The Shiva Samhita, along with the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita and several other works attributed to the teacher Gorakshanatha or his disciples, is counted among  the best-known sources of Hatha Yoga today, thats why this medieval work is still often cited in contemporary books on Yoga. Although this scripture is often mentioned, many passages remain difficult to understand and appear mysterious, confusing or misleading without a commentary from a competent teacher. Even translators and commentators experienced in Hatha Yoga and experts in Sanskrit fail to understand and properly translate many relevant verses.  One of the reasons is certainly that in this work, in addition to the usual better known topics common to  Hatha Yoga, contain passages that  explain mystereries that are usually only passed on secretly or hinted at by using  symbolic language and double entendre. Though it is a text stemming from the Natha tradition it is syncretic and there is an abundance of  Yoga practices and knowledge to be found in the text that are adapted from lesser known spiritual traditions, notably from the Dakshinamnaya (southern face tradition) of the Kaula Marga and of the Kevala Advaita of Adi Shankaracharya. In addition to these difficulties many details of these tradition are  mentioned only in passing, because prior knowledge is assumend by the author. Therefore these require additional information to be properly understood in their context. I will go into more detail in the comments and will provide the missing information to the extent that these are known to me. 
śiva saṁhitā ||
ekaṃ jñānaṃ nityamādyantaśunnyaṃ nānyat kiñcidvatte te vastu satyam /yadbhedosminnindriyopādhinā vai jñānasyāyaṃ bhāsate nānnyathaiva /1/ 
Shiva Samhita
1. Cognition is singular, eternal and void of a beginning or end, nothing else is real. What appears as differences is only due to the impact on the sense organs.  Without it nothing apart from cognition remains.
The world can be said to be consisting of that which is cognised, the means of cognising and the cogniser. These three elements depend on each other and no part of the process of acquiring knowledge can exist by itself alone.
In the Shiva Sutras it is written in verse 2: Jnanam bandhaH: Knowledge enslaves you
But the Shiva Samhita declares that knowledge or cognition, alone is eternal and real. How can this  opposition of opinions be explained?
There are two different ways of knowing, they are namesakes (jnanam) only, one that is dualistic and one that is non dualistic.
Its worth taking a deeper look at this: It is taken for granted that our knowledge of the world is the result of objects that can be cognised,  a cogniser  and the means of cognition  and that these exist each seperatly and on their own, but judging from an absolute viewpoint, this is not the case.
One simply assumes, unchecked, that the outside world,  the objects that are cognised, exist entirely independent and separate from the cogniser who classify and judges them.
But without any observer present, all of a sudden, the whole of reality, everything that seemingly surrounds us, becomes a mere possibility.  All of Existence is linked to the presence of a first observer.  The world without any observer is merely a latency with the potentential to manifest in the presence of  some entity endowed with the means of cognition. Even the idea  that objects without an observer  are merely a latency needs someone present that is able to imagine this scenario. Entirely without some observer even this latency is non existing.
For the appearance of one thing to be distinguishable from any other thing, the observer must also be able to classify and compare the experiences, e.g. as desirable, unpleasant or neutral. Objects therefore are merely an illusionary display on the sense organs of a cogniser.
Of course, this illusiory nature also applies to the cogniser. Only with the presence of an object that appears to differ from his self, and  therefore can serve as an object of cognition, he cannot develop the conception of a seperate individual self. Without an object and the means of its cognition, he has no self awareness.
Thererefore, if the conventional conception of the cogniser is only an illusion, also the objects which can be cognised do not remain present as a separately existing object on their own.  Would the last observer dissolve, the universe would rest forever in the unborn void. Musing upon this, all off a sudden, one discovers that there is nothing truly real and nothing else can be proven to exist, except cognition itself, because it is the process which gives birth to every other illusory form.
The diversity of the outside world appears only because we receive information impacting on the sense organs coupled with our ability to compare and classify it. Therefore, the author concludes, when putting this process to an end by the practice of yoga, what remains is the absolute state of non dual cognition, being the only true or absolute reality.


atha bhaktānurakto’haṃ vakti yogānuśāsanam / īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtānāmātmamuktipradāyakaḥ /2/

2. I the Ishvara, because of my goodwill towards my devotees, will teach a type of Yoga that is capable to give liberation to all beings.

tyaktvā vivādaśīlānāṃ mataṃ durjñānahetukam / ātmajnānāya bhūtānāmananyagaticetasām /3/

3. Disregarding the misleading views of those that like discussions, it serves to achieve self knowledge for those that are inclined to undivided attention.



