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The Alwars (also spelled Azhwars) are a group of 12 ancient Vaishnava saints who lived in Tamil Nadu and are famous for their poetry in praise of Vishnu. The 4000 verses of the Alwars were compiled by the Vaishnava Acharya Nathamuni into a book called the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam, which is considered by many to be the "Dravida Veda", or South Indian Veda. It is the principles and beliefs embodied in the Alwars' poems that Nathamuni used to found what we now call the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member).

In addition to the Naalayira Divya Prabandham, however, Nathamuni is said to have also composed at least two other works: a work on logic called the Nyaya Tattva and a work in Yoga called the Yoga Rahasya. (He's often credited with the Purusha Nirnaya, although that's sometimes ascribed to his grandson Yamunacharya whom I discuss here.) These works have lost for centuries, but if you go to a bookstore, you may find a book called "Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya" by T. Krishnamacharya!

For those who don't know, T. Krishnamacharya is one of the fathers of modern Yoga; he was the teacher of B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of the well- known Iyengar Yoga. What is not as well-known is where the techniques of Iyengar Yoga come from. You see, T. Krishnamacharya was a descendant of Nathamuni, and he claims that he had a dream where Nathamuni told him to go to Alwar Thirunagari, the town where Nathamuni received the poems of the Alwars as I discuss here. When he went there, he claims to have experienced a trance where Nathamuni taught him the verses of his lost work, the Yoga Rahasya. That's the purported origin of the verses published in T. Krishnamacharya' book "Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya".

Now some people doubt T. Krishnamacharya's claims; his son T.K.V. Desikachariar suggests that the book may have been his father's own composition:

“My father never acknowledged that he discovered anything even when I have seen that it was he who discovered. He has discovered postures but he would say that it was his teacher who taught him. Rarely has he said that it was his “original” work.... I tend to think that the Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya that he taught us is quite likely to be a combination of his own commentary and the lessons he received though he would not accept it.”

But in this essay Desikachariar says that it's genuinely the work Nathamuni:

The Yoga-Rahasya has unfortunately never been published but there is enough proof to be sure that Nathamuni is definitely the author.

My question is, has anyone examined the Sanskrit verses in Krishnamacharya's book and determined whether they're the work of Nathamuni? Like does the style of the Sanskrit match Nathamuni's era?

And what is Desikachariar alluding to when he says there's "enough proof"?

  • @@Keshav - I did read some where that Sri Nathamuni had trasferred the Yoga rahasya knowledge to one of his immediate disciple. But it was not transferred further by his disciple. Hence, it is considered lost. Therefore, the claim by Krinamacharya swami that he had discovered that yoga rahasya of Sri Nathamuni is not accepted by Sri vaishnavas in general. Moreover, i read that Yoga rahasya is more than just asanas and meditation techniques. I need to check where i read this info. – user808 Jun 19 '15 at 18:05
  • @Krishna T. Krishnamacharya didn't claim that he discovered an existing copy of the Yoga Rahasya. He claimed that he went to Alvar Thirunagari, and his ancestor Nathamuni appeared before him and told him all the verses of the Yoga Rahasya. I'm trying to find out if anyone has examined T. Krishnamacharya's book and determined whether they're really the words of Nathamuni, by analyzing the style of the Sanskrit, etc. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 19 '15 at 18:37
  • @@Keshav- when i said krishmacharya discovered it doesnt mean it was not given to him by someone or he didnt receive in trance at Alwar tirunagari . I remember Dr.SMS. Chari saying in one of his works, philosophy of visisyadvaita based on Adhikarana saravalli of Vedanta Desika, that the claim of Krishnamachary is questionable, because the work Yoga Rahasya which was not accesible to Ramanuja or Vedanta Desika or Pillai Lokachaya etc could have been discovered by a person of present century. – user808 Jun 19 '15 at 18:55
  • @Krishna Yeah, that's definitely a good reason to doubt his claim, especially considering that Ramanujacharya was also a descendant of Nathamuni. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 19 '15 at 19:00
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    @@Keshav - If you see a work by Krishnamachary's grand son, kind of biography of Krishnamachary, the grand son ( forgot the name) says Krishnamachary has travelled all the way to nepal to meet and learn yoga from a buddhist? guru. So, not sure what is the need to travel to nepal and learn yoga from buddhist? guru if he had already discovered Yoga Rahasya at Alwar Tirunagari in trance. – user808 Jun 19 '15 at 19:06
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In a work called "Arayar Sevai" by 'Sri Rama Bharati', the following is said about the Yoga Rahasya of Sri Nathamuni.

All the Alwars in their works have something called phalasruti, which vouchsafe certain definite benifits that accrue from singing their songs or pasurams. This might have led to Sri Nathamuni, the compiler of the Nalayaram divya prabhandham (which is also called tamil veda), to propound the essentials of well being in the work called Yoga Rahasya.

The harmonising of body, mind and spirit acheived by worship through song forms the basis of this Yoga. It restores health to the sick and happiness to the healthy.

Given this explanation, the claim of Krishnamacharya swamy receiving the Yoga rahasya in trace at Alwar tirunagari is "the original Yoga Rahasya" of Sri Nathamuni, is questionable.

So it is doubtful that, the Yoga Rahasya work which was not available to Ramanuja, Vedanta Desika, Pillai Lokacharya and other stalwarts of Sri Vaishnavism, could have been discovered by a person of current century.

  • So you're saying Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya was based on worship through songs and not asanas? – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 19 '15 at 19:39
  • @Keshav - i am not saying any thing. I have just put what is written in book Araiyar sevai. And Why not? Alwars pasurams are absolutely esoteric and if chanted sincerely would surely grant health, wealth, peace every thing material and spiritual and even the ultimate deliverance or moksha too. – user808 Jun 19 '15 at 19:45
  • Oh OK, I didn't know that was all a quote from the book. And yeah, the poems of the Alwars can definitely get you Moksha. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 19 '15 at 19:47
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Guru Paramparai Prabhavam states that through the Supreme Being's Blessing, Azhwar receives both the entire Nalayiram and knowledge of Ashtanga Yoga. He passes all this knowledge to Nathamuni.

Nathamuni had intended to share both with Alavandhar. But, Alavandhar says he will only learn Prabhandam as he does not feel qualified for it. So Nathamuni chooses another sishya. However, that sishya passes before he could begin the studies.

So, per tradition, the Yoga associated with Sri Vaishnava Sadhya Bhakti is lost. What TTK discovered is a matter of faith.

  • It was Nathamuni's shishya Uyyakondar, not Nathamuni's grandson Yamunacharya (aka Alavandar), who learned the Naalayira Divya Prabandham instead of the Yoga Rahasya. Yamunacharya was Uyyakondar's shishya's shishya. But it is true that Yamunacharya tried and failed to learn the Yoga Rahasya from Nathamuni's shishya Kurugai Kavalappan. For details, see my short story here: gdurl.com/G3XW – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 4 '18 at 17:17

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