What is the difference between Hatha Yoga and Natha Yoga?

Natha Yoga is a broad concept. It will be more correct to say Yoga Marga, in other words to say the Yogi’s way. Yoga Marga of a Natha Yogi is a phenomenon that should be considered as a specific life style, ideology, system of relationships, form of practices and much more. This order is regulated by established rules of the line of continuity of Natha Yogis and it is based on relationships of a Guru and his Disciple. Considering of what and how those relationships are built, we can make a conclusion about Yoga Natha. Obviously this knowledge can give only general understanding, but not real knowledge about the Yogi’s way. Those relations are something that reveals the essence of Yoga Marga. The Guru transfers the forms of Sadhana according to the aims and features of his disciple. Should be noted, that different forms of Sadhana can not be viewed separately, but should be considered as parts of a whole big process and this includes different forms of Yoga such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, different forms of worship in forms of tantric rituals and instructions on personal levels. Hatha Yoga is an equal part of the whole process that allows reaching the same goals through physical exercise practices, but it cannot be separated from the rest. If this will happen, the results will be minor. The energy that we gain through the practices of Hatha Yoga has to be directed to the self-realization through Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga. Only in this case the efforts can bring real results.

What do Natha Yogis think about other religions?

It should be taken to consideration that India is a multinational country with dozens of different directions of religions. Vedas were dominating 2 000 years ago in that region and became a base for many traditions. In the 13th century Muslims occupied India and they brought Islam to the country. 
From the 16th century colonialists from Portugal, France, England and Spain were controlling large territories of the country and managed to distribute some forms of Christianity. All those religions are preserved until now and some of them even acquired features of Hinduism. Nathism is wide and inhomogeneous concept. They look at Absolute as a Unity manifesting in different forms, and they think that the esoteric part of any spiritual practice is called Yoga. Even if it will not have the main attributes of Nathi ‘s Yoga, the mystical experience of comprehending is the same for everybody. The difference is only in terminology and names that were formed in different ethnics cultures. And it is not only the point of view; it is constant experience of penetration and fusion of ideas. Looking at Gorakshatath as a reincarnation of Shiva, Natha Yogis are saying that Shiva has a lot of manifestations in different forms and it doesn’t matter through which one of them we comprehend transcendental experience. More then that, Gorakshanath is also a son of Emptiness, that dissolves all the forms and only unmanifested Absolute or Paramatman remains.
This point of view by itself cannot imply to any restrictions and limitations in the way to comprehension of God and this fact opens the doors to Nathism to people of any religion and believes without ethnic or national belonging.

How to use the experience from Yoga practice in every day life? How to find a balance and to continue to live daily life with acquired knowledge and transformed consciousness?

Sooner or later the results of practice should express themselves through Tyaga and Vairagya. Literally translated: Tyaga is voluntary refusal and Vayragya is renunciation and detachment. Let’s look at the content of those meanings. Voluntary refusal will have its value only in the situation if it will happen naturally and will not create an inside conflict. Tyaga must form itself on a base of inside experience and full understanding of necessity to create changes. The meaning of Vayragiya should be understood as an absence of desire to sensual experience. Both of those phenomenons are re-evaluation of main values.
By gaining this experience you have to conscious yourself in a new quality and draw appropriate conclusions regarding your manifestations and activities. The balanced body and mind will create an opportunities for other connections and interactions. But the main value is that if a man will stay balanced, the situations and people around him gradually will start to resonate to his shape .By developing himself through Sadhkana a man can maintain his new qualities and live regular life but this life will be full of meaning and content.

What does Yoga say about physical illness?

The physical illness may have 3 sources: Karmic, genetic and obtained. If as a result of bad actions a man gets bad Karma, it can be manifested through the illness of his body. The disease can be inherited from his parents. Also, the disease can be obtained if a man gets into undesirable situation for his body or his consciousness. A modest and simple life, food and demands, wholesome actions will allow to avoid at least the main problems of the body, spirit and mind. For many people is even difficult to imagine such a possibility. A modern man is obsessed with constant consumption and hoarding. This fact is the main cause of disappointments, frustrations and worries. And obviously such conditions cannot reflect positively into human health.

