History of Gorakhnath Maharaj

Gorakhnath was a great Yogi, who established ‘Shivekya’ in the soul (unity of soul with Shiv). As in the field of philosophy Acharya Shankar is considered to have revealed the secrets of Vedanta after Mahrishi Vyasa, similarly in the field of yoga Mahayogi Gorakhnath is considered to have revealed the secrets of Hathyoga and the Shivrupa of Truth after Patanjali. After Acharya Shankar, Mahayogi Gorakhnath is accepted as a highly accomplished and self-realized person. Gorakhnath was a Shivayogi.

He influenced the entire area from Nepal to Sinhal and from Kamrupa to Punjab by his achievements in the field of yoga. He followed the path of yoga lead by Shiva. He is one of the “Chourasi Yogis” (one of the great eighty-four Yogis). He was the founder of Nathpantha (the Order of Nath Yogis) and was influenced by the Buddhist yoga practices. Many of the Buddhist yogic practices were adopted by him in the Shiva yoga. This is considered as one of his great achievements. It is difficult to stipulate about the exact period of his advent but it appears that he was present in the First Century of the Vikram Samvat. From historical perspective his presence appears more appropriately to be in between 9th and 11th century, as it was the period when a lot of Buddhist groups had surfaced and Yavans had started to enter India. It was this period in which Gorakhnath played an important role in protecting the sanctity of the Hindu ideology. It is possible that he lived in the 11th century of the Vikrami Samvat. In the chain of the Masters of Sant Gyaneshwar, the name of Gorakhnath figures and the names of Nivratinath and Gaininath figure before Gyaneshwar and name of Gorakhnath figures before Gaininath. This leads to a difference of about two hundred fifty years between Sant Gyaneshwar and Gorakhnath. Sant Gyaneshwar was born in 1352 Vikram Samvat and, therefore, it appears more logical that Gorakhnath was present in the eleventh century of Vikram Samvat. There is also uncertainty about his birth-place. It is said that he was born in Chandragiri in Godavari-Ganga belt and a mention about this is also found in the book ‘Yogisampradayavishkrati’. It, however, appears on a deeper scrutiny that he may have been born in a place named ‘Jayasri’ or ‘Jayas’ at the banks of river Bhagwati near Ayoddhya. The great poet Jyasi has mentioned that Jayas was a religious place in his famous work ‘Padmavat’. Gorakhnath was born with the grace of Yogi Shri Matsyen dranath, who was his spiritual Master as well and with his grace Gorakhnath attained Parampad (the abode of Truth). It is a common belief that Matsyendranath entered the city of Jayas in Avadh area asking for alms and alerting the people towards the divine. He gave the Bhabhut (scared ashes) to an issueless Brahmin lady and said that she would be blessed with a son. Being afraid of what people would comment about her, she put that Bhabhut on a pile of cowdung.

After twelve years when Matsyendranath revisited that place and asked that lady about the Bhabhut, she stated everything truthfully. Matsyendranath then went near the pile of cow-dung and on his asking a twelve year old boy emerged from the pile of cowdung. Matsyendranath took the boy with him and named him Gorakhnath. Matsyendranath initiated Gorakhnath in the yoga. Gorakhnath took to severe penance. Matsyendranath told him that one should observe oneself and should ponder over the eternal Shivtatva, which is full of Aishvarya, Madhurya and Saundarya (full of grandeur, charm and beauty). It is only by acquiring Gyan that one could realize the Self. Jeev always rests in the Param-Jyoti (the Divine Light). To receive the grace of Shiva and Shakti is the ultimate goal of a Yogi. Gorakhnath lived his life in accordance with the instructions of Matsyendranath. He rose above the field of Maya (illusion), left the household and took to celibacy. He conquered over desires and expectations and started practicing yoga in caves and dense forests. He spent his time seeking after the Self. He explored the Pran-Purush (the secrets of Pran i.e. breathing) and understood the path of getting over the cycle of birth and death. He stated that Gyan is the greatest Guru and Chitta (the mind) is the greatest follower and, therefore, one should seek the unity of Gyan and Chitta and live alone in the world.

