Interesting etymology of the term “karṇa” according to Yāska

Looking through Yāska’s work, I found another interesting point related to the interpretation of the word “karṇa” (कर्ण – an ear), which, in my opinion, very clearly indicates the rite of “ka-chira” – one of the the Nātha saṃskāras.

कर्णः कृन्ततेः। निकृत्तद्वारो भवति ।

Karṇa (an ear) comes from the root कृत् “krit” (to cut through), this is cutting a hole.

The rite of karṇa-vedhana (piercing the earlobes) is included in the Vedic saṃskāras, along with receiving the sacred thread, etc., so it is not surprising that there is such a definition here. However, Yāska further gives another version:

ऋच्छतेरित्याग्रायणः ।

“Ricchha” means “to move,” says Āgrāyaṇa (ācārya).

ऋच्छन्तीव खे उदगन्ताम् ।

Just as if there was movement in space (sound or nada).

In the śābar-mantra of the Nāthas, for the “kuṇḍala” (earrings) that are worn during such a ritual, it refers to the sound vibration “nada” and its connection with khecarīmudrā, but in the context of the fact that the sound “moves” in ākāśa (space). At the end it is said that above the ears of Gorakṣanāth is ākāśa, and below them is the earth, i.e. he is an image of the confluence of these polarities. He combines (mudrā) khecarī and bhūcarī (Śakti in the manifest world and in emptiness).

I would also like to note that the Sun and Moon are luminaries that constantly move in space, just like the Earth itself with the Moon, rotating around it and reflecting the light of the Sun. All these movements are time (kalā), which is sometimes translated as “death” in Sanskrit. Therefore, one who has gone beyond polarity and time comprehends the reality of immortality beyond the manifest and the unmanifest. The Gorakṣa-siddhānta-saṅgraha says that the true Brahman in this sense is beyond dvaita and advaita, bheda and abheda, etc., which Gorakṣanāth calls “Pakṣapāta-vinirmukta”.

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.

What is said about Gorakṣanātha in the Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa

In the Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa (Adhyāya 33), we find a mention of Yogi Gorakṣanātha. Although this text is dedicated to Śrīvidyā, the manner in which it is described is interesting. I have made translation from Sanskrit with small notes, and although this kind of text requires a more detailed explanation, I will publish my translation here.

तस्य चोत्तरकोणेषु वायुलोको महाद्युतिः ।
तत्र वायुशरीराश्च सदानन्दमहोदयाः ॥ ६७॥

Also, in the Northwest corner with great radiance is the dimension of Vāyu.
Those who are there (ṛṣis and siddhas) also have bodies like Vāyu (power ones) and great eternal bliss is revealed in them.

सिद्धा दिव्यर्षयश्चैव पवनाभ्यासिनोऽपरे ।
गोरक्षप्रमुखाश्चान्ये योगिनो योगतत्पराः ॥ ६८॥

Divine ṛṣis and siddhas, who practice methods associated with the wind (pranayama) and other yogis, devotees of the yoga path, among whom the main one is Gorakṣanātha.

एतैः सह महासत्त्वस्तत्र श्रीमारुतेश्वरः ।
सर्वथा भिन्नमूर्तिश्च वर्तते कुम्भसम्भव ॥ ६९॥

There, along with them, with the great beings, is Māruteśvara (Gorakṣa).
O, born from a jar (“Patra Devatā” among the Nāthas, or Gorakṣanātha), also present in many forms.

इडा च पिङ्गला चैव सुषुम्णा तस्य शक्तयः ।
तिस्रो मारुतनाथस्य सदा मधुमदालसाः ॥ ७०॥

This lord of the winds, Mārutnātha, has three Śaktis in the form of iḍā, piṅgala and suṣumṇā, which reside in a heady eternal peace.

ध्वजहस्तो मृगवरे वाहने महति स्थितः ।
ललितायजनध्यानक्रमपूजनतत्परः ॥ ७१॥

He holds a flag (symbol of Alakh-nirañjan) in his hand, while sitting on an antelope (symbol of prāṇa). He successively performs dhyāna, yājña and pūjā to the goddess Lalita (Yogamāyā Bālasundarī among the Nāths).

आनन्दपूरिताङ्गीभिरन्याभिः शक्तिभिर्वृतः ।
स मारुतेश्वरः श्रीमान्सदा जपति चक्रिणीम् ॥ ७२॥

He is surrounded by other Śaktis (goddesses), their parts (it can be their bodies or aspects in the form of yoginīs), overflowing with bliss. That glorious Māruteśvara always repeats the mantra to the Queen of the Śrīyantra chakras (Tripurasundarī).

