Modern myths of globalised yoga

I want to touch the subject of delusions unseen by the majority of people, and explain the reasons for their occurrence and existence. More than once I have came across the discourse that Nātha yogins in India do not properly teach āsanas and other haṭha-yoga techniques any longer. But, in such sampradāyas as Daśanāmi for example and some of Vaiṣṇava the process of teaching haṭha-yoga is going better than anywhere else. Let’s analyse it in the most proper manner.

First of all, have you ever been concerned why such traditions as Vaiṣṇavavism, which is focused on bhakti, or those ascending to Śankarācārya, where the focus is put on jñāna and Vedānta, are now teaching ‘yoga therapy’, different ‘yoga styles’ etc.? I will tell you why. These are traditions represented by the biggest numbers of followers in comparison to others – both in the West and India. That is why many gurus there have a very clear vision on how to use Western ’āsana addiction’ trends, they know they can attract more people and more money by that. And when someone says that the real haṭha-yoga is ‘preserved’ exactly in these traditions, they clearly choose the wrong words. They confuse ‘preserved’ with the indulgence of marketing demands of those, whose principles are very superficial. Many Hindus think that it is useless to teach foreigners who initially did not get proper saṃskāras as well as do not usually sacrifice themselves to the spiritual path, therefore it is at least necessary to get money from them. This is an attempt to exaggerate the phenomenon of āsana, only one of the aṅgas (sections) of yoga, and often to borrow this element from other traditions to add it to their sampradāya and exaggerate it anyway. Nāthas do not have such amount of ‘gymnastics’ is due to the fact that, unlike Daśanāmi, they only became popular in the West recently. Even now they are not so common there, because, they generally do not care much about their ‘presentation’. One or two sections should not cause any damage to other sections of yoga, to true discipleship, the formation of a thorough world view.

If you had time to notice, yoga for Hindus is not a hobby, which is ‘practiced’ in between ‘pub’ time, but that is something you live in all the time. From the start, West could see no gains in accepting this concept by its people. Now, due to easy access to a large amount of information and globalisation, a lot has changed. Today saṃskāras of Eurocentrism are dominating not only among those who practice yoga, but even among those who have learned Sanskrit etc. In fact, the desire of the West to dominate exists in all areas, and spiritual one is no exception. Many people pretend either to not notice that fact, or to show that it is not very important. But, this is important, as it makes everything difficult to understand, including even such ‘simple practices’ as āsana, prāṇāyāma, etc.

Nāthas are not engaged in the propaganda of āsanas, for the reason that the goal of āsanas is to learn to practice contemplation in one position for a long time. And if you have no initial understanding of it, if you only formally say that you have it, then you continue to believe in such delusions, as guru Nanak teaching ‘kuṇḍalinī-yoga’, or Śankarācārya teaching ‘yoga therapy’ or giving physical practices to build a ’beach body’. People want to grab everything from India and from the whole world: they want to have a ‘beach body’ and to be ‘traditional’, they want to look 30-years old at the age of 100 and a lot more. What is it, if not an ego? Is it not a desire to reshape other culture in your own way, due to your arrogance and unwillingness to learn and change to the full extent? Is it also the willingness of some Indian gurus not to teach the essence of their traditions, but simply to reshape their teachings to the Western patterns in order to sell better? Ask yourself this question and maybe a great deal will naturally fall into place. I don’t say that money is only evil or only good, money is strictly in the middle between these two poles. It is bad when money supersede the truth, when the main principles of mystical traditions are forgotten, the significance of the essential is reduced, and what is tied to the most banal motives of a man is exaggerated. I do not want to criticise someone’s business, as for I am not the one who created the global financial system in its form which permeates the whole world now. I am not the one to fight with it. My goal is to remind people what is important and to remove layers by layers of massive delusions in people’s minds. Of course someone can say ‘Well, why talk about bad things? Let’s talk about good.’ But, you will never understand the truth by not seeing a delusion. Knowing one of these poles, you will know the other, if one is perfectly recognised, then the other will be perfectly recognised too, it’s just unavoidable.

