What is Mudra? (49)

Mudra is simply a posture or gesture in the sense of the arrangement of the whole body. Sublimated to perfection down to the smallest detail, āsana is MUDRA. This technique belongs to the group of exercises called sthula kriya and is the basic basis of Laya Yoga practices in its part called kriya yoga or raiyu yoga. Mudra is inextricably linked to the breathing process, so mudra is classified as a group of breathing practices generally called raiyu yoga. Mudra also belongs to the internal training of the power of ritual, hence the qualification of the practice to the section called kriya yoga.

It is important to note the basic fact that mudra is a gesture or posture of the entire body, and never applies to any part of the body. Mudra is in no way a hand gesture, as various types of swindlers claim. Mudra is always a gesture of the whole body! Learning the mudra posture usually begins with perfecting the way of meditative sitting, which is related to the most basic and essential āsana, commonly referred to as the lotus seat. In fact, the term āsana literally means: sitting. Mudra is therefore a perfect, powerful way of sitting in the lotus posture called padmāsana. People who have no idea about yoga sometimes think that mudra is only a gesture of the hand or fingers, unfortunately this is an error in reasoning showing their great incompetence in the subject of mudra. Mudra is always the posture of the whole body, as well as the internal posture of the mind.

Every sublime contemplative attitude brings with it an attitude of mind in the form of visualization or concentration. However, the basis of the mudra’s action is the ritual, heavenly power of the sacrificial gesture, which is performed thanks to the perfect sublimation and perfection of execution of such a sthula kriya. High-ranking devatas rest on the heavenly Thrones of Glory, constantly transmitting from this plane a divine spirit with a specific vibration, which is generated by the posture of their bodies seen as a whole. Mudra serves to receive this heavenly, angelic energy. The transmitter and receiver take the same shape. Then there is a flow of spiritual power. Its intensity depends directly on the degree of purification and spirituality. The more subtle the mind and the purer the entire psyche, the more powerful the flow of spiritual power from the heavenly Source. It is important that in the subtle mood and the purest state of spirit, we adopt the same attitude as the corresponding devata (angel), and heavenly grace, divine miraculous power will begin to flow through us.

Using only hand gestures as Mudra is like using only the microphone without the rest of the phone. We will listen in vain to the answers, although the mere fact of having a microphone can make us happy. So many people play with hand gestures, thinking they are practicing the mudrayana technique. Just look at any authentic Hatha Yoga manual to see that Mudra is a posture of the whole body. Even the so-called dance Mudras in sacred Śaivite dances are postures adopted by the whole body. It is enough to be aware of the figure of Nataraja depicted in Śiva figurines, called the Dancing Śiva, to understand that his Nataraja Mudra is a posture adopted by the whole body, and not only by the hands. The way the foot is placed, the angle at which the leg is lifted – all these are important parts of the entire path of Mahamudra, which is actually sthula kriya.

So let’s try to take a deeper look at this yogic technique, the name of which has recently become well-known, but trivialized. There are three interrelated and essentially inseparable processes for the practical invocation of angelic spiritual beings, devas: Mudra, Mantra and Yantra. Mudra is about the body, Mantra is based on the voice and word, and Yantra is a mind technique involving symbolic visualization.

In ancient times, especially in India, many basic truths and spiritual practices were transmitted openly and publicly. However, knowledge of more sublime and subtle practices bringing about the development of powerful spiritual powers was reserved only for a few adepts who were seekers of truth and the most faithful disciples of the Perfect Spiritual Master. The transmission of Mudra practice is one of those secrets better disclosed in the East, which are still available today only to a small circle of adepts gathered around Great Rishis, Perfect Masters or Avatars. In Hatha Yoga, Mudra is taught to adepts of the third classical lesson and as a whole lesson it is called Sthairyam, which means Constancy, calming or stabilizing energetically and spiritually. It is about achieving a constant flow of waves of spiritual inspiration and divine spiritual or charismatic power. In Laya Yoga, especially in the classical path of the Rudrayana vehicle, the transmission of Mudra practice is also classified as the third lesson, which we call Sthula Kriya, which means Physical Rituals.

