Born in Kerala, south India in 1927, Swami Vishnudevananda entered the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayas as a young man. For twelve years he lived and worked there at the Divine Life Society, under the guidance of his master, Swami Sivananda.
A large part of Swami Vishnudevananda’s training was directed towards developing his remarkable talents in the fields of Hatha Yoga. He was appointed the first Professor of Hatha Yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy in Rishikesh.
At the same time, he continued his own practice, mastering many difficult and advanced Hatha Yoga techniques: asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandhas and kriyas. When asked how he perfected these ancient practices, which to a great extent had been lost to the modern world, Swamiji would say "My Master touched me and opened my intuitive eye. All this knowledge returned to me from past lives.
In 1957, Swami Vishnudevananda was sent to the West by his guru with the words, "people are waiting" Here he became world-renowned as an expert in Hatha and Raja Yoga. Swamini founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, with headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada and centres and ashrams worldwide.
Swami Vishnudevananda was a tireless campaigner for world peace. He piloted his own plane to the trouble spots of the globe, earning him the nickname from the press of the "Flying Swami". He had indefatigable energy, which he attributed to his intensive Hatha Yoga practice.
The author of the long-time bestselling The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga and Meditation and Mantras, Swami Vishnudevananda is the inspiration behind The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, Yoga, Mind and Body, The Sivananda Companion to Meditation, The Yoga Cookbook and many other books.
Swami Vishnudevananda entered mahasamadhi on November 9, 1993. His body was consigned to the Ganga (the river Ganges) in Uttarkshi, Himalayas. This is where Swamiji had spent much time early in his life doing intensive sadhana.
The work and teachings of Swami Vishnudevananda continue through the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre.
When the Executive Board Members of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre expressed an interest to re-issue the renowned Hatha Yoga treatise, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, I was very pleased to offer my services in this regard. The result is a revision of the 1987 edition which retains the original Commentary and Introduction of Swami Vishnudevananda. Please note that Swami Vishnudevananda's teachings were mainly oral and the commentary in the book is based on his talks given to students. We have preserved the original style of his delivery. I would like to thank the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre for giving me this opportunity to serve and offer this work as a simple gift to Swami Vishnudevananda and his mission to create peace in the world.
I would like to begin by speaking about the spiritual path we are climbing through Yoga. You might say that it is an uphill climb. There are ups and downs. We climb up and then once again go down. There is no straight path to the top and there are many obstacles. In some places the road is wide but then suddenly it narrows. We come to a bush through which it is very difficult to penetrate. And even though we continue, we do not know where we are going.
So it is with the spiritual journey. In the beginning it is all very wonderful: "Ah, yes. I can do asanas. pranayama. etc.", but then suddenly you come to that big bush in your path and you don't know in which direction to go. If somehow you come out of the bush, you come next to a swamp. Some students disappear in the quicksand and never come out. Perhaps they see a beautiful girl or a handsome man and get married. and oh, they want to enjoy their life with children, home and family - once again swallowed by Maya their spiritual purpose completely forgotten.
Nevertheless, it is possible to penetrate these obstacles and reach the top. Now you can see all around beautifully. Now you can meditate and enjoy full freedom. No more birth, no more death; you've got an eternal holiday.
These experiences are familiar to the yogi. He finds no smooth road to the top. Those who succeed come from different directions having followed different teachers, but once they reach the top everything is the same. On the way the obstacles will differ but at the top the view is the same.
The purpose of the practice of Yoga is to give your life a boost, to put your spiritual progress in first gear. Then you may go into second gear and maybe into third gear where you can cruise comfortably after climbing the hills. This is unlike most worldly people who Just coast downhill without knowing about brakes thinking that happiness is somewhere down there waiting. They go straight downhill faster and faster into numerous disasters such as cancer, AIDS high blood pressure heart trouble Soon It is too late and they crash. So even though it may seem very easy please don't coast downhill. We will show you another way.
The path was laid out by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika an ancient text used by Yogis to create the power to go uphill all the way to the top. This path was laid out by great beings called siddhas: Matsyendranath his disciple Gorakshanath and others fourteen in all. This is one of the earliest treatises on Hatha Yoga: all the modern books are based on it. It is the central route. All of us have only expanded and expounded on it in different ways.
In addition to following the practices laid out in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. I strongly recommend the study of books such as Shankaracharya's Viveka Chudamant and the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Viveka Chudamani is a very beautiful book, and those who follow its instruction will create the necessary dispassion to surmount the obstacles created by rajas (passion or activity). In addition, we also need devotion, because without God's grace we cannot reach the Source no matter how hard we strive. To help create this devotion we read from the Bhagavatam.
This practice is not something I invented: it is the traditional method which I myself followed intensively when I was with Master Sivananda in the Himalayas. I lived in the forest where there were cobras and tigers. Sometimes I could hear the tigers from my cottage when they would come by to drink water and they would roar. I had only a flimsy door which they could easily have pushed through. Nevertheless, in such an environment I went through this training morning noon, evening and midnight practicing for almost fourteen hours daily. I hardly slept - just two or three hours a night. But I can't begin to describe the power that builds up.
Our purpose here is to increase the vibratory level in a very short time. In Sanskrit this work is expressed as "Shakti Sanchar." Shakti Is the "power' and Sanchar means "awakening of." We want to make the Shakti move from its dormant or static state to the dynamic state through sadhana or spiritual practice. However please be careful not to go beyond your capacity. Do not do too much at once, do not go too deep or too fast, do not work too intensively, or else a kickback will come. That is why I modify the practice to suit the particular evolution of my students. I never give a practice unless I myself have experienced it. Also, though I like discipline, I believe that this discipline must come from within. I show my students how this can be accomplished and then leave them to practice as if they were alone in the forest. To this is added just a little group practice for reinforcement. In addition, my students make out a resolve form and keep a spiritual diary which I look at to check their progress so that I can prescribe a little more or a little less of a particular practice. We meet together for an hour each day to talk about our practice, to receive some instruction about technical things and to improve the performance of some of these procedures.
My main instruction is to control the mind. Secondly avoid unnecessary desires with one exception - desire to increase your will power. If you satisfy one desire ten more will come to take its place, and then when will you ever be finished with all those desires? But if you develop your will power and kill even one desire, then you will be strong. Then you will easily kill ten more and then a hundred.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Bhakti Yoga (13)
Hatha Yoga (63)
Karma Yoga (24)
Kriya Yoga (58)
Kundalini Yoga (40)
Yoga For Children (9)
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