The idea of 84 āsanas, which is often found in yoga texts, is based on the worship of 84 nātha–yogis. Each of these 84 nāthas is responsible for the evolution of one lakh of living beings (100,000). When you follow the yoga path, you develop the psychophysical, spiritual purity in yourself, that you radiate into space. By doing your practice you help not only yourself, but also your close ones. Souls reincarnate in different forms until they become perfect yogis, the symbolism of 84 āsanas is based on this principle. The most important thing here is to understand that āsana is not just a physical process, but also a psychophysical one. The purpose of many āsanas is to be able to stay stable in the position of siddha (siddhāsana). Generally, it is the ability to stay in a meditative posture for three hours, to hold it easily, so that you can meditate, remaining in the position, on something sublime and pure in it.
This practise you can see in the Śiva Samhitā:
मूलाधारेस्ति यत्पद्य चतुर्दलसमन्वितम् तन्मध्ये वावभव बीजं विस्फुरन्तं तडित्यथम् || १९० ||
हृदये कामबीजंतु कधूककुसुमप्रभम् आज्ञारविन्दे शक्त्याख्य चन्द्रकोटिसमप्रभम्
बीजत्रयमिदं गोप्यं भुक्तिमुक्तिफलप्रदम् एतन्मन्त्रत्रयं योगी साधयेत्सिद्धिसाधकः || १९१ ||
mūlādhāresti yatpadya caturdalasamanvitam
tanmadhye vāvabhava bījaṃ visphurantaṃ taḍityatham ॥190॥
hṛdaye kāmabījaṃtu kadhūkakusumaprabham
ājñāravinde śaktyākhya candrakoṭisamaprabham
bījatrayamidaṃ gopyaṃ bhuktimuktiphalapradam
etanmantratrayaṃ yogī sādhayetsiddhisādhakaḥ ॥191॥
One needs to contemplate vāgbhava-bīja (in Śrīvidyā, it is bīja aiṃ ऐं) in the center of the four-petalled lotus (mūlādhāra), like the trembling light of lightning (vispurana). In the heart (anāhata-cakra) there is kāma–bīja (known as klīṃ क्लीं in Śrīvidyā), it is similar to a bandhuk flower (in India it is associated with passion). In the lotus of the ājñā-cakra, there is śakti–bīja (in Śrīvidyā they call it sauḥ सौः), it is like ten million moons (candrakoṭisamaprabha). This secret mantra bestows fruit both in the form of spiritual liberation and enjoyment. A yogin must diligently practice these three mantras.
Based on that, some people conclude that this is not a text of the Nāthas, but rather the vedantic one, belonging to the tradition of Śrīvidyā. But I don’t think so, the text could well belong to Nāthas. Because, one of the initiations in the Nātha-sampradāya, known as upadeśī-dīkṣā, implies the worship of the Goddess Bālāsundarī. To begin with, I will give you Her śabar-mantra with my translation. Pay attention to the description of the Goddess:
सत नमो आदेश | गुरूजी को आदेश | ॐ गुरुजी | सों अलिय कलिय तारा त्रिपुरा तोतला |
बायें हाथ पुस्तक दायें हाथ माला | जपो तपो श्री सुन्दरी बाला , जीव पिण्ड का तुम रखवाला इतना योगमाया स्वरूप उपदेशी मन्त्र सम्पूर्ण भया | श्री नाथजी गुरुजी को आदेश आदेश आदेश ||
sat namo ādeś | gurūjī ko ādeś | oṃ gurujī | soṃ aliya kaliya tārā tripurā totalā |
bāyeṃ hāth pustak dāyeṃ hāth mālā | japo tapo śrī sundarī bālā, jīv piṇḍ kā tum rakhvālā
itnā yogamāyā svarūp upadeśī mantr sampūrṇ bhayā | śrī nāthjī gurujī ko ādeś ādeś ādeś |
We pay respect to the highest being (truth), let there be its will (ādeś). Let there be the will of Guruji, with all respect to Guruji. Soṃ is the expression of the Goddess of Speech (aliya), Kālī (kaliya), Tārā (tārā), Tripurā (tripurā). She holds a scripture in her left hand, and japa-mala in her right. So (itnā) it was your (tum),Śrī Bālāsundarī (śrī bālā sundarī), in the form of the nature of yoga (yogamāyā svarūp), complete repetition (japa) and spiritual effort (tapas) of the upadeśī–mantra (upadeśī mantr sampūrṇ bhayā) in the form of a living soul, located inside the body (jīv piṇḍ kā rakhvālā). Let there be the will (blessing) of the respected Śrī Guru Nāth (śrī nāthjī gurujī ko ādeś).
