Thursday, February 17, 2011

Natha Cult

Natha Cult Article (Introduction to Jnaneshvari commentary on Bhagavat Gita)

Shri Jnaneshwar has mentioned briefly his cult (Sampradaya) at the end of Jnaneshwari (18.1750-61): In very ancient times, Shri Shankara, the slayer of demon Tripura, whispered in the ears of goddess Parvati the secret knowledge on the shore of the Milky Sea. Vishnu who was in the stomach of a fish heard it and attained knowledge and as Matsyendranath he imparted it to Goraksanath, who in turn bestowed it upon Gahininath and that knowledge came down from Gahininath to Nivrittinath and from Nivrittinath to me, fulfilling our desires". When this Natha cult arose, there were many Tantra cults such as Shakta, Kapalika. Bauddha Tantra. etc. All these cults arose out of the Shaiva scriptures (agamas) and claimed their origin from Lord Shiva, the Primal Guru (Adinatha). Massyendra-natha was the first human Guru of the Natha tradition and was a prophet of the Kaula sect. It is not possible to explain fully the nature of the philosophy of the Shaiva scriptures, what changes were wrought in it by the Kaula sect, and how the Natha Sampradaya originated from the latter. But we must take into account the permanent impressions, which the Natha sect left on the mind of Shri Jnaneshwar.

Shaivagama holds that the ultimate truth is Adinath Shiva. He is self-illuminated, known to himself only, infinite and imperishable and has Shakti as his mate. Like Sankhya's prakriti, this Shakti is the cause of the origination, continuance and dissolution of the world. She is ever active and she becomes manifest or remains in an unmanifest form. But unlike Sankhya's prakriti, she is not independent of God and is not unconscious, but has a conscious form. Prima facie, therefore, this Shaiva doctrine appears to be based on dualism. There is a mention in the Shantiparva of Mahabharata {337.59) that Sankhya, Yoga, Pancaratra, Veda and Pashupat hold differing view. While commenting upon the Brahma-sutra (II.2.37) Shri Shankara states that according to the Maheshwaras Pashupati Shiva is the instrumental cause of the world. If this is correct, we have to admit that the Shaiva doctrine is based on dualism. According to the Akulavira-Tantra, there are two classes of Kaulas, the Kritaka and Sahajas. Of these the Kritakas were duellists, while the Sahajas accepted the unity of God and the devotee. One may safely infer from this that the Shaivaites were originally duellists, but some of them were converted to monism after adopting the Kaula creed. In the Shaiva worship, the important elements are initiation through a mantra, worship of Shiva and Shakti and devotion to the preceptor. It ' 1s not possible to say what was the original form of this worship. Perhaps 1t consisted of the worship of Shiva in the form of the phallus (linga) and the worship of Shakti in the form of a mystical diagram on a copper plate (yantra). We do not have definite information whether this worship included the practice of yoga; but since the Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama mentions both Matsyendranath and Gorakshanatha. 1t is possible that Matsyndranath included it in the Kaula sect. But it 1s certain that devotion to Lord Shiva and to the Guru formed two important elements in the Shaiva sects. In the Vedas and Brahmanas first Indra and then Vishnu held the preeminent position among the gods and the Lord Shiva came to be identified with Brahman only in the Shvetashvatara, which is a later Upanishad. They also insisted upon reverence and obedience to the Guru, but 1t is doubtful whether they included in this devotion the worship of the sandals of the Guru and rendering service to him as described by Shri Jnaneshwar 1n the thirteenth chapter of the Jnaneshwari (ovis 341-344).

As mentioned in the Mahabharata, Shaivagama and the Vedas held different doctrines. But later there was an attempt to bring about a reconciliation between the two. In the Shvetashvataropanishad it is stated that Shiva is the same as Brahman and Maya is his divine power devatmashakti. On the other hand Lord Shiva says in the Kularnavatantra (2.10) that he has churned the sea of the Agamas and the Vedas and brought out the Kuladharma. He further says that Shiva is essentially the Supreme Brahman (1.7) without qualities. the Existence-Consciousness- Bliss and the individual Selves are his parts like sparks of fire (1.8,9). It is further stated in the same Tantra (1.108) that Lord Shiva has proclaimed monism (advaita) and so the Kaulajnananirnaya holds that Shiva is non-different from his Shakti.

There is no Shiva without Shakti,
no Shakti without Shiva (1 7.8- 9).

