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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Three Aspects of the Absolute
page 1 from a manuscript of the Nath Charit, 1823
By Bulaki (Indian, active early 1800s)
India; Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Marwar, Jodhpur
Opaque watercolor, gold, and tin alloy on paper

Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS 2399

According to the Naths, an order of yogis associated with the practice of hatha yoga, creation begins with the limitless and eternal Absolute, a transcendent essence that permeates the universe. This painting, read from left to right, represents the origins of existence as a shimmering field of gold. Its successive emanations into consciousness (center) and form (right) are represented as perfected Nath yogis, covered in ash and saffron. Through yogic practice, Naths sought to transform their physical bodies into subtle matter and merge with the luminous Absolute.

Many yoga traditions define enlightenment as the recognition that the self and the limitless Absolute are one and the same, although they appear different. This essential sameness allows a yoga practitioner to progressively transform his or her physical body, known as the “gross” body, into subtle matter.