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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 180-184

Śiva Saṃhitā : A less familiar compendium on ancient yoga

1 Department of Rasashastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, Institute of Post Graduate Teaching & Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar - 361 008, Gujarat, India
2 Department of Basic Principles including drug research, Institute of Post Graduate Teaching & Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar - 361 008, Gujarat, India

Date of Web Publication18-May-2015

Correspondence Address:
Rohit Sharma
Department of Rasashastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, Institute of Post Graduate Teaching & Research in Ayurveda, Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar - 361 008, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0257-7941.157167

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How to cite this article:
Sharma R, Amin H, Prajapati P K. Śiva Saṃhitā : A less familiar compendium on ancient yoga. Ancient Sci Life 2015;34:180-4

How to cite this URL:
Sharma R, Amin H, Prajapati P K. Śiva Saṃhitā : A less familiar compendium on ancient yoga. Ancient Sci Life [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Mar 29];34:180-4. Available from: https://www.ancientscienceoflife.org/text.asp?2015/34/3/180/157167

Author: Unknown

Translator: Srisa Chandra Vasu

Year: 2002

Pages: 87

Price: ₹ 250

Binding: Hardcover

Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi

  Introduction Top

Śiva Saṃhitā is a practical text, which seeks out the mysterious sources and tracks of subtle energy flowing inside the body. Mythologically, the text is supposed to have been written by Matsyendra, the man who heard the orations of yoga from Lord Śiva, when it was being told to the latter's consort Pārvatī. The title of the text means: "The collection of Śiva's vāṇī (words) which bring us to Śivatva (salvation)."

  Prediction of Period Top

Though the Śiva Saṃhitā is a prehistoric text; however, modern learning has dated the text to be written in circa 17 th[1],[2] or 18 th century, [3] probably in Vāraṇāsi city. An English translation dates the text before 1500 BC. [4] However, it has been cited by many works believed to have been composed during 17 th century.

  The Author, Eminence and Place Top

As the complete manuscript for the text is not available, the author or compiler of this text is unidentified. Several English, Hindi and other translations of Śiva Saṃhitā based on accessible manuscripts are available today. It was first published in English in 1914 by Chandra Vasu. Despite their good intentions, many of the compilers of the book have not indicated as to which Sanskrit manuscript (s) they used, or how they used them. They also not have mentioned the Vajroli Mudrā concept of Śiva Saṃhitā in their translation. Few years later, two more Hindi translations were released by other publication houses on 1952 and 1974. Some more books on the text were also published. [5] However, clear meanings of the verses were not elucidated. The Kaivalyadhama yoga center, Pune, Maharashtra published the "descriptive catalog of yoga manuscripts" of the Institute and screened 13 available manuscripts of the text along with three previous published books. A comprehensive analysis of text was made and in 1999 and a Hindi translation was published by the Institute, which is considered to be authentic and it highlights the hidden concepts of the root text. Researchers of Kaivalyadhama have included Śiva Saṃhitā among the five basic Haṭha yoga texts viz., Haṭha Pradīpikā, Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, Śiva Saṃhitā, Gorakṣa Śataka and Siddha Siddhānta Paddhati. [6]

No rigid critical view is available that could reveal the identity of the original composer of this text. However, many authors in their translations have indicated Matsyendra as its original composer.

Evidence on place of the composition can be deduced from the fifth chapter of the text. Here Iḍā and Piṅgalā nāḍis are related to Gaṅgā and Yamunā rivers, and the central Suṣumnā nāḍi with the Sarasvatī river which is a renowned subterranean river which is said to unite with Gaṅgā and Yamunā at the holy place Prayāga (modern-day Allahabad). The Gaṅgā is instead equated with Suṣumnā and also Iḍā and Piṅgalā with the Vāraṇa and Asi rivers respectively, miniature streams of the Gaṅgā which flow in Vāraṇāsi. Thus, this text sounds to be written in or around Vāraṇāsi.