As Shakti creates the whole world she is known as Kula; Shiva who is inactive and without family or lineage is akula. As Bhaskara, who is an adept in this Tantra, says, Shiva-Shakti-Samarasyam Kaulam 1.e, Kaula - is oneness between these two. So this Kaula Shastra is based on non-dualism and knowledge is said

[7. Sir John Woodroffe and M.P. Pandit, Kulamavatantra, Madras, 1965. ]
[8. P.C. Bagchi, ed. KaulaJnananimaya. Calcutta, 1934. ]

to be impossible for the ritualists who perform sacrifices or the ascetics who mortify their bodies to attain liberation. Further after declaring non- dualism, it states that liberation 1s attained only through knowledge, and this knowledge is acquired from the mouth of the Guru (1.108). It w111 thus be seen that there is great similarity now between Kaula and Vedanta.

Kaula and Yoga

In the Kaula sect there was greater emphasis on physical and mental discipline rather than on outward ritual practices. Their discipline included yoga and meditation. This subject is dealt with in the fourteenth Chapter of Kaulajnananirnaya. However, the exact method of yoga 1s not indicated; but still the experiences and the yogic powers (siddhis) acquired through the yoga are clearly mentioned. For instance, the yogi experiences tremours in his hands, feet and head and hears different sounds 1n the course of his yogic practice. He acquires such powers as rising above the ground, mastery in poetry, the knowledge of past and future, cheating of time, the power to assume different forms, absence of wrinkles and grey hair and power to roam 1n the sky. The Yoginitantra of Matsyendranath mentions many subtle powers, the power to see a distant thing and entry into another's body. But the ultimate aim of yoga was to attain the state of mindlessness (unmani avastha). The Kaulajnananiryana further states that the mind enters the Khechari centre (brahmarandra) and drinks nectar (verse 93). Moreover Svatmarama in his Hathayoga makes a prominent mention of Matsyendranath and Gorakshanatha as proficient in Hathayoga from which 1t appears that the Kundaliniyoga was already incorporated 1n the Kaula path. But it also included devotion, which it has inherited from Shaivogama. It is stated in the third chapter that one should discard images made of stone, wood or clay and mentally worship the shivalinga with flowers in the form of non-injury, sense-restraint, compassion, devotional love. forgiveness, absence of anger, mediation and knowledge. It is, therefore, incorrect to hold that Shri Jnaneshwar introduced devotion for the first time in Natha Sampradaya.

Kaula and the Five Ms

The Kularnavatantra mentions the Kaula sadhana thus: bhogayogatmakam kaulam (2.23). If one desists from sensual enjoyments, it causes disturbance of the mind. which results in the interruption of spiritual practice. The enjoyment of sensual pleasures with restraint does not disrupt the spiritual practices and facilitates yoga. bhogo yogayate sakshat (2.24). The KaulaJnananimaya discusses the so-called five Ms (madya, maccha, mamsa, mudra and maithuna) namely wine, fish, meat. mudra and sex, which formed an essential part of Kaula practice. But it is stipulated that one should make an offering of the meat and wine to Shakti before partaking of it. The sex is to be enjoyed with restraint for procreation after remembering Shakti. The Kaulas, therefore, believe that the enjoyment of these Ave Ms after making them pure and consecrated becomes an aid to yoga. But it was found that it is difficult to practise such restraint. Matsyendranath himself had become enamoured of a yogini and was living with her and there is a legend that he had to be rescued by Gorakshanath. The Kaula sect adopted by Matsyendranath was known as Yogini-Kaulamata. As this sect was dominated by the Yoginis, there were sexual excesses of which two incidents are mentioned in Leelacharitra of Chakradhara according to one. Kahnapada, a disciple of Jalandhara died after sexual intercourse with a yogini named Bahudi, in which he tried to demonstrate his full control over seminal discharge (urdhvaretavastha). In the other, a yogini by name Kamakhya is reported to have gone to Changdeva Raul after hearing his fame and demanded intercourse with him. As a result of her insistent demand, Changdeva was forced to commit suicide. Because of such excesses, Gorakshanath laid great emphasis on the observance of dispassion.

Gorakshanath and Natha Sampradaya

It thus appears that the Natha Sampradaya had inherited its philosophical tenets from the Kaula sect. Matsyendranath seems to have played a ajor role in the formulation of the Kaula doctrines. So his mention by Shri Jnaneshwar as the first human preceptor of Natha Sampradaya is proper. Gorakshanath. his disciple, has included in the spiritual discipline to be followed by a yogi the following items: purity of the body and the mind, distaste 'for all ostentatious rituals. dedication to knowledge along with disgust for the consumption of meat and wine and dispassion. Out of these the first four items formed part of the Kaula path, but Gorakshnath discarded the last two items and placed great emphasis on yoga and dispassion. It is for this reason that Shri Jnaneshwar has called him the lake of lotus-creeper in the form of yoga and the conquering hero of sense-objects. (Chapter XVIII 1755) Gorakshanath was a great organizer and

[9. R, C. Dhere: Shri Guru Gorakshanath, Nath Sampradayacha Itihasa. (in Marathi) Bombay, 1959. p. 27. ]

propagandist who spread the Natha Sarnpradaya all over India. He had Hindus as well as Muslims among his devotees. He had especial sympathy for the downtrodden and showed them the path of self-development. His work in this regard deserves special mention.

