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.



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 internal fire

It’s the time to expand the topic of “internal fire”. Accidentally, I discovered a very interesting description of the inner nāda source, which occurs in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, one of the earliest Upaniṣadas. The śloka from there is also repeated in Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (2.6.).

बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् । ५.११.९ ।
bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad । 5.11.9 ।

अयमग्निर्वैश्वानरो योऽयमन्तः पुरुषे येनेदमन्नं पच्यते यदिदमद्यते तस्यैष
घोषो भवति यमेतत्कर्णावपिधाय शृणोति स यदोत्क्रमिष्यन्भवति नैनं घोषं शृणोति ॥

ayamagnirvaiśvānaro yo’yamantaḥ puruṣe yenedamannaṃ pacyate
yadidamadyate tasyaiṣa ghoṣo bhavati yametatkarṇāvapidhāya śṛṇoti sa
yadotkramiṣyanbhavati nainaṃ ghoṣaṃ śṛṇoti ॥

The fire, in the form of a universal being, is inside the living beings, thanks to it the food that is eaten is digested. He [a man], hears exactly that noise when he closes his ears. [However] he does not hear this sound when he dies.

Vaiśvānara is a very revered deity in the Vedas, much like Agni, and is often identified with him. It is also one of the deities that is recommended to perform dhyāna on in Yogayājñavalkya and Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā. We can find many parallels with various yoga sources. For example, the following signs associated with purified nāḍis are listed in Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

यदा तु नाडीशुद्धिः स्यात्तथा चिह्नानि बाह्यतः।
कायस्य कृशता कान्तिस्तदा जायेत निश्चितम् ॥१९॥

yadā tu nāḍīśuddhiḥ syāttathā cihnāni bāhyataḥ।
kāyasya kṛśatā kāntistadā jāyeta niścitam॥19॥

When the nāḍis are purified, then external signs appear: harmony and radiance of the body, the yogi has success beyond doubt.

यथेष्टं धारणं वायोरनलस्य प्रदीपनम्।
नादाभिव्यक्तिरारोग्यं जायते नाडिशोधनात् ॥२०॥

yatheṣṭaṁ dhāraṇaṁ vāyoranalasya pradīpanam ।
nādābhivyaktirārogyaṁ jāyate nāḍiśodhanāt ॥ 20 ॥

If the yogi can retain the life force (e.g. kumbhaka), then the radiance and inner fire are increasing. Having cleaned channels, the nāda sounds are heard and disease is overcome.

Of course, there are different types of agni in the body among which jaṭharāgni is considered particularly significant. However, the “health” concept is not the same from the common man and yogi’s point of view. Yogis do not set the goal of becoming just healthy, the goal for them is rather samādhi. Therefore, the ritual of internal and external fire for the gr̥hasthas, many tantrikas and for the sannyasins has different levels. The yogi awakens the internal fire only in the suṣumnā, “dying for the outside world.” Initially, nāda sounds appear with the fire and light, but with full realisation, even the smallest fluctuations of prāṇa-spandana are extinguished. The above-mentioned Maitri (Maitrāyaṇīya) Upaniṣad (6.22) says of two kinds of Brahman: Śābda Brahman, who manifests himself in the sound and Para Brahman, where the sound disappears.


Cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas in the yogic texts

Such elements as cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas are not always clearly described in the Natha texts and Tantras. Therefore, it is often necessary to use different texts for “complementarity.” There is another perfect way, the presence of a knowledgeable guru, who can explain everything and transmit it. However, it is extremely difficult to find such gurus. It is obvious from lots of texts that these elements of tantric yoga are transmitted to the disciple by a guru, who are realised in them. So, for example, the Pranatoshini-tantra (in the section of guru-tattva) describes these elements:

षट्चक्रं षोडशाधारं त्रिलक्षं व्योमपञ्चकम् |
स्वदेहे यो विजानाति स गुरुः कथितो बुधैः

ṣaṭcakraṃ ṣoḍaśādhāraṃ trilakṣaṃ vyomapañcakam |
svadehe yo vijānāti sa guruḥ kathito budhaiḥ ||

Six cakras, sixteen pillars, three goals (in yoga) and five vyomas are known (realised) in the body [of a disciple], that is connected with a guru.