  Main Corpus Top

A close examination of the text reveals that it borrows certain features from Haṭhayoga Pradīpikā and has even taken some of the verses verbatim. While this may indicate that both texts belong to the same sampradāya (lineage), Śiva Saṃhitā seems to be a more elaborate expansion on the subtle workings of prāṇa in the body. This is quite problematic because we may suspect that any of these esoteric experiences be presupposed by proper practical applications to engage in, yet on this later theme the text is secretive and urges us to find the guidance of a proper Guru. Present text also elucidates yoga as the purification of the body, mind, and senses; it is the gradual liberation from these afflictions rather than continued imprisonment by them.

  Subject Matter Top

The text consists of 642 verses divided into five chapters (paṭala). [6] It is such an eclectic collection of yogic lore that a thorough review of its contents would be nearly as long as the text itself. However, the topics covered in its five chapters can be summarized as follows:

Chapter one (Prathamapaṭala)

It gives a detailed description of jñāna (eternal true knowledge), outcome of karmas various methods of liberation and other philosophical perspectives. How to surpass all hurdles faced by Jīva in journey of life by experiences of teachings of Laya yoga in Śiva Saṃhitā is portrayed.

Chapter two (Dvitīyapaṭala)

It mainly deals with an elaborate description of Tattvas, the subtle energy channels (Nāḍi) and nerve centers operating inside the body. An exposition of the location and purpose of Kuṇḍalinī, Vaisvanara as the internal fire (that digests food and support the body with life or vigor) and the workings of the Jīvatma or vital principle that dwell in the body are well explained.

Chapter three (Tritīyapaṭala)

It describes ten Vāyu (Prāṇa) in the body with their respective functioning, the importance of the Guru, Prāṇāyāma exercises, NāḍiŚodhana (nerve purification methods) with its significance, four stages of yoga, eight Siddhi and four Āsanas.

Chapter four (Caturthapaṭala)

It gives details of magical powers of ten Mudrā, which once practiced well, result in various yoga attainments and gradual realization of one's innermost nature of spirit. Awakening of Kuṇḍalinī to become free from the cycle of life and death is also mentioned.

Chapter five (Pañcamapaṭala)

This chapter is the longest and most diverse. It describes the obstacles in liberation that may disrupt the practitioner from his path. Four types of yoga, four types of aspirants, the magical act of shadow gazing, feeling of magical bell or cloud thundering like internal sound just before liberation and reconciling into holy soul, practices of Pratyāhāra (sense withdrawal) and Dhāraṇā (concentration) on the inner Cakra (energy centers) including Kuṇḍalinī are elaborately mentioned. The wonders of seven lotuses, Rājayoga, and Japa as a mysterious technique for aspirant have been described very admirably by the author.

  Discussion Top

The first chapter mainly covers the philosophical aspects of Śiva Saṃhitā. As is the case with any Ayurvedic or ancient yogic texts, it is a tradition to have an invocatory verse for divinity and by way of the invocatory verse, to mention the purpose for composition of the text. The first verse of this text says, "The Jñāna (eternal knowledge) alone is perpetual with no beginning and no end; no other material exists than this." The key target of this text thus seems to arouse this Jñāna within a person. In later verses, it is claimed that the text was articulated by Lord Śiva himself and that this text composes of the complete science of yoga and is secret and meant only for his devotees who are pure inside.

Śiva Saṃhitā says that there are many texts which teach us to find the way to liberation of the soul; but most of them are confusing and thus leave the person puzzled. There is much incongruity among the philosophies of most texts about paths to achieve the transcendent state, and the people get trapped in dilemma. Yoga is recommended as a superior way to awaken an aspirant and establish him in ultimate paradise where he is capable to realize the truth. The author stresses that knowledge of this divine text is to be kept secret and is to be given to person who is pure hearted, honest and devotee of Lord Śiva.

Caitanya Ātmā (divine consciousness) is said to exist equally within all objects. The whole world is created from it. Its existence is constant and nonchanging and not subject to decay or transformation. Jīva (soul) is trapped in the world of Māyā (delusion about what is real) which causes a superimposition on the soul, preventing it from realizing its true nature. The text thus explains the process to awaken the inmost essence of spirit and to keep us removed from Māyā.

The finishing verse of this chapter says that this body is created by Brahma (divine soul) and it is a pool of our own Karma and a medium to experience both pain and pleasure as an outcome of Karma of previous birth. Once the Karma outcomes are experienced completely, the Jīva ultimately get merged in deity.