It describes exactly the same image of the Goddess Bālā, which is worshipped in the Tradition of Śrīvidyā. We can argue about the varieties of syllables, the differences between Saṃskṛt mantras and Śabar mantras. But, that is the same as, for instance, we confidently say that Gorakṣa–gāyatrī is not Gāyatrī, because it does not correspond to the metric size, as there are no 24 syllables in it. Or, to argue about the fact that it is not right to consider the Gāyatrī mantra as so-ham. However, if you thoroughly study the topic of metric sizes, you will see that each metric size has many variations. One chandas can have variations with different numbers of akṣaras. On the other hand, Bālā is not limited to three bījas; there are combinations of six, nine, and even sixteen (ṣoḍaśī). Her bījas are parts of the Mahaṣoḍaśī mantra, inside of which there is the pañcadaśī or ṣoḍaśī (mantra) from kādi, hādi and sādi kūṭakṣaras, with the addition of śrīṃ, and also praṇava Om. In fact, the mantra of Tripura Bhairavī is also derived from the mantra of Bālā, in which bījas ha, sa and ra are added. The former is the essence of the Śrī Yantra, and also the form of Kālī. For that reason, virtually all the main mantras of Śrīvidyā are derived from Bālā. In general, Tripura Sundarī in tantrism is the Goddess of ūrdhvāmnāya, oriented on the ideals of mokṣa, the main goal in yoga.
I propose to analyse the shorter śabar-mantra of Bālā from the Nātha-Sampradāya:
The Nātha-mantra of Yoga Māyā Bālā:
ॐ सों इलीं क्लीं श्रीं सों श्रीं सुन्दरी बाला नमः ॥
oṁ sōṁ Ilīṁ klīṁ śrīṁ sōṁ śrīṁ sundarī bālā namaḥ ॥
These bījas are slightly transformed versions of the triakṣari, as well as of other mantras of Śrīvidyā (śriṃ, oṃ and sohaṃ) derived from it.
The Śrīvidyā mantra of Bālā:
ऐं क्लीं सौः ॥
aiṁ klīṁ sauḥ ॥
Some are compressed according to the principle of pratyāhāra, some, on the contrary, are expanded. Let’s take a closer look.
The bīja सों soṁ is a combination of सोऽहं so̕haṁ and Parā (Śakti) bīja सौः sauḥ. The bīja इलीं ilīṁ is simply a modified ऐं aiṁ (vāk–bīja), because ऐं aiṁ is nothing more than a sandhyakṣara from अ + ई, although there could be short variants of them. We get ए, then if we again add अ to it, we get ऐ. Just like joining अ + उ, we get ओ, with bindu it will be praṇava ओं, and if we further ‘strengthen’ it, we will get औ, which can be a part of the bīja सौः, called Śakti–bīja and sometimes Parā–bīja. In fact, इलीं could be understood as a compressed form that extends from इ to ल – the last akṣara of the Sanskrit alphabet (mātṝkā), with the exception of the first akṣara अ, from which the entire mātṝkā emerges. The bīja क्लीं klīṁ is the kāma–bīja without modifications. This is just a small analysis of the parallels between the Nāth Tradition and the Śrīvidyā-tantra mantras. Of course, I cannot give out all the secrets of the mantras to those who are not dīkṣita. Nevertheless, even from that one can see a lot of connections and parallels of seemingly different traditions. In my opinion, the situation here is about the same as in Vajrayana, when many siddhas could not really separate themselves from Buddhism and from Nāthism at the same time. But after centuries, the paths diverged. Although, there are fewer differences between Śrīvidyā and Nāthism, since both traditions are theistic and have much in common.
Goddess Bālā is directly related to Gorakṣanāth, because she is young, just like Gorakṣanāth (bal-jati). Both deities are symbols of living energy, opened to everything new, without the weight of worldly affairs etc.
