The Impact of Nāth-sampradāya on Saint Literature
The Impact of Nāth-sampradāya on Saint Literature
The word ‘nāth’ comprises of two letters: the former means the most
original form and the later means establishment. Therefore the word ‘nāth’
means a spiritual establishment in the state of original form of this universe.1
According to the followers of ‘nāth-sampradayā’, Adināth, the incarnation of
Lord śiva, was the founder of nāth-sampradāya.2 Matsyendrenāth,
Gorakshnāth, Jalandharnāth, Krisnapāda, Gahanināth, Karnipānāth,
Charpatanāth, Revānāth, Bhartrināth contributed a lot to the development of
this sampradāya. Among these scholars, Matsyendrenāth was the originator of
Kaul jñan (vamamārga), Jalandharnāth and Krisnapāda was the originator of
Kāpālik view, and Gorakshnāth was a hatha yogi (a branch of yoga based
mainly on āsanas and prānayāma). This sampradāya is known as
avadhūta-sampradāya, siddha-mata, siddha-marga, yoga-marga, yogasampradāya
and avadhūta-mata. The followers of this sampradāya believe that
all other ways of spiritual practices are inadequate. They consider their way the
best and capable to provide the divine bliss. It is earlier said that in nāth
tradition the spiritual practices, (i.e. prānāyām nādānusandhān, mudrā,
kundalini jāgaran), practiced by Gorakshnāth is known as hatha-yoga. It is
purely based on internal purification.
In Hatha yoga it is considered that Idā, pingalā and susumnā are three
parallel channels of energy situated in the spinal cord. At mulādhār-chakra
there is a selfmade linga that is swayambhū in between idā and pingalā. When a
sādhak of nāth yoga merges prāna-vāyu into apān-vāyu and starts flowing
prān-vāyu in susumnā-nādi, he moves forward to attain the state of higher
consciousness. In terms of Hath-yoga, this process is known as kundalinijagārān.
According to a follower of hatha-yoga at the basal part of the spinal
cord there is the position of triangular, agni-cakra. It is the place of the selfmade
linga (swayambhū-linga). This linga is encircled by three and half
serpentine of kundalini circles, which is inactive in three states of awakening,
sleep and state of dreams in ordinary human life. There are another circles of
energy, which is known a mūlādhār-cakra with four lotous petals. Just above
the mūlādhār, in umbilical region there is a place of swadhisthān-cakra that
resembles six petals lotus. Above this cakra there is manipūr-cakra and
near the heart there is anahat-cakra. Both the cakras resemble the ten and
twelve petals lotus respectively. In the region of neck, there is viśuddhākhya-
cakra, which resembles the sixteen-petals lotus. There is the
position of ajna-cakra between eyebrows, which has only two petals. The
main aim of a hath-yogi is to pierce these six energy centers (carkas). When
kundalini awakes it pierces six cakras from mūladhār to sahasrār. This upward
movement involves sequential opening of the cakras.
It is discussed in the Hathayoga-Pradipika, that yogi relaxes after
merging the soul into nonentity and nonentity in to soul. The state of nonentity
is the state of samadhi, when the soul remains into sahastrar after piercing the
six energy centers from the muladhara-chakra up to the highest cerebral region.
In the state of nonentity there is no feeling of bliss and sorrow in a yogi. It is
just like presence of empty earthen pot into the space but the fact is that the
yogi is always filled with eternal joy from inside and outside just like a full
earthen pot into the sea.3 He always remains in the state of divine bliss
Hath-yoga has seven parts 1- shat-karma 2- āsana 3- Mudra and 4-
pratyāhāra 5- prānayāma 6- dhyāna 7- samādhi
A hath-yogi keeps the body channels clean with the help of shatakarmas.
He attains resistively with the āsanas. Mudra provides stability and
pratyāhāra provides tolerance and endurance. He gains lightness with
prānayāma and attains state of realization by meditation (dhyāna and samādhi).
Shata-karmas are dhauti, vasti, neti, nauli, trātaka and kapāl bhāti. The āsana
is the process of putting the body in a special posture. Among the 84-lak
positions, 32 postures the important are shiddhāsana, padmāsana, bajrāsana,
gaumukhāsana, gorakshāsana, mastyandrāsana. According to hath-yog
Pradipika, their are ten-mudrās, comprising of mahā-mudrā, mahā-bandha,
mahā-vedha, khecari, uddiyān-bandh, mula-bandh jalandhar-bandh, viparitkarni,
bajroli and shakti-cālani.