Another misconception

I met attempts to find the first mention of haṭha-yoga or āsanas, that can be interpreted as “forceful” in early Vaiṣṇava or Buddhist sources. From this, some people conclude that, for example, the source of haṭha-yoga is Buddhism, or the source of forceful āsanas is Vaiṣṇavism of Pancharatra. In my opinion, this is a totally absurd approach. The fact of revelation of some texts does not mean at all that others will not be found after some time, and the existing theory will not be refuted. Considering the fact that many texts over the course of the millennium could not have been preserved at all, how can one confidently say that some yoga practices originated from a particular tradition? It is always worth adding “it may be”, “perhaps”, etc. This conclusion is wrong for other reasons. The main reason is that Pancharatra is a teaching where bhakti is taken as a basis, and its main practices are ritualistic karmakāṇḍa, yoga is not the main one there. And based on the fact that in the texts of this tradition you will find mayūrāsana and kukkuṭāsana, you should not conclude that this is something like one of the Iyengar’s books with 300 forceful āsanas. The idea itself is absurd, in the form of hypertrophied versions that the Nāthas did not have forceful yoga and they borrowed it from vaiṣṇavas. To say that Pancharatra is the basis of forceful āsanas, it is about the same as taking the following sūtra of Patañjali and using the manipulative method to state that Patañjali yoga is the basis of the six cakra system due to the fact that the navel cakra is mentioned there. Then, it developed in such traditions as Kubjikā, Śrī Vidyā and Kālī Vidyā, Trikaśasana, Nātha-sampradāya and others:

नाभिचक्रे कायव्यूहज्ञानम्॥२९॥
nābhicakre kāyavyūhajñānam ||29||

By concentrating on the navel cakra, knowledge of the body is gained.

Is there any mention of such a thing as “cakra” inside the thin body in Patañjali’s text? Of course! Is this proof that the Kubjikā tradition has “stolen” from or “dependent” on Patañjali’s yoga-darśana? Not. For the reason that the doctrines are completely different, and because Patañjali has a very fragmentary element in comparison with what he represents in general.

Also, the mention of some individual elements of haṭha-yoga is not in Nātha sources, does not mean that haṭha-yoga and yoga as a whole is not the prerogative of the Nātha-sampradāya. It is in the Nātha-sampradāya that yoga is the main point and the foundation of the teaching. When studying this or that sampradāyas, first of all it is necessary to take into account their main doctrine. Whether these or other practices are basic or not should be determined on the basis of the main doctrine of the particular sampradāya.

Ekatattva principle of Patañjali

This is one of the most interesting sutras, let’s try to examine it.

तत्प्रितषेधाथर्मेकतत्त्वाभ्यासः॥३२॥ tatpratiṣedhārthamekatattvābhyāsaḥ || 32 ||

तत् tat – that;
प्रितषेध् pratiṣedh (प्रित – backwards, षेध् от सिध् – taking away) – holding up;
अतर्म् artam – goal;
एक, eka – one;
तत्त्व, tattva – essence (thatness) अभ्यासः,
abhyāsaḥ (अभी – in the direction + आस – to the goal) – practise.

In order to control (hold up) them, one must practice concentrating on single entity.

‘Controlling them’ or ‘holding them up’ means what was discussed in the last sūtra: suffering – ‘duḥkha’, depression – “daumanasya“, body trembling – “aṅgamejayatva“, shortness or irregularity of breath “śvāsa-praśvāsa” and absent-mindedness or mind-wandering – ‘vikṣepa’. Before the sutra we are examining, there was a description of obstacles in the practice of mind control, followed by a sūtra, describing what helps to control it.

Many controversial comments have been written by modern yoga teachers. And many of them are not without sound arguments, and it is clear that some authors have tried well to investigate the subject, but not all of them, and many generate more questions. However, there are quite a few classic commentaries on it; there is even a huge commentary by Śankarācārya. For instance, he has a controversy with an anonymous opponent, where the Buddhist terminology is used, and it is also found in the comments of Vyāsa and other gurusVyāsa uses the term kṣaṇika (instantaneousness, fragmentariness) in the description of absent-minded perception. Hence the obvious parallels with the Buddhist doctrine  ‘kṣaṇikavāda’, especially developed in yogācara. I will only describe it in general terms, since this doctrine is also very important for understanding Nātha-yoga. The idea of the variability of all phenomena, and therefore their emptiness, is also at the heart of whole Buddhism. Its essence is that not a single phenomenon in this world has an independent entity.

All phenomena appear and disappear, each phenomenon can be disassembled according to all its various components, and finally, you will not find anything that exists. I.e. at the end – everything is emptiness. Buddhists say that if you are talking about Atman, then it is a kind of independent entity, because Atman is something that contradicts their theory of emptiness. But as I see it, it is not always an attempt to use this point as the basis of practice for them, but often – how to reduce the understanding of Atman to a level lower than it actually is. After all, these empty disputes may well be endless – with the same success the ideologists and political figures of their sampradāyas may contradict themselves. For example, by the mere fact that they say ’we are not those, or these’ – in this way, they already isolate themselves, because everything that is separate is closed. Something which is closed also corresponds to the principle of form, and therefore it can also be interpreted as mundane. In any case, if we return to Patañjali and classic, famous commentaries on him by Indian gurus – he generally speaks of ātman in connection with ‘ekatattva’ (single entity).