Gorakhnath liked solitude. He felt the presence of Self in all beings. With the grace of Matsyendranath, he attained the Kaivalyapad. He rose above praise and criticism. He was entirely focused on the Self. In the language of Self-realization he stated that by realizing the universe in the self, he had attained all Siddhis (miraculous powers or the goal). Gods and temples, all pilgrimage, everything is within the body. He stated that he has realized the Supreme within the body and that only a brave man canwin over the Kaya (physical body). He also said that by the grace of his Guru Matsyendranath that by remaining focused on the Sushumna, which lies between Ida- Pingla-Ganga, and Yamuna (various nerves which are considered to be the path for spiritual ascendance) he remains absorbed in Brahmgyan (knowledge of the Brahm). He propagated the yoga system of Patanjali. Uniting the life-force with Shiva is the essence of the method propagated by Gorakhnath. He laid special stress on Dhouti, Vasti, Neti,Nauli, Tratak and Kapalbhati-these six parts of the Patanjali yoga and simplified the practice of Hathyoga. He threw light on the relationship between Naths, Jeev, Guru and Shiva and stated that Guru is the source of all auspiciousness. To attain the state of ‘Nath’ is to attain liberation; the state of non-duality gives eternal happiness; Shakti (power or energy) creates the universe; Shiva sustains the same; Kaal (time) dissolves everything and Naths grant liberation. Only Naths are pure soul, others are shackled. Naths are beyond ‘Sagun’ (with attributes) and ‘Nirgun’ (with no attributes). Gorakhnath realized the causeless, self-illuminated and auspicious Brahm. He became one with Shiva and stated that the soul (or the Self) itself is the divine element-Shiva. He also stated that the nine gates of the body are guarded by Navnaths; at the Triveni is Jagannath Ishwar and at the tenth gate Brahmrandhra is Kedarnath Shiva Himself. He stated that on attaining the state of ‘Shunya’ (non-beingness) duality disappeared and he attained unity with the Shunya or the Brahm. Gorakhnath realized that Shiva transforms in the form of Jeev and from Jeev emanates the world and cessation of duality between Shiva, Jeev and world isShieikya (unity with Shiva).

was a Hathyogi par-excellence, who propagated Hathyoga. He said that one should unite the sun located at the Mooladhar chakra (located at the base) with the moon located at the Sahsradhar chakra (located at the vertex). The ‘Anahat Nad’ is reverberating at Trikuti. One should open the gate of Brahmrandhra to taste the nectar of life; remove the impurities of the Jeevatma, purify the breath in the impure nerves and fill the Sushumna Nadi (nerve) with the breath to attain liberation. On drinking the nectar at the Brahmrandhra one attains the status of ‘Yogindra’ (a great Yogi). According to Gorakhnath on restricting breath from Ida and Pingla (the two nerves)-the sun and the moon-and passing it through Sushumna is the Hathyoga. This confers Siddhi (perfection). Hathyoga removes inertness or the ignorance and makes one to realize the unity of the Atma and the Parmatma. To harmonize ‘Kundalini Shakti’ (the power one attains on awakening of Kundalini) with Shiva is the real Siddhi. According to him control over breath, mind or Bindu is the starting point for attaining Siddhi. The Hathyoga of Gorakhnath enriched the Indian spirituality by establishing harmony between Gyan, Karma and bhakti, Yagya, Tapa and Japa. Gorakhnath was the principal disciple of Matsyendranath and was a firm believer in the Guru-Shishya (Master-disciple) link. Matsyendranath went to Sinhal in order to attain yoga-Siddhi (perfection in yoga). To conquer ‘Padmini-Ramni’ in Sinhal is an indicator of yoga-Siddhi. According to Nepalese belief Matsyendranath was an incarnation of Avalokiteshwar. He was a Kaul and Brahman. He was also known as ‘Meenpad’, ‘Machendrapad’ and ‘Machchindranath’. It is said that Shiva Himself taught him yoga in the Mahapeeth of Kamarupa (in the great Tantrik school of Kamarupa). Jalandharpad, Krishnapad, Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath played an important role in the spiritual field in India during ninth to eleventh century AD.

