Meaning of the name Gorakṣanātha

Definitions of the Gorakṣanātha’s name sometimes contain many references to its etymology, especially to the term “Go“. I want to share one of them, perhaps later I will give other quotes. Here is one of Yaskacharya’s works with my comments:

​सुषुम्णः सूर्यरश्मिश्चन्द्रमा गन्धर्वः। (Yajurveda, śloka 18.40)

The Moon is a Gandharva, representing the rays of the auspicious (suṣumṇā) Sun (Sūrya).

इत्यपि निगमो भवति । सोऽपि गौरुच्यते।

Following is also in the Vedic scriptures: It (light) is also called “Go”.

“अत्राह गोरमन्वत” इति तद् उपरिष्टाद् व्याख्यास्यामः।

This will also be discussed further “atrāha goramanvata” (quote from Rigveda 1.84.15)

सर्वेऽपि रश्मयः गावः उच्यन्ते।

Also, all rays of light are called “Go”.

And so, in etymology from the Vedas we get that “Go” or “Gau” is light or rays of light, and here there is a reference to the Yajurveda, where mentioned the name of suṣumṇā, which in Nāthyoga and Tantrism is used as the name of the main channel in our body. I believe that the mention of Sūrya and Chandra is not accidental here, which in Nāthyoga are further used as images of the iḍa and piṅgala channels surrounding the suṣumṇā channel.

The complete śloka of the Rigveda quoted by Yaska as following:

अत्राह॒ गोर॑मन्वत॒ नाम॒ त्वष्टु॑रपी॒च्य॑म्।
इ॒त्था च॒न्द्रम॑सो गृ॒हे ॥

In this world, they (ṛṣi) perceived the beautiful rays of the Sun in this way in the house of the Moon.

In that way, we are talking here about a certain concentration of light, accumulation between the Sun and the Moon, which are called “Go”. They are collected, that indicates on their protection (rakṣaṇa), i.e. what we know as “tapasya”, the generation of internal light or fire within. This reflects the essence of the practices of Gorakṣanātha. The Nāthas also associate Patra Devatā (Deity in the form of a vessel) with him. For example, we find similar ideas in Tantrism or even Kabbalah, about receiving or accumulating light in oneself (in the body). Light is also a reflection, an “imprint”, called mudrā. Thus, the earrings of the Nāthas, threaded into the space of the ears, are also symbols of the Sun and Moon in space, they are also called “mudrā”. This term is from the root “mud” – means “mixing”, the merging of higher consciousness and matter or spirit, which gives life and form to matter. The form is then given a meaning or mission in this world and becomes a form of life. Thus, Gorakṣanātha is a symbol of life, as opposed to death (mṛita), he is a symbol of immortality “amṛta”, the basis of which lies in the pure light of spirit (Ātman).

From the above it follows that Gorakṣanātha’s practices are aimed at the central channel (suṣumṇā) in our body, this is the gateway to the world of spirit and immortality, to the collecting together (samādhi) of consciousness and pranas.

Chakras in the Vedas

In the Vedas, in addition to archetypal allusions to chakras, there is also a fairly specific mention of them. Let me give one of the early examples from the Atharva Veda (10.2.31):

अष्टचक्रा नवद्वारा देवानां पूरयोध्या। 
तस्यां हिरण्ययः कोशः स्वर्गो ज्योतिषावृतः।। 

aṣṭacakrā navadvārā devānāṃ pūrayodhyā।
tasyāṃ hiraṇyayaḥ kośaḥ svargo jyotiṣāvṛtaḥ।

Invincible (ayodhyā) abode (pūra) of gods (devānām) with nine holes (navadvārā), eight chakras (aṣṭacakrā). In that (tasyām), golden-colored (hiraṇyayaḥ) shell (kośaḥ), the heavens (svargaḥ) are shrouded (āvṛtaḥ) with light (jyotiṣā).

This hymn, similar to the Puruṣasuktam, is dedicated to the first man, from whom the entire universe and all living beings originated. Later, we see this principle in texts, such as the Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, in the description of parapiṇḍa (macrocosmos) and vyaśtipiṇḍa (microcosms), its many copies within it.

The term “puruṣa” itself is explained by Yaska in two ways:

Puri ṣādaḥ (the one who sits in the abode, i.e. the body), or puri śayaḥ (the one who rests in the body). You could also say he is the one who “fills” the body. In Tantrism, the body is often associated with Śakti and the spirit in the body – Śiva. Thus, this is the unity of Śiva and Śakti.

Under each element mentioned, you can reveal a dozen or even more meanings. Ideally this should be conveyed to you by the guru through personal contact. I propose to leave this information in this “unsaid” form, leaving the opportunity for everyone to independently comprehend this through personal search and learning experience.

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).