In these two verses Shiva, in the form of Ishvara explains that by his act of goodwill to teach the path of Yoga, he will reveal the higher knowledge to all beings.

Shiva explains in this scripture the path to liberation (mukti) through development of undivided meditative attention. This refers to the energy of grace mentioned in the previous verse, that first appears as a subtle tremor (kshobha) of affection  in the heart of Shiva. Meditation on this Shakti and its various forms is taught in more detail later.

In the following verses some of the fruitless spiritual efforts are enumerated, and then discarded since they cannot lead to the final goal.

Even if they have beneficial consequences, they cannot dissolve the entanglements and illusions that keeps the individual in bondage. On the contrary, they deepen the divide,  by their delimiting effect they merely reinforce the individuality, the concept of self and others, the illusory ideas we cherish.
In the next 13 verses these different,  deficient, spiritual methods, ways of life and philosophies are briefly dealt with.  Even if they have beneficial consequences, they cannot dissolve the entanglements and illusions.

In these verses the diverse doctrines are represented in pairs of opposites. It is thus shown that the various spiritual teachings often diametrically contradict each other and therefore their claim to absolute validity is doubtful. Due to the individuation that occurs by adherence to these doctrines and spiritual efforts, one accumulates more and more imprints (samskaras) and the false idea of a personality (ahamkara) solidifies. By the accumulation of merit as well as guilt, the differences of one's self to others are emphasized.  Therefore whether the effects of the various religions and spiritual practices are good and helpful or even bad and harmful is not the issue. However, the path of yoga should help to return to the primal nature of conciousness, the unity of the knower, the known and the knowledge.


satyaṃ kecitpraśamsanti tapahaḥ śaucaṃ tathāpare / kṣamāṃ kecitpraśamsanti tathaiva samamārjjavam /4/

4. Some praise  truthfulness, (satyam) some ascetism and cleanliness, others equanimity and forbearance.


These teachings are one-sided. They emphasize either mental development by practicing truthfulness, or physical development by asceticism and purity, or emotional development by developing equanimity and patience.


keciddānaṃ praśamsanti pitṛkarma tathāpare / kecitkarma praśamsanti kecidvairāgyamuttamam /5/

5. Some praise charity, other the worship of the ancestors, some praise (ritual) activity, others renouncement.


These verses verse contrast the paths that are either oriented to achieve worldly aims to those that are concerned with the higher realms. Charity is concerned with this world.  Sacrifice to the ancestors is concerned with the afterlife.  Activity is concernend with this world.  Renunciation helps transcending it.

kecidgṛhasthakarmāni praśamsanti vicakṣaṇāḥ / agnihotrādikaṃ karma tathā kecitparaṃ viduḥ /6/

6. Some praise upholding the duties of a householder and others are of the opinion that the fire sacrifce (of the ascetic) is most important.

Then follows  the comparison between the householder and the ascetic life. On the one hand, there are the many duties  one must perform in order to run a household, and on the other hand, there are the ascetic duties, primarily the performance of the fire sacrifice to the gods.


mantrayogaṃ praśamsanti kecittīrthānusevanam / evaṃ bahūnupāyāmstu pravadanti hi muktaye /7/

7. Some praise Mantrayoga others visiting pilgrimage sites. In this way diverse path leading to liberation are enumerated.


