As a Single collected, coordinated and systematized scince, Yoga, however had been prevailing as a discipline to set an equilibrium among the three fileds - Body, the mind and the spirit. Indeed a very very long and inderterminable period must have elapsed before what is available to us the Yoga in its present form.
According to some authorities, however, the ernliest historical evidence of Yoga is available to us in the form of terracota seal excavated in the beginning of the present century at mohengo-dharo in sind, now in pakistan. This seal depicts the Hindu god shiva sitting in yogic posture, with a hooded serpent standing over him. This seal according to the assessment of Archeologists and historians, is a product of third B.C. A century later as the modern chronologists opine that there flourished a person called Patanjali reputed even as a Muni (sage) and a Rsi (seer) , who believed to have molded into shape all the extant knowledge of yoga and reduced the same into pithy aphorisms in a compilation entitled the 'yoga sutra' the earliest text on Yoga available with us even to this day. Though 'yoga' as a term does appear sporadically in several ethical writings of that period, notably in Upanishads (Katha IV 11,18 Shvetashvatara VI, 13) ascribed to the sixth century B.C. as a compact science 'Yoga' is found only in Patanjala Yogasutra.
An undated work on yoga entitled Shivasamhita, indicating the fundamentals of yoga as emanated from the mouth Lord Shiva, is one another text on yoga.
Gheranda Samhita, presumably a later work on yoga, also corroborates this by recording that the secret of this science has been described in detail by Lord 'Siva'.
The venerated Bhagavad-Gita, which is a part of epic Mahabharata, is one of earlier texts consisting the teaching of yoga by Lord Krishna himself.
At any rate it is clear that the knowledge of yoga in one form or another did prevail in India as long as the seventh century B.C.
Yoga considered to be a perfect science of Indian origin, is based on the principles of Physiology and physics. This science lays down the procedure for gradual rising of man to the ultimate peace of Samadhi. In which state nothing ever disturbs the yogi's psychosis. This is a science not hypothetically but through evident and timely manifestations of great yogis, achieving perfection since time immemorial.
The preliminary stage of Yoga consisting yogic postures (only) Asanas, which is regarded as Bahir yoga paves for bodily suppleness and flexibility. Yoga practices are designed to develop the body in a typical manner to make it suitable to receive and digest still higher and rigorous practices. Various postures bring about changes physical or otherwise which need further harnessing. Various postures (Asanas) are prescribed to be practiced for activating highly potential energy centers which are otherwise latent and lie dormant. Once the Asanas are perfected there will be continuous process of activation of various centers of Nervous system and Brain in order to enable the practitioner to be ready to pass on to successively higher states. The internal yoga which is supposed to be the platform for higher states to be achieved comprises Dhyana, Dharana, Pratyahara and Samadhi. There is an inseparable inter-disciplinary relation can be found among the literatures of Shaivism, Shakta and Yoga. The koula, which forms, one of the most powerful Shakta schools, has a long history extending to 1500 years. Though both Shakta and Shiva have had their (origins) roots traced in Kashmir, Nepal and Kamarupa (Assam), they have become popular all over India and across the globe to considerable extent, over the years.
Matsyendra Samhita, one of the important texts, dealing with yogic practices of koula school, a sub-sect within Shakta tantric tradition, remains unfamiliar to most of the readers who even pursue arcane disciplines. Bengal which has been a home of 'Tantrisam' from ancient times, produced the most illustrious and legendry figure siddha Matsyendranatha. His fame as a supreme siddha endowed with super-human yogic powers traveled far and wide. As usual is the case with confusion of fixing the dates of even renowned poets and legends it is no different either in case of Matsyandranatha. His date has been fixed variously by various scholars oscillating between as late as 13th century to as early as 6 century A.D. Dr. S.K.Chatteyee has tried to fix him to have flourished in 13 A.D. on the basis of Mystical tradition of Maharashtra. In the much venerated work Jnaneswari of saint Jnanadeva, there is a mention of list of teachers beginning with Adinatha who is none other than Lord Shiva himself, followed by Matsyendranatha, Goraksha, Gahini and Nivrittinatha. As this work is hailed to be of 1290 AD, as well as Nivrittinatha, who happened to be the elder brother and teacher of Janadeva, Matsyendranatha must have flourished in about 1210 A.D. This mention again corroborated by another Marathi saint Bahina Bali (1628 AD) Disciple of Tukarama, who has given the order of his teachers beginning with Tripurari (Shiva) Matsyendranatha, Goraksha, Gahininatha, Nivrittinatha and Jnanadeva.
The Kashmir tradition however takes his date back to 5th or 6th century A.D. mentioning the magnum opus Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta, wherein there is a list of Koula teachers given, who have successively preceded the writer. He says the origin of the Koula mode of spiritual discipline lies in the mouth of Lord Shiva, who first taught Koula yoga to Matsyendranatha is the beginning of Kali age. There are variant readings available in the texts to mean what Koula is?
Great siddha Matsyendranatha propagated the Koula mode of yoga in North in Kali era. Looking from historical point of view, Matsyendranatha was probably the first propounder of Koula mode of worship in modern times. That he was the founder-revealer of Koula mode of spiritual discipline. He is said to have received initiation as koula sadhaka directly from lord Siva himself. From the vast literature in the form of Koula tantras, ritualistic texts that are available today it is clear that Koulism extended practically all over the country and held its sway for many centuries.
It has been said that all koula adepts are required to worship daily the symbolic image of Bindu representing the Divine Shakti in the most potential form. This Bindu is depicted by a dot put in Trikona triangle also called 'Yoni' appearing at the center of Srichakra. Though Koula tantric texts are replete with instructions relating the performance of religious rituals, these are not without the support of metaphysical thought - structure.
