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Tag Archives: GorakhnathImage
TANTRIK practice spread to Sri Lanka, although little of it remains today. Here is the temple of Nalanda Gedige, about 20 clicks from Kandy, off the beaten track. It appears to have been embellished with saucy sculptures, although when I visited it in April last year, only one small motif remained. There’s some more information about this shrine, here. There is a Gorakhnath mandir in the precincts of the great Kandy complex… ♦
THIS ARTICLE is from From Experiences of a Truth Seeker, vol 1, part 1 by Sadhu Shantinatha, published by Shri Avedyanath, Gorakhnatha Temple, Gorakhpur, 1949 and printed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is out of copyright.
There are some strange coincidences between this rare book and Dadaji’s account, published in Values magazine. As you will see by contrasting this one, on the shivashakti.com site, with Shantinatha’s version. ♣
Swami Siddharudha and Dadaji Dhuniwala
I reached Hubli station at sunset. Swamiji’s Ashram was about a mile from the station. I went direct to the Ashram and saw the Swami. He appeared. to be a venerable old saintly man, about 50 years old. I found him encircled by some two hundred admirers. He put to me a few questions, to which on account of my vow of silence I could give no reply. He found out that I was a mauni and without further questions .he asked me to take a seat. The old Sadhu presented plenty of sweet-meats before me and affectionately asked me to make use of them then and there. I complied.
I found there some Pandit explaining Yogavasishta to the assembly and Swamiji occasionally clearing the abstruse points. Next morning I found an attendance of about forty persons, the Pandit explaining Brahma-sutras and Swamiji supplementing. Swamiji had a systematic programme for giving lessons to his followers. The morning-class was for specially earnest students and the evening-congregation was for the people in general. Swamiji’s manners were very sweet and attractive, and his mode of explanation was very lucid and impressive.
I was attracted by his personality and erudition; I thought within myself that my vow of silence was taken for my benefit, and that if on any occasion by breaking the vow I could derive greater intellectual and spiritual benefit, I should not deprive myself of it for the sake of the vow. I made up my mind to talk with Swamiji and take lessons from him. I put down on a piece of paper that if Swamiji should grant me private interviews and allow me to talk with him alone, I would like to forgo the vow. He agreed. Some follower of Swamiji ushered me to his presence, when he was sitting alone, I put to him a few questions on Vedanta. He answered them to my satisfaction.
My programme had been to stop there for a day or two. Now I changed my mind. I wanted to stay longer and Swamiji approved of it. I attended the morning-class and raised problems which were very much liked by Swamiji and solved by him. Swamiji told me, ” Well, you should put such questions every day, and these people who do not know how to raise subtle problems will be profited by. them.” My questions would arouse his enthusiasm and he would answer them with great delight in his usual simple clear and lucid style. I would not speak to any one except Swamiji, and with him also my talk was confined to the morning-class.
I remember to have had on one occasion a controversy between Swamiji and myself. Swamiji asserted,— ” God’s grace should be recognised along with the Law of Karma. My point was,— “If you accept the Law of Karma, you cannot consistently believe in the Divine grace.” Swamiji replied “God’s grace is like air or fire. Air is present everywhere; some can make use of it in one way, and some in another way, some may contrive to get more of it and some may get less, Here they have to depend upon Karma. Fire is blazing somewhere; some may remain at a distance and may not enjoy its warmth; some may advance near it and be relieved from cold. Here air or fire is not the product of Karma; but to utilize it for one’s benefit, one has to rely on Karnza. That is also the case with Divine grace.”
I objected ” Swamiji, you have to prove the truth of the Divine Grace and what has to be proved cannot be taken for granted. We assume the Law of Karma. Here the question is—Is there a uniformity between actions and their fruits ? If the same actions are uniformly followed by the same consequences in accordance with the Law, there is no room for the grace of God or for any supernatural interference. If this uniformity be absent, whether due to the Divine Grace or to any kind of supernatural interference, the Law of Karma fails. In that case the Divine Will alone may be regarded as the sole cause of the enjoyments and sufferings of the creatures. But that would mean partiality and cruelty on the part of God. The examples of air and fire are of no avail. They are objects of our experience and they are what they are, having neither grace nor cruelty, having no concern with how the people profit by or suffer from them. Profiting or suffering follows uniformly from the actions of men. Here the Law of Karma alone is sufficient to account for their happiness and misery. How can Divine Grace be proved ? It is neither an object of our direct experience nor necessary for explaining the courses of our destiny.”
