How are pūjās performed in Navrātri related to yoga?

Many people ask me this question, so I decided to answer simply and accessibly, using examples. To obtain siddhi (success) performing sādhanā, the Deity (the Goddess in this case) must be satisfied. It is as if you have met a very influential person who is satisfied with your communication, then he or she will help you succeed in this world. It remains to understand what the Divine is and what it means to be satisfied, as in the case of the Goddess? The Goddess is a power that is present in the entire universe, we, as particles of this universe (microcosm), also have the representation of this Goddess inside ourselves. She is represented in us in the form of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti. When you honor the Goddess outside and She is pleased with your offerings, you feel tremendous powers in the outside world that help you and contribute to your progress in activities. But, since the Goddess is outside and inside us (like kuṇḍalinī), She also opens up, awakens, wakes up inside. Usually, this is what is called the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī power.

Now, let’s look at what awakening and non-awakening mean. This is a very psychological process, much like in communication, when you do not have a very trusting relationship with someone and the person is closed in relation to you. If the relationship isn’t good, then the person is tense and tight when meeting you. But, if the relationship is good, the person is open and calm in your presence. The same thing happens in your psychophysics, if you remove the psychological tightness, you release all blocks in the psyche. What happens when you release your energy and reveal yourself? As a result – a state of rest. First, a strong release of strength, then a state of peace. That is, you untie your blockages in three granthis, as a result of which you realise a natural state of calm, deep meditation. When you are satisfied, you also experience a state of calm, this is what yoga and tantrism call nirvikalpasamādhi, nirvāṇa, mukti. It is for this purpose that the Goddess is satisfied, Her powers are revealed, for this, practices are done in Navarātri and in other special periods, or they are performed regularly, like nityasādhanā (daily practice).

Summary of my online talk on the International conference on Global Contribution of the Nath Panth on March 21st 2021. The Nath Tradition on Foreign Land.

Guruji ko Adesh! Adesh to all the great devotees of our Tradition! Blessings from Guru Gorakhnath to all those who have a genuine interest in our unique Tradition, which is highly important for India and beyond!

I’ll try to be concise and cover the requested topics in 20 minutes. First and foremost, it is a promotion of the Natha Tradition in the West, which I feel the need to pay special attention to. Undoubtedly, this subject is not an easy one as it involves many different areas of our lives. 

It has been 35 years since I started practicing yoga and 15 years since I began promoting the Natha Tradition in the West, and I have faced many challenges in the process. The first point I would like to make is a cultural one. Westerners, trying to take the easy way, attempt to take something from such a complex phenomenon as the Natha Sampradaya without taking into account the environment in which it was formed. My Guru said that the tradition is like a potion made from various ‘aushadhi’ (plants) put together. We can’t say that it is the same as it was before, but we can’t say that the ‘plants’ are not there either. For many centuries, the Natha tradition has existed in the cultures of the Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, of the many various Sampradayas (Shramana, Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava, Buddhist, Jaina and others). We know that India has been partly influenced by Abrahamic Traditions as well, even though they may look very ambiguous in India. And I have found that very few people in the West are interested in all that, which makes it difficult for westerners, including those in the Natha Tradition, to understand the realities of India. We also know very well that western Indology would not be funded by Western governments if it did not show eastern doctrines in a diminished way in comparison to what they consider traditional. Moreover, India’s colonial past is also reflected in the fact that many Indian leaders show a lack of sovereignty. Probably some of my Indian friends think that this would be good for western followers of the Natha Sampradaya. However we do not come to India to join the globalised yoga movement that has flooded the West. Many of my students want to communicate on the themes of yoga which is traditional for sincere Indians who love their country and their culture. Now the world has changed and yoga has become so superficial, that it is very difficult even to call it ‘yoga’ anymore. To tell you the truth, sometimes I am embarrassed to call what I see with that term. But it is not just about yoga, today we face a world where corporations are trying to suppress everything natural in humans. And I think we all know what I am talking about. There is a lot of low-quality food in the world, something that harms people’s health is passed off as a medicine – they are trying to take us away from nature. But yoga is oriented on a natural state of a human being. We live in a world of very aggressive media and now more than ever we need to learn to empty our minds. I am not saying that we don’t need modern technologies at all, but the way I see it, it is good when they are utilised as our tools but not the other way around. So I would like the western followers of the Tradition and those who live in India to think about it. I have sincerely embraced the way of yoga, the way of Shiva, and I wish that the great history, the great guidelines of this tradition would not fade into oblivion. It is very important for us to keep our values sincere and pure.