Next the spiritual activities, which are practiced passively and in solitude are contrasted with an active life for instance as a wandering monk (parivrājaka), who has the duty to visit the holy places of pilgrimage and all of the recurring  festivals that happen all over the country one after the other in the course of time.
The author suggests by these comparisons, that although fulfilling worldly and otherworldly duties may both be necessary for our well-being, it is impossible to fulfill them at the same time. Therefore, it is doubtful whether any of these dualistic methods can successfully lead to the Absolute. 
The weaknesses of all these methods are explainend in the following verses 8 and 9. They do not liberate from guilt and merit, and therefore one remains in the cycle of births and death, which should be mastered by the practice of yoga.

evaṃ vyavasitā loke kṛtyākṛtyavido janāḥ / vyāmohameva gacchanti vimuktāḥ pāpakarmabhiḥ /8/
8. Though they know what  good and bad deeds are and believe they are free of transgressions they are still engulfed in illusions.

etanmatāvalambī yo labdhvā duritapunyake / bhramatītyavaśaḥ so’tra janmamṛtyuparamparām /9/

9. By following the different paths they accumulate both merit and demerit and are (therefore) bound in the cycle of Rebirth.



anyairmatimatāṃ śresṭhairguptālokanatatparaiḥ / ātmāno bahavaḥ proktā nityāḥ sarvagatāstathā /10/

10. The best of those that endeavour to explore all secrets describe the self as diverse, eternal, or as all pervading.


Even the best of all the sages contradict each other in their statements about the true nature of the self, this illustrates that such analyses are futile and one should not waste one's time with topics like this, when even the masters cannot come to conclusive answers. This train of thought is further developed in the following verses where it is shown that these sages also have differing opinions about the nature of the external world.



yaddyatpratyakṣaviṣayaṃ tadannyannāsti cakṣate / kutaḥ svargādayaḥ santīttyanye niścitamānasāḥ /11/

11. Other are of the opinion that merely what we perceive is real and ask: „where are the higher planes?“



Jñāna pravāha ityanye śūnyaṃ kecitparam viduḥ / dvāveva tatvaṃ manyante’pare prakṛtipūruśau /12/


12. Some belive that everything is based on void and some that everything that exists consist of a series of thought constructs, others that all is based on two fundamental principles of mind (purusha) and substances (prakriti).

The materialists (Charvakas) among the philosophers even go so far as to deny the existence of all higher worlds, then the author deals with the doctrines of the Madhyamika and Yogacara buddhist schools and the Samkhya philosophy, that think respectively that the world emerges from the void, or is caused merely by the activity of the mind, or  because of the interplay of Substance and Mind. It is implied  that if even the sages disagree fundamentally about the nature of the external world, only  abandonment of these debates and taking up  the practice  of yoga is helpful.


Atyantabhinnamatayaḥ paramārthaparāṅmukhāḥ /evamanye tu sañcintya yathāmati yathāśrutam/13/

13. In this way people cling to differing opinions and turn their backs to the absolute Truth


nirīśvaramidaṃ prāhuḥ seśvarañca tathāpare vadanti vividhaibhedaiḥ suyuktyā sthitikātarāḥ /14/

14. There is a governor of this world (Ishvara), or this world is without a governor they think and both base their opinions on irrefutable proof derived from the scriptures.

There is even a dispute over the question of the existence of a creative God, so why burden yourself any further with such thoughts? It only contributes to  spiritual confusion and ingrains duality. Therefore, one should follow the non-dualistic path of yoga which does not separate but unites. This point of view is explained in the following verses.


śāstreṣu kathitā hyete lokavyāmohakārakāḥ /15/ etadvivādaśīlānāṃ mataṃ vaktuṃ na śakyate /bhramantyasmiñjanāh sarve muktimārgabahiṣkṛtāḥ/16/

15.These and other sages that are following diverse teachings and traditions are the cause of spreading Illusions in the human mind. It is impossible to describe all the differing viewpoints and opinions that have been created by people who like to argue and debate in such a way. 16. Due to these diverse opinions people are wandering (aimlessly) in the world straying further away from the path of Liberation.