Why it is common in India to touch sacred objects and then, after that – your own head or heart? For the most people in the West it is still not clear. Let us address, first of all, the yogic sources. For instance, in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā, in the description of sthūla-dhyana (6. 2-14), there are two techniques of contemplation.
The first technique is a contemplation of the Deity in your own heart, usually it is a heart chakra with eight petals, located according to the eight directions (cardinal and inter-cardinal) where east in us is located in front of us. There are various descriptions of that technique, where different Deities are contemplated in the heart, there are various features of eight petals, and in some cases it is recommended to submerge into nāda e.t.c.
Another technique, described in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā is Guru-chakra, which is located above ājñā-chakra and at the base of sahasrāra-chakra. Sometimes it is considered as a part of sahasrāra, that is why they are often identified as the same phenomenon. This chakra consists of twelve petals with each akṣara having a special meaning, this is navātma-mantra. Navātma-mantra includes in itself main elements (tattvas) of the Universe (brahmanda). That is a very common form of dhyana, where it is recommended to meditate on Guru, who is identified as Śiva.
Actually, the practise is considered a secret, although it may seem simple to someone. But, in our age of information, there is no more secrets after the rise of the Internet. Today we have a different kind of problem – sincerity. That is why, I think, having exclusive knowledge without śuddha-bhakti will get benefits for no one. And for those who are devoted to the true Guru and Deity, the Truth will be revealed by itself.
So what are these two areas, the head and the heart? In a tantric pūjā these are two places, connected with the invocation of a Deity in yourself, in your heart, where the Deity through the upper dvādaśānta should descent from sahasrāra–chakra to the heart. After that, using your breath, you ‘relocate the Deity’ into a flower, which is then placed in your palms. That is being done with the dvādaśānta, which is located in front of your nose. We know that there is inner dvādaśānta, through which prāṇa is absorbed with the inhale into our heart. There is also external dvādaśānta, when we are exhaling and the flow goes outwards. Practises of these dvādaśāntas can be found, for example, in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra. In such texts as Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, Advaya-tāraka-upaniṣad, the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇopaniṣad, external dvādaśānta is described as bahir-lakṣya (an external object of contemplation). In a tantric pūjā, that bahir-lakṣya is used for āvāhana – the invocation and the spreading of the Deity outside and placing it in mūrti, yantra e.t.c. Also, these elements are used during the completion of a pūjā (worship), when we ‘absorb the Deity’ inside ourselves into the heart and it is going back to the head area, beyond the body. Respectively, these areas are the most important places of perception, and everything starts and ends with them. The same centres are used by nātha–yogis when they are performing śāmbhavī or nādi-pūjā, when while squatting they make a bow and bent their upper bodies. It is possible that many people who are touching sacred places, feet of saints e.t.c. are doing so automatically, without consideration of what is it about. Nevertheless, your Guru-chakra is your temple, your heart is your temple, your palms are your temple and all external objects in which everything is invoked is also your temple. As for the lower centres, the areas of mūlādhāra, svādhiṣṭhāna e.t.c. – these are worshipped in kaula-, aghora-mārga and are not for the ‘open pūjās’. Although the descent of Śakti from sahasrāra–chakra downwards to mūlādhāra or the ascent backwards is also a subject of internal yogic practises. Sometimes the internal yogic processes could be a part of external pūjās, complementing each other. But in which cases, what and how to use it – these things are always better to learn from your Guru, as it is not possible to transmit everything openly and publicly.
The name Gorakṣanātha in Sanskrit or its derivative Gorakhnāth in Hindi, if translated literally, will not carry much meaning. It could literally be translated as: rakṣa (a protector) and go (of cows). But, if you meet some Indians, who have heard about Gorakṣanātha and associated him with yoga, most likely they will explain go as senses. Thus, many translate it as “one, who protects the senses or controls the senses,” which is often interpreted as the practice of pratyāhāra, etc. Of course, the control of indriyas, redirection of prāṇa and perception of ātman within oneself are very important in yoga. However, while reading Yāska’s Nirukta and Śrī Aurobindo’s most interesting works, the Secret of the Veda, I found an even deeper meaning of the term go. Śrī Aurobindo gives many references to the Rig Veda, where the term go (like the sun rays) refers to the Absolute as a whole. Yāska says in Nirukta:
आदित्योऽपि गौरुच्यते |
ādityo’pi gaurucyate |
The sun is also called ‘go’.
