What was the purpose of hatha-yoga in the Gorakhnath Saivite milieu of systematisers? From reading some of the texts it is clear that immortality had moved to the forefront of attention of most scriptures312. The preoccupation with immortality is seen in the Goraksa-vijaya (ascribed to the founder Gorakhnath), which began with the words: âWhy is it my Lord that thou art immortal and mortal am I? Advise me on the truth so that I also may be immortal for agesâ. The Lord was Siva and the scripture turned out to be about Siva’s revelation of the doctrines of hatha-yoga, enabling the student to achieve immortality like the gods.

When the hatha-yoga texts taught their techniques, they were told to conquer death’ or destroy old age. Most texts put techniques like pranayama and mudras at the forefront of practice; both were said to lead to immortality. Further, again and again health, purification of nadis (i.e. subtle body energy lines) and magical power were promised (Mallinson 2012b). Some texts directly suggested that the purpose or goal of practising was a long (eternal) life with a healthy and strong body. The word siddhi’ – perfection❠– was often used for this quest for immortality.

So without doubt a central aim of the hatha-yoga discourse was physical immortality which was equivalent to perfection (siddhi). Perfection sometimes also had a second aspect to it, which we know from older yoga discourses: a perfected person was a magical person, a kind of wizard, a person whose magical powers to transform the world were feared and yet still demanded by the public. So hatha-yoga’s siddhi or perfection was no doubt worldly, not otherworldly. Hence at first glance, it seems that this branch of hatha-yoga discourse -situated in the cultural field of immortality of the alchemist Siddhas and Tantric Kulas -defined new goals for practice. The striving for perfection/siddhi was definitely not about the liberation or salvation of the soul after death313.

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