ālokya sarvaśāstrāṇi vicārya ca punaḥ punaḥ||idamekaṁ suniṣpannaṁ yogaśāstraṁ paraṁ matam ||17|

17. Examining all the Scriptures and throughly studying them shows that the Yoga Teachings are the supreme Tradition.


yasmin jñāte sarvamidaṃ jñātaṃ bhavati niścitam / tasmin pariśramaḥ kāryaḥ kimanyacchāstrabhāṣitam /18/yogaśāstramidaṁ gopyamasmābhiḥ paribhāṣitam || subhaktāya pradātavyaṁ trailokye ca mahātmane|| 19|


18. By the teachings of Yoga everything becomes well known with certainity. One should use great effort to achieve these teachings. What is the need for other teachings ? 19. The Yoga scriptures are a great secret that is only imparted to the most dedicated, the most noble among the three worlds.


The next section explains in detail why following the moral rules and Vedic duties is  only of temporary benefit. Therefore, the Yogi should emphasize the vedic teachings on how to achieve true Knowledge, but he should achieve it by means of  the practice of Yoga.


karmakāṇḍaṁ jñānakāṇḍamiti vedo dvidhā mataḥ ||bhavati dvidho bhedo jñanakaṇḍasya karmaṇaḥ ||20|dvibhidhaḥ karmakaṇḍaḥ syanniṣedhavidhipurvakaḥ ||niṣiddhakarmakaraṇe papaṁ bhavati niscitam ||vidhina karmakaraṇe puṇyaṁ bhavati niscitam || 21||


20. The Vedas is divided in two parts, one that treats activities (karma kāṇḍa), the other treats that knowledge (jñāna kāṇḍa). 21. These again are divided into two groups: Duties and Rules, if one breaks the rules ist is the cause of demerit whereas the fulfillment of  the duties results in merit.
trividho vidhikūṭaḥ syānnityanaimittakāmyataḥ ||nitye'kṛte kilviṣaṁ syātkāmye naimittike phalam ||22||dvibhidhantu phalaṁ jñeyaṁ svargo naraka eva ca ||svargo nānāvidhascaiva narakopi tathā bhavet ||23||puṇyakarmāṇi vai svargo narakaḥ pāpakarmāṇi ||karmabaṁdhamayī sṛṣṭirnānyathā bhavati| 24||
22.There are three types of duties obligatory, occasional and voluntary. 23. If the obligatory duties are left unfullfilled only demerit occurs, it is different in regard to occasional and voluntary duties, in these cases there may occur merit as well as demerit. 24. The result of these amassings (of merit and demerit) is dualistic,  one achieves  either rebirth in the higher planes or the netherworlds. The higher planes as well as the netherworlds exists in many varities. Merit leads to the higher planes demerit to the netherworlds. Doubtless, forced by the results of activities everything comes into being.


jantubhiścānubhūyaṁte svarge nānāsukhāni ca ||nānāvidhāni duḥkhāni narake duḥsahānivai||25||pāpakarmavaśādduḥkhaṁ puṇyakarmavaśātsukham||tasmātsukhārthī vividhaṁ puṇyaṁ prakurute dhruvam ||26||


25. In the higher planes Beings experience diverse Enjoyments, in the Netherworlds they experience unbearable pains. 26. By despicable acts sorrows are the result, accrued merits are the cause of happiness. Therefore everyone that aspires to attain welfare should engage in meritous acts.


pāpabhogavasāne tu punarjanma bhavetkhalu ||puṇyabhogavasāne tu nānyathā bhavati dhruvam ||27||svarge'pi duḥkhasaṁbhoga parastrīdarśanādiṣu ||tato duḥkhamidaṁ sarvaṁ bhavennastyatra saṁśayaḥ || 28|| tatkarmakalpakaiḥ proktaṁ puṇyaṁ pāpamiti dvidhā ||puṇyapāpamayobandho dehināṁ bhavati kramāt|| 29|| 


