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.

How to understand the term aṅga in the context of yoga

What is अङ्ग / aṅga in yoga, is it a step or a section? On the one hand, we find following interpretations in the Viveka Mārtaṇḍa:

117. Thanks to the twelve prāṇāyāmas – pratyāhāra is achieved. Thanks to the twelve pratyāhāras – good dhāraṇā is attained.

118. Thanks to the twelve dhāraṇās – dhyāna is known, and due to the twelve dhyānas, samādhi is achieved.

On the other hand, we find quite a few texts where aṅgas often go in a sequence that is not popular for most.

Basically, the free order of aṅgas is found either in tantras or in texts that have been influenced by tantra. These are partly Purāṇas, as well as Nātha texts. If we look at the meaning of the term ‘aṅga’ in different dictionaries, it means: ‘a part’, ‘a division’, ‘relating to the base’, ‘anything inferior or secondary’, ‘supplement’, ‘contiguous’. In tantric texts, methods are sometimes named as ‘upāya’, which also means ‘a trick’, ‘a ruse’. This allows us to understand that it is impossible, in practice, to put a technique higher than its main goals, which often causes the “modern yoga“. The “parts” can be compared with the organs of the body; we cannot say that we need a heart, but we do not need a brain or liver. We need an organism in which absolutely everything works simultaneously and harmoniously. In this regard, āsanas cannot exist separately from pratyāhāraprāṇāyāmadhyāna or samādhi (even if it is fragmentary). The yoga state and the yoga path are primary, while aṅgas are secondary, but they all work on the main tasks.

Yoga is the highest aim of a man

I always proceed from the fact that yoga, in its most essential form, is the prerogative of very few individuals. We can slowly go to it, this also includes our constant seeks and researches, but not everyone in this life reaches the point. Vyāsa, commenting on Patāñjali, gives such a definition of yoga योगः समाधिः  yogaḥ samādhiḥ“Yoga is samādhi”. We also find a great deal in the texts of the Nāthas and the most essential elements from yoga in diverse Tantras. But, we know that tantric practices have traditionally been largely kept in secret. So, what should be the attitude to yogic sādhanā, if it is the essence of tantric sādhanā? If you look at ancient yoga texts, secrecy is often mentioned there. The question is, what part of the yogic tradition and practice should be open and for whom, and which is closed? This is a very slippery moment, each guru, in one case or another, himself defines this boundary. With whom, when and what boundaries should be, and with whom should they not be at all, depends on each specific situation.