Goddess Bālāsundarī in Śrīvidyā and Nāth Sampradāya

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 kāmabīja (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 śaktibīja (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 गुरुजीसों अलिय कलिय तारा त्रिपुरा तोतला |
बायें हाथ पुस्तक दायें हाथ मालाजपो तपो श्री सुन्दरी बालाजीव पिण्ड का तुम रखवाला इतना योगमाया स्वरूप उपदेशी मन्त्र सम्पूर्ण भयाश्री 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 upadeśīmantra (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 Ś 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 Gorakṣagāyatrī 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 (Śaktibīja सौः sauḥ. The bīja इलीं ilīṁ is simply a modified ऐं aiṁ (vākbīja), because ऐं aiṁ is nothing more than a sandhyakṣara from + , although there could be short variants of them. We get , then if we again add to it, we get . Just like joining + , we get , with bindu it will be praṇava ओं, and if we further ‘strengthen’ it, we will get , which can be a part of the bīja सौः, called Śaktibīja and sometimes Parābīja. In fact, इलीं could be understood as a compressed form that extends from to – the last akṣara of the Sanskrit alphabet (mātṝkā), with the exception of the first akṣara , from which the entire mātṝkā emerges. The bīja क्लीं klīṁ is the kāmabīja 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.

Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra

I translated the tantric Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra at the request of my students.

विनियोगः। viniyogaḥ

ॐ अस्य श्री गोरक्ष मन्त्रस्य बृहदारण्यक ऋषिः अनुष्टुप् छन्दः श्री गोरक्षनाथो देवता गों बीजम् विमला शक्तिः   हंसेति कीलकं निरञ्जनात्मक सर्व तत्त्व सिद्धये जपे विनियोगः ।।

oṃ asya śrī gorakṣa mantrasya bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣiḥ anuṣṭup chandaḥ śrī gorakṣanātho devatā goṃ bījam vimalā śaktiḥ haṃseti kīlakaṃ nirañjanātmaka sarva tattva siddhaye jape viniyogaḥ ।।

The ṛṣi of the Śrī gorakṣanāthamantra is Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the rhythm is anuṣṭup, the Divine is Gorakṣanātha, the bija is goṃ, the Śakti is Vimalā (pure), the kīlaka is haṃsa, the ritual of japa for success in the essential purity of all tattvas.

ऋष्यादिन्यासः । ṛṣyādinyāsaḥ (the nyāsa starts from the head and so on)

ॐ बृहदारण्यक ऋषये नमः। शिरसि ।
oṃ bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣaye namaḥ । śirasi (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ अनुष्टुप् छन्दसे नमः । मुखे ।
oṃ anuṣṭup chandase namaḥ । mukhe (the face)

ॐश्री गोरक्ष देवताय नमः । हृदि ।
oṃ śrī gorakṣa devatāya namaḥ । hṛdi (the heart)

ॐ गो बीजाय नमः । गुह्ये ।
oṃ go bījāya namaḥ । guhye (the perineum)

ॐ विमला शक्तये नमः । पादयोः ।
oṃ vimalā śaktaye namaḥ । pādayoḥ (the feet)

ॐ हंसेति कीलकाय नमः । नाभौ ।
oṃ haṃseti kīlakāya namaḥ । nābhau (the navel)

करन्यासः । karanyāsaḥ । (the palm nyāsa)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अङ्गुष्टाभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya aṅguṣṭābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two thumbs of your hands)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय तर्जनीभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya tarjanībhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two index fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय मध्यमाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya madhyamābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect the two middle fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अनामिकाभ्यां  नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya anāmikābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two ring fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कनिष्ठिकाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kaniṣṭhikābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect two little fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय करतल-कर-पृष्ठाभ्यां नम: ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya karatala-kara-pṛṣṭhābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect the back of the palms)