Meaning of Ādeś salutation

There is its own Sūkṣma-veda in the Nātha Sampradāya, which is called the Gorakh Sabadī. There is also the Gorakṣopaniṣad and analogues of Vedanta (ātma-jñāna, brahma-jñāna), the Gorakh Gītā, the Gorakh Purāṇa and the Gorakh Tantra. Of course, all of this often differs from what most people see in it, and although essentially it is one whole, it should be better discussed separately. There is also its own nirukta – the interpretation of terms. For instance, according to nirukta, a term ‘ādeś‘ means the following:

आदेश नाम योग – योगेश्वरों का, नाम सत रुप नाथों का, आदेश नाम पूर्ण सिद्धों का आदेश नाम आत्मा, परमात्माऔर जीवात्मा की एकता का । आदेश नाम एक अन्तर आत्मा से दूजा अन्तर आत्मा में योग बनया ज्योति स्वरुप आत्मा को नमस्कार । आदेश नाम अद्वैत आत्मा आदेश नाम निर्गुण निराकार अविनाशी आत्मा को इतना आदेश शब्द निरुक्त सम्पूर्ण भया श्री नाथ जी गुरूजी को आदेश ।

Ādeś is the name of the Lords of yoga and yoga itself, the true state of the Nāthas. Ādeś is the name of realised siddhas, of the unity of ātma (an individual soul as it is), paramātma (an omnipresent soul) and jivātma (a soul incarnated in a body). Ādeś is the name of the unity of a soul (within a person) with another soul, reverence for the luminous nature of the soul. Ādeś is the name of the non-dual ātman, which is beyond qualities, formless and indestructible. This is the full interpretation of the term ‘ādeś’. May there be respect and will (teaching) of Śrī Nātha ji Guruji!

However, according to the Machhindra Gorakh Bodh (6), we see the following explanation of the term ‘ādeś‘:

मछिंद्र: अवधू आदेस का अनुषम उपदेस, सुंनि का निरंतर बास ।
सबद का परचा गुरु कथंत मछिन्द्र नाथ ।

Oh disciple, the guidance (upadeśa) in the immeasurable ‘ādeś’ transmission (anusham), where the infinity (nirantar) lives (vāsa) in the emptiness (śūnya). Speech is a manifestation of the guru (śabd kā paricaya guru) (obviously here is the connection of the guru with vāgbhava bīja “aiṃ”), This is what guru Matsyendranāth says.

That is, ādeś or, in Sanskrit, ādeśa means a certain transmission from a guru to a disciple or from a deity to a practitioner in a special form, where an instruction and the highest essence, or the meaning are inseparable. That is the subtle knowledge which guru reveals in a student, which is, in fact, the yogic experience. Since that is not an ordinary knowledge obtained in universities, it is rather revealed in a meditative state, in a state of utmost peace of mind and feelings, so this transmission may often be a non-verbal one. It frequently occurs even in silence between some yogis or gurus and those who receives śaktipāt from them. This is a relationship of a kind that a student understands a guru giving only a small hint, half the words, on a deeply intuitive level. As a rule, that is accompanied by the deep psychophysical transformation of the student’s nature.

We can find this term in other sources, for example, in Vedanta, in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (2.3.6):

अथात आदेशो ‘नेति नेति’।

So, the instruction, which is not this (and) not that.
(That is, the truth is outside of the scope of discursive thinking, the nature of the ātman is beyond any description).

Probably, this is where the origin of the Nāthas‘ focus on freedom from the inadequacy of duality or even non-duality, from any extreme, which is destructive and disharmonious comes from.