Jnaneshwari and Kundaliniyoga

The Natha Sampradaya holds that this non-dual Shiva principle has permeated the world and so whatever there is in the universe (brahmanda) is also in the body (pinda). The Shakti lies dormant in the form of Kundalini in the Muladhara centre in the human body and Shiva abides in the Sahasrara centre in the head. With the aid of the purification of the nadis, postures. bandhas and breathing exercises the Sushumna passage opens out and the Kundalini wakes up and rushes up to meet Shiva in the Brahmarandhra. When she embraces Shiva in the sahasrara centre, the yogi attains the state of emancipation. When this kundalini wakes up and goes up the sushumna nadi after piercing the centres, then the lake of moon's nectar becomes tilted and the nectar falls into the mouth of Kundalini. Shri Jnaneshwar has. given a very fascinating account of the changes which take place in the body of the yogi. In this way Shri Jnaneshwar has described with the intensity of his experience the knowledge of the traditional yogic process which he had received in the Natha Sampradaya. In the chapter VI. he has said very clearly that this is a secret of the Natha sect. He was, therefore, fully aware that this yoga was not taught in the Gita; for he states (ovis 291. 292) that Shri Krishna ' had made a casual reference to this secret of the Natha sect and that he has elaborated this before the audience. From this it is evident that Shri Jnaneshwar has not only written a commentary on the Gita but has also incorporated his own experiences in it. By including the Kundaliniyoga in the Jnaneshwari and extolling it as the great path (pantharaja), he has accorded to it the same status as that of the dhyanayoga in the Gita.

Devotion to Guru

In Kaulamata and Natha Sampradaya, devotion to Guru has special importance. The Kularnavatantra has devoted one full chapter as to how a disciple should worship his Guru. It is stated there that the sacred sandals (paduka) of the Guru form his ornaments; the remembrance of his name is his japa; to carry out his commands is his duty; and service to the Guru is his worship. The Gita mentions service to the Guru as one of the characteristics of a jnani by one word, acharyopasana, but Shri Jnaneshwar has explained it in as many as ninety ovis. Practically at the beginning of every chapter he has made obeisance to the Guru and has sung his praise. In the Natha Sampradaya special stress has been laid on initiation (diksha) and on transference of power (shaktipata) by the Guru to the disciple. It is said that no mantra becomes fruitful, unless the disciple hears it from the mouth of the Guru. Transference of power is specially important 1n the awakening of the Kundalini. The Kundalini becomes awakened very quickly by the touch of the Guru. This transference of power 1s mentioned in the Jnaneshwari. In the eighteenth chapter Shrl Jnaneshwar states, "I was experiencing the dream in the form of the universe in sleep in the form of ignorance. But the Guru patted my head and awakened me" (Ovi 403). He adds further, "In order to grant what the Lord could not give through words, the Lord hugged Arjuna, and then

'the two hearts mingled and what has in
the heart of the Guru was transferred to the
heart of the disciple'.

and so the Lord made Arjuna like himself without obliterating the duality between. the guru and the disciple.

This is not a mere imagination of a poet. In the life of Shri Ramakrishna (pp. 376-377), we And a description of the state of Narendra Oater Swami Vivekananda) when Shri Ramakrishna touched him with his foot. Narendra said: "Anyway, enquiring of many people, I reached Dakshineswar at last and went direct to the Master's room. I saw him sitting alone. merged in himself, on the small bedstead placed near the bigger one. There was no one with him. No sooner had he seen me than he called me joyfully to him and made me sit on one end of the bedstead. I sat down and found him in a strange mood. He spoke indistinctly something to himself, looked steadfastly at me and was slowly coming towards me. I thought another scene of lunacy was going to be enacted. Scarcely had I thought so when he came to me and placed his right foot on my body, and immediately I had a wonderful experience. I saw with my eyes open that all the things of the room together with the walls were rapidly whirling and receding into an unknown region and my I-ness together with the whole universe was, as it were, going to vanish in the all-devouring great Void. I was then overwhelmed with a terrible fear; I had known that the destruction of I-ness was death and that death was before me, very near at hand. Unable to control myself, I cried out loudly and said, ' Ah! What is it you have done to me? I have my parents, you know.' Giving out a hoarse laugh to hear those words of mine and touching my breast with his hand, he said, 'Let it then cease now; it need not be done all at once; it will come to pass in due course.' I was amazed to see that extraordinary experience of mine vanish as quickly as it had come when he touched me in that manner and said those words. I came to the normal state and saw things inside and outside the room standing still as before."12

