The word mudrã means to seal, close, or lock up. The various practices are techniques for locking the breath within the body. Another term that is used in connection with these practices ~s bandha, which means to bind, fix, or restrain. The distinction is theoretical and should not cause any confusion, for they are one and the same thing.
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 1-9: Compare Gheranda Samhitã, i, 1-3: "There are twenty-five mudrãs, the practice of which gives success to the Yogins. They are: (1) Mahã-mudrã, (2) Nabho mudrã, (3) Uddiyãna, (4) Jãlandhara, (5) Mûlabandha, (6) Mahãbandha, (7) Mahãvedha, (8) Khecarî (9) Viparitakarani, (10) Yoni-mudrã, (11) Vajroli-mudrã, (12) Sakticãlani, (13) Tãdãgî, (14) Mãnduki (15) Sambhavi, (16) Pañcadhãranã (five dhãranãs), (21) Asvini, (22) Pãsini, (23) Kãkî, (24) Mãtangi, and (25) Bhujanginî."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 12-15: "Now I shall tell you the best means of attaining success m Yoga. The practitioners should keep it secret. It is the inaccessible Yoga. When the sleeping goddess Kundalinî is awakened through the grace of Guru, then all the lotuses and the bonds are readily pierced through and through. Therefore, in order that the goddess, who is asleep in the mouth of the Brahmarandhra (the innermost hollow of Susumnã) be awakened, the Mudrãs should be practised with the greatest care. Out of the many Mudrãs, the following ten are the best:-(1) Mahãmudrã, (2) Mahãbandha, (3) Mahãvedha, (4) Khecarî, (5) Jãlandhara, (6) Mûlabandha, (7) Viparitakarani, (8) Uddãna, (9) Vajronî, and (10) Sakticãlana. I will comment in the proper sequence on the additional mudrãs mentioned in the Gheranda Samhitã.
Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 94-100: "0 Canda-Kapãli! thus have I recited to thee the chapter on Mudrãs. This is beloved of all adepts, and destroys decay and death. This should not be taught indiscriminately, nor to a wicked person, nor to one devoid of faith; this secret should be preserved with great care; it is difficult to be attained even by the Devas. These Mudrãs which give happiness and emancipation should be taught to a guileless, calm and peace-minded person, who is devoted to his Teacher and comes of good family. These Mudrãs destroy all diseases. They increase the gastric fire of him who practises them daily. To him death never comes, nor decay, etc.; there is no fear to him from fire and water, nor front air. Cough, asthma, enlargement of the spleen, leprosy, phlegm diseases of twenty sorts, are verily destroyed by the practice of these Mudrãs. 0 Canda! What more shall I tell thee? In short, there is nothing in this world like the Mudrãs for giving quick success. "
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 10-18. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 6-8: "Pressing carefully the anus by the left heel, stretch the right leg and take hold of the toes by the hands; contract the throat (not exhaling), and fix the gaze between the eyebrows. This is called Mahã-mudrã by the wise. The practice of Mahã-mudrã cures consumption, the obstruction of the bowels, the enlargement of the spleen, indigestion and fever-in fact it cures all diseases." I was taught to alternate the legs while learning.
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 16-20: "My dearest, I shall now describe to you the Mahãmudrã, from whose knowledge the ancient sages Kapila and others, obtained successes in Yoga. In accordance with the instructions of the Guru, press gently on the perineum with the heel of the left foot. Stretching the right foot out, hold it fast by the two hands. Having closed the nine gates (of the body), place the chin on the chest. Then concentrate the vibrations of the mind and inspire air and retain it by kumbhaka (so long as one can comfortably keep it). This is Mahãmudrã, held secret in all the Tantras. The steady-minded Yogi, having practised it on the left side, should then practise it on the right side; and in all cases must be firm in Prãnãyãma,-the regulation of his breath. In this way, even the most unfortunate Yogi might obtain success. By this means all the vessels of the body are roused and stirred into activity; the life is increased and its decay is checked, and all sins are destroyed. All diseases are healed and the gastric fire is increased. It gives faultless beauty to the body, and destroys decay and death. All fruits of desires and pleasures are obtained, and the senses are conquered. The Yogi fixed in meditation acquires all the above-mentioned things, through practice. There should be no hesitation in doing so. 0 ye worshipped of god! know that this Mudrã is to be kept secret with the greatest care. Obtaining this, the Yogi crosses the ocean of the world. This Mudrã, described by me, is the giver of all desires to the practitioner; it should be practised in secrecy, and ought never to be given to everybody."