27.  When the results of the despicable acts are entirely experienced, certainly one will be reborn. A similarly outcome will be experienced when the fruits of meritous activities have been fully enjoyed. 28.  Even in the higher plane there is sorrow in case one looks at other woman and desires them. Without doubt the whole Universe is filled with sorrow. 29. The learned have classified karma into two types one that causes auspicious results the other inauspicous, both similarly are the cause for the embodied beings to enter the continous cycle of rebirth again.


ihāmutra phaladveṣī saphalaṁ karma saṁtyajyet ||nityanaimittikaṁ sajñaṁ tvaktvā yoge pravartate||30||


30. Those that do not want to enjoy the fruit of their deeds in this or a higher plane should therefore renounce the hope for rewards and give up attachment to the obligatory and occasional duties and instead take up the practice of the teachings of Yoga.


karmakāṇḍasya māhātmyaṁ jñātvā yogī tyajetsudhīḥ ||puṇyapāpadvayaṁ tvaktvā jñānakāṇḍe pravartate|31||


31. After realises the usefulness of the vedic Rules the wise Yogi should discard them and renounce both Merit as well as demerit, and become dedicated to the teachings of knowledge.


ātmā vā're ca śrotavyomantavya iti yacchati||sā sevyā tatprayatnena muktidā hetudāyinī|| 32||.


32. If it is mentionend in the vedas that the self should be known it should be persued with great diligence because it´s that  what causes true Liberation und Knowledge of the absolute Truth.


 duriteṣu ca puṇyeṣu yo dhīrvṛttiṁ pracodayāt ||so'haṁ pravartate matto jagatsarvaṁ carācaram| 33||sarvaṁ ca dṛśyate mattaḥ sarvaṁ ca mayī līyate ||na tadbhinno'hamasmīha madbhinno na tu kiṁcana || 34||jalapūrṇeṣvasaṁkhyeṣu śarāveṣu yathā bhavet|| ekasya bhātyasaṁkhyatvaṁ tadvedo'tra na dṛśyate |35|| upādhiṣu śarāveṣu yā saṁkhyā vartate parā ||sā saṁkhyā bhavati yathā ravau cātmani tattathā|36|


33. I am that conciousness that judges the world of experiences and decides what is merit or demerit. 34. This whole universe the immovable as well as the movable originates from the self and rests in the self. I am not different from anything else nor does anything differ from me. I am that conciousness that judges the world of experiences and decides what is merit or demerit. This whole universe the immovable as well as the movable originates from the self and rests in the self. I am not different from anything else nor does anything differ from me.  35. Like the sun that is reflected on the surface of countless bowls of water, but the cause of it is just a single sun, all variety comes into being. 36. Just as the sun appears  as many times as there are bowls, in that way the diverse beings appear, but the empowering force is one.


yathaikaḥ kalpakaḥ svapne nānāvidhitayeṣyate ||jāgarepi tathāpyekastathaivabahudhā jagat||37||

37. As if someone is dreaming and creating diverse objects out of his own imagination and after waking up all that  remains is a single person,  so is the universe, it merely seems to be compounded of distinct diverse objects.


sarpabuddhiryathā rajau śuktau vārajatabhramaḥ ||38||tadvadevamidaṁ viśvaṁ vivṛtaṁ paramātmani ||rajjujñānādyathā sarpo mithyārūponivartate ||39||ātmajñānāttathā yāti mithyābhūtamidaṁ jagat||raupyabhrāntiriyaṁ yāti śuktijñānādyathā khalu ||40||jagadbhrāntiriyaṁ yāti cātmajñānātsadā tathā ||yathārajjūgabhrāntirbhavedbhedavaśājagat ||41||tathā jagadidaṁ bhrāṁtirabhyāsakalpanā jagat||


38. Due to a misperception a rope may appear to look like a snake or mother of pearl shines like silver, 39. In that way the whole universe is a projection of the transcendent self. The illusion of a snake disappears if one realises that it is just a rope, in the same way the illusion of a universe disappears if knowledge of the self sets in. 40. In the same manner the illusion of a piece of silver disappears if the sea shell is realised, the illusion of the the world disappears with the arising of selfknowledge. 41. It is as if a posionous makeup is used on the eyes and as a result bamboo appears like snakes in the same way the coloring of Habit and Imagination creates the whole world.


