Vivastra Kama Yoga

Vivastra-kama yoga may be seen as a new school, or as a variant of a very old one, Hatha yoga.  In Vivastra-kama yoga the asanas of Hatha yoga are learned, practiced, and elaborated, but within a Dualist rather than a Monist perspective, and so with a different purpose. In Vivastra-kama yoga Self and Other are recognized as different beings, and as irrevocably and rightly bound.  So the object of Vivastra-kama yoga is not meditation, but contemplation of the divine Other; not the withdrawal of the mind from external objects, but the intense concentration upon and appreciation of that Other.  Yoga is “union”: the objective of the “union” of the Monists is spiritual, the All-Soul; the objective of the Dualists is the union, spiritual and physical, of the Lover and his Beloved.

Vivastra-kama yoga presupposes not One nor None but Two: Seer and Seen, Lover and Beloved, He as Her pranayin and kamadeva, devotee and god of love; She as His devi, nidhi, shanti, kanti, nandi: goddess, treasure, peace, beauty and delight: Yogin and Yogini.

Yogin and Yogini

“Yogin” is the term for the male practitioner, which seems uncomplicated. But observe how “Yogini” has been linked to “witch,” “demon,” “sorceress”!


a. united or connected with, relating to (---); m. a Yogin, a follower of the Yoga system (f. {-nI}), a devotee or ascetic i.g.; f. {-nI} also a kind of witch or female demon.


I f. a female demon or any being endowed with magical power , a fairy , witch , sorceress (represented as eight in number and as created by Durga1 and attendant on her or on S3iva ; sometimes 60 , 64 or 65 are enumerated) Hariv. Katha1s. &c. (cf. RTL. 188 , 189) ; N. of Durga1 L. ; (with Ta1ntrikas) a partic. S3akti ; (with Buddhists) a woman representing any goddess who is the object of adoration.

Can one not discern in these notions the influence of an ascetic viewpoint which shuns women, desire, and the Lover/Beloved divine pair? In Vivastra-kama yoga, the Yogini, to the contrary, is “(with Buddhists) a woman representing any goddess who is the object of adoration.”

Vivastra and Asana

Let's start with some definitions:


mf(%{A})n. without clothes , unclothed , naked MBh. Pur. &c. ; %{-tA} f. nakedness MBh. Ka1m.

asana (but %{Asana4} S3Br.) n. sitting , sitting down Ka1tyS3r. Mn. ; sitting in peculiar posture according to the custom of devotees , (five or , in other places , even eighty-four postures are enumerated ; see %{padmA7sana} , %{bhadrA7sana} , %{vajrA7sana} , %{vIrA7sana} , %{svastikA7sana}: the manner of sitting forming part of the eightfold observances of ascetics) ; halting , stopping , encamping ; abiding , dwelling AV. xx , 127 , 8 Mn. Ya1jn5. Hit. &c. ; seat , place , stool Ka1tyS3r. S3Br. xiv Kum. Mn. &c. ; the withers of an elephant , the part where the driver sits L. ; maintaining a post against an enemy ; (%{A}) f. stay , abiding L. ; (%{I}) f. stay , abiding , sitting L. ; a shop , a stall L. ; a small seat , a stool Kaus3.

That “vivastra” means “nude” and “asana” means “posture” likely needs no further defense nor explanation. The controversy over whether there are five asanas, or eighty-four, or some other number, is best ignored; there are as many as it may be useful to distinguish.