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 19-24. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 18-20: "Close the anal orifice by the heel of the left foot, press that heel with the right foot carefully, move slowly the muscles of the rectum, and slowly contract the muscles of the yoni or perineum (space between the anus and the Scrotum): restrain the breath by Jãlandhara. This is called Mahãbandha. The Mahãbandha is the Greatest Bandha; it destroys decay and death: by virtue of this Bandha a man accomplishes all his desires."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 21-2: "Then (after Mahãmudrã), having extended the (right) foot, place it on the (left) thigh; contract the perineum, and draw the Apãna Vãyu upwards and join it with the Samãna Vãyu; bend the Prãna Vãyu downwards, and then let the wise Yogi bind them in trinity in the navel (i.e. the Prãna and the Apãna should be joined with Samãna in the navel). I have told you now the Mahãbandha, which shows the way to emancipation. By this, all the fluids in the vessels of the body of the Yogi are propelled towards the head. This should be practised with great care, alternately with both feet. Through this practice, the wind enters the middle channel of the Susumnã, the body is invigorated by it, the bones are firmly knitted, the heart of the Yogi becomes full (of cheerfulness). By this Bandha, the great Yogi accomplishes all his desires."
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 25-31. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 21-4: "As the beauty and charms of women are in vain without men, so are Mûlabandha and Mahãbandha without Mahãvedha. Sit first in Mahãbandha posture, then restrain breath by Uddãna Kumbhaka. This is called Mahãvedha-the giver of success to the Yogis. The Yogin who daily practises Mahãbandha and Mûlabandha, accompanied with Mahãvedha, is the best of Yogins. For him there is no fear of death, and decay does not approach. This Vedha should be kept carefully secret by the Yogins."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 23-30: "0 goddess of the three worlds! when the Yogi, while performing the Mahãbandha, causes the union of the Prãna and Apãna Vãyus and filling in the viscera with air drives it slowly towards the nates, it is called Mahãvedha. The best of the Yogis having, through the help of the Vãyu, pierced with this perforator the knot which is in the path of Susumnã, should then pierce the knot of Brahmã. He who practises this Mahãvedha with great secrecy, obtains Vãyu-siddhi (success over the wind). It destroys decay and death. The gods residing in the chakras tremble owing to the gentle influx and efflux of air in Prãnãyãma; the great goddess, Kundali Mahã Mãyã, is also absorbed in the mount Kailãsa. The Mahãmudrã and Mahãbandha become fruitless if they are not followed by Mahãvedha; therefore, the Yogi should practise all these three successively with great care. He who practises these three daily four times with great care, undoubtedly conquers death within six months. Only the, siddha knows the importance of these three and no one else; knowing these, the practitioner obtains all success. This should be kept in great secrecy by the practitioner desirous of obtaining power; otherwise it is certain that the coveted powers can never be obtained through the practice of Mudrãs."
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 32-40. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 25-8: "Cut the lower tendon of the tongue, and move the tongue constantly; rub it with fresh butter, and draw it out (to lengthen it) with an iron instrument. By practising this always, the tongue becomes long, and when it reaches the space between the eyebrows, then the Khecarî is accomplished. Then (the tongue being lengthened) practise turning it upwards and backwards so as to touch the palate, till at length it reaches the holes of the nostrils opening into the mouth. Close those holes with the tongue (thus stopping inspiration), and fix the gaze on the space between the eyebrows. This is called Khecarî. By this practice there is neither fainting, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor laziness. There comes neither disease, nor decay, nor death. The body becomes divine."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 31-2: "The wise Yogi, sitting in Vajrãsana posture, in a place free from all disturbance, should firmly fix his gaze on the spot in the middle of the two eyebrows; and reversing the tongue backwards fix it in the hollow under the epiglottis, placing it with great care on the mouth of the well of nectar (i.e. closing up the air passage). This mudrã, described by me at the request of my devotees, is the Khecarî Mudrã. O, my beloved! know this to be the source of all success, always practising it let him drink the ambrosia daily. By this he obtains Vigraha-siddhi (power over the microcosm), even as lion over the elephant of death."
I shall not pause to explain the elaborate mythology contained in this passage or indicate the physiological processes which they symbolize. This has been done by other writers. See Briggs, Gorakhnãth and the Kãnphata Yogis, ch. xv, and Rele, The Mysterious Kundalinî, passim.