Swamiji, cited another example. He said “In the swayambarasabha (a congregation in which a girl is to choose her husband from among the suitors present) all the persons have assembled for the same object, and each of them desires to have the girl. Here their Karma are of the same nature. But only one person gets the girl, viz. he whom the girl chooses. Thus inspite of similar endeavours, success in life depends upon the Grace of God.” I retorted. “This appears to be a palpable violation of the Law of Karma. The conclusion from this analogy would be that SUCCESS or unsuccess is not the result of actions at all, but that of the arbitrary choice or will of God. Further, the Swayambara-girl has her likes and dislikes, which determine her choice. Some girls have a high admiration for heroism, some have a stronger attraction for beauty, some have a still stronger ambition for wealth, so on. A girl’s choice is influenced by her peculiar mentality as well as by the reports she gets about the acquisitions of the suitors present. But God cannot be supposed to be guided by such likes and dislikes, by His attraction for certain objects and abhorrence of others. The example is therefore not to the point. Moreover, if God acts according to the Karma of the creatures, His freedom is curtailed and his Grace becomes meaningless. If He be merely a dispenser of justice, i. e. an impartial executor of the law of karma, He cannot afford to be either merciful or cruel. He cannot be supposed to have the freedom of conferring any blessings upon anybody in excess of what he deserves by virtue of his own Karma, nor the freedom to deny to any person what he deserves. In that view of the case, the law of Karma alone may be accepted as sufficient for explaining the differences of our enjoyments and sufferings and the agency of God would be unnecessary. On the other hand if He showers His blessings upon particular creatures in disregard of their actions, the Law of Karma is defied and people cannot have faith in the merits or demerits of their virtuous or vicious deeds. The moral code would then be useless. Even if it be supposed that God in His mercy lessens the severity of the painful results of vicious actions and bestows blessings upon the virtuous people in excess of their merits, then also the Law of Karma is falsified. Thus the Divine Grace is inconsistent with Law of Karma.”
I got no satisfactory solution of this problem from him or from anybody else thereafter. However, charmed by Swamiji’s sweet behaviour, I stayed there for one month. On the eve of my departure, he affectionately touched my shoulders and gave me a piece of advice full of kindness and sympathy for the poor ignorant simple-minded well-meaning people of the country. He said “When you impart instruction to the people, please have a kind and sympathetic consideration for the poor souls not endowed with intelligence enough for understanding abstruse truths”. His words touched my heart. I could understand what led the religious teachers with deeply logical and philosophical insight to make compromises with popular thoughts, sentiments and practices and to participate in the rituals and observances of the lower orders of their countrymen. I could not however persuade myself in actual practice to accept his advice in toto. I thought that these high-minded
religious teachers were in many cases led astray by their wide sympathy and kindness into giving undue indulgence to the superstitious ideas and vitiated tastes of the ignorant people and thereby doing positive injury to them. The moral, spiritual and intellectual superiority of these teachers gave them power and authority to mould the life and thought and feeling of the piety-seeking saint-adoring soft-hearted simple-minded ordinary people of this great country. But unfortunately instead of exercising their influence for guiding these people in the direction of what they themselves knew to be really true and good and noble and to be permanently elevating to the country as a whole, they often pampered the crude thoughts and vitiated tastes of these people and gave these ignorant folks the false impression that they were moving in the right path. I found myself temperamentally unfit to follow the advice and example of these soft-hearted religious teachers. I never took the responsibility of a religious teacher. But when anybody came to seek my advice, I would always freely express my opinion without looking to their sentiments and pre-conceived ideas. Thereby I often wounded the feelings of many pious men, but I could not help it.
It had been my programme to go to Benares from Hubli. But at the time of departure it struck me that when I proceeded so far southward, I should not take a northern turn without paying a visit to Rameshwara. I reached Rameshwara — a mauni, without a single pice in my pocket. There I had to suffer immense trouble, particularly in the matter of food. I went to one place in expectation of some thing to eat. The people there merrily asked me to pass on to some other place. Therefrom I was forcibly driven out to seek refuge at another. From this place also I was turned out. Thus for a morsel of bread I had to run like a dog from door to door, to be cruelly hunted out from each door by the religion-loving inhabitants of the sacred tirtha. I saw Rameshwara, —the Lord mythologically said to have been worshipped by Ramachandra. The Lord. did not reveal Himself to my eyes as any thing more than a small black piece of stone. As I had no feeling of Bhakti, (devotion ) for the piece of stone, I could not persuade myself to bow down before it. I only viewed it from a distance.