It is related to Matsyendranath that once he happened to arrive in Sinhal in the kingdom of queen Mangla and Kamla, which was an ‘all ladies kingdom’ and owing to a curse by Lord Shiva and His consort Parvati, he forgot the knowledge acquired by him and started roaming in that kingdom. It was Gorakhnath, who made him recollect his knowledge of Self and took him out of that ladies’ kingdom. It is said that once Gorakhnath was sitting under a tree in meditation that he saw Krishnapad going somewhere through the sky. Gorakhnath threw up his Khadaun (wooden slipper) and pulled Krishnapad down through his yogic powers. Krishnapad told him that his Guru Matsyendranath, having forgotten the knowledge acquired by him, was spending his time in enjoying worldly pleasures in Kadli Van in the kingdom of queen Mangla and Kamla and that he is left with only three days of his life. Gorakhnath told him that his Guru (Krishnapad’s Guru) had been buried in mud by Gopichand, the king of Gaur-Bengal. Both of them then rushed to rescue their Gurus. Gorakhnath took two of his disciples Lung and Mahalung with him and putting on the attires of Brahman they went to Kadli Van. People asked him to bless them. His blessings started coming true for them. A lady sitting near a pond of Kadli Van got enchanted with the beauty of Gorakhnath. She informed him the whereabouts of Matsyendranath and told him that only ladies could enter the kingdom of Mangla and Kamla, entry of yogis is prohibited. Gorakhnath put on the attires of a dancer and started playing a Mardal (a musical instrument) at the royal gate. The musical instrument started making a sound which alerted Matsyendranath that he should not fall in such a trap, which would put him to disgrace and ruin him. Popularly it is said “Jag Machchinder Gorakh Aaya’ (Wake up O Matsyendranath! Gorakhnath has come to take you with him). Matsyendranath recollected his lost Gyan and accompanied Gorakhnath. In Nepal Gorakhnath is considered as an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The Gorkha kingdom is a sign of devotion towards him. Once the king ill-treated followers of Matsyendranath. It is said that annoyed by this Gorakhnath caused famine to cast its shadow on Nepal for twelve years continuously. When the king realized his mistake and arranged for a festival in the honor of Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath rescued Nepal fromthe grip of famine.

Once Gorakhnath was roaming in Sinhal located at the foot of Himalaya.Maharaja Bhrutrhari, son of king Chandrasen of Ujjain was also out for hunting together with his queen Pingla. Maharaja Bhrutrhari had killed a deer and was returning. The doe was crying pathetically. Maharaja Bhrutrhari already had seeds of Vairagya (detachment) in him, his heart was moved seeing the condition of that doe. Gorakhnath using his yogic powers resurrected (gave life to) the dead deer. Maharaja Bhrutrhari became a disciple of Mahayogi Gorakhnath. The mother of Gopichand-the king of Gaur Bengal was Maharani Mainamati,who was the sister of Bhrutrhari. When Gopichand was initiated in the yoga Gorakhnath had come riding on a chariot laden with flowers and he had blessed Gopichand.The king of Syalkot, Pooran was a disciple of Gorakhnath. His capital city was named Gajvani or Gajpur. He was the son of Salivahan. He had a step-mother, who was a young lady and wanted to beget a son like him, so she proposed him to sleep with her,which Pooran refused, as a result of which he was mutilated and thrown in a well.

The real mother of Pooran had become blind weeping for his son. Gorakhnath rescued Pooran and initiated him in yoga. Later he became famous as Yogi Chauranginath. In the Punjabi love-story names of Heer and Ranjha are famous. At the banks of river Jhelum, Gorakh-tila is well known as the place where Ranjha did his yoga-sadhana. He was initiated by Gorakhnath himself. Ranjha and Heer were in love but Heer was married to someone else. Ranjha took Sanyas. Gorakhnath asked him to beg for alms for the rest of his life and to spend his time in the remembrance of his Guru. He was asked to call all young ladies as sisters and the elderly ladies as mothers. Ranjha passed this test. He used to live on the other bank of the river in the attires of a yogi. Heer and Ranjha used to meet. One night Heer drowned in the mid-stream. Ranjha attempted to save her, but he also was drowned.

The founder of Mewar, Bapa Rawal also had met Gorakhnath, who had given him a sword with the help of which Bapa Rawal founded the Chittor or Mewar kingdom. Various Siddha-Peethas (centers for yogic sadhana) are established after the name of Gorakhnath in India. At the bank of river Rapti in Gorakhpur an old temple of Gorakhnath is erected. It is said that Gorakhnath had spent his time in performing yogicsadhana at Mansarovar situated in the adjoining forests.In the book ‘Vallabhdigvijay’ written by Yadunath, there is a reference of sudden appearance of Gorakhnath at the Gorakhya Peak of Girinar Mountain.Gorakhnath was not only a yogi of high order but also a great scholar and poet,who composed many works, which include: Goraksh-Kalp, Goraksh-Sahmita, Goraksh-Sahsranam, Goraksh-Shatak, Goraksh-Gita, Goraksh-Shashtra, Gyanprakash-Shatak,Gyanamrit-yoga, Yog-Chintamani, Yog-Martand, Hathyoga, Hath-Samhita and Atmabodh.