Ancient Spirit Guides (Guru) gave many different tips about who can be introduced to the knowledge of Mudras and who cannot be introduced to them yet, because they are not prepared enough to be a vessel for receiving and transmitting subtle powers and spiritual potencies flowing from Heaven. Finishing the explanation of the basic technique of working with Mudras, Rishi Gheranda says this to his spiritually gifted disciple, Ćanda-Kapala: “I have explained to you the science of Mudras. They are respected by all Adepts (Initiates) and destroy decay and death. This should not be taught to just anyone. This secret should be closely guarded. Even for Devas (Angels) they are difficult. These are the Mudras (Attitudes) that lead to happiness and liberation. They can be taught to a sincere, calm, simple person, obedient to the Master’s advice, and to a person who comes from a good (spiritual) family. They destroy all diseases and increase the gastric (solar) fire if practiced daily. Death has no access to the yogis who practice them, nor does decay. Such people are not afraid of fire, water or wind (draft). Cough, asthma, enlarged spleen, leprosy, phlegm are verily removed by the practice of these Mudras. Oh Ćanda! What more could I tell you? In short, nothing compares to Mudras when aiming for quick results.” A teacher who can transmit powerful Mudras will look for a student who is sincere in his spiritual development, lives in simplicity of heart, is calm in his nature and, what’s more, obedient to the Guru’s instructions, all of which is not easy to achieve in the modern world. However, those interested can awaken their zeal to acquire the indicated spiritual properties as quickly as possible and get closer to the Perfect Spiritual Master who will be able to teach them the Secret of Mudras. Then they will become Adepts, Siddhas.

The spiritual development course offered in the form of the Hatha Yoga path requires good prior preparation by completing the Six Purification Rituals (Shatkarman) for several years and by stabilizing the training of body postures called Asanas. The Rudrayana Line, i.e. classical Laya Yoga, precedes the learning of these Sthula Kriyas with a stage called YAMA, which means self-mastery and control of actions so as not to fall into activities harmful to spiritual development, either with the body, mouth or even thought. This first stage is the stage of general moral purification and in Hatha Yoga it is realized through the Six Rituals of Śodhasana. The second stage of purification in the Rudrayana path is NIYAMA, and its adept, Niyamita, is a person who controls his own senses over the inclinations of material nature. A similar style of work is used on the paths of ancient Raja Yoga.

The practice of Mudras should not be given to people who tend to fall into fanatical and extreme views or ideologies. They could use the acquired wisdom and spiritual powers for nefarious purposes. The teacher should know that the student will no longer fall into the darkness, into the thrall of various quarrelling sects that only fight wars to prove their supposedly only truth. Vidya (spiritual knowledge) must be zealously protected and guarded by the disciple. The disciple must be willing to maintain secrecy and fidelity. You must not reveal secrets thoughtlessly or accidentally. The student of this lesson can no longer fall into ordinary worldly cares, worries and depressions, because the spiritual powers of Heaven with which he comes into contact by practicing Mudra techniques could destroy his psyche, deprive him of his mind or confuse his senses. Therefore, the disciple must be calm in his heart and mind. The student must achieve getting rid of the tendency to worry or care using the methods of the previous stages, and then he will be a worthy and suitable student of the spiritual path to inherit the knowledge about the power of Mudras from his Guru. When practicing Mudra techniques, one should never overeat, but rather fast more, and one should not gossip thoughtlessly and aimlessly. Rather, you need to pay attention to moderation, purposefulness and control over your speech. Words of blasphemy, curses and all gossip should generally be eliminated from our habits before we begin real training in working with the powers of Mudras. No wonder that the Gurus from the East, who are silent by nature, do not want to teach Europeans. You can die because of an insatiable stomach, blasphemies and curses, excessive talk and gossip, or staying in bad company. Inappropriate company is understood as a group of people with generally evil tendencies, such as criminal groups, lovers of drugs including alcohol, marijuana, opium or tobacco, or similar. Success will be achieved by a student who cultivates the joy of life, perseverance, courage, wisdom (moderation) and faith (unlimited trust). Not doing evil in deed, word or thought, sincerely speaking the truth, not reaching out for  someone else’s property, temperance, tolerance (bearing everything calmly), willpower (perseverance), compassion for one’s neighbour, modesty, following a vegetarian diet, cleansing oneself, all these qualities must be well-established.

The issue of nutrition is also important at the level of Mudra practice. The moderate diet that is recommended generally means a vegetarian diet. The following foods can be safely consumed by Mudra practitioners: wheat, rice, barley, milk, clarified butter (grita, ghee), honey, dried ginger, cucumbers, green legumes and good water. You should avoid foods that are too hot or too cold, too intense in flavour, hard to digest, or those containing alcohol. The fourth part of the stomach should be empty, which means not overeating, and food is offered to Śiva (God’s Grace). An adept of Mudrayana (the Vehicle of Mudra Practice) should eat food that is naturally sweet and thick, it can be mixed with milk, it must be nutritious and pleasant to the palate.