तेन सत्त्वेन कल्पान्ते त्रैलोक्यं सचराचरम् ।
परागमयतां नीत्वा विनोदयति तत्क्षणात् ॥ ७३॥

Through his essence, at the end of a kalpa, he absorbs all three worlds, everything movable and immovable, remaining by himself in that delightful moment.

तस्य सत्त्वस्य सिद्ध्यर्थं तामेव ललितेश्वरीम् ।
पूजयन्भावयन्नास्ते सर्वाभरणभूषितः ॥ ७४॥

For the perfections of that essence, Laliteshwari, he worships her with manifest feeling and all kinds of ornaments.

Chakras in the Vedas

In the Vedas, in addition to archetypal allusions to chakras, there is also a fairly specific mention of them. Let me give one of the early examples from the Atharva Veda (10.2.31):

अष्टचक्रा नवद्वारा देवानां पूरयोध्या। 
तस्यां हिरण्ययः कोशः स्वर्गो ज्योतिषावृतः।। 

aṣṭacakrā navadvārā devānāṃ pūrayodhyā।
tasyāṃ hiraṇyayaḥ kośaḥ svargo jyotiṣāvṛtaḥ।

Invincible (ayodhyā) abode (pūra) of gods (devānām) with nine holes (navadvārā), eight chakras (aṣṭacakrā). In that (tasyām), golden-colored (hiraṇyayaḥ) shell (kośaḥ), the heavens (svargaḥ) are shrouded (āvṛtaḥ) with light (jyotiṣā).

This hymn, similar to the Puruṣasuktam, is dedicated to the first man, from whom the entire universe and all living beings originated. Later, we see this principle in texts, such as the Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, in the description of parapiṇḍa (macrocosmos) and vyaśtipiṇḍa (microcosms), its many copies within it.

The term “puruṣa” itself is explained by Yaska in two ways:

Puri ṣādaḥ (the one who sits in the abode, i.e. the body), or puri śayaḥ (the one who rests in the body). You could also say he is the one who “fills” the body. In Tantrism, the body is often associated with Śakti and the spirit in the body – Śiva. Thus, this is the unity of Śiva and Śakti.

Under each element mentioned, you can reveal a dozen or even more meanings. Ideally this should be conveyed to you by the guru through personal contact. I propose to leave this information in this “unsaid” form, leaving the opportunity for everyone to independently comprehend this through personal search and learning experience.

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.

Transition of any mantra into So-ham

The transition of any mantra into “so-ham” (ajapā-japa) occurs at the level of madhyamā-vak or the mental meaning of the mantra, it can be said, a more significant level of the mantra. We can also say that this happens through the yogic level, through the sphere that is more subjective or the one that is closer to your soul. I’ll explain to those, who haven’t realised it yet. This is what any correct mantra practice is aimed at. Thus, without yoga as such, there can be no correct mantras, tantric rites and any rituals at all. Therefore, when I say that I place yoga above all else and there is nothing higher than it, I am extremely honest here.

Smile of Buddha and Gorakṣanāth

If you look at the images of Buddha and Gorakṣanāth, you will notice slight smiles on their faces. But it’s not some super blissful appearance. I have noticed that many people like bajans and kirtans, as is the case in many bhakti schools or in the inaccurate understanding of some tantric streams, because there is an excess of “ānanda” there. For many people such ānanda and excessive joy seems to me to be an attempt to displace the presence of pain that this life is full of. However, this often leads to a person not noticing the external reality. But, if your bliss is moderate, like a light smouldering fire in the dhuna, then you do not run away from life and are not consumed by it, you are in contact with it as if “gliding”. That is, you calmly perceive the reality of life in a moderately “positive” state, which awakens wisdom in you.

Ways to perceive nada

What are the sources through which the yogi can perceive nāda? There are two main ways. The first is mantra yoga (tantras), the second is haṭha-yoga (prāṇāyāma, mudrās, etc.). Here is what the Śāradā-tilakam tantra (Рrathamaḥ paṭalaḥ) tells us:

सच्चिदानन्दविभवात् सकलात् परमेश्वरात् ।
आसीच्छक्तिस्ततो नादो नादाद् बिन्दुसमुद्भवः ॥७॥

saccidānandavibhavāt sakalāt parameśvarāt ।
āsīcchaktistato nādo nādād bindusamudbhavaḥ ॥7॥

From the eternal goodness of Parameśvara, whose nature is Eternity-Knowledge-Bliss, Śakti (power) manifested first, then the vibration (nāda) manifested from the power, and bindu manifested from the peak of the tension of nāda.

