Amrtasiddhi – the oldest text on yoga

It’s great to be able to Google and get important answers, like “Who is Bruno Latour?” or “What’s the beef between Elon Musk and Xandão?”, especially when you’re in a group and a curiosity comes up, someone pulls out the powerful weapon from their bag, unlocks it, types avidly “which is more caloric, honey or molasses?” and thus winners are made: those who guessed a hunch before the oracle even confirmed the answer, those who dared to say they know.

None of this is possible when you’re camping for 3 days straight without a signal. Many questions are born already dead, I’ve been experiencing this a lot on the trip. Usually, the doubts go to the limbo of unanswered questions where our ancestors lived.

Offline fun – hard to compete with screen dopamine

Every now and then I do a search when I return to the clouds of information data, but believe it or not, it’s still hard to find some answers on the internet.

If you Google about the origins of yoga, for example, you come across the “yoga sutra of patanjali”, a booklet of phrases (sutras) with hidden meanings like “The yoga posture should be firm and comfortable” or “Yoga is the cessation of the vicissitudes of the mind”. To really understand, it has to be read with separate comments (bhāṣya) or with the accompaniment of a teacher.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is a very beautiful compilation that is worth being read and reread, but it does not specify the earlier schools that gave rise to these lines of deep thought. It describes more the mental and moral aspects of yoga and only mentions seated postures (asanas), it does not go into sequences, cleansings, breaths…

Hatha Yoga as we practice it today is best known for:

  • Asanas (body postures)
  • Pranayamas (breathing exercises)
  • Bandhas (internal physical locks)
  • Mudras (techniques to “seal” the body)

All to control and increase our mental and physical health or, as it was said a few centuries ago, to preserve the elixir of life, that is, to protect bindu or to elevate kundalini at the base of the spine.

It may seem like a bunch of random techniques with a weird name that anyone can put together and teach a class, but, surprisingly, there is a theory. It’s just not easy to find on Google, but it exists.

Texts of Modern Hatha Yoga

Yoga is ancient, ascetics passed on teachings orally – and still do – long before they were written or even called “yoga”.

Over time they were gradually incorporated into a variety of philosophical lines and, eventually, systematized into works that are today fundamental in the formation of academics and yoga teachers such as the “Gheranda Samhita” and the famous “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” of the 15th century.

However, there is a little-known and even older scripture that is a reference for these texts and so many others as Yogacintamani, Hathapradipikajyotsna, Amaraughaprabodha, Goraksasataka, Goraksayogasastra, Vivekamärtanda, Amaraughaprabodha. The Sivasambitä, for example, took 34 verses from it.

This base text came about 500 years before all of these and is called Amrtasiddhi. The only English translation was published in 2021 (remember we talked about the complexity of these Sanskrit translations in the text on the Bhagavad Ghita?) and there is a module of yogic studies where the author of the book does a reading with analyses and comments, he is a bit wordy, but the text is very interesting.

I’m going to give you a summary of this today – if you’re into yoga, you’re going to make several links in your mind, it’s going to be cool.

The Amrtasiddhi

The text incorporates concepts from Buddhism, Tantra, and Alchemy, much of its teaching is framed in alchemical metaphors, processes used to change substances such as calcination, assimilation, coagulation, etc. always mirroring the alchemical processes of the world within the body.

For example, Bandha is an alchemical samskara that is equivalent to the process in which mercury is stabilized and becomes more resistant to heat. In the practice of mahabandha, the breath is sealed within the body by performing two constrictions, one at the perineum and the other at the throat, and thus the body becomes like a samputa.

In Sanskrit texts on alchemy, there are several types of putas, vessels similar to bowls for performing alchemical operations. A samputa is two putas put together to form a sealed crucible for heating reagents without evaporation.

Beyond these “scientific” references, there are also religious ones.

Another day I was talking about this, remember? Sometimes the speeches are talking about the same thing, but with different terminologies – a shoutout to the Vienna circle.

The important thing is to try to increase our capacity for intelligibility about natural processes to manipulate them in our favor or protect ourselves from those we cannot change – be it a volcano or cancer.

Anyway, the text invokes the goddess Chinnamasta with her symbols, such as the form of an inverted triangle, related to the letter “A” from the ancient Devanagari texts.

Chinnamasta was a Buddhist figure at the time and this representation of the goddess brings the conception that the human body is seen as a vehicle for spiritual realization and union with the divine.

That is, warning and validating through a line of religious thought that comes in this text are bodily practices and not something that denies the body.

Text Structure

Formed by 292 verses divided into 35 vivekas, it was written around the 11th century in a Vajrayana Buddhist environment and the text never ever mentions the word yoga – by the way, out of curiosity, it was most likely the Dattätreyayogasästra, the first to teach similar practices under the name of hatha yoga.

Body Components

The first ten vivekas teach the components of the yogic body, there is a focus on internal sounds (nada) and voids, with references to tantric Buddhist terminology.

There is also a connection between mind and breath, a description that already existed in the upanissads, but here bindu control is added.

It is an innovation of the Amrtasiddhi to use the word bindu for enjoyment and to say that it is like “the amrta dripping from the moon”.

The idea of a moon in the skull dripping amrta is found in many earlier tantric works, but the idea of the sun in the stomach consuming it is new – used to explain why it is necessary to protect enjoyment.