Thus, ādeś (or ādeśa) means the transfer of essential knowledge, for the sake of the deep spiritual transformation, where a disciple, being in a state of deep respect and utmost attentiveness, both in relation to himself and the guru, discovers the silent truth. We may call it the highest form of the mystical experience, leading to the total transformation, the transformation from a person to a God-man. This is the state of yoga in its essential, unified form and also in its many basic aspects, therefore there could be a connection with any kind of traditional yoga or religious practices here.

Many may consider the greeting ‘Ādeś!‘ among nāthas as an analogue to the well-known ‘namaste‘. ‘Namah‘ – means ‘respect’ and ‘te‘ – means ‘you’. However, as I see it, ‘ādeś‘ has a deeper meaning, it is rather the very essence of ‘namaste‘. By namaste, you honor a guru or a deity or someone you have respect for. It is kind of a pūjā. But why a pūjā is performed? It is performed for the sake of the inclusion in the nature of the divine and the descent of prasādam or śaktipāt. Here ādeś is, rather, the second stage, following the namaste, it is not just a pūjā as an action, but it is a successful performance. Such efficiency actually means staying in goodness, sometimes it can reveal some siddhis as accompanying side effects. Although the siddhis are definite indicators, in this case, it is not them that matters, but the state of siddha puruṣa, a pure perfect being. Whatever the pūjās are performed: vedic, purāṇic, tantric (including non-standard ones, like pañchamakāras), none of them have any meaning if there is no pure grace (prasādam). Therefore, ādeś, for a yogin, is a transforming inner spiritual purity and knowledge, it is more important than any, even the most seemingly exclusive religious techniques. This is not to say that they are good or bad, they may or may not work, as for example, a computer may be useful when it is connected to the Internet and, moreover, to electricity. In the same way, simply put, there is ādeś, in relation to all types of spiritual techniques and systems.

The Amṛtasiddhi as a Nātha text

Not long ago student of mine sent me a curious article by Kurtis R. Schaeffer The Attainment of immortality: from Nāthas in India to buddhists in Tibet. It is dedicated to a text, which James Mallinson identified as ‘buddhist one’, which is, in my opinion, not quite correct. I also find his another claim, when during an online interview he said that the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā is the Vīraśaiva text only because Allama Prabhudeva is mentioned there, to be also incorrect. An attempt to take only one name related to Vīraśaivism from a huge number of listed names, ignoring all the others, and attribute the whole text to Vīraśaiva, seems very strange to me. Especially when the text itself is quite distant from the main doctrine of Vīraśaivism and its goals. The same thing is with the text Amṛtasiddhi, a conclusion that this is a Buddhist text is based on the fact that it contains several Buddhist elements, at the same time completely ignoring the huge number of Śaiva elements. This text is more Nātha related, and Virūpakṣanāth (one of the famous Nāthas) could add some elements from Buddhism there. I believe that texts of this kind should be judged primarily by the number of prevailing elements of a particular tradition. And it is obvious there, that the elements of Nāthism are dominant. But for me, even without reading the article, it is clear that the text is not Buddhist, not least because there was the Mahāmudrā practice in Buddhism in those times and it was not in the form of haṭha-yoga practice. All Vajrayāna Buddhists perfectly understand what it is. So what was the point in calling completely different levels of practice in Vajrayāna with the same term? Here is another example from the Amṛtasiddhi:

म्रियन्ते मेरुवेधेन  ब्रह्माद्या देवता ध्रुवम्
आदौ संजायते क्षिप्रं वेधो ऽयं ब्रह्मग्रन्थितः॥

mriyante meruvedhena  brahmādyā devatā dhruvam 
ādau saṃjāyate kṣipraṃ vedho ‘yaṃ brahmagranthitaḥ॥

By piercing Meru (suṣumnā with prāṇa), Brahma and other Gods are getting killed.
First, this (prāṇa) quickly pierces the Brahma-granthi (Brahma knot).

ब्रह्मग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा विष्णुग्रन्थिं भिनत्यसौ
विष्णुग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा रुद्रग्रन्थिं भिनत्यसौ ॥

brahmagranthiṃ tato bhittvā viṣṇugranthiṃ bhinatyasau
viṣṇugranthiṃ tato bhittvā rudragranthiṃ bhinatyasau॥

Thus, when the Brahma-granthi is pierced, the Viṣṇu-granthi (Viṣṇu knot) is pierced.
When the Viṣṇu-granthi is pierced, the Rudra-granthi (Rudra knot) is pierced.