Haṃsa is the Sun

I heard from my Guru that the so-ham mantra is connected with the experience related to the sahasrāracakra, when kuṇḍalinī-śakti connects jīva with Śiiva. The haṃsa-mantra (inverted “so-ham”) is located in the six-cakras and symbolises the jīvātman (the eternal soul embodied in the body). Both mantras, which are essentially one mantra, have many meanings. I suppose, haṃsa, which is formally translated as “a swan”, requires special explanations of what is actually meant by a swan. You can find the essence of the haṃsa concept in one of the ślokas from the Rigveda, which is later repeated in the Yajurveda, the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka and the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (one of the earliest Upaniṣadas), the Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad and others. This mantra is also found in tantric sādhana. It refers to the haṃsa – a swan, generally symbolising the sun. The sun is the source of prāṇa (the symbol of the jīva respectively), the sun – like a swan, rises on the horizon, moves in the sky and goes back to the earth in the evening. Thus, it is present both in the sky and on the earth, is also able to be under water and on its surface. It is something omnipresent, like prāṇa that pervades the entire universe. Here is the mantra from the Rig Veda dedicated to the Swan Sun (haṃsa):

हं॒सः शु॑चि॒षद्वसु॑रंतरिक्ष॒सद्धोता॑ वेदि॒षदति॑थिर्दुरोण॒सत् ।
नृ॒षद्व॑र॒सदृ॑त॒सद्व्यो॑म॒सद॒ब्जा गो॒जा ऋ॑त॒जा अ॑द्रि॒जा ऋ॒तं ॥  ०४।०४०।०५

The sun (swan – haṃsaḥ) located in the clear sky (śuciṣat), in the atmosphere (antarikṣasat), moving through the air (vasu), it is a priest (hotar – Agni himself) staying in a hollow (the center of the vedic altar – vediṣat), the guest (atithi) abiding in the house (duroṇasat). Dwelling in people (nṛṣat), being in the best (varasat) (that can be deities or siddhas), in the world order (ṛtasat), located in space (vyomasat), born in water (abjā, the fire inside the ocean – vaḍavānala), born of “the cows” (gojā – the sun rays), born of a world order (ṛtajā), appeared from the mountain (adrijā) – the great truth (ṛtaṃ bṛhat) (the rising sun).

The sun (savitā) is one of the main worshiping aim in the VedasSāvitrī in the Vedas is a prototype of Śakti, after which it became known as kuṇḍalinī, which ascends through suṣumṇā to Śiva in the form of the light of prākāśa. The kuṇḍalinī raises the jīva (haṃsa) through the cakras and is absorbed back into itself in the sahasrāra, turning into the realisation of so-ham (I am him) in the form of Śiva.

Reflection on the terms of ‘kṛṣṇa’ and ‘arjuna’ in the Rigveda

In the Rigveda (6-9-1), the terms kṛṣṇa and arjuna are found in a slightly different context than we all see in the Mahābhārata.

कृ॒ष्णमह॒रर्जु॑नं च॒ वि व॑र्तेते॒ रज॑सी वे॒द्याभि॑:।
जाय॑मानो॒ न राजावा॑तिर॒ज्ज्योति॑षा॒ग्निस्तमां॑सि॥ १॥

ahaśca kṛṣṇamahararjunaṃ ca vi vartete rajasī vedyābhiḥ
vaiśvānaro jāyamāno na rājāvātirajjyotiṣāgnistamāṃsi ॥1॥

The two beings (rajasī) rotate alternately (vi vartete), by means of these forces the dark period of the day (night) (ahaḥ kṛṣṇam) and the light period of the day (day) (ahaḥ arjunam) must be known (vedyābhiḥ). Fire (agniḥ), being born (jāyamānaḥ) within each person (vaiśvānaraḥ), like a king (na rājā), coming into being and overcoming (ava atirat) darkness (tamāṃsi) by light (jyotiṣā).

The text of the Rigveda does not directly say what kṛṣṇa (is dark day) and arjuna (is bright day), but I found clarification in Nirukta (2-21) by Yāska, he explains that these are the day and night – ‘ahaḥ ca kṛṣṇaṃ rātriḥ śuklaṃ ca ahaḥ arjunam’ (black and white days are also day and night). In this hymn of Vaiśvānara it is said that Vaiśvānara is beyond sleep and wakefulness, also Śankarācārya in his comments to this verse connects it with a state of consciousness, which is beyond sleep and wakefulness. We can also recall the famous metaphorical statement of the Gītā that when ordinary people sleep, the yogi is awake, and vice versa, e.g. the yogi focuses on dimension that is beyond normal human states. For the yogi, “the battle of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna” is a process of victory over constantly changing impermanence during sleep and wakefulness. On the other hand, day and night are also forms of the Deities in the Vedas. For example, by falling asleep we give ourselves into the hands of Goddess Ratri, it returns us to our being and thereby restores the vital forces that are lost during the day. Sleep and awakening are a kind of “micro-rebirth,” in tantric yoga there are enough practices associated with sleep or dreams.

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 “Dark Nature” of Shiva is not one of the gunas, but the original abyss

A good example of the fact that when talking about tamas and relating it to Shiva, it is meant not simply one guna of the Prakriti, but something more, we can see in the earliest sources. Here is how it is said about the nature of darkness in “Nasadiya-suktam” (Rig Veda, Mandala 10. 129. 03):

तम आसीत्तमसा गूढमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमा इदं ।
तुच्छ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिना जायतैकं ॥३॥

tama āsīttamasā gūḍhamagre’praketaṃ salilaṃ sarvamā idaṃ ।
tucchyenābhvapihitaṃ yadāsīttapasastanmahinā jāyataikaṃ ॥3॥

At the very beginning of the creation of all existence was darkness, hidden by the very darkness, all these were waters. From a single tapas (the heat) in the void, the One was originated.

The darkness there is not just one of the qualities (as some of the Krishna’s followers interpret, for example) of the primary cause of the Prakriti creation, but indeed, this is the Great Abyss from which everything manifested itself and into which everything is absorbed back. Exactly in this context Shiva is also meant, when one speaks of His inherent darkness.