The second chapter gives a detailed description of subtle operating energy forces which are stored inside our body. The Ayurvedic concept loka-puruṣasāmya that is, "puruṣo'yaṃ lokasammitaḥ" or "yathā brahmāṇḍe tathā piṇḍe" [7] is reflected in the initial verses of chapter, where human body parts are compared with the nonliving matter of nature. The body is described as having a solid Mount Meru in the middle (the spinal column) encircled within seven energy centers. As long as there are life force and breath in the body, the inner organs or body system continue functioning; however, once the life force stops, the breathing ends, and the body deteriorates back into the elements it came from. The main factory of this life force is stored within the soma or bindu (nectar of life), situated on top of the spinal column.

A total of 350,000 Nāḍis (energy channels) reside inside the body. Of those, 14 are important and the prime Nāḍis. Among them are Iḍā, Piṅgalā and Suṣumnā; the Suṣumnā being the superior one. Iḍā and Piṅgalā are opposite forces with Suṣumnā at their center. A yogi should practice to concentrate the life forces to central Suṣumnā to achieve harmony, supreme ecstasy, and immortality. At the base of the Suṣumnā channel, there is Kuṇḍalinī, imagined to be a serpent that is coiled up 3½ times around the yoni.

Vaiśvānara (agni or fire) dwells inside the body, and it is said to be born from a portion of god's own energy. This fire digests food, increases life force; gives strength, nourishment, health and destroys diseases. A wise yogi should surrender food into this fire every day to keep optimal health and spiritual alertness. This Vaiśvānara is also mentioned in Bhagavadgīta as - ahaṃ vaiśvānaro bhūtvā prāṇināṃ dehamāśritaḥ. [8] The same digestive fire is also described in detail in the Ayurvedic classics. In a commentary of Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya, the word Vaiśvānara is used in context of God. [9] On other hand, jāṭharāgni (digestive fire) is stated as Bhagavān, Īśvara etc., in Suśruta Saṃhitā. [10] Therefore, it can be assumed that Vaiśvānara is nothing but jāṭharāgni.

lives within this body and is garlanded with endless desires and thus hooked to the body by Karma. Its good acts produce happiness, enjoyment and lead toward the primal soul, whereas sinful acts will produce suffering, misery and distancing from that holy soul.

The third chapter describes Prāṇa as a life force, which is seated within the lotus of the heart and is covered by the vĀsana (desires) of the Jīva. Prāṇa is further subdivided into ten vāyus (energy winds), which are responsible for various operating functions of the body.

This text recommends that the seeker should find a proper Guru, who can teach this subtle yoga science. Guru is like one's own mother, father and deity; therefore it is emphasized to serve and please him well, because he is the helping hand to avoid many pitfalls in our life and helps to awaken the jīva to the higher self. To attain siddhi, a true aspirant should have faith, care, dedication to Guru and control on his own senses.

Method of practicing nāḍi-śodhana Prāṇāyāma (alternate nostril breathing for purification of the Nāḍi) is explained in a simple way. If it is practiced in accurately daily, the follower will be capable to control vāyu and can overcome all sufferings. Appropriate diet, lifestyle and moral character of a true sādhaka (yoga practitioner) are mentioned. Along with four stages of Prāṇāyāma (the ārambha [the state of beginning], ghāta [the state of co-operation of self and higher self], paricaya [knowledge] and niṣpatti [the final consummation] avasthā), eight siddhis and other spiritual benefits achieved through it are mentioned. Prāṇāyāma helps to achieve a long life devoid of diseases, illness or suffering. The chapter concludes by stating that there are 84 Āsanas (yogic postures), but emphasizes on only four Āsanas (siddhāsana, padmāsana, ugrāsana, and svastikāsana) of principal importance with their respective benefits, viz., siddhāsana: To practice regulation of the breath and to attain quick consummation of yoga, padmāsana: To facilitate harmonious flow of vital airs throughout the body and to ward off all diseases, ugrāsana: To obtain all the siddhis, and svastikāsana: To obtain vāyu-siddhi and immunity from diseases.