This secret Lord Shiva uttered in the ears of Parvati somewhere in the milky sea and it was heard by Matsyendrknatha who was hiding in the stomach of a Ash in that sea. Matsyendranath met crippled Chouranglnatha on the Saptashringi mountain and by his mere glance made him sound in all his limbs. Then in order to enjoy samadhi undisturbed, he transferred the yogic planes achieved by him to Gorakshanatha. He installed in his chair Gorakshanatha, who was the lake containing the lotus-creeper in the form of yoga and the unique hero capable of vanquishing the sense-objects (1751-1755). Then Gahininatha received from Gorakshanatha the bliss of non-dualism, which had descended from Lord Shiva. Seeing that the people of the world were afflicted by worldly existence, he gave a mandate to his disciple Shri Nivrittinatha that he should embrace the tradition (sampradaya) which had come down through unbroken succession of teacher-disciple relation beginning with Lord Shiva and protect immediately all beings stricken with Kali (the age of Strife personified). Nivrittinatha was naturally tender-hearted, and had now received his mission from his Guru. He came forward like a cloud in the rainy season to coo) the world (1756-1760). Then moved with compassion at the sight of the people in distress, he showered the serene sentiment on them under the pretext of narrating the purport of the Gita. At that time I stood before him like a chataka bird in distress, and he raised me to the peak of fame. In this way, my Master entrusted to me his wealth of samadhi and so this work has come to me in succession from the Guru to the disciple.

. At that time Jnanadeva, the disciple of Shri Nivrittinatha, claiming succession of discipleship from Lord Shiva, gave the Gita the garb of Marathi language. (1801-1805) Jnanadeva composed this commentary on the Gita in the (Shalivahana) shaka year 1212 and Sachchidanandababa became his reverent amanuensis. (1806-1810) In my heart dwells my mighty preceptor, Shri Nivrittinatha, who has placed the whole world under his obligation. Because of his forbearance the earth bears the movable and immovable world without complaint. The moon borrows his ambrosia and cools down the world and the sun takes over a part of his splendour and dispels the darkness. From him the sea derives its water, the water its sweetness, the sweetness its beauty, (1721-1725) the wind its force, the sky its expanse and knowledge its brilliant sovereign glory, the Vedas their eloquence, happiness its fervour and all things their respective forms, Moreover my capable and worthy Guru Shri Nivrittimath, who favours all, has entered my heart and dwells in it. Then what wonder is there if I tell in the local language the Gita which is already there? Ekalavya, a hunter made an idol of his preceptor Dronacharya and installing his image on the mountain, learnt archery from him and won fame in all the three worlds for his valour (1726-1730). The trees which are close to sandalwood trees become fragrant like them and the ochre-coloured garment of sage Vasishkha, which was spread out for drying up, challenged the splendour of the sun. As for myself, I have an attentive mind, and my Guru is a great saint who has the power to grant his disciple his status by a favourable glance. If good sight is backed by sun's light, what thing is there which cannot be seen? So even my respiration will produce metrical numbers. What cannot be wrought by the grace of the Guru? I have, therefore, explained the substance of the Gita in the local language in a lucid style and brought it within the reach of everybody. (1731-1735)

Jnaneshwar and Shankaracharya

At one time it was accepted by all that the philosophy of Shri Jnaneshwar was the same as that of Shri Shankara. The late Jog Maharaja also held the same view. Then Pandit Panduranga Sharma made an attempt to demonstrate that their doctrines were different. He advanced the view that the term (bhashgakarante) was in plural and so Shri Jnaneshwar had - consulted not only Shri Shankara but also all the commentators. Dr. S. D. Pendse has after comparing Shankara-bhashya and Ramanuja-bhashya with Jnaneshwari chapter by chapter has come to the conclusion that the Bhashyakara referred to by Shri Jnaneshwar (Chap. XVIII 1722) is Shri Shankara only. But instead of making this comparison on the counts of similarities of expressions or the relations between the verses and between the chapters, one must make a comparative study of their views on philosophy and yoga.