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 41-53. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 29-32: "The body cannot be burned by fire, nor dried up by air, nor wetted by water, nor bitten by snakes. The body becomes beautiful; Samãdhi is verily attained, and the tongue touching the holes in the roof (of the mouth) obtains various juices (it drinks nectar). Various juices being produced, day by day the man experiences new sensations; first, he experiences a saltish taste, then alkaline, then bitter, then astringent, then he feels the taste of butter, then of ghee, then of milk, then of curds, then of whey, then of honey, then of palm juice, and, lastly, arises the taste of nectar."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 33-7 "Whether pure or impure, in whatever condition one may be, if success be obtained in Khecarî, he becomes pure. There is no doubt of it. He who practises it even for a moment crosses the great ocean of sins, and having enjoyed the pleasures of Deva-world is born into a noble family. He who practises this Khecarî-Mudrã calmly and without laziness counts as seconds the periods of a hundred Brahmãs. He knows this Khecarî-Mudrã according to the instructions of his Guru, obtains the highest end, though immersed in great sins. O, ye adored of gods! this Mudrã, dear as life, should not be given to everybody; it should be kept concealed with great care." In order to understand what is meant by these references on conquering death and enjoying the pleasures of Deva-world, see The Tibetan Book of the Dead, by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, which Contains a discussion of this subject.
Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 9: "In whatever business a Yogin may be engaged, wherever he may be, let him always keep his tongue turned upwards (towards the soft palate), and restrain the breath. This is called Nabho-Mudrã; it destroys the disease of the Yogins." Nabho means sky, cloud, vapour and has reference to the mystic nectar that is believed to be in the top of the head. This practice, as well as others, is intended to stimulate the flow of this nectar. See ibid., 62: "Closing the mouth, move the tongue towards the palate, and taste slowly the nectar (flowing from the Thousand-petalled Lotus) [nerve centre situated at the crown of the head]. This is Mãnduki Mudrã (Frog-mudrã)." I was also taught to seal the tongue against the roof of the mouth without turning it back. This is sufficient for the beginner, but later Khecarî will be needed.
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 60-8. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 14-17: "Press with the heel of the left foot the region between the anus and the scrotum, and contract the rectum; carefully press the intestines near the navel on the spine; and put the right heel on the organ of generation or pubes. This is called Mûlabandha, destroyer of decay. The person who desires to cross the ocean of Samsãra, let him go to a retired place, and practice in secrecy this mudrã. By the practice of it, the Vãyu (Prãna) is controlled undoubtedly; let one silently practise this, without laziness, and with care."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 41-4: "Pressing well the anus with the heel, forcibly draw upwards the Apãna Vãyu slowly by practice. This is described as the Mûlabandha -the destroyer of decay and death. If, in the course of the practice of this Mudrã, the Yogi can unite the Apãna with the Prãna Vãyu, then it becomes of course the Yoni-Mudrã. He who has accomplished Yoni-Mudrã, what can not be accomplished in this world. Sitting in the Padmãsana posture, free from idleness, the Yogi leaving the ground, moves through the air, by virtue of this Mudrã. If the wise Yogi is desirous of crossing the ocean of the world, let him practise this Bandha in secret, in a retired place."
Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 82-3: "Contract and dilate the anal aperture again arid again; this is called Asvini-mudrã. It awakens the Sakti (Kundalinî). This Asvini is a great mudrã; it destroys all diseases of the rectum; it gives strength and vigour, and prevents premature death."
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 72, note: "The sixteen vital parts mentioned by renowned Yogis are the (1) thumb, (2) ankles, (3) knees, (4) thighs, (5) the prepuce, (6) organ of generation, (7) the navel, (8) the heart, (9) the neck, (10) the throat, (11) the palate, (12) the nose, (13) the middle of the eyebrows, (14) the forehead, (15) the head and (16) the Brahma randhra."
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 69-77. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 12-13: "Contracting the throat, place the chin on the chest. This is called Jãlandhara. By this Bandha the sixteen ãdhãras are closed. This Mahã-mudrã destroys death. This success-giving Jãlandhara when practised well for six months, the man becomes an adept without doubt."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 38-40 "Having contracted the muscles of the throat press the chin on the breast. This is said to be the Jãlandhara-Mudrã. Even gods reckon it as inestimable. The fire in the region of the navel (i.e. the gastric juice) drinks the nectar which exudes out of the thousand-petalled lotus. (In order to prevent the nectar to be thus consumed), he should practice this Bandha. Through this Bandha the wise Yogi himself drinks the nectar, and, obtaining immortality, enjoys the three worlds. This Jãlandhara-Bandha is the giver of success to the practitioner; the Yogi desirous of success should practise it daily."