हृदयादिन्यासः । hṛdayādinyāsaḥ (nyāsa starts from the heart and etc.)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय हृदयाय नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya hṛdayāya namaḥ । (touch the heart)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिरसे स्वाहा ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śirase svāhā । (touch the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिखायै वषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śikhāyai vaṣaṭ । (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कवचाय हुं ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kavacāya huṃ । (touch your shoulders)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya netratrayāya vauṣaṭ । (touch three eyes)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय सर्व विद्यापतये नमः अस्त्राय फट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya sarva vidyāpataye namaḥ astrāya phaṭ ।
(circle with your right hand above your head clockwise and hit the left palm with index and middle fingers three times)

अथ ध्यानम् । atha dhyānam (now is dhyāna)
(The text from the Kalpadruma Tantra)

निरञ्जनो निराकारो निर्विकल्पो निरामयः।
अगम्योऽगोचरोऽलक्ष्यो गोरक्षः सिद्धिवन्दितः॥
nirañjano nirākāro nirvikalpo nirāmayaḥ। 

agamyo’gocaro’lakṣyo gorakṣaḥ siddhivanditaḥ॥

Unsullied, devoid of image, free from vikalpas and disease, incomprehensible, unattainable, beyond of the symbols – Gorakṣa, revered by the siddhas.

समस्त रस भोक्ता यो यः सदा भोगवर्जित ।
सदा समरसो यश्च श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
samasta rasa bhoktā yo yaḥ sadā bhogavarjita । 

sadā samaraso yaśca śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To Him, who enjoys all races and who is always free from pleasures, who forever abides in samarasya, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

हठयोग विधाता च मत्स्यकीर्ति विवर्धनः ।
योगिभिर् मनसा गम्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
haṭhayoga vidhātā ca matsyakīrti vivardhanaḥ । 

yogibhir manasā gamyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To the creator of haṭhayoga and to that who increased the fame of Matsyendra, the one whom yogis comprehend in their hearts, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

सिद्धानाञ्च महासिद्धिः ऋषीणां च ॠषीश्वरः ।
योगीनाङ्चैव योगीन्द्रः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
siddhānāñca mahāsiddhiḥ ṛṣīṇāṃ ca ṝṣīśvaraḥ । 

yogīnāṅcaiva yogīndraḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the great siddha among the siddhas, to the lord of the ṛṣi among the ṛṣis, to the lord of the yogis among the yogis, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

विश्वतेजो विश्वरूपं विश्ववन्द्य सदाशिवः ।
विश्वनामा विश्वनाथः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
viśvatejo viśvarūpaṃ viśvavandya sadāśivaḥ । 

viśvanāmā viśvanāthaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

Universal light manifested in the image of the Universe, revered by all, Sadāśiva, who is called by all kinds of names, the lord of everything, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

अनन्तलोकनाथश्च नाथनाथशिरोमणिः।
सर्वनाथसमाराध्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
anantalokanāthaśca nāthanāthaśiromaṇiḥ। 

sarvanāthasamārādhyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the Lord of infinite worlds, the greatest (lit. “head precious adornment) of the Nāthas, to the Lord of all, to the one who is respected, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

शून्यानाङ्च परं शून्यं परेषां परमेश्वरः ।
ध्यायताञ्च परं धाम श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
śūnyānāṅca paraṃ śūnyaṃ pareṣāṃ parameśvaraḥ ।
dhyāyatāñca paraṃ dhāma śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 


To the highest emptiness among the voids, to the Supreme Lord for others, to the highest state for the meditators, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

Then you can practice japa using the mantras from the above tantras, they can be found here: http://matsyendranatha.com/?p=554:

 

Elements of yoga in Tantras

Despite the fact that some traditions criticise methods of other sampradāya, sometimes it happens, however, that they themselves utilise them. For example, Abhinavagupta and others criticised Patañjali’s methods. Even though you can often come across the usage of methods of yoga in Kaśmir Śaivism and other tantric traditions, they are actually considered there as an integral part of tantra. In the same way as tantra, they are supporting elements on the path of yoga. I can cite a simple example of such quotations from the description of several techniques from Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra (VBT), which were commented by Śivopadhyaya. In one part, he explains a method from VBT quoting Patañjali, and in another he quotes Viveka-mārtaṇḍa of Gorakśanāth.