It is beyond doubt that Shri Shankara and Shri Jnaneshwar were both non-duellists. In the ninth chapter, Shri Jnaneshwar states, "the Supreme Self is formless, without limiting conditions, inactive, beyond the qualities, changeless, formless, all-pervasive, unmanifest and nondual. But people ascribe form to the formless,

[ 6. Ibid, p. 49 ]

formalities to one devoid of limiting condition, actions to the inactive, qualities to the qualityless and a location location to the all-pervasive. They attribute manifestation to the unmanifest and desires to the desireless and speak of him as agent and experiencer though he is not so. The Lord says.' They ascribe to Me caste though I am casteless and feet, hands. ears, eyes, lineage and habitation, though I do not possess any of these. Although I am self-existent, they make an idol of Me and consecrate it and although I pervade everything they invoke Me and dismiss Me. Thus making an idol of Me, they worship it and when it breaks they throw it away. In fact they ascribe to Me all the human qualities of Such is their false knowledge which comes in the way of true knowledge (Ovis 155- 170)". Thus the doctrine of Jnaneshwar 1s different from the qualified monism, dualism and pure non-dualism which held that the Supreme Self possesses auspicious attributes. In this regard the philosophy of Shri Jnaneshwar is close to the monism of Shri Shankara.

But even though Shri Shankara's doctrine of Brahman as the reality (Brahma Satyam) was acceptable to Shri Jnaneshwar, 1t is doubtful whether he accepted his doctrine of the unreality of the world {jagan mithya). While talking of the Supreme Self, Shri Jnaneshwar employs such terms as Omni-present (vishwarupa), having the form of the universe (vishvakara), soul of the universe (vishvatman), Lord of the universe (vishwesha), existing in all forms (vishuamurti), pervader of the universe (vishvavyapaka) and the Lord of the goddess of wealth in the form of the universe. By the will of this Supreme person, says Shri Jnaneshwar. the world comes into being (Ch. 6 Ovi 177). The Lord says, "The petals of the flower constitute the flower, and branches fruits, etc. constitute the tree and this whole universe 1s of the same form as Myself (Ch. 14, 177). So it is not that my devotee should realise Me after the world vanishes, but he should apprehend Me along with the world (14.380). Just as the rays of- the Sun are not different from the Sun, so there is unity between God and universe." The devotion, which is offered to Him with the knowledge of this unity, is known as non-dual bhakti. When a person attains full knowledge as a sthitaprajna or a jnani- bhakta, he does not experience that the world 1s unreal. On the other hand, the sthitaprajna becomes one with the world after he renounces egoism and all sense-objects (2.267). The Jnanibhakta becomes free from the notion of dualism and experiences that he has become one with the universe (12. 191).

Shri Jnaneshwar holds that even if the world is real, the world appearance 1s not real. Just as one has the false notion of a serpent in a necklace or of silver in the shell, so is this world appearance, and it comes in the way of true knowledge (15.46) But it does not last before knowledge and at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter Shri Jnaneshwar praises his preceptor as one who dispels this world appearance. But Shri Jnaneshwar did not accept the doctrine that this world is the play of the Supreme (chidvilasa) like Shri Ramanuja, who regards the visible world too as real, being the play of the Supreme Person.

The Shankara-bhashya and Jnaneshwari also differ in their view as to which yoga is considered more important in the Gita. Shri Shankara regards the yoga of knowledge as primary with both the yoga of. action and the yoga of devotion as subsidiary and supportive to it. He states that the seeker attains liberation in the following order: purification of the mind through karmayoga, renunciation, the way of knowledge, and self- realisation. In the opinion of Shri Jnaneshwar all the methods of yoga are equally valid and one has to adopt the yoga accordingly to his aptitude. Shri Jnaneshwar, while commenting on the yoga of meditation in the sixth chapter, has expounded the yoga of Kundalini and extolled it as pantharaja the best way. He has explained this yoga in other chapters also. This view may not have been acceptable to Shri Shankara. Further, Shri Jnaneshwar says that the performance of one's duty is tantamount to nitya yajna and if it 1s performed in a selfless spirit and with dedication to God, 1t leads to liberation independently. Further he says that in order to reach the lofty peak of liberation, devotion is an easy foot-path and that it is attained step by step (kramayoga) by performing one's duty, devotion to God. attainment of knowledge and non-dual devotion. In this way, the devotee becomes jnani-bhakta, who is most dear to God and becomes one with him. On the other hand, the other commentators of God hold that liberation is achieved through devotion to a personal God and even after attainment of liberation the devotee retains his individuality and lives in the presence of God. It is thus obvious that Shri Jnaneshwar consulted the Shankarabhashya and not the other commentators. But he did not follow it blindly, but formed his own views about the message of the Gita.