From Rameshwara I turned back to Madras and stopped for a week at the Rama Krishna Mission. There I felt inclined to go to Nasik and plunge myself again into meditation at the Tapobana. Accordingly I reached Nasik, only to find that Kumbha mela had assembled. there and that Tapobana, which I had expected to be a place of solitude, was densely populated by Sadhus of various denominations. I was disappointed. Next day I left Nasik and started for Benares. In all these travels I could buy no ticket, because I was penniless. When the train was about to pass by Gudurwada (near Jubbalpore) one Sadhu travelling in the same compartment with me told me that about fourteen miles from the nearest station on the bank of the Narmada lived an extraordinary Siddha Mahapurusa, whose equal could be scarcely found in the whole of India. Immediately I felt an inquisitiveness to have a sight of the great Mahatma and alighted at the Gudurvada Station. The Sadhu also followed me. We two walked on foot to the Mahatma’s place. He was known by the name of Dadaji Dhuniwala. He had no Ashrama of his own. I found Dadaji surrounded by many persons who used to assemble there every day. Dadaji was stark naked. He sat by the side of a fireplace (dhuni). Three of his disciples including one Mahomedan, were also naked and sat near him. I joined the party. I was also naked, though I covered my body with a blanket. Sometimes Dadaji used to feed me affectionately with his own hand along with Chota-dada, the Mahomedan disciple and another Bengali disciple. I saw him some times singing, sometimes dancing, sometimes beating people nearby and sometimes making obscene gestures. Never did I find him sitting calmly or meditating. When anybody put any question to him, he would not generally answer, or if, he happened to give any answer at all, he would utter something which was unintelligible or which had no connection with the topic. The special features which I noticed in his behaviour were that he did not care for the feelings or opinions of anybody, rich or poor, influential or uninfluential, that ha had no attraction for money and did not keep a single penny with him, and that he attached little value to the things which are ordinarily regarded as very precious, such as high-priced clothes which he sometiines burnt in the Dhuni. When he began to beat the people, he did not discriminate between men of high position and men of no position, between his admirers and those who occasionally came to see him. I did not find any occult power in him.
I marked some points of difference between Dadaji and Swami Sidharudha, both of whom were very highly respected by their admirers and both of whom were regarded as Siddha Mahatmas. Swamiji amasses money, while Dadaji has no concern about money; so Swamiji cannot behave with the rich and the poor in the same manner, while Dadaji makes no distinction between them. Swamiji collects rich clothes, while Dadaji burns them to ashes. Swamiji carefully answers the questions put to him, Dadaji does not. Swarniji seems to have a desire for name and fame, while Dadaji seems not to care a fig for it. Swarniji sits calm and quiet and has a meditative mood, while Dadaji appears to be restless. Swamiji’s manners are very sweet and enchanting, while Dadaji’s manners are rough and sometimes revolting to our sense of decency. Swamiji is surrounded by people who are interested in religious discourses and devotional practices which continue in his Ashram almost continually from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.; while Dadaji is generally surrounded by people who expect from the merciful exercise of his supposed supernatural powers such worldly gains as wealth, children, recovery from disease, success in litigation etc.
Any investigation of the history of the Natha sampradayas must, sooner or later, hit what appears to be an insuperable difficulty – the relationship between Gorakhnath and his guru Matsyendranath.
In various legends and stories collected by a number of academics and others investigating the field, including Kalyani Mallik, P.C. Bagchi, Shashibhusan Dasgupta, George Weston Briggs, and J.K. Locke, it appears that Matsyendranath got himself into a bit of bother with a grand total of 1600 queens of Kadali, and subsequently had to be rescued by his disciple Gorakhnath, also known as Gorakshanath.
“Once while Shiva was delivering the secret knowledge to his consort on a platform in the midst of the sea, Mina in the form of a fish overheard it from underneath the platform. Shiva on discovering it cursed him that he would forget the knowledge. Subsequently, when Shiva put his disciples to test through his consort he found out that all except Goraksha was unchaste in mind. At Devi’s bidding, therefore, Minanatha went to the country of women called Kadali and there fell into the snares of women.
“He forgot all about his previous career and began to pass his days in amusement with the 1600 women of the country. He was later on rescued from there from the snares of women by his disciple Gorakshanath who entered the palace of women as a dancer and in the form of a bee unnoticed by others and reminded Mina of his previous career.” (Kaulajnananirnaya of the School of Matsyendranath, Bagchi’s introduction).