“The sphere of the sun is at the base of the Central Canal, complete with twelve digits, shining with its rays. The lord of creatures (Prajapati), of intense appearance, travels upward to the right. Remaining in the paths in the spaces (akasapatha) in the channels, he permeates the entire body. The sun consumes the lunar secretion, wanders in the sphere of the wind, and burns all bodily constituents in all bodies.”

Other novelties are these principles of a “solar mind” at the base of the central channel of the body, the “lunar mind” at the top of this channel, and the use of fire as a symbol.

Scholars believe in a possible influence of Taoism and the Chinese practices of “Neidan” which is a set of energetic and alchemical practices that seek spiritual and physical immortality, as well as the realization of divine or transcendent nature.

There are also other terms more common to other contemporary texts to explain the functioning of the body, something that today we understand as Ayurveda, such as the manifestation of the material world (Prakrti) being through three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) and in the body there are 3 doshas (pitta, kapha and vata).

Mind Control Techniques

At the time, the practice of visualization and mantra chanting related to the god of each energy center (chakra) of the body was common, in the hope of awakening the spiritual and psychological aspects associated with that energy center – transcending the duality between the practitioner and the divinity, achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The Amrthasiddhi criticizes this practice and any other that does not result in the destruction of the three gunas, says that trying to master the mind in this way is useless, comparable to chewing a stone and trying to drink the sky.

It is based on the premise that you cannot be master of your mind through the mind itself and moves on to techniques of breath and body manipulation.

Vivekas 11-13 teach three methods (well known still today) of manipulation of body components:

Mahamudrä (the Great Seal)

Mahäbandha (the Great Block)

Mahāvedha (the Great Perforation)

In the viveka of body description (above) it also includes elements such as the three knots (granthi), Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra (Shiva), which are situated along the central channel of the body and must be perforated by the mahavedha.

To get to this practice, he instructs a clear step-by-step, first Mahamudra (term that is widely used in tantric Buddhism), he describes very clearly a mechanical step-by-step: “press the perineum with the left heel, extend the right foot and hold the breath…”. Then comes Mahadandra: “With legs crossed, do the chin lock and contract the perineum…” and finally Mahavedha…

Viveka 14 teaches the final practice (abbyāsa), that is, how the three methods should be used together. The internal processes provoked by its methods, in particular the movement of the breaths, are described in an unparalleled level of detail in other texts.

Without gurus

Vivekas 15-18 teach the four degrees of practitioners. The text advocates for a self-established (Svadhisthana*) practice, that is, individual, without the need for a guru or master for direct guidance.

It emphasizes the practitioner’s ability to adopt and practice spiritual techniques on their own, using their own determination and internal effort, assuming direct responsibility for their spiritual progress through texts and seeking a deeper understanding of spiritual truths on their own.

This condition is more common in certain tantric Buddhist texts and was not widely disseminated in the lines of hatha yoga, today it is more common for the guidance of an experienced master to be considered essential for spiritual progression.

  • Curiously, in texts that came after Amrthasiddhi, the term Svadhisthana is more commonly used to name the second chakra.

Finally, the Vivekas 19-33 talk about the four states (avasthäs) arambha, ghata, paricaya, nispanna/nispatti. And the Vivekas 34-35 about the final transformation of the body that leads to nirvana.


For current generations, it may not be a surprise that the internet is not exactly the best place to find complete and true information, but for people who, like me, saw Google being born and believed that all books would be easily on our screens, it is still a grief to see this melting of the web.

We no longer need to go to the library files, but it is still necessary to dig deep to find richer and more interesting textual sources. The discovery of Amrita Siddhi was very cool for me and I wanted to bring here in Portuguese a summary.

Until what was found today, there were no physical practices related to the manipulation of the subtle energies of the body before it, neither in scriptures nor in statues – but there are always news from the past and history is always being rewritten, who knows if new scriptures do not emerge about the origins of yoga?

First nomadic month – Chapada da Diamantina

Smart Fit subscribers in São Paulo know: it’s perfectly normal to enter and exit the gym without looking at anyone’s face.

For those who come from a small town, I understand that at first, it can be liberating not to share equipment with the son-of-the-bakery-owner-who-betrayed-your-cousin, but after about 2 years it becomes embarrassing not to have anyone to gossip with between repetitions.

On the other hand, we know who the smart fitters from our social networks are.

They are from other units, but they are one of us, even more one of us than those who actually sweat it out on the elliptical next to us, religiously at 17:45 in front of the TV showing “Life is rad” on the off channel.

In the capital, where there is a higher concentration of people per square meter, it seems to require more willingness to interact with those who are in the same space-time as us.

this is one lonely guy - Meme by stingrayfan39 :) Memedroid

The other day I watched the Argentine film “The Delinquents”, there’s a scene where the people are at a waterfall, a guy passes by them and the crowd starts a conversation. They watch him pass and exchange words. They talk to a stranger, just because he is in the same place.

It didn’t occur to anyone that it would be kind of strange to start a conversation out of the blue. They had something in common: the willingness to go there and enjoy that waterfall, which is a coincidence (!), it’s natural to talk to someone who has something in common. Why can’t it be like this at Smart Fit?

At first, I thought it was a 90s thing – the time when the film is set – there were no cell phones, or AirPods, the way was to be present. But we know that this is a myth:

Kids these days and their cellular phones ... : r/funny

I think the problem is the big city itself, a different rhythm.

The urbe is f*cked, you see someone with a cool outfit and you don’t stop to talk to the person, but you go on tiktok to search for the trend “Street Style NYC”, check the brands and trends.