Whatever we study, be it external objects on which we focus our senses, or a content of “karmāśaya” – the causal realm, where our “karmas” are contained (analogy to which is alaya-vijñāna in Buddhism) – in any case, no matter how different or subtle the objects of our awareness are, even to the degree of realising their emptiness, there is someone who is aware of it. So Śankara speaks of ātman, which illuminates them with its light, and Vyāsa speaks about the same. If you look at the Buddhist tantric practices, there are many Deities there, however, by practicing with them, you simultaneously realise their emptiness. And here, personally, I do not see any contradictions with the fact that you would realise them as one with ātman. In his comments, Satyananda Saraswati reasonably condemns many tantrics, who give a lot of initiations with various practices. He says that it is better to practice one thing, otherwise a person will be confused. I agree that for a Westerner, loaded with the duality of the Abrahamic religions, the confusion is 99% guaranteed, except in the rarest cases. These are the cases when a person not only understood Hindu Sanātana Dharma, but became extremely sincere in their commitment to it.

But more often we see imitations instead of true commitment to it, even where people wear rudrākṣa, put tilak on them, install mūrtis of Hindu Devatas to show off etc. Frequently it is only business, where precisely that part is showy and artificial and a soul which believes in the same old duality and other values of the West. There are so many reasons why it’s extremely difficult to sincerely accept it, that’s why it is very good to have the guts to admit your own ignorance and even better – to confess to your guru. Only after that a discipleship and sincere communication start. But to admit it not in the sense of “that is who I am and I can do nothing about it and I will never try’ – the light of desire to change shouldn’t fade out.

Only then contradictions will constantly disappear in the process of continuous revolution in your own consciousness, and there will be no problem on what your mind is focused: Gaṇeśa, Śiva, Goddess or all their forms. I would like to draw your attention to a term in that sutra which, generally speaking, points out to ātman as the basis of recollection and concentration of consciousness. The term is ’tattva’ and it is often translated as an ‘entity’, which means very little for the most of people))). Very many practices become clear if you understand it properly. The term tattva consist of tat (that) and suffix tva, which in English is indicated by the ending ‘-ness’, so it can be translated as ‘thatness’. And here, when you see my examples, you will probably remember Buddhist ‘kṣaṇikavāda’. For instance, when I hear about the elements of earth, water, fire, etc., I have different associations. Earth is like black soil, mountains, rocks, etc.

There is a general characteristic of it, for example firmness, but ordinary people do not perceive it as such, but rather ‘look out’ upon something. A person, for example, hears about the theory of five mahābhūtas, saying that water manifests from fire, earth from water, then earth dissolves into water, water in fire, or that fire manifests itself from water, and thinks – how is that possible? How, for example, can fire appear from water? Probably from alcohol, or petroleum, or oil. He begins to think through the prism of the time he lives in and the values of this time, of all the discoveries and inventions made during this period. He starts thinking about cars that use fuel. And this is only one example of a human perception, conditioned by the time frames – the consciousness of the utilitarian consumer.

Unfortunately, all modern “yogis” also think in that way, not realising that traditionally yogis moved away from such perception, that they are yogis precisely because they are far away from being conditioned by temporary factors. That the goal of yoga is clearly not in “sticking” in phenomenality, as for example, in creating a beautiful body. The body which acquired perfection by itself is rather a side effect of the sādhana as a whole. Another example: when you look at the Dancing Śiva statue, you think that Śiva has four hands and he is dancing, or maybe he carries a skull, or lying dead and Kālī stands on him. Then you think: but who is Kālī, and who is their son Gaṇeśa, who suppose to have a head of an elephant, but there are temples where he has a human head.

You think and think: who they are, ‘who is Shiva?’, sometimes you think he has one head, sometimes he has five, and sometimes nine. So who is Śiva? Is he five-faced? Sort of yes, but also he is not. Śiva is Śiva. To understand who Śiva is you need to stop projecting your limited patterns on him, you need to look at him with an empty mind. Instead of silence and contemplation, people have so much noise in their heads. It blocks perception, people want to impose, not perceive. There are so many gurus around and almost no disciples. A disciple and a yogin are the same, that’s why Gorakśanātha calls yoginsavadhū’ – the one who is a yogin, the one who is a yoga practitioner and the one who is a disciple.

When a person decides that they ‘know’, their learning and perception process stops. Thatness means that you, for example, look at Śiva and see through your sensitive perception that it is not just some attributes, but that any attribute and his representation in general – is a gateway to another dimension. And the more you see this thatness, the more this dimension becomes all-encompassing, that’s what tattvaanusandhāna (study of tattva) is. To tell the truth, yogins are people who have the spirit of scientists, researchers, with the difference that they are independent from social institutions. Institutionalism with its frames means very little for yogins due to their spiritual evolution, because they understand the limitations of this system. After all, who are scientists? They are individuals, who made some discoveries, but it doesn’t mean that discovered processes never existed before. Thus, yogin is a kind of a ‘free scientist’, discovering something not discovered by others, and that explains some miracles done by those who achieved a huge success in sādhana. In fact, there are no miracles, there is just something that is understandable and explainable for some, but not for others.