ātmajñānādyathā nāsti rajjujñānādbhujaṅgamaḥ ||42||yathā doṣavaśācchuklaḥ pīto bhavati nānyathā ||ajñānadoṣādātmāpi jagadbhavati dustyajam ||43||doṣanāśe yathā śuklau gṛhyate rogiṇā svayam ||śuklajñānāttathā'jñānanāśādātmā tathā kṛtaḥ || 44||


42. As the knowledge of the Rope causes the snake to disappear it will happen to all Illusions when the one self is recognized. 43. As if by Sickness our eyes turn yellow, everything  white colored appears yellowish, in that way the world exists, just virtually projected on the transcendent self, an illuson that is difficult to remove. 44. If the jellow tint of the eyes is healed white is again recognized as white by the patient, the same thing happens to us in the very moment the illusion is destroyed and the true nature of the self is realised.


kālatrayepi na yathā rajjuḥ sarpo bhavediti||tathātmā na bhavedviśvaṁ guṇātīto nirañjanaḥ|| 45||

45. There is no way a rope can become a real snake throughout all the three times (Past, Present and Future) in the same way the stainless self can never transform into the World.


Using the example of the rope and the snake and the mother of pearl mistaken for the silver and stating that there are no transformations that are truly existing, shows the strong influence of Advaita Vedanta , that posits that all experiences are only existing in a virtual space and are illusory projections and the unborn unchanging absolute functions merely as a screen. That is unlike most other Yoga Traditions that either maintain that  the world is real and substantial (Yoga Samkhya) or even if considered an illusion, what appears as the external world, are the diverse powers of the one absolute. (Natha Siddha Tradition )


|āgamā'pāyino'nityānāśyatveneśvarādayaḥ ||ātmabodhena kenāpi śāstrādetadviniścitam||46||

46. The Scholars, well versed in the Scriptures endowed with self knowledge confirm that even the deities do not exist forever and will perish some day.


yathā vātavaśātsindhāvutpannāḥ phenabudbudāḥ ||tathātmani samudbhūtaṁ saṁsāraṁ kṣaṇabhaṁguram ||47||

47. Like a bubble that appears in the ocean caused by wind in the same way this Cycle of rebirth subjected to time appears within the singular self.


abhedo bhāsate nityaṁ vastubhedo nabhāsate || dvidhā tridhādibhedo'yaṁ bharamatve paryavasyati ||48||yadbhūtaṁ yacca bhāvyaṁ vaimūrtāmūrtaṁ tathaiva ca ||sarvameva jagadidaṁ vivṛtaṁ paramātmani||49||


The nondual is eternal the dual is perishable the classifications into dual, triple and multiple are caused by delusion. Whatever there is, whether it is formend or formless it exists only virtually, projected on the one self.


kalpakaiḥ kalpitā vidyā mithyā jātā mṛṣātmikā ||etanmūlaṁ jagadidaṁ kathaṁ satyaṁ bhaviṣyati ||50||


50.The world is caused by ignorance and Imagination, how can it itself be real when its root is unreal?


caitanyātsarvamutpannaṁ jagadeccarācaram ||tasmātsarvaṁ parityajya caitanyaṁ taṁ samāśrayet ||51||

51. This whole universe is caused by Conciousness therefore one should take refuge only in this conciousness.


ghaṭasyābhyaṁtare bāhye yathākāśaṁ pravartate|tathātmābhyaṁtare bāhye brahmāṇḍasya pravartate || 52||

Like space is inside as well as outside of a jar, in the same manner the self fills up the impermanent universe.

to be continued