Yoga is widely spread in the East but gradually the West started to pay attention to this spiritual discipline too. The basics of modern psychology provided by Freud and especially by Jung contained the knowledge of Yoga. Some Western modern directions of physical disciplines have been formed on the basis of Hatha Yoga practices. They ignored the spiritual and ideological aspects, but kept everything that was related to physical exercises. Many modern styles representing “Yoga” as a useful form of leisure made this phenomenon a popular pastime. The interest to Yoga and Tantra grows more and more every year, captivating energetic and extravert Western minds. But still, very few people in the West really know what YOGA means as a spiritual practice, when and how it was formed as a complete and whole system, the system that gave such a powerful boost for a human consciousness development. The right idea about the authenticity of Yoga and Tantra will allow to the West to understand and comprehend the value and practicality of this ancient knowledge better.
Most likely it is impossible to determine an exact age of established traditions of Yoga. Documented evidences have not been preserved and conclusions could be done only by some artifacts found in the most ancient settlements in Hindustan. The age of finds is constantly growing due to deeper researches and modern technologies used by historians. A burial of yogi was found in India just recently, an approximate age of that burial is about 2500 years old, and the statuettes made of stone in the form of a seated man with the characteristics of meditation state date back to 3,000 BC.
India became a motherland of a large quantity of authentic traditions that use Yoga as one of the methods to develop consciousness, but the line of continuity of Nath Yogis tradition is distinguished among them. Tantra and Yoga are tightly intertwined in this; the philosophy and the practice are inseparable and based on the experience of many generations of Natha Yogis. And especially experience of Yoga and Yoga lifestyle has become a feature of this ancient tradition.
The history of Order of Nath goes way back to the past. Today it is almost impossible to determine when and how the followers of Gorakshanath appeared.
The history of Bkharata (the real name of the land that we call India today) and traditions are quite ambiguous. Most likely it is impossible to give exact dates simply because Indian story-writers started to record dates of events only after the arrival of the Muslims, in 13th century. All we know is that the names of many Nath Gurus and description of the practice were mentioned in the very early sources of many authentic traditions of Hindostan already in A.D. 1.
Up to our time a lot of Eastern schools use principles of Nath Yogis. Historical facts do not have any value for the initiated members of tradition. They look at their Guru as at the reincarnation of Shiva and as at the main spiritual reference point. They suppose that he exists beyond time and space frames and therefore he constantly shows up any time in different bodies, and the Tradition itself always existed since the first human being’s birth.
India generously endowed bright individuals representing religious philosophy to the world, but especially Guru Gorakshanath is known as a great Teacher and Yogi and as a founder of Nath Tradition.
The geography of Order of Naths is pretty wide. We can find its representatives all over India, also Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma and Sri-Lanka. The Tradition consists of 12 main directions and lots of smaller ones. The founders of each and every direction were the followers of Gorakshanath or himself. It is interesting that there were members of royal families of Nepal, Bengali and India among the followers and the missioners. Those individuals renounced their titles in order to fulfill themselves in Yogi Way and to develop the Tradition. Their names are Bhartriharinath, Djalandharanath, Chauranginath and some others. A separation for traditions doesn’t tell us that there are disputes against the main idea, but on the contrary, this fact demonstrates the deepness and diversity of this school. Due to the fact that each of the great teachers acted in different time and in different parts of Indian peninsula, the Tradition was formed out of variety of traditions, taking people of different social and ethnic groups into its ranks. Every founder could express and enrich the ideas of Yoga of Naths, by bringing more details into the main doctrine, according to his time, place and personal experience and also managed to adopt studies of the main principles accessible for every seeker.
Probably, there is no city in India where a temple of Naths couldn’t be found. Their representatives can be found in every large or medium size city. The main temple is in Uttar- Pradesh state, in Gorakhpur, the city which got its name after Gorakshanath. By the by, there are 3 more cities in India with the same names and the history of each of them is connected with this Great Teacher. Each Temple has its abbot who is responsible for arrangements around the temple and carrying out activities related to spreading the knowledge of the Tradition. Such places are always a source of belief and inspiration for every one that chooses to go Nath way. Even today the Tradition of Naths is one of the most developed and the largest one in every region of India and Nepal.
During the time of its existence Nath Sampradaya accumulated a significant experience of implementation. All those facts can be found in texts that can be called classical. The most known among them are :” Siddha-Siddhanta-Paddhati”, “ Hatha Yoga Pradipika”, “ Goraksha-vacana-sangraha”, “ Goraksha-upanishad”, ”Yoga Bija”, ”Shiva Samhita”, ” Gheranda Samhita”, ”Yoga Martanda” and many others. Some of them are considered to be written by Gorakshanath. The total amount of texts is about 50, all of them are preserved and studied and still remain actual in our daily life. The Nath Yogis’ texts are mainly about ideology, description of practices and lifestyle. It should be noted that many of them are written not in a usual way but by metaphoric hints and comparisons without detailed description. This way the Tradition preserves itself from profanities and from the usage of the texts by those people who do not have initiation and permit of teaching and of passing knowledge through the succession of Masters. In other words, it is not enough to deal with the text itself, because it will only give you some waymark, but the details of aspects are always given by Master personally, the one who perfectly knows the context.