Also, there are six streams or ways of opening of Paramashiva (षडध्वा ṣaḍadhvā) added to these elements. They play a big role in the tantric initiation (diksha), when the guru places them in the disciple’s body, awakens them in him, actually transmitting that he has realised already in himself. Therefore, a disciple adopts the psychophysical realisation of his guru. A disciple must perceive the transmission of these elements from the guru as the very revealing of Shiva. The revealing of Shiva, who is vācaka (expressing speech) and vācya (expressed) – Shakti. They are both revealed on three levels: the higher – parā (or abheda – apart from the differences), parāpara – the combination of the higher and the lower or the bhedābheda (one in discrimination) and apara – the lowest or bheda (separate). At the highest level, Shiva manifests as varṇa (the Sanskrit letters), and Shakti – as kalā (the five forms of primordial energy). At the parāpara level, Shiva manifests as a mantra and Shakti at the same level – as tattva, one of the 36 elements of Shaivism. At the level of apara, Shiva manifests himself as a pada (words) and Shakti appears as bhuvana (worlds). In a word, the entire manifested universe is the expression of the union of ShivaShakti. The shadadhvas are used in many practices, one of the well-known examples can be found in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra (Shloka 56), they are also mentioned in the Amaraugha-shasana by Gorakshanāth in the context of prāṇa movement and the awakening of kuṇḍalinīshakti.

Regarding the remaining elements, the Pranatoshini-tantra gives the following explanations:

पृथिव्यादीनि भूतानि कथितं व्योमपञ्चकमिति
pṛthivyādīni bhūtāni kathitaṃ vyomapañcakamiti

Starting from the ground, the five elements are known as the five vyomas. The Tantrāloka (Ahnika 29, Shloka 252) says about five centers, where the five vyomas manifest:

व्योमानि – जन्मनाभिहृद्विन्दुस्थानानि
vyomāni – janmanābhihṛdvindusthānāni

The following are connected with the vyomas: 1) janma-sthāna (mūlādhāra), 2) nābhi (maṇipūra), 3) hṛdaya (anāhata), 4) bindusthāna (usually, bhrūmadhya or ājñā) and 5) sahasrāra. Obviously, the earlier system of the five cakras, known in the Kubjikā-tantras for examples, corresponds to the yogic experience of five spaces. Although they are described differently in the Upaniṣadas (the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa-upaniṣad, the Advaya-taraka-upaniṣad) or in the Siddha-siddhānta-paddathi.

The Pranatoshini-tantra gives explanations of the three lakṣyas:

त्रिलक्षादिकमपि तत्रैव स्वयम्भूर्वाण इतरस्त्रिलक्षं परिकीर्त्तितम्
trilakṣādikamapi tatraiva svayambhūrvāṇa itarastrilakṣaṃ parikīrttitam

The three goals of meditation are known as svayambhū (liṅga), vana and itara (liṅgamas).

Six cakras are described similarly to many texts, but in the Pranatoshini-tantra they being reunited with the dvādaśānta system (subtle centers and spaces in the head area), give 16 adharas in total.

षोडशाधारस्वरूपमपि तत्रैव ||
मूलाधारस्वाधिष्ठानं मणिपूरमनाहतम् |
विशुद्धमाज्ञाचक्रञ्च बिन्दुर्भूयः कलापदम् |
निबोधिका तथार्द्धेन्दुर्नादो नादान्त एव च |
उन्मनी विष्णुवक्त्रञ्च ध्रुवमण्डलिका ततः |

ṣoḍaśādhārasvarūpamapi tatraiva ||
mūlādhārasvādhiṣṭhānaṃ maṇipūramanāhatam |
viśuddhamājñācakrañca bindurbhūyaḥ kalāpadam |
nibodhikā tathārddhendurnādo nādānta eva ca |
unmanī viṣṇuvaktrañca dhruvamaṇḍalikā tataḥ |

In addition to the cakras, from mūlādhāra to ājñā, there are listed bindu, kalā, pada, nibodhika, ardhendu, nada, nādānta, unmaṇi, viṣṇuvaktra, dhruvamaṇḍala.

In fact, this is a unified psychophysical system of the yogin including also the macrocosm.

In some texts, adharas are described as granthas (nodes of the energy connections), for example, in the Manthanabhaira-tantra, in others – as marmas (in the Yoga Yājñavalkya). In the last text, these marmas are used in the practice of pratyāhāra, in which, through the concentration of the mind, a yogi learns to collect his prāṇa scattered throughout the body. The term “marma” is found in Āyurveda, in Indian martial arts and comes from the root of mṛ meaning “death”, since the points were used to defeat the enemy. In these systems, marmas are numerous, and they are localised at the junction of different body systems, etc. Nevertheless, the points can play a healing function, so the mṛta (death) becomes an amṛta (life) or a path from mara to amara (immortality).

All these details in their entirety at the applied level can be transferred to the disciple only by a guru, who, without any doubt, must realise them in the most perfect form in himself.