Concluding my explanation of this sūtra, I want to point out a very important moment: in fact, all phenomena exist within one single spiritual entity, a higher, all pervading consciousness that some see as ātman, some as Brahman, some as Śiva or Viṣṇu. Every person has this experience to one degree or another; therefore, when we look at an object, it somehow reveals this experience within us. I would say this: the stability of your concentration does not contradict the vividness of perception, and the vividness of perception is connected with sincerity of what you are doing. There is always a certain awe and humility in sincerity, there is no learning, no research spirit, no discipleship and no spiritual process without it. That is why your sincerity, honesty with all the other qualities listed above help to achieve good concentration, and if it is deep, doesn’t matter what object you are concentrated on, you will gain wisdom from everything. This is probably why the next sūtra lists the qualities important for the practice of pure and stable consciousness.

Āsana concept in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras and Gorakhabānī

There are several mentions of the āsana therm in Gorakhabānī:

आसण बैसिबा पवन निरोधिबा थांन मांन सब धंधा |
गोरषनाथ आतमां विचारंत ज्यूं जल दीसै चंदा || ८२ ||

āsaṇ baisibā pavan nirodhibā thāṃn māṃn sab dhaṃdhā |
badaṃt goraṣnāth ātamāṃ vicāraṃt jyūṃ jal dīsai caṃdā || 82 ||

Seating (baisibā) in posture (āsaṇa), overmaster, calm (nirodhibā) vitality (pavana), external environment (thāṃna), your social image (māṃna), all worldly activities (saba dhaṃdhā).
Gorakshanath says (badaṃta goraṣanātha), “Comprehending oneself or Atman (ātamāṃ vicāraṃta) in the same way that (jyūṃ) the moon (caṃdā) is reflected (dīsai) in water (jala).”

दिढ अहार दिढ जे न्यंद्रा दिढ होई ||
कहै सुणौ रे पूता मरै न बूढा | || ||

āsaṇ diḍh ahār diḍh je nyaṃdrā diḍh hoī ||
goraṣ kahai suṇau re pūtā marai na būḍhā hoī || 125 ||

The position, location (āsaṇa) should be settled, stable (diḍha), the nutrition controlled (ahāra diḍha), whoever (je) sleeps (nyaṃdrā), should be (hoī) regulated (diḍha) in this. Goraksha says (goraṣa kahai), “Listen (suṇau), o (re) my spiritual son (pūtā). Then, will (hoī)  not (na) be senility (būḍhā) and death (marai).”

Thanks to Gorakshanātha, much becomes clear with regard to the description of āsana in Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. I am going to give explanations.

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥
sthira-sukham-āsanam || 46 ||

The position (āsana) must be stable (sthira) [with perfect inner space] (sukha).

The term āsana comes from the root ās, which can have several meanings. The main one is “to sit” or “a seat”, but it can also mean “a place of seating” and “space”. Still it can be translated as “to be”, “to stay” in something or “to live” somewhere, that may indicate the action itself. Thus, it may be a soul staying in the body as puruṣa: ‘pura‘ – a body and ‘uṣa‘ – that is in the body. For example, when we invoke some Deity, we offer him/her a place to sit. So, Nāthas texts often say that the bodies of all living beings were created by Śiva and āsanas too, and āsanas are as many as embodied beings. The main āsanas and number of embodied souls are 84 (siddha-puruṣas or nāthas, who realised in themselves or experienced themselves as Śiva-svarūpa).

Further, the term sukha many people translate very shallow and even in a “sporting way” as “comfortable” or “convenient” posture. However, I think that for a better understanding we should consider the etymology of the term. The term consists of the prefix su सु, which means something “good”, “perfect” and kha ख – “space”. So, if there are blockages in psychophysics, then you are aware of your body as the negative space (duhkha), the opposite of sukha. Practicing āsanas you are freed from blockages and become a pure space, and the purest space is the space of ātman. When your thoughts and body reflect it, they become stable (sthira). All this is what Gorakshanātha spoke about, reflecting on the ātman (it is unchangeable, eternal), the body becomes like water reflecting the moonlight (ātman). If the body reflects the ātman, self nature, then body becomes like it, reflecting its stability.