In further explanation, there is a quotation of the hymn from the Yajur Veda (adhyāya 18 / 40) containing suṣumṇa:
सुषुम्णः सूर्यरश्मिश्चन्द्रमा गन्धर्वस्तस्य नक्षत्राण्यप्सरसो भेकुरयो |
suṣumṇaḥ sūryaraśmiścandramā gandharvastasya nakṣatrāṇyapsaraso bhekurayo |
Suṣumṇa, whose moonbeams are like the sun, is gandharva playing with nakṣatras, who are āpsaras.
In the other ślokas of this hymn, gandharva is the wind and his āpsaras are the waters, etc. Different elements are divided into male and female poles through the images of the ganharva and āpsaras.
Interestingly,Yāska connects the rays of suṣumṇa with go, this is also found in other parts of his Nirukta. Aurobindo in his Secret of the Veda, has many references to the Rig Veda as well, where cows can be understood to mean the light of the sun, ātman and Absolute in general. Indeed, if you look in the dictionaries, then go can mean both the sun and the moon, and light as such. Accordingly, Gorakṣanātha can be perceived as one, who unites (yoga) the power of ha (sun) and ṭha (moon) within suṣumṇa. The veneration of Śiva Gorakṣanātha awakens suṣumṇa, unites opposites, He is the patron saint of this path.
I want to touch the subject of delusions unseen by the majority of people, and explain the reasons for their occurrence and existence. More than once I have came across the discourse that Nātha yogins in India do not properly teach āsanas and other haṭha-yoga techniques any longer. But, in such sampradāyas as Daśanāmi for example and some of Vaiṣṇava the process of teaching haṭha-yoga is going better than anywhere else. Let’s analyse it in the most proper manner.
First of all, have you ever been concerned why such traditions as Vaiṣṇavavism, which is focused on bhakti, or those ascending to Śankarācārya, where the focus is put on jñāna and Vedānta, are now teaching ‘yoga therapy’, different ‘yoga styles’ etc.? I will tell you why. These are traditions represented by the biggest numbers of followers in comparison to others – both in the West and India. That is why many gurus there have a very clear vision on how to use Western ’āsana addiction’ trends, they know they can attract more people and more money by that. And when someone says that the real haṭha-yoga is ‘preserved’ exactly in these traditions, they clearly choose the wrong words. They confuse ‘preserved’ with the indulgence of marketing demands of those, whose principles are very superficial. Many Hindus think that it is useless to teach foreigners who initially did not get proper saṃskāras as well as do not usually sacrifice themselves to the spiritual path, therefore it is at least necessary to get money from them. This is an attempt to exaggerate the phenomenon of āsana, only one of the aṅgas (sections) of yoga, and often to borrow this element from other traditions to add it to their sampradāya and exaggerate it anyway. Nāthas do not have such amount of ‘gymnastics’ is due to the fact that, unlike Daśanāmi, they only became popular in the West recently. Even now they are not so common there, because, they generally do not care much about their ‘presentation’. One or two sections should not cause any damage to other sections of yoga, to true discipleship, the formation of a thorough world view.
If you had time to notice, yoga for Hindus is not a hobby, which is ‘practiced’ in between ‘pub’ time, but that is something you live in all the time. From the start, West could see no gains in accepting this concept by its people. Now, due to easy access to a large amount of information and globalisation, a lot has changed. Today saṃskāras of Eurocentrism are dominating not only among those who practice yoga, but even among those who have learned Sanskrit etc. In fact, the desire of the West to dominate exists in all areas, and spiritual one is no exception. Many people pretend either to not notice that fact, or to show that it is not very important. But, this is important, as it makes everything difficult to understand, including even such ‘simple practices’ as āsana, prāṇāyāma, etc.