For the classical description see Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 82-96: "Even one who lives a wayward life, without observing any rules of Yoga, but performs Vajroli, deserves success and is a Yogi. Two things are necessary for this, and these are difficult to get for the ordinary people-(t) milk and (a) a woman behaving, as desired. By practising to draw in the Bindu (semen), discharged during cohabitation, whether one be a man or a woman, one obtains success in the practice of Vajroli. By means of a pipe, one should blow air slowly into the passage in the male organ. By practice, the discharged Bindu is drawn up. One can draw back and preserve ones own discharged Bindu. The Yogi who can protect his Bindu thus, overcomes death; because death comes by discharging Bindu, and life is prolonged by its preservation. By preserving Bindu, the body of the Yogi emits a pleasing smell. There is no fear of death, so long as the Bindu is well established in the body. The Bindu of men is under the control of the mind, and life is dependent on the Bindu. Hence, mind and Bindu should be protected by all means.
"Sahajoli and amaroli are only the different kinds of Vajroli. Ashes from burnt up cow dung should be mixed with water. Being free from exercise of Vajroli, man and woman seated at ease, should both rub it on their bodies. This is called Sahajoli, and should be relied on by Yogis. It does good and gives moksa. This Yoga is achieved by courageous wise men, who are free from envy, and cannot be accomplished by the envious. In the doctrine of the sect of the Kãpãlikas, the Amaroli is the drinking of the cool mid stream; leaving the first, as it is a mixture of too much bile and the last which is useless. He who drinks Amari, snuffs it daily, and practises Vajroli, is called practising Amaroli. The Bindu discharged in the practice of Vajroli should be mixed with ashes, and the rubbing it on the head gives divine sight." The description of vajroli given in Gheranda Samhitã is entirely different. For comparison see p. 29 n. Siva Samhitã does not give it.
Siddhi means "accomplishment, performance, fulfillment, (complete attainment, success." Here it has reference to the acquisition of the eight supernatural powers: (1) the power to assimilate oneself with an atom (animã); (2) the power to be as light as cotton or any similar thing (laghimã); (3) the power of reaching anywhere, even to the moon (prãptih); (4) the power of having all wishes of whatever description realized (prãkãmyãm); (5) the power to expand oneself into space (mahimã); (6) the power to create (isitvam); (7) the power to command all (vasitvam); (8) the power of suppressing desire (kãmãvasãyitã). Compare Siva Samhitã, iii, 54 for description, see p. 58 n.
Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, iii, 97-123. Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 49-60: "The great goddess Kundalinî, the energy of Self, ãtma-sakti (spiritual force), sleeps in the Mulãdhãra (rectum); she has the form of a serpent having three coils and a half. So long as she is asleep in the body, the Jiva is a mere animal, and true knowledge does not arise, though he may practise ten millions. As by a key a door is opened, so by awakening the Kundalinî by Hatha Yoga, the door of Brahman is unlocked. Encircling the loins with a piece of cloth, seated in a secret room, not naked in an outer room, let him practise the Sakticãlana. One cubit long, and four fingers (3 inches) wide, should be the encircling cloth, soft, white and of fine texture. Join this cloth with the Kati-Sutra (a string worn round the loins). Smear the body with ashes, sit in Siddhãsana-posture, drawing the Prãna-Vãyu with the nostrils, forcibly join it with the Apãna. Contract the rectum slowly by the Asvini Mudrã, till the Vãyu enters the Susumnã, and manifests its presence. By restraining the breath by Kumbhaka in this way, the serpent Kundalinî, feeling suffocated, awakes and rises upwards to the Brahmarandhra. Without the Sakticãlana, the Yoni-Mudrã is not complete or perfected; first the Cãlana should be practised, and then the Yoni-Mudrã. O Canda-Kapãli! thus have I taught thee the Sakticãlana. Preserve it with care and practise it daily. This mudrã should be kept carefully concealed. It destroys decay and death. Therefore, the Yogin, desirous of perfection, should practise it. The Yogin who practices this daily acquires adeptship, attains Vigraha-siddhi and all his diseases are cured."
Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 53-8: "Let the wise Yogi forcibly and firmly draw up the goddess Kundali sleeping in the Adhãra Lotus, by means of the Apãna Vãyu. This is Sakti-Cãlana Mudrã, the giver of all powers. He who practises this Sakti-Cãlana Mudrã, daily, gets increase of life and destruction of diseases. Leaving sleep, the serpent (i.e. the Kundalinî) herself goes up; therefore, let the Yogi desirous of power practise this. He who practises always this best Sakti-Cãlana according to the instructions of his guru, obtains the Vigraha-siddhi which gives the powers of animã, etc., and has no fear of death. He who practises the Sakti-Cãlana for two seconds, and with care is very near to success. This Mudrã should be practised by the Yogi in the proper posture. These are the ten Mudrã whose equal there never was nor ever shall be; through the practice of any one of them, a person becomes a siddha and obtains success."