How some Nātha yogis influenced a number of Tantric schools.

The earliest Nātha yogis were associated with the Kāpālikas, I’ll give you one example. In Buddhism, there is a yogi who is known as Kṛṣṇācārya, and as Kṛṣṇanāth in the Nātha-sampradāya, also Kanipānātha – Kānhapā. He was a disciple of Jalandharnāth, who is famous among both Nāthas and Vajrayāna Buddhists. Both of them are included in the list of the Nine Nāthas in Maharashtra.

Kānhapā practised Kāpālika sādhanās also the Hevajra-tantra. It is believed that the practice of tummo was received from him by Marpa, then by Milarepa and later by Naḍapāda, better known as Naropa, who compiled his famous six yogas based on tummo.

It is believed that in the practice of tummo or caṇḍālī, which is actually kuṇḍalini-yoga, an important element is karma-mudrā, a practice, similar to Vāmācāra maithuna in kaulism. This method allows you to sublimate the sexual fire into the inner fire of kuṇḍalini or caṇḍālī. Other yogas, such as yoga of light, yoga of dreams, etc. develop from this practice of inner yoga. But the main purpose of tummo is to awaken within oneself a state of bliss and emptiness, which ultimately leads to the level of mahā-mudrā, also known as Dzogchen. These highest levels of practice may vary among different teachers and Vajrayāna lineages. In the Nāthas’ texts, namely the Akulavīratantra, the Amanaska Yoga, etc., this state is called sahajānanda. Obviously, at some stage, those ancient yogis borrowed terms from each other, actually, Vajrayāna was called “Sahajayana“, although Vajrayāna indicates an indestructible state realised in the vajra-nāḍī through the basic practice of tummo (kuṇḍalini-jāgaraṇ). Sahaja means “to be together with the innate,” which, according to one interpretation, is the joint fusion of male and female bindus in the sahasrāra-cakra. Actually, this is the practice that in Buddhism is called Dzogchen, which, according to one interpretation, is an analogue of mahābindu. The essence of Dzogchen/Mahāmudrā practices is staying in your natural perfect state, known among the Nāthas as sahajananda.

Later these methods were adopted by the Sahajiya Vaiṣṇavas, their methods were very similar to the methods of tantric yoga of the Nāthas and Vajrayāna, however, with the arrival of the British, many Vaiṣṇavas Sahajiya gurus in Bengal went underground. These practices are already considered secret, but the Puritan British (at that time) further influenced the secrecy of these traditions. Instead, some Indian Westernised gurus, such as Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākur and others, were forced to create “refined” forms of Vaiṣṇavism, which later came to America and other countries.

India changed a lot with the arrival of the British, it became much more difficult to identify authentic yoga, authentic learning in Tantrism, etc. This is all seriously complicated by the fact that most Indian gurus are trying to Westernise. You will find a huge amount of such yoga in touristic places. Often, even in the Traditions themselves, with the ancient lineage, not all gurus want to seriously teach someone, but even less of their Western “disciples” are ready to fully study. Therefore, many of gurus think, “I will earn money at least, then life will show whether appear anyone, who can be taught seriously or not.” Again, someone who has realised himself in sādhanā, can teach with sufficient spiritual purity, but most teachers often try to teach without strong experience in sādhanā.

I have described the situation very briefly without touching on many other details, that I would draw the attention of those who are looking for the basics of authentic tantric yoga. But, even this can help in the search for those, who have sufficiently serious motivation.

Aṣṭa mudrā (the Eight Mudras)

This part is an appendix to the Gorakhbani, a text published by the Gorakshanath Mandir, Gorakhpur. The mudras, especially the five of them in the head area, are described in many Nathā texts, their practices are interpreted there in different ways. The ideal option is when the Guru in a live presentation transfers them to his disciple. For example, khecarī here is associated with taste, someone understands this as control of taste, but others understand taste as Śakti and lack of taste as Śiva, their union is khecarī-mudrā. The same applies to other mudrās, because they all require oral transmission, where the Guru (who is, of course, an experienced practitioner and has achieved high success in the practice of “siddhi“) can convey the essence to a worthy student.

अष्ट मुद्रा स्वामीजी अष्ट मुद्रा बोलिए घट भीतरी, ते कौंण कौंण ।
Tell me, Swamiji, what are the eight mudrās inside the body?

अवधू यंद्री मध्ये मूलनी मुद्रा, काम त्रिष्णा ले उतपनी काम । काम त्रिष्णा समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तो भई मूलनी ।।
O avadhu, in the middle of the perineum is the mulanī-mudrā associated with sex (kāma) and greed (tṛṣṇā). The control of kāma and tṛṣṇā is mūlanī-mudrā.

नाभी मधे जलश्री मुद्रा, काल क्रोध ले उतपनी । काल क्रोध समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तौ भई जलश्री॥
There is jalśrī-mudrā in the umbilical centre, time and anger rise there (Kālabhairava or Kālāgnirudra symbol). The control of time and anger is jalśrī-mudrā.