Distinguishing features of Nath Yogis are some attributes on their bodies. Those attributes turn into instruments for yoga practice.
The first one is a black cord which consists of multiple strands with sequent connected objects, this cord is called Janeu. This cord symbolizes a unity of different powers of the Universe, reflecting the main philosophical concepts of Nath Yogis. The second important attribute is large earrings, worn in the middle of the cochlea through a deep cut. A round earring is the symbol of space closed in a form, and it also symbolizes the Sun and the Moon energy. Those earrings are called cundalas.
The followers of Order are called Naths or Darshani. Nath means Winner or Lord. It is someone who controls one’s own mind, wishes and desires and who gained perfection by implementing divine potential of his own nature. The one who managed to become consolidated with oneself, freed from affections and limitations of the material world. Those qualities are the main goals for Yogis. Etymology of the word Darshani derives from the notion “one who possesses knowledge”.
The study of the Tradition doctrines and its practice is done according to the level of student, with his objective possibilities, life style and spiritual motivations. A for becoming a disciple gradually passes a development process stage by stage, turning from a Seeker into a Disciple. In the beginning he tries to understand something about the Tradition, its main interests and methods, through collaboration with a representative of the Tradition; he might even have some initiations of practical value from Guru. It could be some instructions including the methods of Hatha Yoga, some mantras, meditation practice or general recommendations how to organize the yogi lifestyle. Obviously all these above mentioned practices have to be commented in details by Guru and the beginner has to execute the instructions accurately and regularly. If the Seeker remains steadfast in his intention to follow the Yogi’s Way, Guru is giving him initiation (diksha).
The condition of succession remains unchangeable in the Tradition, in other words, the transmission of knowledge from the Teacher to the student. This condition has preserved the collected knowledge without distortion and in purity. The connection between the Teacher and the Student stretched through the centuries and remains in our days.
The tradition became popular in Hindustan and till now the representatives are originally from those regions. Many books are published in Hindi and other Indian languages. The most experienced Gurus organize open public events in order to spread the knowledge of Yoga widely. The most well-known Gurus in Nath tradition are Guru Avedyanath, Guru Yogi Adityanah, Guru Yogi Vilasnath, Guru Yogi Shraddhanath, Guru Yogi Shankarnath and many others.
World View of Nath Yogis
The philosophical ideology was formed under the influence of existing philosophies of Hinduism and Sankhya.
The main distinguishing feature of Nath world view is the absence of any rigid forms. The definition of some processes has an abstract nature but still gives a possibility to understand and explain the nature of Absolute to a seeker through his own experience or habitual forms of belief. Being tolerant of other spiritual movements the Nath Yogis’ ideology frequently uses the terms of various spiritual and philosophy systems of Hinduism in order to describe the Ultimate Reality without restricting the approaches however. From the very beginning, various practices were created taking into consideration the differences in religious and spiritual views with similar general concept but different details.
The fundamental base of Nath Yogis ideology is the idea of unchangeable and infinite Absolute Reality or Paramatma. The reality that is not the subject to any transformations, it is the reality allowing all the processes in the infinite Universe to happen. All what we call Planets, Constellations and other bodies in the Universe, including those forms of life that we observe on Planet Earth, all this is related to a concept of the body of Universe (Pinda Brahmanda). The phenomenon of organization and correlation processes of all bodies in the Universe is still an open issue. And due to this reason this fact is considered to be something that cannot be determined. According to Nath Yogis’ concept the reason for creation of the Universe is some power with transcendental properties and it is described as something that has no clear definitions and concepts. In other words purely divine attributes are ascribed to this phenomenon. The process due to which it became possible is viewed as some creative energy or Nidja-Shakti.
Namely Omkara or some initial cause triggered the beginning of cosmic evolution process, subsequently generating all types of constantly developing and changing bodies and energies. In fact all bodies and processes are considered to be a movement of charged particles which have physical properties and also properties of light and magnetic field. In other words, the main evolution factor includes the idea of Prana (energy) development and transformation. 3 principles of Prana can be observed: Rajas or creative power, Sattva which preserves and balances and Tamas which is a quality of destruction or transformation. Those qualities are called Gunas and they also have color characteristics or may have mixed nature. Rajas has properties of blue color, Sattva has those of yellow one and Tamas has those of red one. 5 elements are formed thereupon – Mahabut – Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These elements also have properties of color, taste, smell, density and with mixed nature as well. At the same time the elements constituted all the bodies in the Universe. They are: the Moon, the Sun, Planets, Stars, all forms of life and all bodies with organic nature such as mountains, sand, Earth, rivers, oceans, seas, vegetation, microorganisms, animals, insects, fishes, all type of amphibians, birds and humans.