Nāthas are not engaged in the propaganda of āsanas, for the reason that the goal of āsanas is to learn to practice contemplation in one position for a long time. And if you have no initial understanding of it, if you only formally say that you have it, then you continue to believe in such delusions, as guru Nanak teaching ‘kuṇḍalinī-yoga’, or Śankarācārya teaching ‘yoga therapy’ or giving physical practices to build a ’beach body’. People want to grab everything from India and from the whole world: they want to have a ‘beach body’ and to be ‘traditional’, they want to look 30-years old at the age of 100 and a lot more. What is it, if not an ego? Is it not a desire to reshape other culture in your own way, due to your arrogance and unwillingness to learn and change to the full extent? Is it also the willingness of some Indian gurus not to teach the essence of their traditions, but simply to reshape their teachings to the Western patterns in order to sell better? Ask yourself this question and maybe a great deal will naturally fall into place. I don’t say that money is only evil or only good, money is strictly in the middle between these two poles. It is bad when money supersede the truth, when the main principles of mystical traditions are forgotten, the significance of the essential is reduced, and what is tied to the most banal motives of a man is exaggerated. I do not want to criticise someone’s business, as for I am not the one who created the global financial system in its form which permeates the whole world now. I am not the one to fight with it. My goal is to remind people what is important and to remove layers by layers of massive delusions in people’s minds. Of course someone can say ‘Well, why talk about bad things? Let’s talk about good.’ But, you will never understand the truth by not seeing a delusion. Knowing one of these poles, you will know the other, if one is perfectly recognised, then the other will be perfectly recognised too, it’s just unavoidable.
I met attempts to find the first mention of haṭha-yoga or āsanas, that can be interpreted as “forceful” in early Vaiṣṇava or Buddhist sources. From this, some people conclude that, for example, the source of haṭha-yoga is Buddhism, or the source of forceful āsanas is Vaiṣṇavism of Pancharatra. In my opinion, this is a totally absurd approach. The fact of revelation of some texts does not mean at all that others will not be found after some time, and the existing theory will not be refuted. Considering the fact that many texts over the course of the millennium could not have been preserved at all, how can one confidently say that some yoga practices originated from a particular tradition? It is always worth adding “it may be”, “perhaps”, etc. This conclusion is wrong for other reasons. The main reason is that Pancharatra is a teaching where bhakti is taken as a basis, and its main practices are ritualistic karmakāṇḍa, yoga is not the main one there. And based on the fact that in the texts of this tradition you will find mayūrāsana and kukkuṭāsana, you should not conclude that this is something like one of the Iyengar’s books with 300 forceful āsanas. The idea itself is absurd, in the form of hypertrophied versions that the Nāthas did not have forceful yoga and they borrowed it from vaiṣṇavas. To say that Pancharatra is the basis of forceful āsanas, it is about the same as taking the following sūtra of Patañjali and using the manipulative method to state that Patañjali yoga is the basis of the six cakra system due to the fact that the navel cakra is mentioned there. Then, it developed in such traditions as Kubjikā, Śrī Vidyā and Kālī Vidyā, Trikaśasana, Nātha-sampradāya and others:
nābhicakre kāyavyūhajñānam ||29||
By concentrating on the navel cakra, knowledge of the body is gained.
Is there any mention of such a thing as “cakra” inside the thin body in Patañjali’s text? Of course! Is this proof that the Kubjikā tradition has “stolen” from or “dependent” on Patañjali’s yoga-darśana? Not. For the reason that the doctrines are completely different, and because Patañjali has a very fragmentary element in comparison with what he represents in general.
Also, the mention of some individual elements of haṭha-yoga is not in Nātha sources, does not mean that haṭha-yoga and yoga as a whole is not the prerogative of the Nātha-sampradāya. It is in the Nātha-sampradāya that yoga is the main point and the foundation of the teaching. When studying this or that sampradāyas, first of all it is necessary to take into account their main doctrine. Whether these or other practices are basic or not should be determined on the basis of the main doctrine of the particular sampradāya.
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.
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.
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 ūrdhvāmnāya – Kulārṇava-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.).
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.
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 Gorakshanāth–upāsana 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 |
Gorakśa–gāyatri 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.
In Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (4-35-44), at first, purification of nadīs is given in the form of using the alternate breathing technique with breath holdings, using bijas, which we can find in tantric rituals, such as bhūta-śuddhi or, for example, those intended to remove doṣas (defects) from some offerings. In that way, impurities are dried up by the bija of Air यं ‘yaṃ’ and then they are burned by the bija of Fire रं ‘raṃ’. Further, the remained ash is getting wet by the element of Water or Nectar by the corresponding bija वं ‘vaṃ’ (as it often happens in tantric practices), but sometimes in yogic and tantric texts another bija symbolising nectar ठं ‘ṭhaṃ’ is suggested to use instead. Then a newly formed body should be strengthened by the bija of Earth लं ‘laṃ’. Some prāṇāyāmas reduce these elements to only three bijas (of Air, Fire and Nectar) because in yoga, it is very typical to minimise the practise to the most essential components.
