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Nath Sampradaya
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Adinath and Matsyendranath as two teachers preceding him in the succession


Gorakshanath (also known as Gorakhnath) was an 11th to 12th century Nath yogi, connected to Shaivism as one of the two most important disciples of Matsyendranath, the other being Caurangi. There are varying records of the spiritual descent of Gorakshanath. All name Adinath and Matsyendranath as two teachers preceding him in the succession. Though one account lists five gurus preceding Adinath and another lists six teachers between Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath, current tradition has Adinath identified with Lord Shiva as the direct teacher of Matsyendranath, who was himself the direct teacher of Gorakshanath.

The Nath tradition underwent its greatest expansion during the time of Gorakshanath. He produced a number of writings and even today is considered the greatest of the Naths. It has been purported that it was Gorakshanath who wrote the first books on Laya yoga. In India there are many caves, many with temples built over them, where it is said that Gorakshanath spent time in meditation. According to Bhagawan Nityananda, the samadhi shrine (tomb) of Gorakshanath resides at Nath Mandir near the Vajreshwari temple about a kilometer from Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India.

Romola Butalia, an Indian writer of Yoga history lists the works attributed to Gorakshanath as follows:

"Guru Gorakhnath is thought to have authored several books including the Goraksha Samhita, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga Martanada, Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga-Bija, Yoga Chintamani. He is believed to be the founder of the Nath Sampradaya and it is stated that the nine Naths and 84 Siddhas are all human forms created as yogic manifestations to spread the message of yoga and meditation to the world. It is they who reveal samadhi to mankind."

One legend states that Guru Gorakshanath, the "eternal sage" traditionally associated with Hatha Yoga (one of the branches of Yogic practices), has been around for thousands of years watching the welfare of humanity. Other legends ascribe different stories to his birth and the period of his worldly existence, and they vary greatly. The Nath Rahasya, which literally translates into the mystery of the masters, recounts birth, work, and death of nine such Naths (masters), and Guru Gorakshanath was the ninth Nath, preceded by his Guru, the eighth Nath, namely, Matsyendranath.

Traditionally, Guru Gorakshanath is believed to have been born sometime in the 8th century, whereas some believe it to be anytime from 8th century to several centuries later. He traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent, and accounts about him are found in some forms or others several places including Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sind, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, Assam, Bengal, Maharashtra, and even Sri Lanka.

Gurkhas of Nepal also take their name from this saint. Gorakhpur, the district headquarters of Gorakhpur District, is believed to derive its name from Guru Gorakhnath.

Osho regarded Gorakshanath as one of the four great innovators of Indian religion, alongside Patanjali, Buddha, and Krishna, who are to be regarded as originating the paths of yoga, meditation, and love respectively. Gorakshanath (who Osho called Gorakh) originated the search for "methods and techniques of sadhana". "Through him a new type of religion was born. Without Gorakh, there could be no Kabir, no Nanak, no Dadu, no Vajid, no Farid, no Meera -- without Gorakh none of these are possible."


The Sanskrit word Nath is the proper name of a siddha sampradaya (initiatory tradition) and the word itself literally means Lord, Protector, or Refuge. The related Sanskrit term Adi-Nath means first or original Lord, and is therefore a synonym for Shiva, Mahadeva, or Maheshvara, and beyond these mental concepts, the Supreme Absolute Reality as the originator of all things.

The Nath tradition is a heterodox siddha tradition containing many sub-sects. It was founded by Matsyendranath and further developed by Gorakshanath. These two individuals are also revered in Tibetan Buddhism as Mahasiddhas (great magicians) and are credited with great powers.

The Nath Sampradaya

The Nath Sampradaya, a development of the earlier Siddha or Avadhut Sampradaya, is an ancient lineage of spiritual masters. Its founding is traditionally ascribed to Shri Bhagavan Dattatreya, considered by some to have been an incarnation of Lord Shiva. However, the establishment of the Naths as a distinct historical sect began around the 8th or 9th century with a simple fisherman, Matsyendranath (sometimes called Minanath, who may be identified with or called the father of Matsyendranath in some sources).

One story of the origin of the Nath teachings is that Matsyendranath was swallowed by a fish and while inside the fish overheard the teachings given by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati, who had taken her to the bottom of the ocean in order to avoid being overheard. After being rescued from the fish by another fisherman, Matsyendranath took initiation as a sannyasin from Siddha Carpati. It was Matsyendranath who became known as the founder of the Nath Sampradaya.

Matysendranath's two most important disciples were Caurangi and Gorakshanath. The latter came to eclipse his Master in importance in many of the branches and sub-sects of the Nath Sampradaya. Even today, Gorakshanath is considered by many to have been the most influential of the ancient Naths. He is reputed to have written the first books dealing with Laya yoga and the raising of the kundalini-shakti. He is also reputed to have been the original inventor of Hatha yoga.