The fourth chapter illustrates with a detailed explanation, 10 types of mudrās viz., mahāmudrā, mahābandha, mahāvedha, khecarī, jālandhara, mūlabandha, viparītakaraṇa, uḍḍyāna, Vajroli and śakticālana. Their utility is in sealing the energy from within, and to gradually direct one's vāyu or prāṇa toward the base of the central Suṣumnā, and then awake the dormant Kuṇḍalinī, make it to enter the Brahmarandhra, so that one achieves siddhi and subsequently Mokṣa. Each of the cakra is associated with various physico-psychological patterns and once the Prāṇa reaches and explores them, the person will experience a supreme state of bliss and refinement. The final destination of prāṇa is the Sahasrāracakra; only then the jīva merges with the primal soul.

Śiva Saṃhitā, like all other yoga texts, emphasizes to keep knowledge of these mudrās secret, like a box of jewels, and says that this knowledge will only awaken under the guidance of a Guru. In Vajroli mudrā the text explains importance of keeping hold on bindu (śukradhātu) within body for longevity and attainment of yogasiddhi as - "maraṇaṃ bindupātena jīvanaṃ bindudhāraṇe" (death by the fall of bindu and life by retention of bindu). Ayurvedic texts also emphasize to retain śukradhātu for healthy and long life as - "retomūlaṃ ca jīvitam" [11] and "śukrāyataṃ balaṃ puṃsāṃ." [12]

The fifth chapter gives details about the obstacles in yoga practice. Some obstacles mentioned are -company of man with women, luxurious life, engagement in excessive enjoyments, using ornaments etc., It is noteworthy that they also discuss obstacles that may arise from a shallow knowledge of yoga or from obsessions with the practice in general or from being too fundamentalist in any matter. It is advised to have an in-depth knowledge of yoga before practicing it.

The sādhaka is classified into four levels-mild, moderate, intense, and more intense. The first level is for persons of little enthusiasm, who find faults with their teachers and who are of a weak character. The second level is for those of a more moderate nature, who are liberal minded, merciful, honest and sweet spoken. The third level is for those that are steady-minded, self-determined, full of energy and faith, and devotees of Guru. The highest level is for those that are full of energy, enthusiastic, keen to learn, know the yoga śāstra (yogic science), judicious in their diet, fearless and with control over their senses. The time required for success in the yoga practice is only 3 years for the aspirant of the highest level while 12 years for those at the lowest level. The aspirants in the middle two categories take 6 and 9 years respectively.

Four types of yoga are described - Mantrayoga, Haṭhayoga, Layayoga and Rājayoga. Mantrayoga and Layayoga are recommended for the aspirants of the first two levels, Haṭhayoga for the third level, and all types of yoga for the final level. Rājayoga is described as the highest bliss that awaits the genuine practitioner. However, it is not easy to attain this state, and it needs proper mind control, strong will, discipline and enthusiasm, as found in the sādhaka of the fourth level. Siddhāsana is described as the best Āsana, kumbhaka to be the best Prāṇāyāma, khecarī the best mudrā, and nāda the best laya.

The text suggests certain places to focus ones energy to ascend to higher states of yoga. The inner radiant force of the Kuṇḍalinī is the guide for the practitioner to experience new subtle landscapes by passing through six cakras. These cakras possess their own inherent qualities and various siddhis (perfections) that comes when the energy within them are balanced.

The text has beautifully narrated the importance of practice of japa or Mantra sādhanā (recitation of a Mantra) to achieve beneficial results. The text concludes by stressing that this sacred teaching of Śiva is to be kept confidential, and only the wise and eligible people should learn it. The final verses of chapter state that without yoga, a person is merely living for the sake of sensual enjoyments. It is further suggested that this yoga is not merely to escape the world, but that it is a practice equally for those that are in the world.

The contribution

Indian concept of yoga alike Indian alchemy (Ayurvedic Rasaśāstra) has its roots in tantric literature and is dedicated to Lord Śiva. [13] Śiva Saṃhitā is an important tantra and a compilation of teachings not found elsewhere in Haṭhayoga canon. Unlike other manuals of Haṭhayoga, it does not teach a six- or eight-limbed yoga. Its Prāṇāyāma is strikingly simple, and it only mentions pratyāhāra and samādhi in passing. It's most systematic and thorough teaching is on mudrā, found in chapter four. Complementing this, many subtle body visualizations and Mantra techniques are found in the text. The beautiful meditation methods often mentioned have no parallels in other Haṭhayoga texts. Another feature of the text, which sets it apart from other works on Haṭhayoga is that it makes no mention of the Nātha school of yogis, traditionally said to be the originators of Haṭhayoga.