In the movie, for example, they exchange information about the bus schedule, which is normal here in the interior of Bahia where I am, but in São Paulo it was easier to check on the cell phone.

Now I was reminded that it’s not a movie thing, but completely common to put into practice this ancestral communication technique: say anything to meet someone, especially if they have things in common with you like frequenting the same places.

There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not rude and much less inconvenient, I’m here mourning all the friends I didn’t make at Smart Fit. Or not.


Finally, let me tell you what I did in this first month of travel.

First, I drove from Sampa to here, me, Gabi, Lua, and Jupiter – Gabi’s two dogs. We made two stops, Montes Claros in Minas Gerais, nothing special, and Candiba, the highlight, we stayed in an incredible Airbnb:

in doubt between the biscuit and the landscape, I made this montage with both.

We made a classic “southeasterner” mistake when the host offered to prepare dinner. She asked what we wanted, and we said that any “mineirinha” food would be great – turns out Candiba is already in Bahia, lol.

We should have realized this from the road. In Minas, the reputation matches the reality, the roads are terrible, full of potholes, and poorly signposted…

Whoever knows why, tell me. I’m too lazy to research, but I’m very interested.

Once you cross the border into Bahia, the asphalt is good, it’s amazing. But here in the Vale do Capão, where I am in the Chapada, it’s all dirt roads. The EcoSport does the job, but it seems that the Uninho is the local preference, the most appropriate car for the situation.

No photo description available.

Our current airbnb is perfect, absolutely beautiful, we even closed for another month right in the alice’s cat scheme: for those who don’t know where they are going, any place will do.

this any place here is too good.

The three main trails we went to here in the Caeté-Açu region were:

  • Smoke Waterfall (Cachoeira da Fumaça)
  • Fairy and Gnome Waterfall (Cachoeira Fadas e Doendes)
  • Clear Waters Trail (Águas Claras)

We did each twice, because now at the end of the month we had visitors – my brother, a great friend of mine, and a friend of Gabi’s – and we wanted to show them the ones we liked the most.

Some sections of difficult trails, group travel logistics, people who don’t know each other, me and Gabi also getting to know each other again after years… There were some tensions, but we all came out unscathed, the greatness of nature is too striking, the biggest memory of all. It was great to be away from home, but to have people around who give me the feeling of home.

Now a review of the waterfalls:

Cachoeira da Fumaça

Easy level – 2 and a half hours of trail – Strava flat part – Strava descent

A hell of a climb. At least an hour of intense climbing and then an open plain. There’s no cool place to swim, just some points of the river, but it’s after such an intense climb, any water there is great.

At the top we see the waterfall fall, they say it’s the second largest in Brazil and it’s very worth going even when it’s dry, because, if you’re brave, you can walk where the water flows and enjoy a completely different view:

But the real highlight is when it’s full:

Cachoeira Fadas e Doendes

Medium/difficult level – 2 and a half hours of trail – Strava go – Strava return

Closed trail, without that big sun in the face. On the way we pass by the Angelica and Purification waterfalls, which are the most visited. Fairy and Gnome is a bit more complicated to get to, but it’s a very cute pool.

On the way back, instead of taking the same path, we climbed up to Gerais, which is a part of the Paty trail – until there, there are a lot of stone jumps along the river, some pools to swim, a natural stone slide and the view is very cool.

Águas Claras

Easy level – 2 and a half hours of trail – Strava

My favorite so far, the trail has a beautiful view and is generally flat. The so-called “clear waters” are natural pools, it looks like a little magic garden.

The other day Gabi and I camped there for two days with the dogs and it was really nice, we want to do it again to go up and down the hill anytime.

All these that I mentioned have variations and other sub-trails along the way. In addition to them, we did other smaller ones in the region, also others more distant from caeté-açu/capão, but for today’s newsletter you already got a taste of what it’s like around here 🙂

Especially since I love touring big cities, seeing tall buildings… I’m amazed at the immensity of the natural paradise, it’s been a while since I allowed myself that.

In the delinquents movie, it shows some very cool takes that also portray this smallness of the human being in contrast to the city and nature, very good 10/10, I really recommend it.

Cool Stuff

  • This wonderful extension of stremio has all kinds of movies – including those from MUBI and Los Delinquentes 😉

And that’s all for today!

Thank you for reading and see you later 🙂

Habits and Routines

a cool sound to enjoy while reading the text

It’s been over a month since I published our last text.

I told there that I was going to work while traveling, travel while working – and in this change of routine, who said I could finish a single post?

Throw the first stone who has never stopped a new year’s resolution.

Do your New Years Resolutions reflect what you really want ...

I didn’t do so bad, the official “Quitter’s day” or as they say in the US, is on the second Friday of the year. Apps like Strava identified that 80% of users stop their goals on this day.

And giving up is not always bad, as Clarice would say in Passion According to G.H:

… despite the taste of power, one prefers to give up. Giving up has to be a choice. Giving up is the most sacred choice of a life. Giving up is the true human moment. And only this is the glory of my condition. Giving up is a revelation.

Queen, Clarice

Sooner or later we all have to throw in the towel, knowing how and when to do this is to demonstrate wisdom, it’s part of the art of living.

The Dip is a book that helped me think about giving up as a strategy, in it Seth Godin brought a speech from the ultramarathon runner Dick Collins that marked me a lot:

“… If you’re making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you’re probably going to make the wrong decision.”

