Interesting etymology of the term “karṇa” according to Yāska

Looking through Yāska’s work, I found another interesting point related to the interpretation of the word “karṇa” (कर्ण – an ear), which, in my opinion, very clearly indicates the rite of “ka-chira” – one of the the Nātha saṃskāras.

कर्णः कृन्ततेः। निकृत्तद्वारो भवति ।

Karṇa (an ear) comes from the root कृत् “krit” (to cut through), this is cutting a hole.

The rite of karṇa-vedhana (piercing the earlobes) is included in the Vedic saṃskāras, along with receiving the sacred thread, etc., so it is not surprising that there is such a definition here. However, Yāska further gives another version:

ऋच्छतेरित्याग्रायणः ।

“Ricchha” means “to move,” says Āgrāyaṇa (ācārya).

ऋच्छन्तीव खे उदगन्ताम् ।

Just as if there was movement in space (sound or nada).

In the śābar-mantra of the Nāthas, for the “kuṇḍala” (earrings) that are worn during such a ritual, it refers to the sound vibration “nada” and its connection with khecarīmudrā, but in the context of the fact that the sound “moves” in ākāśa (space). At the end it is said that above the ears of Gorakṣanāth is ākāśa, and below them is the earth, i.e. he is an image of the confluence of these polarities. He combines (mudrā) khecarī and bhūcarī (Śakti in the manifest world and in emptiness).

I would also like to note that the Sun and Moon are luminaries that constantly move in space, just like the Earth itself with the Moon, rotating around it and reflecting the light of the Sun. All these movements are time (kalā), which is sometimes translated as “death” in Sanskrit. Therefore, one who has gone beyond polarity and time comprehends the reality of immortality beyond the manifest and the unmanifest. The Gorakṣa-siddhānta-saṅgraha says that the true Brahman in this sense is beyond dvaita and advaita, bheda and abheda, etc., which Gorakṣanāth calls “Pakṣapāta-vinirmukta”.

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.

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.

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.