These mudrās helps to keep vāyu and psyche (man) in balance, to attain
meditation and to get the state of ultimate consciousness. The practice of
prānāyāma is helpful to expand the ‘prāna’. Hatha-yoga is mainly based on
Prānāyāma. When kundalini gets excited and moves upward, it generates the
energy, which produces a divine sound (nāda). Nāda generates the light and it
appears in the form of mahābindu. Anahat-nāda or Anāhad-nāda is present in
whole universe. Usually one cannot listen to this anāhad-nāda by his external
ears. By the practices of hatha-yoga a sādhak makes kundalani to awake after
piercing satcakra, he hears anahat-nāda (divine sound). This sound changes
during the different state of sādhanā. It may be in the form of megha-garjan,
bheri, jharjhar mardal, shankh, ghanta, kinkini, banśi, bhramar and vina.4
Besides the concept of yoga and practice of yoga, there are concepts of God,
teacher, disciple etc. According to the followers of nāth sampradāya, god is
beyond any name, form, time, space and limit. He is omnipresent, omnipotent,
omniscient and self-lightened.5
The saint poets attracted towards Nāth yoga. Nāth yoga gave
ecclesiastical impact on the life style of Kabir, Paltū dās, Sundar dās, Dulan
dās, Dadū dayāl and Nānaka. All these poets were the spiritual aspirants and
they accepted the practice of spiritual enlightenment of Hatha yoga.
Gorakshnātha has clearly discussed that spiritual knowledge cannot be
achieved without the blessing of a real teacher:
(Every one should try to find a spiritual teacher. Without the help of him one
cannot achieve the real knowledge.)
To him, the main difference between a spiritual teacher and a disciple is
the difference of their stages. A person with less spiritual knowledge should get
knowledge from the person of higher knowledge standard. Till their
consciousness allows, they should live together otherwise they should wander
alone. Gorakshnath says:
Hindi saint poets are greatly inspired by Hath-yoga’s spiritual practices.
There is a great regard of their spiritual teacher, yogi. According to them a real
avdhūta8 can only be a real spiritual teacher. All the saint poets like Kabir,
Dādūdayāl, Nānak, Sunderdās and other have immense respect for a real
teacher. I can quote here some of their verses:
(Just as the baken earth pot never comes to the potter’s wheel again, in the same
manner by the blessings of a divine teacher I have become desireless.)
(The blessings of the spiritual teacher are infinite. He has opened my inner eyes
and made me to realize the God.)
(I have totally surrendered to the sayings of the divine teacher and enjoyed the
blessings of him.)
(The spiritual teacher has shown the God with everyone inside the body.
Without the blessings a real guru no body can realize it.)
(The greatness of a spiritual teacher is that I have realized the God with in the
trap of the family surroundings.)
(No body can achieve knowledge, attention, realization of soul, love,
satisfaction and discipline without the blessings of the spiritual teacher.)
All these saint poets have shown the necessity of a spiritual teacher. All
knowledge without spiritual knowledge is meaningless. No one can get the real
spiritual knowledge without the blessing of a teacher. In the view of Kabir, the
importance of a real guru is above even the supreme power of the
universe. According to Garib Dāsa the real teacher is a living God9 but the
teacher should be enlightened by the higher spiritual knowledge and higher
state of consciousness. A teacher without higher spiritual knowledge spoils the
life of his disciple. Kabir holds in this regard:
The poetry of the saint poets is also impregnated with the concepts of
yoga. There is a discussion of āsana, prāªāyāma, a¬tacakra-bhedana,
kundalini-udbodhana, samadhi, nādānusandhāna and bindu-darśana at many
places. Kabir has discussed six cakras at many places in his poems. At one
place, he says at human body is an earthen pot (gāgari) in which one can collect
the divine water secreted from the sahasrāra-cakra. Triveªi or tirtharāja is
mentioned for the conjugation of idā, pingalā and susumanā. He says:
(By the awakening of the kundalini cakra the sādhaka attains the state of
zeroness for realization.)
(Sādhaka of nātha yoga merges prān vāyu into apān vāyu and starts flowing
prāna vāyu in susumna nadi. He moves forward to attain the state of higher
consciousness. The poet has described that state as tirtharāja’.)
(The human body is just like a earthen pot(gāgari) which has six cakras and the
triangular meeting place of idā, pingalā and suSumnā.)
Dādūdayāl referres the idā, pingalā nādi as Gangā-yamunā:
He fully supports hatha-yoga and reposes faith in the presence of idā,
pingalā and sushumnā in every human body. He unfolds the benefit of the
kundalini udbodhana in the human body in the following way:
(Every body has the source of energy and the pleasure of great God. In every
human body there is the presence of idā, (Gangā), pingalā (Yamunā) and
susumnā (surasari). The triangular unity of idā, pingalā and su¬humnā give the
eternal pleasure of samādhi to man.)
Sant Raidas has similar views about kundalini:
(Here he indicates about kundalini udbhodana where prāna flows into
susumanā after blocking idā (Gangā) and pinglā (Jamunā) nādi.)
Advocating for hatha-yoga, Kabir says that with the help of unman
mudrā one can purify his mind and can get command on prāna-vāyu. He adds
that it relieves from the vicious cycle of death and rebirth. He stresses the
attaining the actual knowledge of hata-yoga than the outer dress code or rituals
of this tradition:
Describing shata-cakra many saints mentioned Sahastrār-cakra as gagan,18
gagan-mandal, 19 gagan-mahal, 20 śunya, bhanwar, 21 guphā etc.