This is a voluminous work related to Koula tantra, authored by Matsyendranatha, who happened to listened to Lord Shiva instructing his consort Parvati in a secluded place, the highly metaphysical subject. In the colophon at the end of 55th patala of this text there is a mention that originally this work was composed by Matyendranatha, who heard it from Lord Shiva himself and gave it to Matsyanatha who sang it to Cholendranatha, who in turn later on, delivered this to the people on earth for obtaining siddhi. The text Matyendrasamhita is consisting of 55 patalas (Chapters). In each patala there are different numbers of verses mostly set in Anustup meter. There are also other Meters such as Vasantatilaka, Upajati, Indravajra, Arya and so on.
Some patalas contain prose portions too and abound in Mantras. Matsyendrasamhita as a manuscript currently available is full of lacunae, and in many places, words are not found.
The first patala of the text opens with invocation to the Almighty thus.
There are 4-5 verses devoted to invocate Lord Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha . This patala contains about 140 verses, elucidate the story of a fisherman-novice becoming blessed perchance by some Brahmin gurus, who were adepts at Koula-yoga. Later the Fisherman-novice having heard the secrete knowledge from (the) Lord Shiva himself (advocating it to his consort Parvati) while being lodged in the belly of a shark, attains siddhi, with all yogic powers. This Yoga has another epithet Shambhava - yoga shastra as it flowed from the mouth of Shambhu. The concluding verses of the first patala run thus.
In the middle of an expansive ocean, placed in a remote island (Chandra dvipa) Supreme-goddess consort of Maheshwara, asked him to explain this shastra (to her) in detail. In reply Shiva spoke thus.
I will tell you everything, for the (benefit) welfare of Siddhas. Among all the Shastras, this I would hail as the highest and essence of all.
In this patala Parvati questions Shiva of the limbs of Shabhava yoga, and how to commence the practice? This patala has 67 verses.
Not only enquiring about ways of Yogic practice, Parvati also queries about medicine, arcane-accomplishments (occult-powers).
Shiva delineates correspondingly beginning with the ways of purifying the body, the worship to be conducted, mantras to be chanted.
This concludes with
The purity of mind and heart is considered the quintessential factor to become blemish-less, that paves way for achieving higher states.
Third patala deals with yogic postures as Parvati seeks the knowledge of the same from Shambhu. The order of Asanas (Yogic-postures) begins with Virasana. There are 15 Asanas prescribed to be practiced. 1) Virasana 2) Kurma 3) Svastika 4) Kukkuta 5) Mayura 6) Vyaghra 7) Padma 8) Vijaya 9) Drida 10) Gridhra 11) Garuda 12) Yaksha 13) Siddhasana 14) Vrishabha, though various postures are prescribed, they are not explicit in telling the advantages, gained by the practitioner, nor the cures, obtained from certain defects. Each asana is appreciated to eliminate certain bodily defects.
This patala containing 95 verses deals with pranayama (mode of breath-control) to the third query of Goddess Parvati.
Lord Shiva tells about conditions physical and circumstantial in which Pranayama should not be practiced. And also when one suffers from dyspepsia, acidity, vomiting and in a place full of flies, mosquitoes or wild animals or on the banks of rivers, ponds, in funeral ground and other such defiled places.
There will be peculiar sights, sounds seen and heard and bodily changes may occur like trembling sensation on one's neck, during practice of rigorous Pranayama.
The fifth patala explains 'Pratyahara' as how (to contain or) abstract sensual organs from their respective sense objects. It instructs the adept to withdraw his senses from going out to external objects.
Going forthwith the subject-matter, 6th patala tells of Dharana-yoga.
After subtracting senses from external objects, one should hold then on elements the present in the body. Concentration on Air element is known as Vayudharana, and on the element of fire or the fire-element is Agneyidharana. Varuni-dharana is fixing the mind on water-element which is reputed to bestow nectar unto the practitioner. There may be obstacles on the way of practice, which have to be kept at bay by propitiating the elementals with offering of various substances. The next 15 to 20 chapter expound on various topics such as Dhyana yoga, (Inner worship), Nyasa-placing letters in the different parts of the body by the disciple under the super-vision of Guru. Initiatory rites, practice of Mudras, Meditation of Mantras, Khecari wisdom, Khechari Vidya, description of yoga of unique kind, the koula worship, and Yogic powers developed by spiritual adepts.
Further chapters (patalas) give detailed account o arousal of kundalini power, sacrificial rites; secrete knowledge to attain desired objects, Techniques of Drawing of mystically and potentially enchanted diagrams of worship, heavenly medicines, special herbs, roots (Siddhoushadhas), paduka siddhi, vetala sadhana, yakshini vidya, Anjana siddhi, Chanting Bhairavi hymns, Traditional Koula mode of worship, special mantras to nullify the effects of decay and death, rituals of Kulachara, the power of sacred water of Shiva, preparation of special concoctions to get rid of bodily ailments, mesmerizing occultic tricks, various machinery to allure the folk, thus the list of wisdoms treated here is exhaustive. Most of the time the subject-matter becomes prolix, revolving around the same center point.
There is a vast scope for farther research on this scripture Matsyendra samhita, wherein unheard, unfound wisdom, knowledge are being revealed. Further efforts in this regard may find scintillating facts.
Thanks are due to personalities like Debabrata sen sharna and Sri M.S.Vishwanath for having provided the opportunity and owe much to the valuable texts on Yoga for the references taken to prepare this paper.