The idea about an absolute identity of the Universe organism and human body became the feature of Nath discipline. From Naths’ point of view all phenomena of micro and macro worlds are completely identical. A human is considered to be a complicated structure formed of 5 elements and having psychophysical characteristics. The element of Earth is presented by bones, meat, skin, hair, and nerves; Water is presented by all bodily liquids; Fire is presented by thirst, hunger, shine, dream and laziness; Air is presented by contraction and straightening of body, secretion of glands; Space is presented by jealousy, shyness, passion, fear and affections.
Further on, the description of subtle anatomy of human body mentions 3 bodies: karana-sharira (casual body), sukshma-sharira (subtle body) and sthula-sharira (physical body). Some complementary details about Nadi system (energy channels) and chakras (special locations of channels intersection) make the description more complete. 3 Bodies, nadis and chakras can also be related to the Universe structure reflecting some Tantra concepts. And finally Adharas, Lakshya and Viyoma should be mentioned. These are special energy formations in subtle body and they are used as a base for consciousness to reveal the transcendental Reality.
To Nath Yogis’ opinion the deep understanding of these subtle powers allows to acquire authentic knowledge about the Universe and Human Being and that is the main goal of a Human being.
Peculiarities of Nath Yogis’ practice
The processes of energy qualities transformations are actually the basics of Nath Yogis’ practice and ideology. Giving preference to daily experience yogis created a system of practical methods which cover all spheres of man’s life. Naths expand the perception of Absolute Reality by practicing these methods.
The methods of Nath Yogis are very diverse. The practice range is vast and its understanding and fulfillment is closely connected with Guru of the Tradition and his experience. As it was mentioned above, the practice is chosen according to place, time, disciple’s objective possibilities and his motivation. In general the teaching combines different forms of Yoga and some Tantra methods and they are closely interdependent on each other and used upon Guru’s instructions. The main ones are Hatha Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Karma Yoga, Gyana Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga.
It is a system of practices by means of which the body and its elements get pure. It consists of sukshma-vyaama, shatkarma, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara and therefore allows the transition to more complicated forms of Yoga which deal with the management of energy and consciousness.
It is a practice for consciousness expansion by practicing special sounds which reflect different qualities of Absolute. Mantras are widely used in all forms of Yoga as the most direct way for purifying the mind, balancing emotions and understanding the Ultimate Reality.
This form of self-realization is attained through devoted service to Guru or to a certain community. In other worlds it is a form of service when one orients oneself toward realization by acting in accordance with one’s duty without consideration of personal self-centered desires, likes or dislikes. One acts without being attached to the fruits of one’s deeds.
Bhakti means devotion and sincerity. This form of Yoga is practiced by worshipping a chosen Deity form. When one worships and follows one’s way sincerely the Deity begins to manifest its nature through the student’s consciousness.
Gyana means knowledge in common interpretation. But in Yoga context the complete knowledge is not based on intellectual background. Only the knowledge received through experience will be considered true and complete. The knowledge about the Ultimate Reality is attainable by practicing all the above mentioned forms of Yoga and some others.
Besides, there are some general principles and instructions which aid to regulate student’s lifestyle. They are called YAMA- NIYAMA. By following those principles the student will understand Yoga deeper in everyday life and while dealing with the external world. From this information one could conclude that some principals of Yama-Niyama relate to moral and ethical rules but in fact they contain tools how to balance sensations and emotions, the principles of energy receiving and extension.
Usually we can read about 10 traditional Yamas and the same amount of Niyamas but more specific details depend on the teaching Guru. The following principles and instructions can be in a different sequence and the quantity can be increased.
All the principles are to be thoroughly practiced in thought, word, or deed.
Here are 10 Yamas:
Ahimsa – nonviolence.
Satya – following the Truth path.
Asteya – not stealing.
Brahmacharya – control over the feelings and following the way of self-realization.
Kshama – forgiveness and acceptance.
Dhriti – tolerance and patience in any circumstances.
Kripa – compassion to all living creatures.
Arjava – simple way of life.
Mitahara – correct attitude to meals.
Shaucha – aspiration for purity in body, speech and mind.
The word Niyama means rule. Here are 10 Niyamas.
Tapas – austerity.
Santosha – being satisfied, contentment.
Astikaya – faith, believing firmly in Teacher and sacred scriptures.
Dana – giving without thought of reward, generosity.
Ishvara-pudjana – devoted worship to holy names and forms.
Siddhanta-vakya-shravana – listening and comprehending of holy texts and teachings.
Hri – ability to reveal own misdeeds.
Mati – developing a spiritual will and intellect.
Japa – recitation God’s names.
Homa – fulfilling a fire ritual as a form of worship.
It is necessary to note that the following just as well as non-following yama-niyama recommendations causes physiological and karma consequences. By following those principles one is able to get closer to one’s natural state and, on the contrary, disobedience pushes one away from it. In general, the studies and application of these principles have a subtler nature and wider understanding. It is recommended to learn these principles and all the other methods of the practice via Guru’s explanations.