Hatha and Kama

Here are the definitions:


m. violence , force (ibc. , %{ena} , and %{At} , `" by force , forcibly "') R. Ra1jat. Katha1s. &c. ; obstinacy , pertinacity (ibc. and %{At} , `" obstinately , persistently "') Pan5cat. Katha1s. ; absolute or inevitable necessity (as the cause of all existence and activity ; ibc. , %{At} , and %{ena} , `" necessarily , inevitably , by all means "') MBh. Ka1v. &c. ; = %{haTha-yoga} Cat. ; oppression W. ; rapine ib. ; going in the rear of an enemy L. ; Pistia Stratiotes L.

haThayoga m. a kind of forced Yoga or abstract meditation (forcing the mind to withdraw from external objects ; treated of in the Hat2ha-pradi1pika1 by Sva1tma7ra1ma and performed with much self-torture , such as standing on one leg , holding up the arms , inhaling smoke with the head inverted &c.) ; %{-viveka} m. %{-saMgraha} m. N. of wks.

kAma m. (fr. 2. %{kam} ; once %{kAma4} VS. xx , 60) , wish , desire , longing (%{kAmo@me@bhuJjIta@bhavAn} , my wish is that you should eat Pa1n2. 3-3 , 153) , desire for , longing after (gen. dat. , or loc.) , love , affection , object of desire or of love or of pleasure RV. VS. TS. AV. S3Br. MBh. R. &c. ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality ; Love or Desire personified AV. ix ; xii ; xix (cf. RV. x , 129 , 4) VS. Pa1rGr2. ; N. of the god of love AV. iii. 25 , 1 MBh. Lalit. ; (represented as son of Dharma and husband of Rati [MBh. i , 2596 ff. Hariv. VP.] ; or as a son of Brahma1 VP. ; or sometimes of Sam2kalpa BhP. vi , 6 , 10 ; cf. %{kAma-deva}) ; N. of Agni SV. ii , 8 , 2 , 19 , 3 AV. TS. Ka1tyS3r. S3a1n3khS3r. ; of Vishn2u Gal. ; of Baladeva (cf. %{kAma-pAla}) L. ; a stake in gambling Na1r. xvi , 9 ; a species of mango tree (= %{mahA-rAja-cUta}) L. ; N. of a metre consisting of four lines of two long syllables each ; a kind of bean L. ; a particular form of temple Hcat. ; N. of several men ; (%{A}) f. `" wish , desire "' (only instr. %{kAmayA} q.v.) ; N. of a daughter of Pr2ithus3ravas and wife of Ayuta-na1yin MBh. i , 3774 ; (%{am}) n. object of desire L. ; semen virile L. ; N. of a Ti1rtha MBh. iii , 5047 ; (%{am}) ind. see s.v. ; (%{ena}) ind. out of affection or love for ; (%{Aya} , or %{e}) ind. according to desire , agreeably to the wishes of , out of love for (gen. or dat.) RV. AV. TS. S3Br. ChUp. ; (%{At}) ind. for one's own pleasure , of one's own free will , of one's own accord , willingly , intentionally Mn. R. ; (%{kAma4}) mfn. wishing , desiring RV. ix , 113 , 11 ; (ifc.) desirous of , desiring , having a desire or intention (cf. %{go-k-} , %{dharma-k-} ; frequently with inf. in %{tu} cf. %{tyaktu-k-}.)

The element of “force” or “self-torture” has been eliminated, or at least thoroughly attenuated, in Western derivations of Hatha yoga, but “abstract meditation (forcing the mind to withdraw from external objects….)” remains, even if the mind is no longer “forced” but only “persuaded.” Visastra-kama yoga is a yoga of contemplation, in which the mind of the observer is induced, and even rightly seduced, to focus upon an external Subject, an Other, a Person who Is and is not “I” but “Thou.”

Students may search “kama” at their own discretion, and will find it denounced in various scriptures as an enemy of the mind, an impurity and a poison; or else presented as one of the “objects of life.” Visastra-kama yoga leaves the denunciation to the ascetic schools, and affirms kama as a fulfillment of human life, which is a life of mind in a body, and spirit in flesh.


What is yoga?