सर्वस्रोतोनिबन्धेन प्राणशक्त्योर्ध्वया शनैः |
पिपीलस्पर्शवेलायाम् प्रथते परमं सुखम् || ६७ ||

sarvasrotonibandhena prāṇaśaktyordhvayā śanaiḥ |
pipīlasparśavelāyām prathate paramaṁ sukham || 67 ||

By blocking all channels (jñānendriyas), the force of prāṇa slowly goes upwards. Then there is a sensation like the motion of an ant, and it comes the highest state of euphoria.

First of all, it is clear that it is a description of yoni-mudrā (or ṣaṇmukhi-mudrā). Also, there is an interesting description of kuṇḍalinī movement, which is characterised as pipīlikā-calana (like the motion of an ant) in Nātha texts. That could often be found in Nātha texts in the description of Śakti uprising, in addition to some other motions like vihaṅgama (bird), sarpa (snake) etc. Furthermore, Śivopadhyaya, in his comments to this technique quotes Patañjali, where he defines prāṇāyāma.

.बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्तम्भवृित्तः देशकालसङ्ख्यािभः पिरदृष्टो दीघर्सूक्ष्मः॥५०॥

bāhyābhyantarastambhavṛttirdeśakālasaṅkhyābhiḥ paridṛṣṭo dīrghasūkṣmaḥ 50

The fluctuations of prāṇa could be outward and inward (exhales and inhales), it could also come to a standstill (of breathing). It should be observed, that this process would be elongating, subtle, happens according to time, place and quantity.

Also, Śivopadhyaya cites sutra 49, where Patañjali defines prāṇāyāma as a cessation (vicchedaḥ) of inhales and exhales (śvāsapraśvāsa). Although the term ‘viccheda’ could indeed be translated like that, I would define it in other way. It could also mean ‘cutting off’, like something that is no longer needed ‘comes off’. If the goal of prāṇāyāma is calming of consciousness and prāṇa (with which it’s connected), than it is exactly ‘cutting off’ prāṇavṛtti and cittavṛtti. But, it is actually happening in a natural way with the involvement in the process of proper contemplation. Consciousness, being agitated by the sensual experience is unable to calm down, it is fragmented. Only when the practise enables an involvement in higher orientations and higher dimension, it subsides and everything in excess ‘comes off’, ‘cuts off’ by itself. It happens as at the level of sensual perception, as well as of prāṇa and mind.

Equally interesting explanation of the quotation from the Viveka-mārtaṇḍa, also the Bhagavadgītā appears in the description of a technique from VBT in the other part of the text:

मध्यजिह्वे स्फारितास्ये मध्ये निक्षिप्य चेतनाम् |
होच्चारं मनसा कुर्वंस् ततः शान्ते प्रलीयते || ८१ ||

madhyajihve sphāritāsye madhye nikṣipya cetanām |
hoccāraṁ manasā kurvaṁs tataḥ śānte pralīyate || 81 ||

With the middle of the tongue (it is the tip, if you look at it from the particular angle), pointed in the centre of something that is widely open (the head area – ‘ākāśa’), you should mentally recite the uprising sound ‘ha’, dissolving your mind in calm.

Śivopadhyaya quotes this śloka:

कपालकुहरे जिह्वा प्रविष्टा विपरीतगा|भ्रुवोरन्तर्गता दृष्टिर्मुद्रा भवति खेचरी ॥

kapālakuhare jihvā praviṣṭā viparītagā|bhruvorantargatā dṛṣṭirmudrā bhavati khecarī

When the tongue points backwards and enters the cavity of skull, and the look is directed between the eyebrows – it is khecarī-mudrā.

Śivopadhyaya points out that it is from the Viveka-mārtaṇḍa (68), although you can come across it in many texts – it seems that many authors have copied it from Gorakśanāth. You can see it in the Dhyānabindu Upaniṣad, the Yogacūḍāmaṇi Upaniṣad, in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā etc. It’s quite obvious that Śivopadhyaya implies khecarī-mudrā, which is known in haṭhayoga in particular, in spite of the fact that in Kaśmir Śaivism it is also known as the practise performed inside consciousness. It is clear, that in India, some masters could claim that practises from different traditions cannot be mixed, but other gurus boldly mixes them and see their interconnection. I incline towards the latter approach. It is interesting that Śivopadhyaya quotes śloka from the Bhagavadgītā while commenting this śloka from VBT:

स्पशार्न्कृत्वा बिहबार्ह्यांश्चक्षुश्चैवान्तरे भ्रुवोः।
प्राणापानौ समौ कृत्वा नासाभ्यन्तरचािरणौ ।।५.२७।।

sparśānkṛtvā bahirbāhyāṃścakṣuścaivāntare bhruvoḥ
prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau ।। 5.27।।

Leaving with external (world) the tangency (of consciousness), concentrating the look between the eyebrows, a yogin balances prāṇa and apāna.