What does Yoga say about love and sex between a man and a woman?

Yoga does not study separately relationships between a man and a woman. The idea of Yoga is to bring a consciousness of a human being to a higher level. All the ways bring us to God, but which way to follow each one of us has to decide by himself. If the family life or relationships help us to follow this way, then we must not forget that some illusions and attachments may become obstacles. A man should always understand his priorities. Sincere relationships between two people are something that will give us an opportunity to understand what love and feelings are all about. Within some period of time it may transform to a different level of understanding of yourself and the world around you.

A human body is created perfectly. Why do Natha Yogis cut their ears?

The precutting of auricular cartilage is connected to one of the forms of initiations that are called Chira Diksha. The word Chira means a cut. After this initiation big earrings are passed through the cut that are called Cundala. The cut in the center of the ear is a connection of two energy centers that are linked with the control of sexual energy. This action allows a Yogi to sublime qualities of this energy. And even more than mentioned above, this act is also some kind of a challenge for a Disciple, the one who has decided to follow this way and through pain to prove his determination to become a Nath.

What is the minimum amount of time that a practicing student living a normal western life should spend for his practice?

A lot depend on the aims and possibilities of a student. The Guru through which the Sadhana is passed, has to be familiar with the way of life of the student in order to choose proper methods. The Sadhkana should have a holistic nature and has to include in itself all necessary things that will allow the student to develop. The Sadhkana should be explained in details by the Guru and has to respond to the needs of the student. The student has to have a very clear idea about with what he is interacting and what his goals are. To answer this question straight, we can say that if the Sadhkana includes a complex of asans, pranayama, dhyana and some texts for worshiping, most likely it should take from 1 hour and 15 minutes up to 2 hours per day. The Sadhkana should prepare one to his daily duties and in the same time it should develop his potential.

What are the main qualities of a Mantra?

Mantra is energy of higher consciousness that manifests itself in the sound. When a man recites mantra with goal-setting and understanding the meaning of it with full concentration, the conciseness of a man begins to absorb qualities of one or another aspect of the unmanifested. It is vitally important for the mantra to be transferred to the disciple by a Guru from a Tradition. In our times of the Internet when we all have access to any source of information, some may think that it is enough to find mantras online, to enunciate occasionally and that this may bring results. This is a big mistake, because in such a case the Mantra will not have the power that it should have. More than that, at the moment when the Guru is passing the mantra, he is instructing what is the best way to use it. It is so called rules of Anushthana, i.e. that period of time that is necessary for Mantra to entrench in the subtle body of a student and manifest it’s qualities. It is important to understand this moment. If to treat it in any different way, the Mantra will not implement itself, a man will lose time and would be approved in his delusions. By the way, such a childish approach could be formed only in the West where people do not have enough understanding of the practice of Yoga and Tantra.

When does one obtain the right to start teaching Yoga?

It has to be clear that Yoga consists of various layers of knowledge and experience, and the teacher not only must theoretically gain them, be he must appear to be the manifestation of that knowledge and experience. It is not enough for a Yoga teacher just to have knowledge of a particular subject, he must understand life and people in general. First of all, by teaching Yoga, a teacher takes responsibility on himself for what he is teaching. Second, in Yoga tradition there is such a phenomenon as blessing from Gurus by the line of continuity for transferring the knowledge. This fact gives very big power to the one who is teaching and to his students. This is a complicated and subtle issue. There is a connection formed between a Guru and a student, and this connection exists beyond time and space. It is a special energy that connects all Gurus of the line of continuity. In this case a Guru and a disciple will always be supported by the Tradition.

What are the basic principles of a Yogi’s nutrition?