Giving up is before or after, but not during the desire to give up.

You can download The Dip and many other better books than this, like this:

I don’t know why I’m saying all this, I haven’t thought about stopping the newsletter at any time, so this text has nothing to do with giving up, but with habits.

The problem of having broken the chain of weekly publication is that I don’t see myself as someone who writes-to-publishand I also haven’t formed a system for this work.

You’ve probably heard of the books “The Power of Habit” and “Atomic Habits“. If not, today I’ll save you about 300 pages of mediocre marketing writing with a few paragraphs of my mediocre writing.

The three essential components to form a habit are: Trigger, Routine, and Reward.

For example, my sink is almost always clean, because I’ve tied the act of washing dishes to drinking coffee. Every time I put the water to boil, while I wait, I wash the dishes.

The trigger is to put the water to boil, the routine is to wash the dishes and the reward is to drink the coffee.

If you take out the base, everything collapses like in a game of Jenga – like when I used an automatic coffee maker in an airbnb and left the dishes to pile up for two days in a row.

To establish the habit it is necessary to repeat the new activities many times, strengthen the synapse connections until the brain registers that it is not just unnecessary self-flagellation (as people usually feel in the vipassana retreat while they are there in the process), but that yes there are rewards ahead.

Japanese author Murakami has been running marathons for over a decade and admits, in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, that he still feels a little lazy before training. The humiliation of “doing the hard thing” seems inevitable, whether you’re an expert or not, but he says so:

Certain processes do not admit variations. If you need to be part of the process, just transform – or maybe distort – yourself through constant repetition, making the process part of your own personality.

Large companies think about this to make us incorporate their products and services into our daily lives. They distort our values and personality through incessant advertisements with music, catchphrases, impactful images…

In addition, they have their own version to create a habit called the hook model, which has four phases:

  1. Trigger: The starting point that triggers a behavior, an external stimulus such as sounds, images, emails, reminders, and notifications that direct specific actions. The goal of the trigger is to instigate an action.
  2. Action: Something simple like clicking on a link as soon as the notification appears or opening a package, without friction, a task that, preferably, generates a little instant pleasure.
  3. Variable Reward: The reward that follows comes promptly, quickly, and is variable: it can be a like, a comment, it can be a blue or pink M&M. This unpredictability makes the hook cycle more addictive.
  4. Investment: Let’s suppose that the user has registered on the site, he has dedicated time and effort to enter his information there. This process establishes bonds more solid with the company and increases the probability of repeating the engagement cycle, that is, going back there to see the profile, buy on the site, etc. Other examples of investment are:
  • know the store owner,
  • close an annual plan,
  • know recipes with the product,
  • have friends who go to the same place,
  • create favorite lists,
  • follow famous people on a network,
  • learn new platform features…

Going back to the newsletter issue, I even thought about setting a reward to eat something tasty after publishing or as a variable reward to watch the latest videos suggested to me on youtube, but you have to be very careful when setting up routines on top of drugs like coffee, sugar, cigarette, shopping, scrolling the timeline… it’s hard to get rid of them later.

For now, I’ll let the reward be social, some people come to talk about my texts after I publish and it’s a pleasure to spread things that interest me, discover people with the same tastes…

But to maintain a minimum of self-respect, keep my word of constancy and also not die of anxiety thinking if I’m going to be embarrassed in front of at least 100 people who have read the words that I put together here in the hope of communicating, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to vary the topics.

(this text was originally published in an old newsletter on substack – and migrated here to

I get stuck when I think about publishing only about yoga, I always want a complex text with many references. So it’s a bit difficult to even consolidate the habit of editing-publishing.

So I need to test other strategies, publish various topics, make the thing take shape to develop still I don’t know what.

I changed the name of the newsletter to “Start on Monday” and will keep the “Mystical Healing Ritual” to talk about yoga in various contexts, but there will be more sections: initially the “Logbook” to talk about the trip I’m doing and the “Morning Vitamin” to talk about productivity, food, exercises and the like – for example, this edition here was to talk about strategies to set up a new habit, but I already gave signs that I liked this topic back in the ritual 2, when I was an anti-coach of planning, maybe.

I know that some of you will jump ship now, but I’m sure others will stay: I myself follow quirky people in obscure corners of the internet, I love it.

For those who stay, see this space as that Hebe’s conversation that keeps bringing up old topics in random order, and also as a little shop on any corner: it’s always there and has variety.

Nenhuma descrição de foto disponível.

This isn’t an Oxxo (Ocho) with giant banners of bright colors trying to attract you to buy something. Come only when you need to see some trinkets, have a little gossip, ask for local information… I’m happy.

Cool Stuff

  • Ted’s Pinterest from “Art of photography” has boards separated by photographers, it’s a delight to lose some time there.
  • For those who enjoy the world of yoga and are liking my texts on the subject, Yogic Studies has a very cool free module: Visual and Material Evidence of Medieval Yoga and Yogis
  • Finally and most importantly: this wonderful tent from azteq that I have been using on the trip – it’s very easy to set up, very light and it’s like you’re in nature but with a little net against mosquitoes, like me reading my kindle at any point of the chapada da diamantina last weekend 🥲:

The beginning of globalized yoga

I wanted to live traveling, but I also love comfort, so I got into IT, to be able to travel earning relatively well and without too much hassle. I studied, made a career transition, minimally established myself to take flights, then came covid. No travel. How many plans we have changed because of the pandemic, right?