रुद्रग्रन्थिं ततो भित्त्वा छित्वा मोहमयीं लताम्
उद् घाटयत्ययं  वायुर्ब्रह्मद्वारं सुगोपितम् ॥

rudragranthiṃ tato bhittvā chitvā mohamayīṃ latām 
ud ghāṭayatyayaṃ  vāyurbrahmadvāraṃ sugopitam ॥

Thus, piercing the Rudra-granthi, the “vines of illusion” (the intricacies of Māyā) are getting cut off. Further, ascending upward, Vāyu (air) penetrates into the super secret, Brahmadvāra (the door of Brahma).

The question is, what is so ‘Buddhist’ in these images of Purāṇic Devatās, and where in Buddhism such names of granthas are being mentioned?

There are also many other arguments in the article, for example, mentions of jīvanmukti, when a practitioner is likened to Śiva in yogic realisation etc. That is why I consider the statement of attribution of the text to Buddhism to be incorrect. Of course, some borrowings could come to Indian yoga or tantra from Buddhism, but we also have to consider the main goals of different sampradāyas. For instance, we cannot call Pancharātra ‘a yogic tradition’, if it is in fact a Vaiṣṇava bhakti oriented sect full of its specific karmakāṇḍa etc. If I take, let’s say, Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini-yoga and claim that it belongs to a Sikh tradition, it will be an incorrect statement. Even if you find a Sikh lineage Sant Mat, where meditation on light and sound is practiced, it doesn’t make it the main practice of the whole tradition. And again, we cannot conclude from this that it is the rationale for what Yogi Bhajan developed while living in California. Just as it is not entirely accurate to say that the Ashtanga Vinyasa style is a ‘tradition’, it is more correct to say that it is rather a modern yoga style. It could be called a tradition being spread in the West on the condition Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois would have transmitted the same sacred threads (janeū), which they had from their Gurus – to their students. Which didn’t happen, and most likely couldn’t have happened. But, if this did happen, I doubt that such disciples would have the same discipline and practice that they exercise on masse today. And although these teachers were good innovators, we should not confuse a style and gymnastic exercises with dīkṣā, discipleship, nitya sādhanā and etc. For those who want to seriously understand these things, I highly recommend taking these factors into account, although there are actually a lot of them.

The role of suṣumṇā in the mantra realisation

Looking through the Bengali text, the Bṛhattantrasāra, written by Guru Kṛṣṇānandāgamavāgīśa, I found an interesting point regarding the mantra practice, where the Gautamīya-tantra is quoted. We know that there is a classical practice of puraścaraṇa in the form of japa, homatarpaṇamārjana and brāhmaṇa bhojana. However, it speaks of a certain “exception”, which, in my opinion, is a transitional moment of sādhanā, “joining” in itself the goals of vāmācāra and yoga of the Nāthas (vajrolī). I decided to share this piece of text with you, maybe it will give someone an additional understanding of the tantra and Nātha yoga practice.

पशुभावे स्थिता मन्त्राः प्रोक्ता वर्णास्तु  केवलाः 
सौषुम्ने  ध्वन्युच्चरिता  प्रभुत्वं प्राप्नुवन्ति ते
मन्त्राक्षराणि चिच्छक्तौ प्रोतानि परिभावयेत्
तामेव परमव्योम्नि परमामृतबृंहिते
दर्शयत्यात्मसद्भावं पूजाहोमादिभिर्व्विनेति
मूलमन्त्रं प्राणबुद्ध्या सुषुम्नामूलदेशके
मन्त्रार्थं तस्य चैतन्यं जीवं ध्यात्वा पुनः पुनः

In the Gautamīya Tantra:

The mantras practiced in the paśu bhava are recited only at the letter level. The Suṣumṇā-related, practiced sounds are overflowing with power. During jāpa, the mantrāksharas should be fully connected to the power of consciousness. That (mantra) in the highest space is nourished by the highest bliss. Pūjā, homa and etc. are not required for this type of practice, practice the main mantra* through the power of consciousness in the root area (the base) of suṣumṇā (genitals). Practice meditation over and over again with that mantra essence, the consciousness of a living being.