This technique is known in haṭhayoga as bhrūmadhyadṛṣṭi or śāmbhavī-mudrā. It is for a reason, that it is often associated with sādhana of khecarīmudrā. However, in Kaśmir Śaivism, this practise means the way to achieve pratimilanasamādhi, or bhairavīmudrā (the union of internal and external spaces), that is often acquired through the practise of maithuna in kaula ritual. Then in accord with the Tantrāloka and the Mahārtha Mañjarī (the text which is connected with Gorakśanāth according to nāthas), the sound ‘ha’, which is made during mahākśobha (orgasm) – is the sound of anāhata, which dissolves (laya) the mind. However, it is more likely that in this practise it is implied ‘the internal coition’ of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, upraised to Śiva in sahasrāra cakra, where Śakti was released in the space above the crown of the head.

All these methods, actually, could become the one unified process for those who don’t stuck in modern yoga, where everything is being ‘divided’,everyone ‘comes up with something new’ because of the obsession with markets and trade concepts.

 

Dvaitādvaita-vivarjita

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.

Śarabha from the yogic and tantric perspective

The name of Śarabha is first mentioned in the Rig Veda, in the hymn to Indra and Vāyu, he is mentioned as a relative of ṛṣi (शरभाय ऋषि बन्धवे śarabhāya ṛṣi bandhave):

विश्वेत्ता ते सवनेषु प्रवाच्या या चकर्थ मघवन्निन्द्र सुन्वते ।
पारावतं यत्पुरुसम्भृतं वस्वपावृणोः शरभाय ऋषिबन्धवे ॥६॥

viśvettā te savaneṣu pravācyā yā cakartha maghavannindra sunvate ।
pārāvataṃ yatpurusambhṛtaṃ vasvapāvṛṇoḥ śarabhāya ṛṣibandhave ॥ 6 ॥

Oh, Meghavan (the name of Indra, who was crowned on Mount Mekhvan)! All your actions, which grant the well-being to Pārāvana and gathered in large numbers for Śarabha, who is a relative of ṛṣi, are worthy of praise at performing sacrifices.

Besides the mention, also, in the Atharva Veda, an interesting reference of Śarabha is found in Śatapatha-brahmana, where he is mentioned as kimpuruṣa (a half-human, a half-animal):

स यं पुरुषमालभन्त । स किम्पुरुषोऽभवद्यावश्वं च गां च तौ गौरश्च गवयश्चाभवतां यमविमालभन्त स उष्ट्रोऽभवद्यमजमालभन्त स शरभोऽभवत्तस्मादेतेषां पशूनां नाशितव्यमपक्रान्तमेधा हैते पशवः – १.२.३.[९]

sa yaṃ puruṣamālabhanta। sa kimpuruṣo’bhavadyāvaśvaṃ ca gāṃ ca tau gauraśca gavayaścābhavatāṃ yamavimālabhanta sa uṣṭro’bhavadyamajamālabhanta sa śarabho’bhavattasmādeteṣāṃ paśūnāṃ nāśitavyamapakrāntamedhā haite paśavaḥ – 1.2.3.[9]

He is the person whom they offered as a sacrifice, he became kimpuruṣa; the horse and the bull, which they sacrificed, became a female and a male buffalo, and the sheep that was killed became a camel, the killed goat became Śarabha. These animals cannot be eaten, because they are devoid of sacrificial essence. 1.2.3.[9]