That is, if you practice yoga, then by doing practices to activate Śakti, such as bhastrikāprāṇāyāma, etc., Śakti can release the pulsation, the vibration of nāda. Or, if you practice mantras, then “activating the mantras“, awakening them in various ways, you will also come to the perception of nāda.

Of course, these methods in the traditions have always been directly transmitted from Gurus to their students. It is more than just information or theory, although knowledge of the theory, one way or another, can help.

About the “tantrikas”, saying that Yoga is “the path of paśu”.

I have translated a short passage from the Rudrayamalatantra Uttarakāṇḍa, dedicated to those “tantrikas”, who criticise the Yoga path:

श्वासाभ्यासं विना नाथ अष्टाङ्गाभ्यसनेन च ।
विना दमेन धैर्येण कुलमार्गो न सिद्ध्यति ॥१६-३६॥

O Nātha, without the breathing practice along with the practice of the eight limbs [of yoga];
Without control and stability, there will be no perfection in the Kula path. (16-36)

तथा पूरकयोगेन रेचकेनापि तिष्ठति ।
विना कुम्भकसत्त्वेन यथैतौ नापि तिष्ठतः॥१६-३७॥ 

The same is true with inhalation and exhalation.
Without the essence of holding [breathing], these two are also unstable. (16-37)

तथा योगं विना नाथ अष्टाङ्गाभ्यसनं विना ।
कुलमार्गो महातत्त्वो न सिद्ध्यति कदाचन ॥१६-३८॥ 

O Nātha, also without yoga, without practicing its eight parts.
The Kula path will never be successful in the highest essence. (16-38)

कुलमार्गं विना मोक्षं कः प्राप्नोति महीतले ।
कुलमार्गं न जानाति योगवाक्यागमाकुलम् ॥१६-३९॥ 

How can one achieve spiritual liberation on this earth without the Kula path who knows neither the path of kula, nor the doctrine of yoga, nor the kaula-agama? (16-39)

The fifth makara in tantra practice

I translated a small part of the Experience in Spiritual Practice (साधना के अनुभव), the book by Rameshchandra Sharma. I think this information will be useful for many practitioners to understand the maithuna topic in Tantrism. It is necessary to practice the maithuna ritual when the sexual energy stagnates in the area of the mūlādhāra and svādhiṣṭhāna cakras. When the kuṇḍalinī ascends, the practice with it becomes a form of yoga, which is mainly contemplative. Of course, these boundaries are very relative, however, there is a general principle of connecting the two poles in order to sublimate our vision and energy. Here is the text:

The Fifth of the Five Makaras

In tantric sādhanā, the practice of pañcamakāra is found. Practice with madya (wine), māmsa (meat), etc., it can also be done with their substitutes. In the pañcamakāra, the fifth is associated with the sense-oriented pūjā, which is known as maithuna. In essence it leads to the regulation of the semen. Maithuna is also called “latasādhanā“, it is a special practice for awakening the svādhiṣṭhānacakra.

Often after the awakening of the kuṇḍalinī, when vāyu (energy) rises to the svādhiṣṭhānacakra, kāma (passion), ascending there, begins to transform into what we know as yogasādhanā. Through the identification of a woman with Devī (Goddess) and himself with Śiva, the practitioner leaves the gross states of the physical body, and his spirit and consciousness are directed to the sphere of spiritual consciousness. This often happens when practicing a mantra with prāṇāyāma. The power in the svādhiṣṭhāna or maṇipūracakra begins to intensify and the practitioner through asceticism becomes an ūrdhvareta – one, whose ascending sexual power is sublimated. Near the maṇipūracakra (just below it) in a woman is the womb (garbhāśaya), which is the most important area in their body. 

So, from the svādhiṣṭhānacakra to the maṇipūracakra there is a point of two poles, the connection of the spiritual and the physical. and through the practice of japa you connect these centers in a pure sāttvic state. In a state of full bloom of power, at the beginning of the practice, you use a special method, thanks to which the power increases and moves further in the direction of the anāhatacakra. Mental worship is the essence, thanks to which everything basic happens there.

In the daily pūjā you can invoke the Goddess into a red flower (yellow in the case of Bagalāmukhī), and invoke Śiva in a white flower. Place the flower where the Goddess is on top of the white flower of Śiva, that will be the symbol of viparīta-rati, symbolically connecting Śiva and Śakti.