Before that, I taught yoga and even traveled a lot doing this, it was cool. Today I’m going to tell stories about traveling yogis, but nobody I know, but the story of the first nomadic yoga teachers in the United States.

They lived 100 years ago, also had to adapt life plans due to greater forces and totally changed careers to make some change.

They were just Indian traders and students living normally in the USA, when Uncle Sam’s jurists raised an issue that changed everything:

Are people from Asia, black or white?

Since only white people could have American citizenship, overnight, these neither-black-nor-white Indians lost all rights in the country.

Worse, to become American it was necessary to give up the previous citizenship then, when this happened, they no longer had Indian nationality.

On paper, they were stateless people.

It was between the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 and the liberal reforms of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965, that our modern yoga messengers were born.

Traveling teaching yoga

The solution was to move between states until politics took concrete form and some settled on yoga as a profession. The problem is that the legal impasse lasted for a few years and the curious thing is that none of them had taught yoga before.

For example, below you see a news story about a famous entrepreneur in the tea import business for American housewives.

On the right, the same man, after the denaturalization process, started to advertise yoga classes, prana, vibrations and occultism:

philosopher, teacher, a kind of guru.

It might seem like a completely nonsensical and irrelevant story, but these guys were indispensable for yoga to become the international practice it is today.

Nobody knew what yoga was

At that time, if you asked someone what “yoga” was, chances are the person had never even heard that word. How did these guys think it was a good idea to survive by selling this?

There was already a conversation between different cultures and religions in the United States:

  • I told the other day about when Vivekananda went to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 – he wanted to disseminate Hindu knowledge and for this, he created the Vedanta Society, teaching Raja Yoga in “western” language.
  • The Theosophical Society was also on the rise, founded in New York in 1875 with the purpose of bringing people together in the comparative study of philosophies and sciences.

Our story today begins in the 1920s, that is, the market for Mystical Societies was already consolidated.

Courses were popular on universal energy, positive thinking, manipulating the power of the mind, obtaining healing, happiness, or money. Nothing too strange, we still have the “pro-life” and other similar groups that teach these things that author Catherine Albanese coins as American metaphysical religion.

Taking advantage of the hype, our businessmen went out teaching yoga concepts with this American metaphysics – they were merchants, so they used top-notch marketing, mixed logos and impact phrases, a super rebranding.

Sales Tactics

There was no way to do ads, filter target audience, or upload ebook on hotmart, to reach people the scheme was to advertise in the largest medium of communication: the newspaper.

The academic Philip Deslippe delved into piles and piles of newspapers to know where these nomadic yogis passed and what they taught. He ventured into the collections of the whole country, read hundreds of ads and organized all to find patterns among the classes.

Phillip discovered that these neo yogis were doing clickbait to get people to come to their courses: they promised solutions to loneliness, happy marriages, or gave theoretical classes on how Jesus had been a yogi in India.

The professors used more or less the same tactics: they would arrive in a new city where they would stay for weeks or months, find hotels, rent lobbies or auditoriums, and promote their classes in newspapers.

It worked so well that there are people who still talk about these things on YouTube.

There was no Instagram advertising, but the prospecting method was similar to what we have today: open live streams to reach as many people as possible and closed mentoring for those who want to know more.

They would give 3-4 free public lectures to attract the curious and from there, with luck, a small group of more interested students would enter the paid groups which cost between 100-120 dollars per class, usually the students were middle or upper class.

the mysterious gaze there in the middle

Phillip argues that it was thanks to these itinerant men who changed their personas and styles with each state they passed through, that yoga became popular.

The teachers knew each other personally or at a distance and openly shared or secretly stole teaching materials, students, and other resources as they marketed themselves to the American metaphysical public – it was the “only” means of subsistence and profession.

Yoga and occultism

Philosophy, meditation, psychology, self-improvement… Yoga has always walked this tightrope, between pragmatism and occultism, it is important to point out here that the bias of mystical yoga has always existed and that we have other modern cases, it was not a novelty of the nomadic teachers, we have as an example the emblematic Alex Crowley:

The British writer, poet, mage, and philosopher published in 1939 “Eight Lectures on Yoga” where he talks about postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation, but also puts his infamous magical theory in the middle.

At first people were afraid of these groups and theories, there were rumors that women went crazy and left their families to follow the gurus/swamis.

Over time the discourse changed, they sold it as an ancient knowledge that was brought to help the Americans. One who used this more modern tactic a lot was one of the most famous itinerant teachers and perhaps the first posture teacher in the West, Rish Singh Gerwal.

Yoga and physical postures

Gerwal was keeping an eye on the trends in India, there was all that movement of conversation between yoga and bodybuilding which I mentioned the other day.

One of the big names there was Kuvalayanada, from whom Gerwal shamelessly copies the books, publishes them in his name and tells private students that he learned everything in the Himalayas.

the famous book Yoga Mimansa of Kuvalayananda

Already in the 1930s, at the end of the second war, the cult of the body in general increases, yoga follows this trend and Gerwal has been surfing this wave for a long time, he creates “yoga teacher trainings”, encouraged students to travel and disseminate hatha yoga in the world.

A second wave of nomadic teachers emerges, now with a completely different proposal and needs, the masters encouraged the students to go to India, to get certificates… the organization increases.

Not that there were not already serious certificates in 1904

Here, under a new guise, history repeats itself, and this fascinates me a lot. I’ll be back to tell more in future editions, both about the globalized postural yoga of the last 50 years, and about the medieval one from hundreds of years ago. If you want to continue navigating through yogas of different times and have fun with coincidences, stay.