Later, Śarabha, also known as Śalabha, is also found in the following Purāṇas (Śriīmadbhāgavata, Matsya, Skanda, Harivamśa, Śiva and Padma Purāṇas), as well as in the Mahābhārata (Vana Parva, Śanti Parva, Adi Parva, Udyoga Parva, Droṇa Parva), in the Rāmāyaṇa (in Yuddhakanda) and also in various forms in the most diverse Tantras. Often he is described as a Deity having four paws, which symbolise the eight forms of Śiva, his thighs symbolise the vyādhi (illnesses) and mṛityu (death) that he controls. His stomach is Vadavagni Bhairava, Bālātripurasundari is in his heart, in the two wings there are the Goddesses –Śulini Durgā and Pratyaṅgirā, in the throat there is Mahakala Bhairava, in his eyes – the sun, the moon and fire, in his claws there are vajras of Indra. He also has the face of a lion.

Basically, Śarabha is known to many upāsakas as a form of Bhairava, who prevented the contamination with the blood, that Narasiṃha had drunk, killing the demon Hiraṇyakaśipu. The story is that Hiraṇyakaśipu performed austerities in order to gain the strength not to be killed either on earth or in the air, in the room or on the street, by animals or by men. Then Viṣṇu appeared in the guise of a half-lion, half-man. It happened on the steps of a palace (neither in the house nor on the street), he raised Hiraṇyakaśipu and killed him on his own knee (neither on earth nor in the air). However, after drinking the blood of HiraṇyakaśipuNarasiṃha began to fall under his demonic influence. For that purpose Śiva took the form of Śarabheśvara, raised Narasiṃha above the earth and “dropped” him so that he spewed all the blood of Hiraṇyakaśipu out of himself. Sometimes Śarabheśvara is called Aśu Garuḍa because he has the ability to fly. In that sense, Śarabha symbolises the strength of a large number of living beings. A modern example might be given: when new types of weapons are being developed, with more sophisticated program control and functional capabilities. In fact, Śarabha is a kind of Deity with Narasiṃha‘s “improved” abilities, more advanced to combat demons, with more flexible methods of warfare.

His name Śalabha, which translates as “grasshopper”, means that the insect is capable of making jumps that resemble a flight, although in general it is on the ground. In honour of him, there is a well-known śalabhāsana in yoga, which is quite powerful; Śalabha or Śarabha is a symbol of strength, he is full of Śakti (energy). Narayanasvami gives a yogic interpretation of the image of Śarabha in his text Tantrika Mahākāvya, for example, that his eight paws mean aṣṭāṅga-yoga, four of them look upwards (antaraṅga-yoga) and four – down (bahiraṅgayoga). However, it seems to me, Śarabha can rather be associated with different kinds of living beings and their forces, as many yoga texts say, there are as many yogic āsanas as living beings. Mastering of āsanas could mean even more than the ability to take different positions of the body, but also probably the awareness of the various vibrational characteristics that fill the entire universe, to realise the main ability – to become a siddha-puruṣa and get out of the influence of saṃsāra and māyāŚarabha is a Deity who removes a magical enchantment, takes the practitioner out of bewitchment by an illusory force. Therefore, he is able to grant spiritual liberation. However, the Deity includes a conglomerate of very different energies, so he is capable of giving a strong transformation, thus sādhaka should have strong self-control and be mature. Tremendous devotion to a real Guru (realised Siddha), who has realised this Deity and its mantras in himself and can transmit it in its full state to his own śiśya is a necessary part. Otherwise, mantras of ŚarabhaPratyaṅgirā, and others can greatly damage the experimenter with such mantras and sādhanas. In connection with that, I won’t make any technical information on the practice of such Deities publicly available.

Returning to the theme of yoga, a very interesting description of śarabhāsana is found in the Agama-rahasya-tantra, where many āsanas are described by the same names as in the texts of haṭha-yoga (as understood by many now). However, these āsanas are often described as mats made of different materials, on which one must sit and chant a mantra a certain number of times, which leads to different siddhis. For example, mayūrāsana, siṁhāsana, kukkuṭāsana, etc. are different materials from animal skin. But speaking of śarabhāsana, confusion may arise, because there is no such “animal” in the real nature. Respectively, the conclusion is: āsanas also mean the image itself, which carries this or that kind of force.