  Present Scenario Top

Yoga education has undergone a transition to adjust the times. Despite busy lifestyles, yoga is popular today among several sects and nations. There is a large population of yoga practitioners which tries to follow fast-track yoga practices to improve the quality of life, but they tend to keep away from the real path due to lack of proper guidance. Nāḍi śodhana Prāṇāyāma along with other breathing techniques, various Āsanas and relaxations or meditation methods mentioned in present text can be employed by a physician to help his patients or may be utilized by a healthy citizen for attaining vitality, disease free life and for spiritual awakening. A lot of published clinical data are available today ascertaining and proving the healing and wellness promoting potentials of these yoga techniques. It is, therefore, the present need to bring outsource texts of yoga. If these texts are thoroughly studied, they can bring to light many of buried secrets which can be helpful in the fields of therapeutics and provide appropriate lifestyle methods for wellbeing. However, this area of science largely remains untouched by many of its followers. This lag in bringing out the practical utility of knowledge is one of the barriers in understanding many aspects of this subject and its wider acceptance.

  Conclusion Top

Yoga works on all aspects of the person: The physical, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual; and the follower is made able to obtain Siddhi and reach the ultimate goal called Mokṣa. Among various texts written on this discipline, Śiva Saṃhitā is an important text and a collection of yoga teachings. It teaches us how to shed the subtle layers of Karma and realize the inherent state of bliss by getting a true reflection of divinity. This text, if elaborated properly has the potential to change many concepts of yogic science in current practice, and it could serve as a guide for a yoga practitioner for his inner transformation, spiritual awakening and physical well-being.

  References Top

Available from: http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~keutzer/Kundalini/kunda/-bib-web.html. [Last accessed on 2013 March 30].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Siva_Samhita/id/62066. [Last accessed on 2013 March 30].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Samhita. [Last accessed on 2013 March 31].  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: http://www.Yogavidya.com/Yoga/ShivaSamhita.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013 March 31].  Back to cited text no. 4
Goutam C, editor. Shiva Samhita. Reprint edition. Bareili: Sanskriti Sansthan; 1996.  Back to cited text no. 5
Swami M, editor. Shiva Samhita. I st ed. Preface, Pune: Kaivalyadhama, Shrimanmadhava Yogamandir Samiti; 1999. p. 1-18.  Back to cited text no. 6
Tripathi B, editor. Charaka Samhita of Agnivesha; Sharira Sthana. Reprint edition. Ch. 5, Verse 3. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Surbharati Prakashana; 2004. p. 897.  Back to cited text no. 7
Anonymous. Bhagvat Geeta. 12 th ed. Bombay: International Krushnabhavan Sangh Publication, Bhakti Vedanta Trust; 1993. p. 594.  Back to cited text no. 8
Shastri HS, editor. Ashtang Hridya of Vaagbhatta; Sutra Sthana. Reprint edition. Ch. 7, Verse 22. Varanasi: Choukhamba Sanskrit Sansthana; 2010. p. 131.  Back to cited text no. 9
Acharya YT, editor. Sushrut Samhita of Sushruta; Sutra Sthana. Reprint edition. Ch. 35, Verse 27. Varanasi: Choukhambha Orientalia; 2009. p. 154.  Back to cited text no. 10
Mishra S, editor. Bhaishajya Ratnavali of Sen GD; Rajayakshma Adhikar. Reprint edition. Ch. 14, Verse 7. Varanasi: Choukhambha Surbharati Prakashana; 2009. p. 404.  Back to cited text no. 11
Shastri B, editor. Yoga Ratnakar of Anonymous. 2 nd ed. Ch. 1, Verse 10. Varanasi: Choukhamba Sanskrit Series; 1973. p. 2.  Back to cited text no. 12
Mishra SN. Ayurvedeeya Rasashastra. Reprint ed. Ch. 1, Verse 20. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; 2009. p. 57.  Back to cited text no. 13


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