Venerable Suṣumna

In general suṣumna is very glorifying in Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, many texts say that suṣumna contains the entire universe, it is very revered. The term itself comes from the root सुम्न (sumna), which means something desirable, magnificent with a strong prefix सु (su), where the “s” is transformed according to the sandhi rules into “ṣ”, thus the word suṣumna (very gorgeous) appeared. It comes up from the name that this channel is worthy of extremely serious perception, and Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati and a number of other texts describe it as a goal (lakṣya).

Sometimes there are translations of the term, like where the sun’s rays are. Obviously, this context comes from such early texts as Taittirīya Samhitā (

सुषुम्नः सूर्यरश्मिश्चन्द्रमा गन्धर्वस्तस्य नक्षत्राण्यप्सरसो वेकुरयः |
suṣumnaḥ sūryaraśmiścandramā gandharvastasya nakṣatrāṇyapsaraso vekurayaḥ |

Thanks to (suṣumna) moon, shining with the rays of the sun, is gāndharva, and his āpsaras (companions of gānharva) are the nakṣatras.

Further, it follows from the text, that this is described in the context of a fiery yajña, where the fire also relates to gānharva, the radiant rays of the flame – to āpsaras. In fact, the fire ofsuṣumna is the interiorised fire of the external yajña. Apparently, the term itself has Vedic origin.

Sometimes it is difficult to say where the object of reverence acts as a “support”, and where it is the goal.

The multidimensionality of the same term meanings in different texts

One of my students asked a question about the Yogayājñavalkya text. There is a shloka in the section on dhyana:

अथवा परमात्मानं परमानन्दविरगहम्
गुरुपदेशाद्विज्ञ्याय पुरुषं कृष्णपिंगलम्।

athavā paramātmānaṃ paramānandaviragaham
gurupadeśādvijñyāya puruṣaṃ puruṣaṃ kṛṣṇapiṃgalam।

Or when receiving a teaching from the Guru, the embodiment of the supreme soul, the highest bliss, having dark and red color.

What does it mean by dark and red color? Why these particular colors?

The meaning of combination of these two colors in relation to Divinity can be found in a number of sources, first of all in purāṇas, such as Padmapurāṇa, Skandapurāṇa, Liṅgapurāṇa.

In Liṅgapurāṇa, in the description of greatness of the five faces of Shiva, namely Aghora, Aghora Shiva has the characteristics of Dark and Red colors.

स तं दृष्ट्वा महात्मानमघोरं घोरविक्रमम्।।
ववंदे देवदेवेशमद्भुतं कृष्णपिंगलम्।। १४.६ ।।

In Nārāyaṇasūktam, or for example in Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad (Ch. 23), the famous mantra is given:

ऋतं सत्य परं ब्रह्म पुरुषं कृष्णपिंगलम् ॥ उर्ध्वरेतं विरूपाक्षं विश्वरूपाय वै नमः ॥

To the Great Order, Truth, the Great Absolute, the person in the shape of the Universe, with extraordinary eyes, having dark and red color, the one whose sexual power is directed upwards, to him I offer my respects.

Numerous comments to that ancient Vedic mantra contain different interpretations, as for example the dark (on the right) is a symbol of Shiva and the red color on the left side is a symbol of the Goddess Uma (Umāmahēśvara).

तादृशं ब्रह्म स्वभक्तानुग्रहाय उमामहेश्वरात्मकं पुरुषरूपं भवति | तत्र दक्षिणे महेश्वरभागे कृष्णवर्णः | उमाभागे वामे पिङ्गलवर्णः |

There is also the interpretation saying that these are the colors of Shiva and Nārāyaṇa (Harihara). But whatever the interpretations are, the idea of integration of basic metaphysical categories can be traced in all of them.

Yājñavalkya as a Nātha yogin

There is an interesting explanation of the oldest source of the yoga doctrine found in बृहद्योगीयाज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति Bṛhadyogīyājñavalkyasmṛti (12.5):

सांख्यस्य कर्ता कपिलः परमार्थः स स
हिरण्यगर्भो योगस्य वक्ता नान्यः पुरातनः ||12.5 ||

sāṃkhyasya kartā kapilaḥ paramārthaḥ sa sa
hiraṇyagarbho yogasya vaktā nānyaḥ purātanaḥ (12.5)

Kapila, the founder of Sāṃkhya, is known as paramārtha. (Similar to that) Hiraṇyagarbha expounded the yoga doctrine, there is none more ancient than him.