As usual, we start with a dictionary—this time with two.


m. yoking, harnessing, drive, yoke, team; fitting out (an. army), fixing (an arrow); setting to work, use, application; means, expedient, trick, stratagem, art, fraud, deceit, magic, charm; enterprise, work; union, combination, relation, contact with (instr. {ñsaha} or ---); conjunction (of stars); pursuit, acquisition, property; succession, order, fitness, propriety; effort, endeavour, zeal, attention; collection or concentration of the mind, meditation. contemplation, N. of a phil. system; etymology & etym. meaning of a word, grammatical construction, rule or aphorism (g.). --Instr. & abl. in the right way, as is proper, according to, by means or in consequence of (---).


m. (1. %{yuj} ; ifc. f. %{A}) the act of yoking , joining , attaching , harnessing , putting to (of horses) RV. MBh. ; a yoke , team , vehicle , conveyance S3Br. Kaus3. MBh. ; employment , use , application , performance RV. &c. &c. ; equipping or arraying (of an army) MBh. ; fixing (of an arrow on the bow-string) ib. ; putting on (of armour) L. ; a remedy , cure Sus3r. ; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method MBh. Ka1v. &c. ; a supernatural means , charm , incantation , magical art ib. ; a trick , stratagem , fraud , deceit Mn. Katha1s. (cf. %{yoga-nanda}) ; undertaking , business , work RV. AV. TS. ; acquisition , gain , profit , wealth , property ib. Kaus3. MBh. ; occasion , opportunity Ka1m. Ma1rkP. ; any junction , union , combination , contact with (instr. with or without %{saha} , or comp.). MBh. Ka1v. &c. (%{yogam} %{i} , to agree , consent , acquiesce in anything R.) ; mixing of various materials , mixture MBh. R. VarBr2S. ; partaking of , possessing (instr. or comp.) Mn. R. Hariv. ; connection , relation (%{yogAt} , %{yogena} and %{yoga-tas} ifc. in consequence of , on account of , by reason of , according to , through) Ka1tyS3r. S3vetUp. Mn. &c. ; putting together , arrangement , disposition , regular succession Ka1t2h. [856,3] S3rS. ; fitting together , fitness , propriety , suitability (%{yogena} and %{yoga-tas} ind. suitably , fitly , duly , in the right manner) MBh. Ka1v. &c. ; exertion , endeavour , zeal , diligence , industry , care , attention (%{yoga-tas} ind. strenuously , assiduously ; %{pUrNena@yogena} , with all one's powers , with overflowing zeal) Mn. MBh. &c. ; application or concentration of the thoughts , abstract contemplation , meditation , (esp.) self-concentration , abstract meditation and mental abstraction practised as a system (as taught by Patan5jali and called the Yoga philosophy ; it is the second of the two Sa1m2khya systems , its chief aim being to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with I7s3vara or the Supreme Spirit ; in the practice of self-concentration it is closely connected with Buddhism) Up. MBh. Ka1v. &c. (IW. 92) ; any simple act or rite conducive to Yoga or abstract meditation Sarvad. ; Yoga personified (as the son of Dharma and Kriya1) BhP. ; a follower of the Yoga system MBh. S3am2k. ; (in Sa1m2khya) the union of soul with matter (one of the 10 Mu1lika7rtha1s or radical facts) Tattvas. ; (with Pa1s3upatas) the union of the individual soul with the universal soul Kula7rn2. ; (with Pa1n5cara1tras) devotion , pious seeking after God Sarvad. ; (with Jainas) contact or mixing with the outer world ib. ; (in astron.) conjunction , lucky conjuncture La1t2y. VarBr2S. MBh. &c. ; a constellation , asterism (these , with the moon , are called %{cAndra-yogAH} and are 13 in number ; without the moon they are called %{kha-yogAH} , or %{nAbhasa-yogAH}) VarBr2S. ; the leading or principal star of a lunar asterism W. ; N. of a variable division of time (during which the joint motion in longitude of the sun and moon amounts to 13 degrees 20 minutes ; there are 27 such Yogas beginning with Vishkambha and ending with Vaidhr2iti) ib. ; (in arithm.) addition , sum , total Su1ryas. MBh. ; (in gram.) the connection of words together , syntactical dependence of a word , construction Nir. Sus3r. (ifc. = dependent on , ruled by Pa1n2. 2-2 , 8 Va1rtt. 1) ; a combined or concentrated grammatical rule or aphorism Pa1n2. Sch. Siddh. (cf. %{yoga-vibhAga}) ; the connection of a word with its root , original or etymological meaning (as opp. to %{rUDhi} q.v.) Nir. Prata1p. Ka1tyS3r. Sch. ; a violator of confidence , spy L. ; N. of a Sch. on the Parama7rthasa1ra ; (%{A}) f. N. of a S3akti Pan5car. ; of Pi1vari1 (daughter of the Pitr2is called Barhishads) Hariv.