Aspirants should understand that Mudra techniques are intended to help awaken the infinite solar power of Heaven, which in yoga terms we call Kundalini. Rishi Svatmarama says about this practice: “As Ananta, the Lord of the Nagas, sustains this entire world with its mountains and forests, so Kundalini is the main basis of all Yoga practices.” The purpose of Mudra practices is also clearly shown by this Rishi (Seer, Sage) when he says: “The Yogi should carefully practice the various Mudras in order to awaken the great Devi (Angel, Goddess) Kundalini, who sleeps locked in the base of Sushumna (the central channel of the body’s energy).” If we are clear about the purpose of practicing Mudras and what the entire practice process is aimed at, we can consciously set out on the spiritual adventure marked by this circle of spiritual development.

The Six Rituals of Śodhasana in Hatha Yoga serve to purify the energy of the etheric body (Fohat), and as a result, moral purification. An intensive asana course activates and refines Prana, the vital force associated with the mental body. The Mudrayana exercise program prepares you to activate the solar energy called Kundalini. The term KUN means the command: “Be”, “Become”. This is the word that God used to bring the world into existence. Kundalini is the power of Adepts, Siddhas, it is the power of creation. We probably now understand why the secrets of practicing Mudra were and are so closely guarded.

Rishi Svatmarama lists ten basic Mudras for Raja Yoga based on Hatha Yoga methods. These mudras are the following techniques: Mahamudra, Mahabandha, Mahavedha, Klećarimudra, Uddhiyanabandha, Mulabandha, Jalandharabandha, Viparitakarani, Vajroli and Shaktićalani. Lord Śiva refers to them as Mudras destroying old age, decay and death. The above-mentioned Mudras impart six miraculous powers of ultimate cognition (Shatsiddhi), which in fact is the only known practice of developing the six fundamental aspects of Ajna Padma, the Lotus of the Third Eye. All this is based on the transformation of ten aspects (petals) of the Lotus of the Garden of Jewels (Manipuraka). The ten mentioned Mudras constitute the basic canon of classical advanced spiritual training in yoga, including the basic training of Mahavatar Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. Summarizing the transmission of these ten Mudras, Rishi Svatmarama says: “Adhinatha, Lord Śiva, described the ten Mudras. Through each of these Mudras, one attains, with Yama (self-restraint), the great Siddhi. One who learns secrets of these Mudras, passed down from Guru to Guru, will himself become a true Guru and can be called Iśvara (Perfect Spiritual Master) in human form. Whoever heeds the words of the Guru and carefully practices the Mudras will achieve Siddhi as well as the art of conquering death. Mahasiddhi, or Great Siddhi, means Kaivalya, liberation, deliverance from the conditions of the material plane. Siddhas are Mudrayana Masters, spiritually fulfilled persons. Mudra is essentially the beginning of a lesson in spiritual fulfilment.

The Third Lesson (Advancement Level) of Hatha Yoga is, of course, the practice of Mudras and Bandhas, of which there are basically 25 listed, which gives a general scheme of work at this level. Sthairyam, as we call this step in classical Hatha Yoga, serves to develop calmness and stability. Lord Śiva says this about the Mudras to his consort, Devi Parvati: “O Devi! Knowledge of all Mudras reaches the level of an adept (initiated). They should be kept secret and not revealed to just anyone. They give yogis happiness, but they are not easy to master even for Maruts (Air Angels).” Indian teachers often treat Europeans as potential just anyone, so rarely does a white person have any idea about Mudras. This lesson is missing in many European yoga courses. Instead of authentic learning of Mudras and Bandhas, you can find simplified “little finger mudras” courses especially for Europeans, arranged in such a way that they do not achieve anything special and do not learn the actual secret.

Asana is an essential class in Hatha Yoga before you can start practicing Mudras and Bandhas. The technique called Bandha is an easier and preliminary form of cleansing for the application of more perfect forms of Mudra. Bandha can be understood as a Mudra that intensively purifies and focuses consciousness. So much for the introduction about this lesson for those interested in actually practicing Hatha Yoga or Laya Yoga. Now let us list 25 classic Power Mudras, as they were given to me by my Guru, Swami Baba Śivananda of Darjeeling, for the effective practice of Laya Yoga:

  1. Maha Mudra;
  2. Nabho Mudra;
  3. Uddhiyana Bandha;
  4. Jalandhara Bandha;
  5. Mula Bhandha;
  6. Maha Bhandha;
  7. Maha Vedha Bandha;
  8. Klećari Mudra (Variations as in Akashi);
  9. Viparitakarani Mudra;
  10. Yoni Mudra;
  11. Vajroli Mudra;
  12. Śaktićalani Mudra;
  13. Tadagi Mudra;
  14. Manduki Mudra (also as Linga Mudra in several variations);
  15. Śambhavi Mudra;
  16. Panćadharana Mudra: Parthivi, Ambhani, Agneyi, Vayawi, Akaśi
  17. Paśini Mudra;
  18. Kaki Mudra;
  19. Matangi Mudra;
  20. Bhujangani Mudra;
  21. Prana Mudra;
  22. Bhućari Mudra;
  23. Akaśi Mudra (In hand position variations: Jnana, Gyana, Śunya, Vayu, Prithvi, Prana, Apana, Apana Vayu);
  24. Yoga Mudra (variants: Hrid, Sankhi/Shell, Varuna).

The basic session of introductory work with one Mudra lasts one Muhurta. This is approximately a good teaching hour because Muhurta is 1/30 of a day, i.e. 48 minutes. Mudra and Bandha techniques sometimes seem to overlap, and some of them may appear under different names, but the canon of these exercises should be considered absolutely basic. According to Rishi Svatmarama, the most important of the Mudras is Klećari: “There is no other Mudra than Klechari!” Fruitful Klechari is practiced while sitting in the full Lotus posture. The tongue is then rolled back to touch the uvula in the palate. The importance of this Mudra for deeper spiritual realization is confirmed by both Laya Yoga and Raja Yoga. Klećari erases all sins, removes the causes of aging, suffering and death. It brings relief from ailments, the desire to eat and sleep, and removes mental dullness and weakness. Karma and time lose their power over the adept remaining in the lotus posture of Klećari-Mudra.

Of course, in addition to the 25 classic Mudrayana techniques listed, there are quite a few varieties of advanced Mudra forms, which are usually combinations of several simpler basic forms or contain some specific processes related to breathing or deep concentration. While practicing Mudra, our concentration should be as intense as possible, and our breathing should be very slow, calm and deep. To effectively practice most Mudrayana methods, it is absolutely necessary to master Padmasana, the art of sitting in the lotus position or Siddhasana. The few exceptions are Mahamudra, Tadagimudra, Jnanamudra and Hridmudra. The Last Mudra is practiced in temples as a ritual placing of the hands in front of the heart during prayers and prostrations. Jnana (Ćin) Mudra is practiced in all meditative ways of sitting. However, the gift of wisdom comes only in the lotus position for which it is always recommended.

Two simple Mudras that are often seen in Eastern engravings of holy sages are Varamudra and Abhyamudra. The first is an inverted hand with fingers down, which symbolizes giving and granting, and the second is a hand with fingers up in a gesture of blessing, which is known as a symbol of dispelling worries and removing existential fears until the flow of bliss. Both are practiced in body postures appropriate to the forms that use them, so also usually in variants of lotus postures. The details of the positioning of the hands in these Mudras gain meaning and power in connection with the entire form or figure that we assume when performing the Mudra. The essence of Mudra practice is, in addition to appropriate breathing, concentration in the consciousness of appropriate heavenly spiritual figures, concentration in the vibration of a mantram or a symbol (Yantra) appropriate for Mudra. The forms of Akaśimudra as their special part include the positioning of the hands and even the fingers of the hand, however, this one detail should not be treated as the entire Mudra, and other aspects should be ignored, such as the fact that the forms of Akaśimudra contain Klećari and Śambhavimudra, i.e. the appropriate positioning of the eyes and tongue. All in the full lotus position, of course, and sometimes also in the form of Yogamudra, where we make a full forward bend from the lotus seat!

Jnana (Ćin), Vara, Abhya and Hridmudra are the best to practice when beginning to implement Mudrayana techniques. The last of the four is used in the Mahasadhana of Laya Yoga, which is an excellent preparation for deeper practice of Power Mudras. The simplified form of Pranamudra is developed into a series of breathing and energizing techniques even called Pranayoga. However, to ensure the real fruit of realization, great care must be taken to maintain the proper standard of practicing Mudra, otherwise the Old Art of Healing and Enlightenment could get lost among various simplifications made by people who do not have a deeper understanding of the teachings and practices of Yoga. Hum!

Many Blessings on your Path to Awakening and Realization!

Om Namaśśivaya! Hum!

Aćaryaćarya Swami Lalita-Mohan G.K.


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