However, in the Nātha Sampradāya, Yājñavalkya is known not only as a Vedic ṛishi, but also as a disciple of Brahma (Satyanāth), who in the form of Hiranyagarbha transmitted the knowledge of yoga to Yājñavalkya. And Yājñavalkya Nātha is mentioned on the lists of 84 Nāthas.

āgamarahasyam Ch. 17

In the chapter devoted to the yoga practice, namely, in the section of dhyāna, the elements of sexuality are described in a positive context. Unlike many formal celibate guardians, who in fact do not follow it themselves, there is not so much hypocrisy directly in the ancient texts. On the contrary, sexual power is interpreted as extremely important in spiritual evolution. With the correct perception it is capable of bestowing a higher yogic realisation.

अग्रतः पृष्ठतो मध्ये पार्श्वतोऽथ समन्ततः ।
विद्युच्चकितवद्भाति सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभः ॥ २९७ ॥

रतान्ते स्त्री यथात्मानं क्षणं क्वाहं न बुध्यते ।
रमणोऽपि न जानाति कोऽहं योगे तथा पुमान् ॥ २९८ ॥

agrataḥ pṛṣṭhato madhye pārśvato’tha samantataḥ ।
vidyuccakitavadbhāti sūryakoṭisamaprabhaḥ ॥ 297 ॥

ratānte strī yathātmānaṃ kṣaṇaṃ kvāhaṃ na budhyate ।
ramaṇo’pi na jānāti ko’haṃ yoge tathā pumān ॥ 298 ॥

(Yogin) is shining with thousand millions of sun rays evenly in front, behind, in the middle, in the center and at the sides. During orgasm, a woman (रतान्ते स्त्री ratānte strī) tries to realise: “Where am I?” (क्वाहं kvāhaṃ?), but can not realise it. A man at the moment of pleasure asks the question: “Who am I?” (कोहं? ko’haṃ?) and cannot find the answer, also a person in the yogic state doesn’t know who he is (i.e. his false personality).

The limbs of haṭha-yoga in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā and the Agama Rahasya Tantra

The limbs of haṭha-yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

आसनं कुम्भकं चित्रं मुद्राख्यं करणं तथा ।
अथ नादानुसन्धानमभ्यासानुक्रमो हठे ॥ ५६ ॥

āsanaṁ kumbhakaṁ citraṁ mudrākhyaṁ karaṇaṁ tathā |
atha nādānusandhānamabhyāsānukramo haṭhe || 56 ||

The sequence of haṭha-yoga could be practiced as āsanas, breath holdings, mudrās and nādānusandhāna.

तान् हठयोगे वक्ष्यामः |
आसनं प्राणसंरोधो ध्यानं चैव समाधिकः |
एतच्चतुष्टयं विद्धि सर्वयोगेषु सम्मतम् || १२ ||

tān haṭhayoge vakṣyāmaḥ |
āsanaṁ prāṇasaṁrodho dhyānaṁ caiva samādhikaḥ |
etaccatuṣṭayaṁ viddhi sarvayogeṣu sammatam || 12 ||

Asana, a stopping of prāṇa (prāṇāyāma), dhyāna (contemplation) and samādhi – these four kinds are recognised in all the yogas.

Svātmārāma specifies the following sequence of the four-limb haṭha-yoga:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) mudrā, 4) nādānusandhāna.

Agama Rahasya Tantra specifies the following sequence:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) dhyāna, 4) samādhi.

Also, Agama Rahasya divides the genealogy of haṭha-yoga into two categories. The first one is going from Matsyendranātha (kaula and nātha yogin) and the second from aṣṭa-ciranjīvī (immortal ṛṣi and muni, like Mārkaṇ‍ḍeya and others). Although, they are considered to be related to nāthas in Nātha Samprādaya.

Nātha as a manifestation of the nāda

The following definition of the term nātha is given in Gorakṣa-siddhānta-samgraha:

नाकारो नादरूपं च थाकारः स्थाप्यते सदा |

भुवनत्रयोवैकः श्रीगोरक्ष नमोऽस्तु ते ||

Reverence to Gorakṣanāth, the Nātha, who is one in the three worlds, he as a syllable “nā” – means “nāda”, and “tha” – manifested (in the three worlds).

The other part also says that nāth is one who realises the nāda or the source of own origin. In the subtle form nāda is manifested in the form of the praṇava OM, which is known as Mahāgāyatrī, and in the gross form it is known as Brahmagāyatrī; all Navanāthas, Caurashi Siddhas, Deities, Vedas, grammar (vyākaraṇa), Purāṇa, Itihāsas, etc. are manifestations of this particular Nātha-yoga.

Indeed, practices related to nāda play a fundamental role in the Nāth Tradition.