After 4 years, I will return to the plan of traveling while working, working while traveling. I’m getting things ready, but if before the plan was only one way, today it’s not quite like that – I renovated, set up my little corner, times have changed, I have aged. I still want to travel, but having a place to return to now seems more inviting than before.

Existence is like that, isn’t it. Significant events renew our way of seeing the world, we discover different things, we combine them with what we already had, we create something new, more or less as it was before, only different.

When I went to India, I constantly tried to understand the difference and similarity between things so exotic for me in that whole cultural shock, and more often than I would like people would shake their heads in that Indian way and respond

same, same, but different“.

I find this answer perfect for whether “yoga is this or that”. I have no pretension to clarify anything here in the “mystic healing ritual“, but I want to bring interesting stories that blend spirituality from a more general aspect of the world – between politics, music, movies…

I love this story of the Swami Circuit (the name that Phillip gives to this group of nomadic teachers) because it brings a dimension that yoga is inserted in a larger reality – sometimes governed by racist politics, for example – it also reminds me that everyone at some point, even 100 years ago, seeks miraculous ways to solve things, to the point of indulging in ridiculous things, which yield good stories later, at least.

In addition, note that no suburban American knew very well what yoga was, people accepted anything and a groundwork of misinformation was done that still persists – not only persists, it is our new reality: yoga in 2024 is indeed a mix of American metaphysics, with 20’s bodybuilding and also medieval Indian philosophy.

Yoga has always been a vibrant thing, and I dare say that photographs on social networks and other more recent elements have also shaped this practice. With time, we will be able to understand it better, from afar.

For now, today’s text was just about the beginning of global yoga.

I think it’s cool for us to identify that the marketing of current spiritual practices is so similar to that of the past. Hopefully, I can save someone from spending a fortune on magical cures that – I also wished they worked as advertised!!! – are a rip-off, at best a good experience to meet people who are in the same boat as you.

Moreover, be aware of secretive groups or teachers who deliberately and covertly assume the disguise of a moralistic yogi to make money – that thing, every day a fool and a smart person leave home. The guy may not even do it out of malice, but who knows.

And just to finish, if you’ve made it this far, it’s worth spreading the end of romantic yoga (since the topic out there is romantic love kk), which considers more traditional and true that passed by pure Indians – in other words, marketing with assumptions about race, religious ancestry, geographic origins, and artificially sharp distinctions between the East and the West.

If you enjoyed the conversation and want to see some old newspaper ads, take a read at one of Phillip’s articles!

See you later 🙂

a brief introduction to Bhagavad Ghita

I recommend reading this text while listening to this song.

The first thing I do in the morning is drink water, I turn on the tap for zuzu to drink as well, both of us half drowsy there, washing our bodies from the inside. Zuzu is my mom’s kitten, she’s been living with me for over 6 months, because my grandmother had to go live with my mother and cinzinha, my grandmother’s cat, went along.

The two detest each other, zuzu and cinzinha, that’s why one of them ended up here at my house. I was even happy, but for me the ideal would be that they lived together and licked each other in peace just like the internet kittens. Just the other day I realized: Who guarantees that these same kittens don’t fight at other times? That’s right.

Just when you think they hate each other - Imgflip

It seems that permanent peace is just an ideal or a probability that varies according to time, intensity, and the scope of relationships. It’s annoying, but it’s the reality. Instead of dragging Christian guilt for moments of discord, it’s better to accept that it is inevitable in all lives.

The myth of “non-violence”

Better than peace, is peace achieved without violence. This was the discourse of Gandhi, one of the main Indian socio-political activists in his anti-colonial struggle. Founder of the satyagraha movement, Gandhi incorporated principles of non-violence (ahimsa) and truth (satyagraha) as the basis of his “passive resistance” to British imperialism.

Ahimsa and Satyagraha are concepts rich in bibliography, millennial precepts that are in texts such as Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, in the Jaina Sutras and is also part of the general Buddhist philosophical framework.

Dalai Lama, reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara and therefore spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, followed a similar line to Gandhi in Tibetan resistance against China’s takeover, but it’s all nonsense. None of them stood for non-violence in practice, under all contexts.

Gandhi celebrated Japan’s victory over Russia, said Stalin was a great man and also corroborated in situations of war with England, such as the conflict in South Africa.

Dalai Lama even went so far as to play word chess and justify the use of violence, separating “method” from “motivation”. The method may involve killing, as long as the motivation is compassion – just like a snippet from the Bhagavad Gita.

But it’s not just in India that pacifist discourse grows that apparently is unsustainable, as shown by Domenico Losurdo, an Italian historian and philosopher, in his book “Non-Violence: A History Beyond the Myth” in which he raises the contradictions of the most famous and influential pro non-violence movements in history around the globe.

In the text he talks about the anti-colonial movements, but also relates Gandhi and Tolstoy, Gandhi and the socialist movement, goes through Lenin’s party, touches Christian abolitionism, pacifism in the United States and even has the audacity to bring up Martin Luther King’s record and nickname him “Black Gandhi”, pointing to an American Afro-Radicalism.

It’s a delicate topic. Losurdo must not have been content that people swallow any peace discourse when everything around us involves power struggles. It’s almost like believing in the Chinese party’s propaganda of abundance during the time of the great famine.