After rescuing his guru from the wicked wiles of the sirens of Kadali, Gorakhnath went on to found the Kanphata schools of Natha yoga, a pan-Indian movement which had a great impact on the whole sub-continent, and which influenced other movements including the Sants and the Sikhs.
The difficulty in discovering the relationship between the guru and his disciple is compounded partly because Matsyendranath is associated not only with the decidely tantrik Yogini Kaula school of the Naths, but because he is also linked in Nepal with the Buddhist Vajrayana tradition, and even almost completely identified with Avalokiteshvara.
On the other hand, sadhus of the Gorakhnath sampradayas appear to disavow allegedly tantrik practices, ideally leading a celibate life. While Matsyendranath is universally hailed as Gorakhnath’s guru in the present day panths of the Kanphat (split-ear) yogis, in some respects this appears to be an afterthought. Although not quite lip-service, Matsyendranath appears to be there to establish the parampara or lineage of Gorakhnath.
The whole subject of tantrik practice, at least in modern-day India, has a very bad name. On the face of it, that appears to be linked not so much with the aspects of sexuality associated with the tantrik tradition, but because it is inextricably linked to magic of every hue, up to and including black magic.
In newspapers and on streets in India, so-called tantriks ply their trade. Problems, whether business enmities, relationships, lack of children or other life difficulties, can be solved by going to a tantrik, the adverts claim. These modern-day tantriks do not often ally themselves to the type of texts which can be found on these Web pages.
Given this, there is also an undercurrent in modern Indian society which also exhibits a repressive attitude to sexuality. This phenomenon may well be due to the adverse influence of the successive invasions of the Mughals and then of the British. Both these sets of invaders appear to have had problems with a culture which not only celebrated sexuality, but incorporated it into its way of life in the shape of alluring statuary of siren-like goddesses and full-blooded gods.
But, like it or not, the Nath sampradayas, even those associated with Gorakhnath, were associated with tantra, although that connection is often denied by modern followers of the cult. The Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, for example, one of the core texts of the Naths, quotes from a number of tantrik texts, including the Lalita Svacchanda, the Pratyabhijnya and the Vamakeshvara Tantra. (Fourth Upadesha, vv 10 et seq). These texts, however, are often ascribed to Kashmir Shaivism, and in this connection it is interesting to note that the descriptions of the spiritual body contained in the Paddhati are closely mirrored in the Netra Tantra. Which came first?
The connection with what appears to be Kashmir Shaivism is further underlined in Abhinavagupta’s Tantraloka, a voluminous text which still, unfortunately, awaits a full English translation.
Here, Abhinavagupta hails Matsyendranath (Matsyodara) as his guru, although it ought to be noted that matsyodara is also a technical term in this particular school. As Abhinavagupta’s time can be reliably dated, this has led some scholars to believe they can date Matsyendranath, and from that to date Gorakhnath.
Present-day adherents of the Gorakhnath sampradayas, however, reject such dates. As no samadhi (tomb) of the saint exists in India, many appear to believe that he is immortal. Further, there is a belief that he existed something like 2,500 years ago, and not only met with Mohammad but with other great spiritual leaders of the past. (Source: conversation with a sevak at the Amritnath ashram, Fatehpur, India in November 2000).
One of the problems with examining any Sanskrit texts is that history, in the sense that Western academics tend to define it, does not really cut any ice. If a text is attributed to a sage, a saint or to Shiva and Shakti themselves, its date is, to followers, an irrelevancy. The texts are considered in some respects eternal, and dating them makes no difference to their message, devotees believe.
P.C. Bagchi collected together texts related to Matsyendranath in his work Kaulajnananirnaya and… ascribed to Matsyendranath, also sometimes called Minanath, Macchendernath, or Matsyodara.
The main text, written in what appears to be an archaic form of non-grammatical Sanskrit, appears, according to the colophon to relate to a school Matsyendranath either founded, or belonged to, called the Yogini Kaula school. The themes in this work are interesting, particularly when compared with what are obviously later tantrik texts.
Here we find a preoccupation with sacred sites, with mantra, with the colour red, and with various yogic exercises which stave off death, disease and the symptoms of ageing. There is also content specifically related to sexuality – a theme only glancingly referred to in the texts ascribed to his disciple Gorakhnath, who is not referred to in the whole body of the text.