हुदा मधे षिरनी  मुद्रा, ग्यांन दीप ले उतपनी। ग्यांन दीप समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तो भई पोरनी॥
There is ṣirnī  (or kṣīriṇī) in the centre of the heart, there is the perception of the rising light of wisdom. When one’s knowledge shines there, then this wisdom is realised.

मुष मध्ये षेचरी  मुद्रा, स्वाद विस्वाद ले उतपनी। स्वाद विस्वाद समोकृतवा, मुद्रा तो भई षेचरी ।।
In the centre of the mouth is khecarī-mudrā, the manifestation of taste and its absence is perceived there. If there is harmony there between taste and absence (also between pleasant and unpleasant taste), it is khecarī-mudrā.

नासिका मध्ये भूचरी मुद्रा, गंध विगंध ले उतपनी। गन्ध विगन्ध समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तौ भई भूचरी ।।
In the centre of the nose is bhūcarī-mudrā, there we get odour or lack thereof (also pleasant and unpleasant smells). If there is odour control or lack thereof (also pleasant and unpleasant smells), it is bhūcarī-mudrā.

चषि मध्ये चाचरी मुद्रा, दिष्टि विदिष्टि ले उतपनी । दिष्टि विदिष्ट समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तौ भई चाचरी।।
At the centre of the eye is cācārī-mudrā, the perception of what is visible and invisible rises there. If there is harmony and control of the visible and invisible, that is cācārī-mudrā.

करण मध्ये अगोचरी मुद्रा, सबद कुसवद ले उतपनी। सवद कुसबद समो कृतवा, मुद्रा तौ भई अगोचरी।।
There is agocarī-mudrā in the centre of the ears, pleasant and unpleasant speech is manifested there. If there is evenness with regard to pleasant and unpleasant speech, it is agocarī-mudrā.

ब्रहमंड असथांनि उनमनी मुद्रा, परम जोति लै उतपनी। परम जोति समो कुतचा, मुद्रा तो भई उनमनी ।।
In the universe there is unmanī-mudrā (the symbol of the unfolding mind), the Supreme light is manifested there. If this supreme light (consciousness) is evenly distributed everywhere, then it is unmanī-mudrā.

यती अष्ट मुद्रा का जाणै भेव । सौ आपै  करता भेवे ।। इती अष्ट मुद्रा कर्थत श्री  गोरषनाथ  जती संपूर्ण समापत सिवाय ।
One who knows these various mudrās has a higher nature. Thus ends the complete explanation of the eight mudrās by Gorakṣanāth.

The importance of svara in the nātha sādhana

On higher levels of initiation and practice of tantrism, such as pūrṇābhiṣeka, medhā-sāmrājya and practices of upper āmnāya, there are methods of contemplation of Ardhanārīśvara. Also, such ritual as pañca-tattva is not usually practiced before śāktābhiṣeka dīkṣā, and this is especially true for higher initiations and āmnāyas. Such titles as left-handed or right-handed tantra have both symbolic and quite practical values, for instance, pātra with wine is taken by the left hand when we offer it to the ”inner fire” into the mouth of Kuṇḍalinī. The left part of the body is Śakti and the right is Śiva. Some tantrikas say that kaula sādhana begins where such dualistic methods as Patañjali yoga are ended. But the same could be said about nāthas and kaulasnātha sādhana begins where kaula sādhana ends. It has always been like that in India: the more recent endevour to continue something is more substantial than the previous one. That is why Gorakṣanātha is more honoured today than even Matsyendranātha, but this, of course, does not belittle the benefit and the authority of the latter. In the same way, for example, Vedanta – the completion of the Vedas, is not considered as something below the Vedas, but rather as its essence by either Vedantins or many other Hundu. Or, similarly, we couldn’t say that Vajrayana Buddhism is a simplification of Theravada, despite the fact that it had been developed later. Or, for instance, the fact that some cults of early female deities, like sapta and aṣṭa mātrikās have been transformed into such sophisticated cults as Trika, Kubjikā, Śrīvidyā and others, doesn’t make the latter less developed or less authoritative. And the most essential way was always the most secret, with a very careful selection of applicants for that kind of dedication and practice. The same could be said about nāthas. The phenomenon of svara-yoga is of tantric origin, but its basis is still yogic. In speaking of essence, by which we usually mean something that is closer to us as subjects, and also implying the involvement of the subjects in different degrees of the external process. That is why the practices with the body, breathing, with tracking how the breath is associated with the sun and the moon, how these two are related to the elements, tithis, grahas, nakṣatras and other aspects of both micro- and macrocosmos, are very great and subtle processes. But the most important thing is that they are all tied to the essence of it all, namely the yoga of the Sun and the Moon. In many books of both the medieval gurus of the Nāth Sampradāya and the present authors, we can very often find a description of the importance of svara-yoga and, of course, the practices of it. That can be called the basis of nātha-yoga, as its symbol is the Sun and the Moon, i.e. Śiva-Śakti saṃyukta.