In the end, Losurdo says that the “Color Revolutions” are a big game and brings a more realistic “proposal” of non-violence for the reality of the time – of imminent nuclear attack. It’s worth reading, but mind you, it’s a very unpleasant subject.

I only brought up this issue of the complexity between peace and war; and the discrepancy between discourse and practice of non-violence, because it was the best way I thought to start addressing the Baghavad Ghita.

So let’s get there soon, today I want to talk about some technical details of its publications and translations, to say that, as I said above, in addition to using its concepts to defend non-violence groups, people also manage to use the same narrative to cover up Nazi atrocities.

How so? We’ll see. We won’t draw any conclusion and after we finish the text we will wish for peace, peacefully. Good Vibes. Be Happy. 🤝

Baghavad Ghita

In the text, there is a battle and the most common cut that is made from the story is as follows:

On one side, the good guys from the family, on the other, the folks who stole the throne out of ambition. One of the good guys (his name is Arjuna) questions: “Despite being politically right, how can I kill my own uncles, grandparents, and cousins?” Complicated. Family is family, right?

To make matters worse, his mission, his life’s work, was to be a warrior. And work is work, right? It’s almost like a policeman today having to kill his own cousin. Follow the morality of the individual mission or the morality of the family lineage?

The whole book is Krishna giving advice to Arjuna:

Man, we are born in this physical body and the way to do things in this world is material, this life is action. Go ahead, do your job, dying doesn’t matter, we are all playing roles here in this life, the soul is immortal.

overly attached hare krishna meme - Google Search | Krishna, Bhagavad gita,  Hindu

Okay, the book is a bit more complex than that, but did you notice the distance from the violent act that this cutout has? That a narrative of something bigger is used to justify violence? Hold on, I’ll get back to this.

In other texts, I will talk more (and better) about Ghita, Uppanishad, Amrtasiddhi and other things from the yogi universe that I love so much and want to navigate beyond the circles of young mystics and eccentric academics.

I will mix it with stories from my life, quote supposedly intelligent people, give a touch of current social issues and hopefully some reference will make sense.

If you want to see me slip and sound like a lunatic at some point, stay, give a like, send it to someone, it costs nothing:

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When it was written

Although the exact dating of the composition of the Bhagavad Gita is uncertain, for many Hindus, especially those who follow the Vaishnava tradition (devotees of Vishnu, Krishna or Rama), the Bhagavad Gita is a “Shruti” scripture (literally, that which was heard), a song revealed by Krishna, timeless and divine.

This is articulated within the text itself, as if when it was sung for the first time, it was already eternal. We can say that it is a kind of scriptural authentication that the text gives to itself: a mode of transmission from the divine to the human world. And, if you didn’t click on the song at the beginning of the text, here’s another chance to hear this divine chant:

The Gita is a song that, over time, became a genre, a type of literature in Sanskrit. With success, came many different Gitas, various different songs. But the Original Gita is part of the Mahabharata, one of the most extensive epic texts in the world, composed of 18 books, known as Parvans. To give you an idea, the whole text is larger than the Greek Odyssey and Iliad, combined.

You can imagine that, instead of watching Game of Thrones at the end of the day, people used to gather to listen to these fantastic stories and dramas, first as a song, then in text and it is still reinterpreted today. It is part of the repertoire of the more than billion people that make up the Indian people and sympathizers.

Originally the story was passed on through oral traditions, like bards, sung, recited, performed, and traveled from place to place for thousands of years, but at some point, about 2,000 years ago, it began to be written and copied as a manuscript, still with regional variations and different textual traditions.

A Herculean effort was made to gather scriptures throughout the Indian territory and assemble the most accurate edition possible. A team of Sanskrit scholars at the Bhandarka Oriental Research Institute in Pune, took about 5 decades to complete the critical edition of the Mahabharata in 1966, compiled after the analysis of 1,259 manuscripts of Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Bhagavad Gita - Wikipedia

Despite the Mahabharata being ancient and the chapter of the Bhagavad Gita being disseminated throughout the world, the text is so relevant and alive that, even today, there is a real academic dispute about whether the Gita is or is not part of the Mahabharatha 🤯

Some scholars, like G.S. Kier, suggest that the Gita was composed in different stages by various authors. Chapters 1 and 2 may represent the original layer, while others were added later.

Others, like R.C. Zaner, defend the doctrinal unity of the Gita, considering it a cohesive text with a clear emphasis on the message of mysticism and divinity of Krishna. However, there are people like Angelica Malinar, who seeks a balance and suggests that, despite layers of development, the Gita was indeed codified as an integral part of the Mahabharata.

Global dissemination

Aside from the disputes over the origins of the original text, we also have to consider the fidelity of the translations. The Gita is the most translated book in the world and occupies an important place in the backdrop of intellectual, philosophical, and political history, not only in India.

Oppenheimer refers to it when he says “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”; Huxley in “The Doors of Perception” says”The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the greatest spiritual works ever written.“; Thoreau wrote in Walden:

In the morning, I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.

The first English version was made by British Orientalist Charles Wilkins in 1785. And, about 100 years later, another very influential English language publication appeared, Sir Edwin Arnold’s “The Song Celestial**”**, which, interestingly, was the first copy of the Bhagavad Gita that Mahatma Gandhi read, when he was studying to become a lawyer in London.

Yes, Gandhi, in fact, did not discover the Gita in India.

