Cow-meat (gomāṃsa) and liquor (vāruṇī) in Hatha Yoga: The importance of having context

nityanand mishra making india gaumans bhakshan real meaning

What if I told you Hatha-yoga-pradipika verse 3.47 reads

gomāṃsaṃ bhakṣayennityaṃ pibedamara-vāruṇīm
kulīnaṃ tamahaṃ manye cetare kula-ghātakāḥ

“Those who eat the flesh of the cow and drink the immortal liquor daily, are regarded by me men of noble family. Others are but a disgrace to their families.” (English translation by Pancham Sinh)

Would you be shocked? Or elated (if you believe the ‘secular’ Yoga diet involved beef and liquor)? Hold your horses in either case. It is examples like these which show how important context is.

Just after 3.47, the Hatha-yoga-pradipika clarifies in two verses (3.48 and 3.49) what exactly is meant by eating the flesh of the cow (go-māṃsa-bhakṣaṇa) and liquor (amara-vāruṇī):

go-śabdenoditā jihvā tatpraveśo hi tāluni
go-māṃsa-bhakṣaṇaṃ tattu mahā-pātaka-nāśanam
jihvā-praveśa-sambhūta-vahninotpāditaḥ khalu
candrāt sravati yaḥ sāraḥ sā syādamara-vāruṇī

“The word ‘go’ means tongue, eating it is thrusting it in the gullet which destroys great sins. Immortal liquor is the nectar exuding from the moon (Chandra situated on the left side of the space between the eyebrows).

It is produced by the fire which is generated by thrusting the tongue.” (English translation by Pancham Sinh)

Now you know why in some cases, context is [almost] everything.

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About the Author

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Nityanand Misra
Nityanand Misra is an investment banking professional and an amateur researcher, editor and author. He is a self-taught scholar of Sanskrit and Indian literature. A technology graduate and alumnus of IIM Bangalore, he currently works as a statistical analyst for Citigroup in Mumbai. Misra has edited and authored several books, including an enlarged and annotated translation of the Mahaviri commentary on the Hanuman Chalisa. @MisraNityanand on Twitter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nityanand_Misra

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