Conception of alakh vijñān in Gorakh Sabadī

First of all, I will try to define such a meaningful term as alakh vijñān (alakṣa vijñāna in Sanskrit), which is used in such texts as Gorakh Sabadī and others. The first word consists of a root lakṣa which means ‘symbol’, ‘sign’ or ‘goal’ (for instance, of worship or dhyana) and a negative prefix ‘a’, which means ‘something beyond any symbols’. The term vijñāna I would translate as ‘detailed, deep comprehension within a context of detachment’. A prefix vi means ‘diversified’ and a root  jñāna means ‘knowledge’. Altogether it means ‘diversified unconditioned knowledge or comprehension’. Below, I quote Gorakh Sabadī, where this term is mentioned in a dialect, which is close to Hindi:

अलष बिनाणी दोई दीपक रचिलै तीन भवन इक जोती ।
तास बिचारत त्रिभवन सूझै चूनिल्यो माणिक मोति ॥ ५ ॥

alaṣ bināṇī doī dīpak racilai tīn bhavan ik jotī । 
tās bicārat tribhavan sūjhai cūnilyo māṇik moti ॥ 5 ॥

Who have lived experience beyond the boundaries of symbols (alakh-vijñānī) of supreme light (ik jotī / ek jyoti) in three worlds (tīn bhavan), is creating (racilai / racnā  in Hindi) two (doī or donoṃ in Hindi) lights (dīpak). Who explore (vicārit) those (tās) three worlds, reveals (sūjhai / sūjhnā) a ruby (māṇik) and pearl (moti).

The text is rather difficult, firstly because it’s not standard Hindi, and most importantly, the twilight language (saṃdhā bhāṣā) is used here. For instance, there are various gradations of light, the supreme one, as the light of Śiva (prakāśa), and further, the two kinds of light: ‘the cold light’ (the Moon) and ‘the hot’ one (the Sun) – as sources for the following creation of three worlds. The gems usually mean essential substances of Śiva and Śakti, which is well-known by experts in highest tāntric sādhanas. On the one hand, despite their small size, gems have a great value, and on the other – they are very hard and indestructible (which symbolically means the experience of timelessness or the unfolding dimension of silence, beauty and eternity). The red ruby symbolises a fluid of  Śakti and the white pearl – a fluid of Śiva. From one point of view, that is the essential tantric symbolism, from another – that is Nāth’s symbolism from the yoga of the Sun and the Moon and also – raja-yoga. Strictly speaking, the both yogas are linked very tightly.

In my previous blog post I gave an example from Haṭhayogapradīpikā, speaking on śūnyāśūnyavilakṣaṇaṁ (the references not on what is or what is not a void):

We cannot believe in one thing without acceptance of the opposite, that’s why you can call this Nāth’s principle dvaita-dvaita vivarjita, as it called in Nāth or tantric texts, for instance, in the Kulārṇava Tantra:

Or, there is the essentially same definition lakṣālakṣaṇā – ’symbol beyond symbol’. By the way, in a certain sense the term ‘mudrā’ can be a synonym to ‘lakṣa’, because one of the meanings of the word mudrā is ‘meaningful symbol’. If a symbol reflects something transcendental, you get the realisation of transcendence in the image which reflects transcendence. Actually, that is the most important goal of all tantric and yogic practices. For instance, why we practice mantra connected with God or something Supreme? To become it. You become a reflector of the Supreme, you could call it the Man-God, the enlightened, siddha etc. That is what distinguishes the true adept of yoga from a profane man, who didn’t reveal it in himself. Some call it sahajāvasthā  (inherited quality), because you don’t need to ‘achieve’ or ‘form’ the omnipresent Absolute, you just need to reveal or recall it inside yourself.


About Maṇipūra-cakra term

The first time I’ve ever found a mention of maṇipūra-cakra was in one of the Patañjali’s sūtras, and the most interesting thing is that it is called ‘cakra’ there, no matter the popular belief that the cakra system came to exist much later than Patañjali. However in regard to cakras as energy centres, there is only a mention of the navel cakra there. And of course, it is not as detailed as a description of cakras in tantric or reflecting them yogic texts (like nātha’s etc.):

नाभिचक्रे कायव्यूहज्ञानम्॥२९॥
nābhicakre kāyavyūhajñānam ||29||

[By saṃyama] on the navel cakra (nābhicakre) the knowledge of a structure of a body is gained.

As I understand, that is due to the fact that all energy channels which are spreading to all parts of a body are connected in this centre. And Patañjali also mentions nāḍīs in another sutra. Obviously, the knowledge of channels existed in that times, it just that there is no detailed description of them in the sutras.

As for the definition of the term मणि maṇi and पूर pūra, however, it is there in the texts. Regarding पूर pūra, it’s more or less obvious – it is ‘area or abode’, as for मणि maṇi – I didn’t find any detailed explanation in English sources. But they are there in Sanskrit texts, for instance, in the Śrīmad‌bhāgavata Purāṇa (37). Also there are copies of that text in other sources, for example, in the Gautamīya Tantra (Ch. 12, śloka 47), it is also quoted in the Bṛhattantrasāraḥ (Ch. 5):

मेघाभं विद्युदाभञ्च बहुतेजोमयन्ततः ।
तत्पद्मं मणिवद्भिन्नं मणिपूरं तथोच्यते ॥

meghābhaṃ vidyudābhañca bahutejomayantataḥ ।
tatpadmaṃ maṇivadbhinnaṃ maṇipūraṃ tathocyate ॥

This lotus (chakra) is of cloud color and full of brilliant radiance.
That lotus is like the shine of a gem, that is why it is called maṇipūra.