Mūlamantra (the root mantra) is the main mantra of a Deity. For example, Śiva’s mantra is oṃ namaḥ śivāya, Gaṇeśa’s mantra is oṃ gaṃ gaṇapataye namaḥ, etc.

Whether foreigners can follow the Vedic tradition or not?

As to whether a foreigner can follow something Indian or not. To clarify this, I will quote from the Yajurveda. I specifically take the Veda, since there is an opinion that one can receive initiation only in Tantrism, the Bhakti or the Nātha traditions, but not in the Vedic one, etc. Here is a śloka from the Śukla Yajurveda (Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā), from which follows that there is no absolute radicalism towards foreigners even in Vedism:

यथे॒मां वाचं॑ कल्या॒णीमा॒वदा॑नि॒ जने॑भ्यः।
ब्र॑ह्मराज॒न्या॑भ्याँ शू॒द्राय॒ चार्या॑य च॒ स्वाय॒ चार॑णाय। (यजु ० २६। २)

I have transmitted the auspicious words of the Vedas for people like brāhmaṇas, for kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, śūdras and for araṇāyas (foreigners).

Forceful yoga of the Sun and Moon

The term haṭha-yoga as “an effort or force” has very ancient roots associated not only with the ferocious cults of Yoginis, but also with earlier sources originating in the Vedas. And the understanding of haṭha-yoga, as the yoga of the Sun and Moon, borrowed by such nāthas as Gorakṣanāth and others from the kaula tantra teachers like Matsyendranāth and Ādināth. If you look at popular dictionaries, then ह ‘ha’ is identical to Viṣṇu and Śiva, especially Bhairava, which indicates annihilation. In jyotiṣa (the Indian astrology), in addition to Mars and Saturn, the Sun can also be considered as one of the aggressive planets. In haṭha-yoga, the Sun is a fire eating the nectar of life and leading to death consequently. This is all symbolism indirectly indicating the Sun. If you look at ठ ‘ṭha‘, one of the meanings is “disk of the moon” in the Monier Williams’s dictionary. Also, the bīja ठं ‘ṭhaṃ‘ in tantrism is used as the mantra of nectar, which essentially indicates the nature of the Moon. The Moon has a creative nature, and the Sun is destructive one, together they harmonise each other.

Names from the Kālī Sahasranāmāvalī

५ ९ ४. ॐ पिङ्गलायै नमः।
594. oṃ piṅgalāyai namaḥ ।
Reverence for one, who has the Sunny color.

५ ९९. ॐ सुषुम्नायै नमः।
599. oṃ suṣumnāyai namaḥ ।
Reverence for the Most Magnificent.

६००. ॐ इडायै नमः।
600. oṃ iḍāyai namaḥ ।
Reverence for one, who is a symbol of goodness and comfort.

This is one example, which shows us that all the basic elements of the human psychophysics are also manifestations of the Divine in man.

The connection between Dhūmāvatī and yoga

The Dhūmāvatī jayantī is going to be very soon, and you could find a lot about her celebration on the Internet. Thinking about whether to write this posting or not, I came to the conclusion that I could not write much, because, there are things that need to be kept in secret and shared only with the closest students. Nevertheless, I will share some things. This Goddess is known in the Vedas and Purāṇas under various names, such as nirṛti – who is the external opposite to the world order (ṛta). She is old or ancient. This Goddess arose from the body of Pārvatī or Sati in the form of smoke, hence the name. And this smoke itself symbolises something outliving in this world, but reaching upward. Therefore, it is a symbol of sannyasa and the highest renunciation. I am not going to write very much, but will give some interesting examples. Here is an interesting description of the highest cakra (nirvāṇacakra), according to Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati:

अष्टमं ब्रह्मरन्ध्रं निर्वणचक्रं सूचिकाग्रभेद्यं धूमशिखाकारं ध्यायेत् तत्र जालन्धरपीठं मोक्षप्रदं भवति ॥८॥

aṣṭamaṃ brahmarandhraṃ nirvaṇacakraṃ sūcikāgrabhedyaṃ dhūmaśikhākāraṃ
dhyāyet tatra jālandharapīṭhaṃ mokṣapradaṃ bhavati॥8॥

The eighth is brahmarandhra, nirvaṇa-cakra. It is necessary to contemplate the image of a stream of smoke, thin as the tip of a needle. There is the jālandhara pīṭha, bestowing liberation.