Charles Wilkins - Wikipedia
thanks, Charles

From there, the text has passed through many hands, has been translated in more than 75 countries and many of the versions are not based on the work of the Bhandarka academics. Therefore, when you see a political leader using loose concepts or when you find a free translation from any guru, be suspicious.

Political Uses

The Gita gives sense to things that make no sense, justifies things that have no justification, so I agree with Thoreau, everything else seems petty and trivial in front of it. The Gita is a romanticization. The Gita is a beautiful book.

But not for Zizek. He doesn’t emphasize the use of the Gita for the noble pro “non-violence” groups, the Stalinist provokes by bringing a controversial theme, he tells that when they confronted Hitler “we are doing horrible things, killing young Jews, mothers, how can we do this without becoming beasts?” he used this pseudo-oriental discourse of distancing from materiality supposedly contained in the Gita to justify the massacre.

On the other hand, Zizek argues that, in profound crises, radical measures are necessary, this done under a greater pretext of social justice and transformation of power structures. He uses the Marxist discourse and not the Gita to justify violence, but it is similar, the line is thin, so Losurdo crosses these fronts in his text.

If you are living in the same world as me in 2024, we know that the other side turns the table and says that this kind of social justice agenda is what is discriminatory with their group – the total death of truth (satyagraha?), it is worth reading this book by Michiko Kakutani. It’s a relief.

That is, the concepts of the Gita are timeless, truth – lula or bolsonaro, violence – gaza or israel, everything is sewn together and it is not from today, it is not only from the Gita, many other classics from various cultures work on these themes.

It happens that the Gita is the most used and, in a way, everything that could be said about it has already been said. There have been many readers, commentators, translators from different times and cultures, yet these concepts – and all the others – are still the subject of dispute.

Philosophical Context

Its teachings are current because the internal experience of being a human being, the body, the mind, the desires, the fears, all of this is still very similar. At another moment I bring these other beautiful parts of the Gita here, but continuing the line of reasoning, not to do the Hitler and distort the whole text, it is good to remember that there is a very specific historical and cultural context in which the Gita is speaking.

It emerged as a unified text at a time when Buddhism and Jainism were already established. It occurs in the context of the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where war is imminent and Krishna’s dialogue with Arjuna addresses concepts that can be understood in relation to ideas present in these traditions, such as the nature of existence and the tension between liberation (moksha) and mundane life (samsara).

The text investigates the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment while fulfilling responsibilities in the material world. In addition, it shares philosophical affinities with the Upanishads, which form the spiritual basis of the Vedas and deepens concepts such as the nature of the soul (atman) and the pursuit of unity with the divine (Brahman). It also touches on the caste system, was the basis for various legal texts and goes through ritualistic and devotional practices.

It is a very difficult operation to try to understand the Gita, unlike the more ascetic models of classical Yoga, such as, for example, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which suggests that the Yogi should withdraw from the world, – withdraw from society, as a renunciant, as sannyasin, – the universal message of the Gita promotes a social ethic of engaging in the world through disciplined yoga practice, transforming all activities into a service and humble devotion of yoga.

Religious Uses

Just as the political use of the text is very problematic, the religious one is also. As you can see, our current philosophical struggle is not the same as above, the text was not written to dialogue with Christianity, Islam and other monotheisms in general.

Yes, the concepts fit like a glove for many things, for that reason, and thinking about the difficulty of formation, interpretation and translations, it is also important not to fall into any religious use that current gurus can make.

Many leaders claim to be from oral lineages supposedly much more authentic than any academic text, grow on top of this and, curiously, later at some point their ideologies merge with the world of (big) business, as shown by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation, Baba Ramdev with his Ayurvedic products, the infamous Osho and his Rajneeshpuram community, among others.

Including Mr. Goenka, from the silence retreat I spoke about, in his lecture-recordings with Buddhist tales (without exact theoretical source) tells that he was a rich Burmese businessman. Of course, dedicating oneself to spirituality requires free time and the dissemination of ideologies on a global scale requires financial resources, as well as political influence.

Estado da Birmânia – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre
I spent 10 days on retreat listening to Goenka talk about Burma without being able to research exactly where this little place was, I make a point of leaving it here for you.

As I said that “be happy” and “peace among all religions” are not neutral discourses, here I say that “non-violence” is not either.

I brought Losurdo to give me a hand showing that “non-violence” is a game of interests in all cultures, I also dared to put the eccentric Zizek to point out that the same text from where Gandhi draws concepts for his peaceful struggle, is also the text that Hitler quotes to justify his massacres – how confusing!

“Non-violence” is a beautiful ideal, I also want it! but it is above all simplified talk to guide the masses, it has never been realized for long periods of time. Violence has many facets, just like peace. The truth is in constant dispute.

I don’t quite know how to close all of this. If this text did not make you understand anything about Ghita beyond its origins, but made it clearer how her excerpts are present in our history in controversial ways, great 🙂


Sometimes I take zuzu to my mother and, if at first she and the little gray one bristled all over and made horrible noises. Now they stare at each other for hours, with some apathy for being in that forced coexistence situation, but they don’t quarrel anymore. We can say that it is a conflict without violence most of the time.

These days my mother came to the conclusion that, despite the rivalry, this is the friendship they can have, so I think she sees the situation more from the perspective of peace. She was talking about the gray one and zuzu, I think. Despite it being natural to take care of the elderly, it is also difficult to live with parents after a certain age, maybe she was talking about her relationship with my grandmother, I don’t know – we continue with the paradoxes of living.