I.e. there is a clear indication here on the ability of a gem to glow – तेजस् tejas. Also, in many tantras, gems, apart from their value, symbolise many other qualities, such as hardness and indestructibility, which metaphorically mean the certain states of high level consciousness. In some tantras, those are psychophysical fluids and substances, which are also associated with very high and deep states of consciousness, as the essence of all forms. If we look at this centre from a physiological point of view, then it is an area of the digestive fire, but in Hindu metaphysics Jaṭharāgni and Vaiśvānara still have a universal meaning. Vaiśvānara permeates the universe, that is why He is the fire and life within all things. Accordingly, through this centre, we perceive the essence that shines in every person in the state of self-sacrifice. That essence is all of us, however, it exists within everyone. As human beings, we all have the same hands, legs, heads and other body structures, because we are all programmed, coded in that way from somewhere above. By meditating on this center and comprehending this particular substance, we discover the universal code for ourselves and gain knowledge about the human body – exactly what Patañjali says.


I have repeatedly mentioned the Nātha’s principle, which is used in many Nātha texts, as well as in A. K. Banerjee’s books – it is dvaitādvaita-vivarjita.

There are many who call themselves tantrikas. They say that Gorakśanāth and nāthas are not oriented towards the same principles as Kashmir Shaivism, etc. In general, I have already said that I do not consider those tantrikas to be experts in tantrism. It is better I quote a śloka from the famous kaula text of ūrdhvāmnāyaKulārṇava-tantra (ullāsa I, śloka 110).

अद्वैतं केचिदिच्छन्ति द्वैतमिच्छन्ति चापरे |
मम तत्त्वं न जानन्ति द्वैताद्वैत विवर्जितम् ||

advaitaṃ kecidicchanti dvaitamicchanti cāpare |
mama tattvaṃ na jānanti dvaitādvaita vivarjitam ||

Someone prefers non-duality, someone – duality, none of them knows the essence that is beyond duality and non-duality (dvaitādvaita vivarjitam).

These are absolutely the same reference points as in the Nātha-sampradaya, sometimes the same terms and ideas can be found in tantric sources, but under different names (advaitadvayta-vilakśana, advaya, pratyakśa-advaita, etc.).

The nature of nātha is divya (divine)

Today I was looking through the Shaktisaṅgama Tantra and there is a description of different sampradayas there, such as kaśmira, kerala, gauḍa. Likewise bhavas (such as pāśa, vīra and divya) are described as three sampradayas. And here is what it says about the Divya-sampradaya in Sundarīkhaṇḍa (paṭala I, ślokas 153-154).

आनन्दः प्रथमः प्रोक्तो द्वितीयो नाथ एव तु |
मुख्यस्तवानन्दनाथः स्यात् प्रकाशस्तदनन्तरम् || १५३ ||
स्वरूपस्तु ततः प्रोक्तश्चैतन्यस्तु तदुत्त्रम् |
आराध्याचार्यकश्चैव विद्याधिक्यात् प्रकीर्त्तितः || १५४ ||

ānandaḥ prathamaḥ prokto dvitīyo nātha eva tu |
mukhyastavānandanāthaḥ syāt prakāśastadanantaram || 153 ||
svarūpastu tataḥ proktaścaitanyastu taduttram |
ārādhyācāryakaścaiva vidyādhikyāt prakīrttitaḥ || 154 ||

[Divya-sampradaya] is divided into seven parts. The first is called ānanda, the second is nātha, [the third is] ānandanātha is the main one, the fourth is prakāśa, then the fifth is svarūpa, the sixth is caitanya and the seventh is ārādhyācāryaka. That knowledge is especially respected.

The second branch of the divya-sampradaya is called nātha. What is interesting is the fact that such authoritative Tantras associate nāthas with divya-bhava. Logically, divya is even higher than vīra, and even more so than the pāśa category.

It is just that people who are strongly attached to hedonism, praise only vāmācāra and for this very reason are trying to reduce the significance of nāthas. Their argumentation is about the same as if they said that dzogchen is the level of the kyerim stage of generation, therefore the dzogrim with signs (the stage of completion) is higher. It is just like saying that karmamudrā is higher than mahāmudrā or śambhava is lower than śaktopāya or that śambhava really is āṇavopāya. If we relate the level nātha yogis are dealing with, to the ācāras of śaktism, then it will be at least the level of divyācāra.