As in a tantric ritual, in Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, there is a description of the further use of the alternate breathing but in combination with praṇava ‘Om’. Also, in the third part of Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā prāṇāyāma with the use of praṇava ‘Om’, or, more precisely ‘A-U-M’ – three mātrās or counts of breath lengths, is described. It is said that a practitioner must mentally repeat अं ‘aṃ’ a certain number of times on the inhalation, then उं ‘uṃ’ during kumbhaka and मं ‘maṃ’ on the exhalation. It is recommended to meditate on each of the three elements as on one of the Goddesses, namely ‘A’ – Gāyatrī, ‘U’ – Sāvitrī and ‘M’ – Sarasvatī. Gāyatrī is described as बाला bālā in a Sanskrit text, which usually means ‘a child, a girl at the age of eight’. She is red in color and rides on a swan (haṃsavāhinī). U-kara is Sāvitrī, she is described as युवती ‘yuvatī’ (she’s 15 y.o.). She is white in color and rides on Garuḍa (garuḍavāhinī). Similarly Ma-kara, or repetition of the vibration of ‘M’ correlates with Sarasvatī, who is described as वृद्धा ‘vṛddhā’, she is 28 years of age or older and she rides Vṛṣabha.
In Gāyatrīhṛdayam from Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa is said:
॥ गायत्रीहृदयम् ॥
पूर्वा भवति गायत्री, मध्यमा सावित्री, पश्चिमा स्नध्या सरस्वती ।
रक्ता गायत्री, श्वेता सावित्री, कृष्णा सरस्वती ॥ १२॥
pūrvā bhavati gāyatrī, madhyamā sāvitrī, paścimā snadhyā sarasvatī ।
raktā gāyatrī, śvetā sāvitrī, kṛṣṇā sarasvatī ॥12॥
In the morning it is necessary to worship Gāyatrī, at noon – Sāvitrī, and in the evening –Sarasvatī. Gāyatrī is red in color, Sāvitrī is bright, Sarasvatī is dark.
Although, there are differences about vāhanas (beings used as vehicles), for example in Gāyatrī Hṛdayam:
पूर्व सन्धि ब्राह्मी, मध्य सन्धि माहेश्वरी, परा सन्धि वैष्णवी ।
हंसवाहिनी ब्राह्मी, वृषवाहिनी माहेश्वरी, गरुडवाहिनी वैष्णवी ॥ १४॥
pūrva sandhi brāhmī, madhya sandhi māheśvarī, parā sandhi vaiṣṇavī ।
haṃsavāhinī brāhmī, vṛṣavāhinī māheśvarī, garuḍavāhinī vaiṣṇavī ॥14॥
In the first sandhya (in the morning) she is known as Brahmī, at noon as Maheshvarī, and in the evening she is Vaishnavī. Brahmī rides a swan, Maheshvarī rides a bull, Vaishnavī rides Garuda.
Something similar exists in many yogic texts where it is recommended to use praṇava (OM).
For instance, in the fifth upadesha of Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (shlokas 48-50) there is also a recommendation to use A-kara, U-kara and Ma-kara. But there, A-kara is connected with raja-guṇa and Brahma and is red in color, U-kara is connected with sattva and Viṣṇu and is black. And Ma-kara, in opposite, is white in color and connected with Śiva.
Here, as you can guess, some similarities with Śri Vidya are immediately come to mind. In the third part of Jñānārṇāva Tantra (shlokas 11-12), it is said that Tripurasundarī is a Goddess with three aspects, the one is with bija “aiṃ” and white in color, the Goddess in red color with kama-bija “klīṃ” and the Goddess suvarṇa (the golden color) with bija “sauḥ”. At first she is like Bala, a girl at the age of eight, then she is Pancadaśī (15 y.o.), this is a time full of passion (kāma), and finally she is Śodaśī or Mahaśodaśī (from 16 to 28 years of age or older) – she is full of wisdom.
In yogic texts, It is also said that prāṇāyāma is the unity of three matras, i.e. in case they are unrelated to each other – it would mean a loss and a waste of the vital energy (prāṇa), but not it’s enhancement.