Digital Rare Book:
The Esoteric Philosophy of the Tantras
Translated by Srischandra Basu
Published by Heeralal Dhole, Calcutta - 1887
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Shiva Samhita is a Sanskrit text on yoga, written by an unknown author. The text is addressed by the Hindu god Shiva to his consort Parvati ("Shiva Samhita" means "Shiva's Compendium"). It is one of three major surviving classical treatises on hatha yoga, the other two being Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The Shiva Samhita is considered the most comprehensive and the most democratic treatise on hatha yoga.
Many believe that Shiva Samhita was written in the 17th or 18th century, but in a 2007 translation James Mallinson explains that he has dated the text before 1500CE since it has been cited in many works believed to have been composed in the 17th century. Based on clues in the text Mallinson also believes that the Shiva Samhita was composed in or around Varanasi.
Mallinson says Shiva Samhita exposes a yoga teaching yet also calls itself a tantra; he also describes it as an eclectic collection of yoga lore. Shiva Samhita talks about the complex physiology, names 84 different asanas (only four of which are described in detail), describes five specific types of prana, and provides techniques to regulate them. It also deals with abstract yogic philosophy, mudras, tantric practices, and meditation.It emphasizes that even a common householder can practice yoga and benefit from it.
The first chapter mentions various methods of liberation and philosophical standpoints. The second chapter describes the nadis, the internal fire, and the working of the jiva. The third chapter describes the winds in the body, the importance of the guru, the four stages of the Yoga, the five elemental visualizations and four asanas in detail. The fourth chapter deals with the eleven mudras that can result in yogic attainments. The fifth chapter is the longest and most diverse—it describes obstacles to the liberation, the four types of aspirants, the technique of shadow gazing, the internal sound, the esoteric centers and energies in the body (such as the kundalini), the seven lotuses, the "king of kings of yogas", and a global mantra.
Many English translations of Shiva Samhita have been made. The earliest known English translation is by Shri Chandra Vasu (1884, Lahore) in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus" The translation by Rai Bahadur and Srisa Chandra Vasu in 1914, also in the series known as "The Sacred Books of the Hindus", was the first translation to find a global audience. However, it omits certain sections (such as vajroli mudra) and is considered inaccurate by some. In 2007, James Mallinson made a new translation to address these issues. The new translation is based on the only available critical edition of the text — the one publIshed in 1999 by the Kaivalya Dham Yoga Research Institute.
Parvati Worshipping Shiva
India, Madhya Pradesh, Datia, 1750-1800
Opaque watercolor, gold and silver on paper