Core of the Nātha Tradition

One of the very common problems associated with understanding the Tradition is how to perceive Gorakśanāth and nathās in general. People often ask me, “I worship Durgā, Gaṇeśa or Viṣṇu and what should I do, if Gorakśanāth, Śiva and nathā are Śaivas?” There are even many attempts to argue what yoga or some of its specific forms are more related to, (with Shivaism, Vaishnavism or with Buddhism, etc.). Yoga is just yoga and that’s it. But it is a matter of choice to determine its relation.It so happened that India is a very religious country and in this regard it is very unique. Religion there permeates everything, therefore it is natural that yoga is tied to one or another belief system and a method of worship. To make you understand who Gorakshanāth is, I will give the following example. There is the famous mantra ॐ शिव गोरक्ष योगी ‘Om Śiva Gorakśa Yogi‘ and a shorter version of the Śabar-mantra, which should be correctly called ‘nama’ शिव गोरख śiv gorakh. However, they did not appear in any “canonical Tantras”. Everything that can be found is the Gorakshanāth mantra in some Tantras, for example, in the Puraścaryārṇava-tantra, which quotes the Kalpadruma-tantra, describing the dialogue between Garga ṛśi and Kṛṣṇa. Garga talks there about Gorakshanāthupāsana practice.

बिन गोरक्ष मंत्रेण योग सिद्धिर्न जायते |
गोराक्षस्य प्रसादेन सर्व सिद्धिर्न संशय ||

bina gorakṣa maṃtreṇa yoga siddhirna jāyate |
gorākṣasya prasādena sarva siddhirna saṃśaya ||

It is impossible to achieve success in yoga without the Gorakśanātha mantra.
There is no doubt that by the grace of Gorakśanātha any success (perfection) is gained.

The text describes the nature of Gorakśanātha and also the fact that the worship of Gorakśanātha is super-secret and his upāsana is the essence of the Vedas. His pūjā, viniyoga, nyāsa, sahasranāma, recommendations for puraścarana and many standard recommendations for tantra are described there. But, I propose to draw the attention to the Gorakśanātha mantras themselves, which are described in the text. They have different numbers of akṣaras (syllables).

ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्ष हुं फट स्वाहा |
ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्ष हुं हुं निरञ्जनात्मने हुं फट स्वाहा |
श्रीं गों लीं हं हां गोरक्षनाथाय निरञ्जनात्मने हं सं सं फट हंस: |

oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣa huṃ phaṭ svāhā |
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gōrakṣa huṃ huṃ nirañjanātmane huṃ phaṭ svāhā |
oṃ śrīṃ goṃ līṃ haṃ hāṃ gorakṣanāthāya nirañjanātmane haṃ saṃ phaṭ haṃsa |

Gorakśagāyatri is also mentioned:

ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय विदमहे शुन्य पुत्राय धीमहि तन्नो गोरक्ष गोरक्ष निरञ्जन प्रचोदयात् |

oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya vidamahē śunya putrāya dhīmahi
tanno gorakṣa nirañjana pracodayāta |

It says that he is śūnya putra (born out of Emptiness or the son of emptiness), also he is nirānjānā (unblemished). In different ślokas it is mentioned that he manifests himself in the form of the spiritual light, etc. However, these mantras do not explicitly say that he is Śiva. But certainly, if Śiva can be present beyond the limits of qualities (nirguṇa), if he is the transcendental light (prakāśa), then why he cannot be Gorakśanātha, especially for someone who worship Śiva? Of course he can, just like for a Vaishnava he can be Viṣṇu, because Viṣṇu derived from the root ‘viṣ’ – the one who permeates the entire universe, since emptiness is omnipresent and it is pure nirānjānā (this is a well-known term, which is often used in relation to Viṣṇu).

Imagine if you are a Muslim and a Sufi for example, and you want to worship Gorakśanāth. How will you worship him? Perhaps, not in the same manner as Śiva and Viṣṇu, but as a great saint. The same, if you are a Buddhist, and for you Gorakśanāth will most likely be an enlightened mahasiddha, etc. In the Nātha Sampradaya there were quite a few people belonging to different dharmas, there were also Muslims too, Viṣṇu and Śiva devotees, as well as various forms of Śakti, Buddhists e.t.c. We cannot say that Gorakśanāth is present in only one of the many forms – for the yogi he is beyond all forms, even divine ones. But, he is also present in all forms as well. Nevertheless, for a correct understanding the emphasis must be put on the fact that Gorakśanāth is beyond the limits. This fact makes it possible to understand the Nātha Sampradaya and its main reference points. Of course, the majority of nātha prefer to perceive Gorakśanāth as Śiva, but I would not say they are Shaivites, or Vaishnavas, or Shaktas, etc. It would be more correct to say they are Yogis and their path is Yoga. If we proceed from that, then many things immediately fall into place: you are a yogi, you can be Śaiva or not, but you remain a yogi. You can say the same thing on whether you like to combine yoga with Viṣṇu upāsana or not e.t.c. To combine yoga with something or practice it “by itself”, you need to consider several things.