A lot of principles of the life of Yogis such as nutrition, practices, clothing and outlook and many others were formed under the influence of environment, time and ideology. Yogis had always been ascetic and lived very simple life. Life that was not overburdened by something that can create attachments and force to spend too much time on it. This outlook cannot be a reason for a cult of food and its diversity.
There are straight directions in Texts how Yogis should eat:
«1.60. Moderate diet — it is milk and sweet products dedicated to Shiva, while leaving a quarter of the stomach empty.
1.61. Yogis cannot eat spicy, sour, salty and hot; nuts and leaves of betel, rice oil and sesame, mustard, vine, fish and meat of animals, cheese, butter, small peas, fruit of Chaasa and garlic.
1.62. Food that is chilled, heated, staled, over salted Yogis has to avoid as unhealthy food.
1.64. Yogi can use safely the following products: wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee from buffalo milk, sweets, honey, dry ginger, cucumbers, vegetables and good water. This is beneficial for those who practice Yoga.
1.65. Yogi should eat reinforcing food—sweet, prepared with ghee or milk – this type of food increases the mood, improves body conditions by matching its wishes.»
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
As you can see, the Texts don’t have descriptions of diets, calories and recipes. The main principle is moderation and simplicity. However, it should be understood that the Texts were written for a special category of people who lived a very specific life, and their aim was practice only. In other words, not everything what we can read in texts could be suitable for people that have just started their practice of Yoga. From the times that the Texts were written, food and water have gone through major alterations. All this should be taken to consideration. Also the Texts are mentioning that Yogis shouldn’t eat meat. Why? First of all because eating meat is breaking the rule of Ahimsa, the principal of no violence. Even if a Yogi himself did not kill an animal, he still participates in this action indirectly by buying meat for his lunch. Second reason is that the meat and fish has Tamasic nature. After consuming this type of a food one becomes lazy and sluggish. The consciousness will lose the sharpness of perception, and the body will become sedentary. What is not less important, when the animal is killed, the fear of death of a living being in a form of subtle energy will remain in its flesh and blood, and once a man eat this meat this energy goes into his body and into his consciousness as well, leaving unnecessary Sanskara in his subtle body. But to understand this point of view is advisable only through experience. Those ideas shouldn’t be used when one is not ready for them, thus instead of getting any valuable experience and proper understanding, one is lead to an internal conflict instead.

Can practicing Yoga change a person?

The practice is an instrument of transformation and should be understood only in this way. It shouldn’t be only useful pastime. For this purpose the practice should be holistic and preserve spiritual base. But the practice by itself is not creating an environment for changes and we always have a question: is the man ready to change himself? How much does he want those changes and what is he ready to do for that? Often, people like only the idea about changes. Real Sadhana can not change a man, but it creates the proper background for one to demonstrate readiness to change his point of view and determination to act. Only then the practice will have the meaning and will become a way of transformation.

The philosophy of Nath often reminds some philosophical ideas of Hinduism, but what is the peculiarity of Nath’s views?

General philosophical ideas of Hinduism, Yoga and Tantra indeed underlie in Nathism, but the Naths emphasize on practical comprehension of the Ultimate Reality through forms of Yoga. Every practice is actually a manifestation of philosophical conceptions. Natha Yogis think that only through gained experience the philosophy can have a meaning and will become knowledge. A connection of individual soul and the Ultimate Spirit are implemented through qualities of asans, pranayama, dhyana, mantra and forms of upasana. The emptiness as an ideal of a NathaYogi is implemented in a non-dual state of mind and detachment in forms of actions.

Why do you need attributes?

Atriblutes of Naths are not only different symbols, they are instruments for practice. They are used in different forms of Sadhana. We are reciting mantras on attributes; this action allows implementing connection with the Guru and the Tradition, also giving additional strength to an attribute. The fact is that when a Guru in a moment of transferring Diksha, gives an attribute, the subject keeps in itself the strength of Sanskara, in other words an energy of changes that supports the Yogi on his Way.

Yogi Kripanath Maharadj (translated in English by Maria Kanevski)

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