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.

Buddhism as a part of Śrīvidyā

There was Gautamma Buddha’s jayanti (a holy birth anniversary) recently. And I remembered that in Śrīvidyā texts I came across some pūjās related to different views or revelations. For example, such as Saura-darśana (reverence for the worldview of the sūrya devotees), ŚaivaŚakta, also Baudha (i.e. Buddhism). In Śrīvidyā, these pūjās are not dominant, they are more likely secondary, however, those who like to worship a number of Buddhist Devatas, they can worship them. In the Śrīvidyārṇava-tantra (Ch.11) there is a description of mantras that are given as bauddhadarśanādhidevatāmantrāḥ (mantras of the main deities of the Buddhist worldview, the tradition). The main Deity there is Tārā (Ugra TārāEkajaṭā Tārā and Nīlasarasvatī Tārā). So, in Śrīvidyā, as in a number of other traditions, there is own version about Buddha and Buddhism, they believe that it is a part of Śaktism, ViśnuismŚaivism or some other teachings. It is more likely that some Buddhists may not like this, however, you can really find stories in the Rudrayāmala of how Vaśiṣṭha received initiation from Buddha to worship the Goddess using the kaulācāra methods. There are other stories and interpretations as alternatives to the widespread ones. All this speaks of the non-stereotyped vision of Indians and the ability to use a variety of practical tools, regardless of different dogmas.