So there are many “yogas.” Perhaps we can learn more by asking “What is not Yoga?”


What is not yoga?

The Sanskrit prefix “vi-“ expresses opposition, negation, contrariety. There exists a word “viyoga.” Which is thus “Un-Yoga.” And what is “Un-Yoga”?


m. separation, division, loss of (instr. {ñsaha}, abl., or ---); absence, want; getting rid of, abstaining from, giving up ({-yaM gam} be lost*).

viyogavant a. separated (from the beloved object).

viyogin a. separated (esp. of lovers) from (instr. or ---).


m. disjunction , separation (esp. of lovers) , loss or absence or want of (instr. with or with out %{saha} abl. , or comp.) Mn. MBh. &c. (%{-gaM} %{gam} , to be lost Mr2icch. ix , 34/35) ; giving up , getting rid of , abstention from (comp.) Gaut. ; subtraction Gan2it. ; = %{vi-yuti} , Bi1jag. ; a partic. astrological Yoga Cat. ; %{-tas} ind. (ifc.) from want of , in consequence of any one's absence Katha1s. ; %{-tA} w.r. for %{-gi-tA} (q.v.) Katha1s. ; %{-pura} n. N. of a town ib. ; %{-bAhya} mfn. excluded from separation , not separated MW. ; %{-bhAj} mfn. suffering from sñseparated W. ; %{-gA7vasAna} mfn. ending in sñseparated (%{-tva} n.) MW. ; %{-gA7vaha} mfn. bringing or causing separation S3a1ntis3.

strIviyoga m. separation from a wife MW.

tvadviyoga m. separation from thee.

So Un-Yoga may be understood as “separation from the beloved.”

Can it then be wrong to understand by “Yoga,” “Union with the Beloved”?


Yoga as Union With the Beloved

“Yoga” as known in the West has had its physical meanings somewhat curtailed, as if its objective were limited to a non-physical spiritual union with the “Supreme Spirit,” the “all-soul.” or “the universal soul.” But nothing in “yoga” itself implies the non-physical union; the root word of “yoga” long ago reached English independently as the very physical term “yoke.” The basic meaning of “yoga” is yoking, joining, attaching; and the root attachment is that of physical bodies. And much more of the same can be unearthed from etymology.


m. fastening, joining; union, connection, contact with (instr. {ñsaha} or ---); marriage, sexual intercourse with (---); usage, practice, employment, application.

saMyoga m. conjunction, connection, coherence; contact (ph.); relation, friendship, alliance; matrimony sexual intercourse with ({saha}); a conjunct consonant (g.).


mfn. addicted to sexual intercourse , wanton = %{kAmuka} L. ; = %{su-prayoga} L.

saMyogin mfn. being in contact or connection , closely connected with (instr. or comp.) Kan2. S3am2k. Ma1rkP. ; united (with a loved object ; opp. to %{virahin}) Ka1vya7d. Sch. ; married W. ; conjunct , one of the consonants in a combination of consonants Pa1n2. 1-2 , 27 Sch. ; (%{-gi}) %{-tva} n. close connection Sarvad.

strIpuMyoga m. the union of man and wife Gaut.

svadhAvinsaMyoga m. voluntary (matrimonial) union with (instr.) Gaut.

zarIrayoga m. bodily union ; %{-ja} mfn. produced from bodily contact Ragh.

Evidently we are justified to insist that there exists and has existed a Dualist Lover/Beloved union, a physical as well as a spiritual “union,” as a right understanding of “Yoga.”






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