According to Bagchi, there are references to Matsyendranath not only in the Tantraloka, but also in the Mangalashtaka of Kalidasa, in the Savara Tantra, in the Shaktiratnakara Tantra and in the very much better known Hathayogapradipika. He is also mentioned in the Kaulavalitantra. In the lists of gurus of the Kali tradition, both Matsyendra and his disciple Goraksha are mentioned as belonging to the order of gurus of the line.
The connection between Matsyendranath and the Kaula tantrik tradition is underlined in the Kaulajnananirnaya by its constant references to Kamarupa, the most important of the 51 pithas where the body of the goddess fell when it was sliced to pieces by Vishnu because it relates to the genitals of the Devi.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM has a whole season of exhibitions and events about India – it calls this its “Indian Summer” – an expression that in English usually applies to unseasonally nice weather rather later in the year, like “fall” or Autumn as we Brits call it.
I visited the British Museum today to see its “Garden & Cosmos” exhibition – sponsored by HSBC and subtitled “The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur”.
The Nathas, reckon scholars – and what would they know – started kicking in around the 13th century and many of the paintings in the exhibition reflect the support of the rajas of Jodhpur, in Rajasthan and form part of the collection of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust. Very many of the highly detailed paintings in the exhibition relate to these “nathas”, in particular there are some paintings from the Nath Purana.
The exhibition was very well attended – it’s had quite a lot of publicity. The leaflet doled out to you when you arrive says: “Man Singh’s artists proclaimed Nath greatness and teaching in hundreds of paintings and monumental manuscripts. Nath yogis, recognised by their grey ash smeared skin and pointed hats, are depicted proclaiming their new ideas. Their guru is shown superior to the traditional Hindu gods”.
Man Singh lost his kingship in 1843 when the British arrested two senior Nathas for allegedly kidnapping a Brahmin. The Indian Mutiny – or the First War of Independence – as India describes it, occurred just a few years later and many authors have suggested that sadhus, holy men, helped foment the insurrection against the missionaries’ position.
A rather sad cartouche, next to one of the glorious paintings in this exhibition, suggested that after Man Singh was ousted, the “temples” of the Natha Sampradaya fell into desuetude and the sampradaya (tradition) lost its force.
I dunno who wrote that cartouche. In Rajasthan there are still very many ashramas of the Natha Sampradaya. I’ve visited many of them myself, thanks to the great kindness of one of the abbots. The paintings often show the padukam of the gurus of the Natha sampradaya – one very nice one shows everything flowing from those feet. I tried to count the Nathas – if there’s 108 of them, I would not be at all surprised.
108 is a sacred number in the tantrik and Natha traditions. The rosaries the sadhus wear are often rudrakhas and number 108 beads. A human being is supposed to breathe 21,600 times in a day of 24 hours – half of these are ascribed to the sun, the other half to the moon.
I listened to many visitors closely inspecting the wonderful paintings in the exhibition. Clearly, very few of them had ever heard of the Natha Sampradaya – didn’t know that Gorakhnath and his guru Matstyendranath more or less created hatha yoga – and were clearly puzzled by these strange sadhus who on the one hand renounced the world and on the other hand promoted the common welfare of the people that supported them.
Matsyendranath, pictured above – and the picture is courtesy of a Natha mahant (abbot) in Rajasthan – was swallowed by a fish, a little like Jonah.
It is rather fantastic that the paintings are in the British Museum, though, despite the lack of supporting information to help assist the wanderers in the place. The exhibition lasts until the 23rd of August and it’s £8 to enter. Or free if you’re a British Museum “member” which costs £40 a year.
Almost finally, Thames & Hudson has produced a rather fantastic book which contains many of the paintings in this exhibition. The paperback costs £30 and the hardback edition £36 so there’s some kind of stock control unit (SKU) marketing nonsense going on there. Its ISBN number is 978-0-500-51443-6. The authors are Debra Diamond, Catherine Glynn and Kami Singh Jasoi.
Almost finally, because on my way out of the exhibition, people seemed to be singing a Baul song, and three lasses were dancing rather effectively. The sound is non existent – sorry about that. Perhaps I should have used my Crackberry.
This exhibition is well worth a visit. If you know nothing about the Natha Sampradaya you will be very puzzled. If you know anything at all about this very ancient tradition of yogis and yoginis, you’ll be very pleased indeed.
Mannath is the founding guru of one of the panths of the current Natha Sampradaya – there are 12 confederated into the Baro Panth.
Quite a lot of the paintings in the exhibition are related to the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati. Disclaimer: I own www.shivashakti.com. You can read some Natha texts in this PDF book, here. There’s obviously money in India.