Firstly, there is the simplicity of yoga, without any contradictions. Since you comprehend one element of your faith in a very strict way, you cannot perceive anything else. Secondly, the simplicity has the kind of “ essence of everything” in it, which allows it to be present in everything or, if it is present by itself without everything – it should not become an abstract and special form of limitation (otherwise, it will contradict freedom, which is what yoga is for).

It follows from the foregoing that any upāsaka can be a nātha and most importantly, he can be just a nātha-yogi and no one else, or everything at once.

Gaṇapati in association with yogic experience

On the occasion of the Gaṇeśacaturthī, I would like to share my yogic ideas about association of Gaṇapati with yogic experience. We know, there are plenty of Gaṇeśa’s forms, they are all very important in their own way and can bring different blessings to those who perform their sādhanas. Also, there are multiple of connections of different Gaṇeśa’s forms with those or other Śiva’s and sole universal Śakti’s manifestations.

Gaṇeśa mitigates the negative influences of Ketu, as well as removes many obstacles, grants knowledge, success in sādhana and in many endeavours. Now, you can find a lot of information on this subject. However, Gaṇeśa plays a great role for those who follow the yogic path. It is said in Gaṇeśatharva-śīrṣa:

त्वं मूलाधारस्थितोऽसि नित्यम् ।
tvaṃ mūlādhārasthito’si nityam ।

You [Gaṇeśa] (tvaṃ) are the one who is (rasthito’si) permanently (nityam) in the muladhara-cakra (mūlādhāra).

In other words, thanks to the worshiping of Gaṇeśa, the yogi is able to awaken the kuṇḍalinī-śakti in the mūlādhāra-cakra.

त्वं शक्तित्रयात्मकः ।
tvaṃ śaktitrayātmakaḥ ।

You (tvaṃ) are the essence (ātmaka) of three (traya) Divine powers (śakti).

It can also be the energies of the three kuṇḍalinī forms: the lower one in the mūlādhāra-cakra, the upper one in the sahasrāra-cakra and the one in the center between them. Therefore, Gaṇeśa not only awakens energy in the mūlādhāra-cakra, but also leads to complete yogic realisation. In addition, he is the essence of icchā, jñāna and kriyā śakts.

त्वां योगिनो ध्यायन्ति नित्यम् ।
tvāṃ yogino dhyāyanti nityam ।

For yogis (yogino), you (tvāṃ) are the permanent (nityam) object of their contemplation (dhyāyanti).

There are many descriptions of the Gaṇeśa’s qualities, which actually indicate his yogic nature. And what I would like to say in this connection: whatever external worship a person may do, they can have internally different involvement of one’s energy, consciousness and heart. But, only the revelation of one’s own purest nature in one or another action and the highest aspirations basically gives the power to pūjā. I would like to give some examples showing that the Divine is what we really are. Someone can say by ignorance “Yes, but I do not have the elephant head, I’m in a human body. What is the connection with the yoga practice? ” External attributes are simply symbols of different energies, behind which is a finer and spiritual energy that permeates the whole universe with all its diversity. It is ātman, one in all forms, powers, it is within the human form in which sādhaka realises himself through yoga. That is why the Nava Nāthas (the nine founders of the different Nāth directions), on the one hand, are the famous Indian Deities, among whom there is Gaṇapati (aka Gajabeli Gadjakantharnath), but on the other, they all have human forms.

Whichever complex pūjās we perform, we always do this in the presence of our body. While we are in the body, we perform karma (an action). The body is always with us until death, it is the instrument of the soul, its temple, and what is most natural for all human incarnations. The body is also important for the yoga realisation. Few people of us know, but according to many stories Gaṇeśa was not originally with the elephant head, he gained it later. Moreover, sometimes he is the son of Śiva, and sometimes he is the supreme primordial Deity himself. This can all be food for many reflections. Being born in this world, we come from the unmanifested, obtain different energies and then return back to ourselves. We are born in many lives and forms, ultimately affirming in that beyond them all. This original reality is Gaṇeśa. There are not many temples in India with Gaṇeśa in human form. Here, for example, are several known forms of Gaṇeśa from the Śiva temple in Kumbakonam, namely Naramukha Gaṇapati (Gaṇeśa with a human face) or Adi Gaṇapati (primordial Gaṇeśa):

Also, the form of Gaṇeśa with a human face is found in Tiruchirappalli (Tamil Nadu), in Nandrudyan Vināyaka temple. There is another famous Uttarapathisvarasvami Mandir (Vātāpigaṇapatim).

All of these show that Gaṇeśa is not the one who simply takes us away from our human nature, he is rather able to eliminate our weaknesses in human nature and to reveal its pure and strong levels.