There are several temples in India dedicated to Gorakshanath. According to tradition, his samadhi shrine (tomb) resides at the Gorakhnath Temple in Gorakhpur. However, Bhagawan Nityananda has stated that the samadhi shrines of both Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath reside at Nath Mandir near the Vajreshwari temple about a kilometer from Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India.

The Nath Sampradaya does not recognize caste barriers, and their teachings were adopted by outcasts and kings alike. The heterodox Nath tradition has many sub-sects, but all honor Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath as their originators and supreme Masters.

The twelve Nath Panths

The Nath Sampradaya is traditionally divided into twelve streams or Panths. According to David Gordon White, these panths were not really a subdivision of a monolithic order, but rather an amalgamation of separate groups descended from either Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath or one of their students. According to Rajmohan Nath (1964, quoted in Bandyopadhyay, P. K. (1992)), the twelve Natha Panths are as follows:

* Adinath
* Minanath
* Gorakhnath
* Khaparnath
* Satnath
* Balaknath
* Golaknath
* Birupakshanath
* Bhatriharinath
* Ainath
* Khecharanath
* Ramachandranath

However, there have always been many more Nath sects than will conveniently fit into the twelve formal panths. Thus minor wandering sannyasin sub-sects are typically either ignored or amalgamated into one or another of the formal panths.

The notion of panth is simply intended to indicate the major branches of the lineage. The most populous panth is the Goraknath panth. Most of the other panths came after Goraknath, created either by the Nath after whom they are named or more likely by his followers, who preferred to distinguish themselves from the broader Goraknath tradition by indicating to which branch descended from Goraknath they belonged. Some of the panths may likewise have branched earlier, from the Minanath or Adinath panths, and the Balaknath panth claims descent from Dattatreya.

By the classification scheme given here, the International Nath Order falls within the Minanath panth.

Our modern Nath lineage

Our lineage decends from a recent Nath of the Adi-Nath Sampradaya, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath (1911-1991), who received initiation in 1953 from H.H. Shri Sadguru Lokanath, the Avadhut of the Himalayas. In 1978, he founded the International Nath Order in order to make the Nath way of life available in the West. He wrote many essays and articles, some of which were collected as The Scrolls of Mahendranath, first published in 1990. His successor as head of the Order, Shri Kapilnath, continues to teach and initiate sincere seekers.

The Nath Initiation

The Nath initiation is conducted inside a formal ceremony in which some portion of the awareness and spritual energy (Shakti) of the Guru is transmitted to the Neophyte. The Neophyte, now a Nath, is generally also given a new Name with which to support their new identity. This transmission or "touch'" of the Guru is symbolically fixed by the application of ash to several parts of the body.

In The Phantastikos, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath wrote,

"The passage of wisdom and knowledge through the generations required the mystic magick phenomenon of initiation, which is valid to this day in the initiation transmission from naked guru to naked novice by touch, mark, and mantra. In this simple rite, the initiator passes something of himself to the one initiated. This initiation is the start of the transformation of the new Natha. It must not be overlooked that this initiation has been passed on in one unbroken line for thousands of years. Once you receive the Nath initiation, it is yours throughout life. No one can take it from you, and you yourself can never renounce it. This is the most permanent thing in an impermanent life."

The Aims of the Naths

In The Magick Path of Tantra, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath wrote,

"The Nath Tantriks value the development of the three super-psychic faculties of Insight, Intuition, and Imagination. These three super-faculties or master powers also enable them to create their own texts, mantras, and rituals, all having utility and being in harmony with Cosmic Law. The faculties of Insight, Intuition, and Imagination are the building blocks on which we build our occult world and magick way of life.

"The Tantra or Nath way of life can best be described as a state of mind. In no way can it be mistaken for an agglomeration of rules, morals, or prohibitions. It assumes that human beings can and want to live without them. Even when it advises you to do or not to do something, it is not a rule but a guideline to spare you trouble and pain. But you are still free to do and think as you wish.

"Of course, our way of life has many physical aspects, but our minds still determine the success or pleasure of an act. Our life should have a plan and purpose, since most people blunder their way through life and generate misery for themselves and for others too. Our aims in life are to enjoy peace, freedom, and happiness in this life, but also to avoid rebirth onto this Earth plane. All this depends not on divine benevolence, but on the way we ourselves think and act."



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Pro Opinions

Nath sampradaya


Nath sampradaya as known to in Himachal Pradesh was started by Guru Dattatreyta and there were nine nathas and eighty four sidhas.