Kabir takes of all these yogic definitions and practices in a
In Hatha-yoga Pradipika, the state of manonmani mudrā is appreciated 23
It is discussed in śiva-samhitā that the center of energy named yoni, which is
triangular in shape and situated in the root of sahastrār-padam of Brahmarandhra,
secrets nectar continuously. 24 In khechari-mudrā, yogi averts the
tongue towards backward and upward direction to sip the secreting nectar. In
the following verse Kabir explains the same subject in a nutshell:
(When the sadhaka reaches the highest point of realization (unmani mudra) he
attains real wisdom and sips the divine nectar.)
These saint poets were very much aware of bandhas also. Kabir has
elaborated the importance of mūla-bandha in following manner:
(He reaches the highest stage of knowledge and totally forgets the word after
staying in the state of mulabandha.)
In nutshell we can say that in the most of the poems of the sant-kavya
one can find a great influence of nātha sampradāya the various practices of
nātha yogis like kundalini-udbodhana, nādānusandhāna and bindu-darśana is
depicted in their writings. Kabir and other saint poets have simplified it for the
1 Nakāroānadi rupam thakarah: sthāpyate Sadā.
bhuvantraya mevaikah: shri Goraksha namastute. ---- Rajaguhya,
quoted in Natha Sampradaya, Hazariprasad Dwivedi. Allahabad,
Hindustani academy, 3
2 Ādināthah: sarve¬ām prathamah:, tato nāthasampradāyah:
pravritta iti nāthasampradāyino vadanti.’
3 Antah śūnyo bahih śūnyah, śūnya Kumbha ivāmbare.
Antah pūrªo bahih pūrªo, pūrªah kumbha ivārªave.
Hathyoga Pradipikā, 5/55
4 Adaū jaladhi jimūta bheri jhajhar sambhavah,
Madhye mardal śankhotthah ghaªtākāhala jāstatha,.
antetu kinkiªi vanśi viªā bramar nisvanah,
Iti nānā vidhāh śabdāh shrūyante dehmadhyagāh.
Makaranda piban bhringo gandha nopekhsate yathā,
Nādāsaktam tathā citta vi¬ayannakankshati.
Quoted Avadhūta Gitā in Goraksha Siddhānta Sangraha,
5 Na Brahmā Rudrau na surapatisuram naiva prithvi na cāpo,
Naivagni nāpi vāyurna gagan talam no diśo naiva kālah,
No vedā naiva yajñā na ravi śaśinau no diśo naiva kālah,
Svayam jyotih satyamekam jayati tava padam saccidānandmūrte.
Siddha siddhānta Paddhati, 70.
6 Gorakhavāªi, Editor Pitambar Dutt Barthwāl, Prayāga, Hindi sāhitya
sammelan, 1999, 34.
7 Gorakhvāªi, 55.
8 vacane vacane vedāstirthāni ca pade-pade,
dri¬tau-dri¬tau ca kaivalyam soavadhūtah shreyastunah.
Eka haste dhritastyāge yogaścaika kare swayam.
(In his words, there is the essence of Vedas. With his blessings one can
get higher state of consciousness. Such teacher gets the highest place in
the world.) Quoted in Avadhūta Gitā, Goraksha Siddhānta Sangrah, 1.
9 Aaisā Satguru ham milā, hai jindā jagadiśa.
Sunna bidesi mila gayā, chatra mukuta hai sisa,
Garibdās ki Bāni,(Allahabad Velvediyar Printing works)
10 Kabir Granthāvali, śyāma Sundar Dās, (Prayaga: Kāśi Nāgari pracarani
11 Kabir Granthāvali, 111
12 Kabir Granthāvali, 210
13 Kabir Granthāvali, 74
14 Dādūvāni, Pt. Candi Prasāda Tripāthi, Lai ko Anga, 33
15 Dāduvāni, 407/1
16 Raidās ki bāni, 56
17 Kabir Granthāvali, page 205
18 Gagan Madhya ko kanwal hai, bajatā anahad tūr.
Das Hajār ko kanwal hai, Pahunca guru mata sūr.
Carana Dās ki Bāni, Part I, Allahabad Velvediyar Printing works, 36
19 Sabda anāhat hota jahān hai, Tahān brahma kā bāsā.
Gagan mandal main karat kalolen Param joti pargāsā.
Malūka dās ji ki Bani, Allahabad Velvediyar Printing works: 17.
20. Gagan mahal ke bica Ami jhar lagini., Palatū sahib ki bāni, part II,
Allahabad: Velvediyar Printing works, 26.
21. Kabir Granthāvali, 69/4.
22. Kabir Granthāvali,104
23. ekam sristimayam bijam, ekā mudrā ca khecāri.
Eko devo nirālambah, ekāvasthā manonmani.
Hathayoga (Pradipikā, Allahabad Panini office 1915) 3-53
24 Brahmarandhre hi yatpadmam sahasrāram vyavasthitam.
Tatra kande hi yā yahih tasyāh candro vyavasthitam
Trikonā kritisyah sudhā ksharanti santatam
śiva Samhitā, (Allahabad Panini office, 1914) 5-103,
25 Kabir Granthavali, 72
26 Kabir Granthavali, 69/4