One of the Dhūmāvatī’s bīja-mantras is ठः (ṭhaḥ), which symbolises amṛta (the nectar of immortality), associated with the upper cakras, such as ājñā, guru-cakra, sahasrāra.

There is a very famous story among nātha-yogis associated with Paraśurāma and how he performed the prāyaścitta (atonement) with the blessing of GorakṣanāthGorakṣanāth appeared before Paraśurāma from smoke (mañju), therefore, Gorakṣanāth is known by the name Mañju Nāth in the South of India.

I don’t really like that nāthas are identified only with haṭha-yoga, because yoga is just yoga, with its different aspects, while the Nāthasampradāya is generally the way of yoga. Moreover, on all continents now, haṭha-yoga, as a rule, is understood extremely primitively. However, haṭha-yoga has more to do with the Nāthasampradāya. Honoring Dhūmāvatī, I saw the following names in her sahasranāma:

ॐ हठिन्यै नमः। ॐ हठसम्प्रीत्यै नमः ।ॐ हठवार्तायै नमः ।ॐ हठोद्यमायै नमः ।ॐ हठकार्यायै नमः ।ॐ हठधर्मायै नमः। ॐ हठकर्मपरायणायै नमः ।ॐ हठसम्भोगनिरतायै नमः ।ॐ हठात्काररतिप्रियायै नमः ।ॐ हठसम्भेदिन्यै नमः।

oṃ haṭhinyai namaḥ। oṃ haṭhasamprītyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhavārtāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhodyamāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhakāryāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhadharmāyai namaḥ। oṃ haṭhakarmaparāyaṇāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhasambhoganiratāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhātkāraratipriyāyai namaḥ ।oṃ haṭhasambhedinyai namaḥ।

Furthermore, it is interesting that the sexuality (rati) is not mentioned in contrast to haṭhāt (through brute force), as it is slightly opposite, but with the positive attitude (priyā) to their combination. The goddess is revered as a form of righteousness (dharma), in the form of hard effort (haṭha), etc. I immediately recall the mention in the early tantras of such sādhanā, as haṭha and priyamelaka, the practitioner’s connection with yoginis in a “dangerous” and “pleasant” form. Of course, in sahasranāmahaṭha is not referred to as the union of the sun and moon. However, it is obvious that even if the term “haṭha” is understood as “with force”, it will not contradict the merging of the moon and the sun, Śiva and Śakti.

Why do the texts say that paścimottānāsana activates suṣumṇā and awakens the kuṇḍalinī?

It so happened in India, that spiritual practices are most often performed facing east. Accordingly, the west (conditionally) is our back, the south is the right and hot side and the north is left and cold. The Sun is associated with vital power, it rises in the east and sets (i.e. disappears) in the west. We fall asleep at sunset and our senses become silent, and they turn on at sunrise. We can see basically everything that is in front of us, on the sides, below and even sometimes from above, but we cannot see our back. We can only feel it, while there should be an inversion element, i.e. direction inward, listening to our sensations inside. The west is a symbol of the extinction of activities, the completeness of them, so it is suṣumṇā. It is also no coincidence that one of the well-known traditions, where kuṇḍalinī is worshiped in the form of the Goddess Kubjikā, is called paśchimāmnayā – the Western Doctrine. Paśchima – from paścāt (behind, the last, completed, western), therefore it is a symbol of suṣumṇā, self-absorption. Thus, paścimottānāsana is focused specifically on the direction of attention and the prāṇa in suṣumṇā along with it. This āsana is also focused on the conscious activation of suṣumṇā with pratyāhāra and the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī power.