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As the words Nath Yogis indicate, Nathism is a Saiva cult employing fundamentally Yogic ideology and methodology.

Saivism’s combination with Yoga has probably the longest religious history in the country. Seals of Siva in a Yogic pose have been found in the Indus Valley excavation. Siva is generally believed to be a pre- Rig-Vedic and Non-Aryan God.2 He is also mentioned as a god in the Vedas, Upanisads and the Mahabharata.3 He is a feared god in the Rig Veda.4 Lord Krishna acknowledged his greatness and got a boon from him. 5 The Nath Yogis belong to an ascetic group of Saivism. Asceticism, as a spiritual tool to gain supernatural powers, has been accepted by all the old systems like Jainism, Yoga, Saivism and the Vedic religion. In the Rig Veda, the hairy Muni in ecstasy is extolled when he drinks poison with Rudra.6 The oldest Saiva system is the Pasupata. It has been mentioned in Atharvasiras Upanisad and the Mahabharata.7 The Nath Yogis are not only directly connected with it, but are also a part of the group called Lakula that has directly developed from the parent Pasupata. This group includes the Kanphata Yogis, the Kala Mukhas, the Kapalikas, and Aghorpanthies8 ete. In this group, four elements are basic and common, namely, asceticism, and renunciation of the world, Yogic methodology with emphasis on Mantra Yoga and Hath Yoga, the combination and worship of male and female deities, and the goal of gaining powers, liberation from the world and merger with Siva. The Kapalikas are the precursors of Gorakhnathis.9 Rather, there is no material difference between the two except that Gorakhnathis are comparatively a little moderate in their practices.

In all these systems there is emphasis on the combination of the male and female energies of Siva and Sakti, Linga and Yoni, Purusa and Prakirti10, Bindu & Nada, etc. The female part is represented by Uma, Parvati, Durga and Sakti. The group is noted for its wild, erotic and abhorrent practices and blood sacrifices.11

As is well known, all Yoga, especially Hath Yoga, is generally done in order to gain miraculous physical and psychological powers. It is very old belief that the Yogi can do anything and is the master of nature.12 The four elements mentioned above have been present in these systems from the earliest times. The worship of Linga and Yoni was there .in the Lakula.13 Group including Kanphatas. The Kapalika system which is nearest to the Naths has been mentioned in the Upanisads.14 The sect existed before the Christian era and the time of Kena Upanisad. The Kanphata line started with Matsyendra Natha, who is the first historical Nath. Gorakhnath is probably the third Nath, though some say that six Naths intervened between the two. 15 It is generally believed that Goraknath appeared any time between the 11th and the 14th century.

But according to Briggs, who has considered all evidence on the point, he lived in the 12th century A.D. 16

2. LEGENDARY HISTORY It is common in India that whenever a cult breaks away from the parent sect, the devotees of the new cult create numerous legends about its author by giving him both the highest spiritual status and the greatest antiquity. The legendary history of Goraknath is very variant. One legend says that he is the original deity and Siva, Brahma and Visnu are his disciples;17 another version calls him the Avatara of Siva,18 who appears in all Yugas. In the Satyuga, he appeared at Tilla in Jhelum district, now in Pakistan.19 But, the generally accepted legend about the Naths is that once Siva was imparting to Parvati the secret Mantra for spiritual realization Matsyendra Natha, who was lying as a fish nearby, heard and grasped the Mantra.20 Though Lord Siva is supposed to be the first Nath (Adinath) Matsyendra Natha is the first human Nath. In that lineage Gorakhnath is probably the third or the ninth21 Nath to get the secret Mantra. In the course of time this Mantra, it is believed was received by Janeshvara, the famous commentator of the Gita, Chaitanya and Tukaram.22 It is this secret Mantra which is possessed by the Naths of this cult.

Saivism has a variety of metaphysical views regarding the world. In the Pasupata system, the parent system of Naths, Ishwara and Pradhana are the cause of everything. Pradhana produces the world, or effects (Karya), including souls. The effects are of three kinds, the soul (Pasu), ‘Cognition’ and ‘organs’. The ‘effects’ are dependent on Siva, who is the cause of everything. But the effect, the created soul, is eternal. Siva is the original cause, on which the effects depend. In the Pasupata system, the chief aim is to gain powers. The world, though real, is considered to be fetters, from the bondage of which release has to be sought.23 In essence, thus, the Naths accept the philosophy and approach of Yoga, which is dualistic and seeks the liberation of Purusa from the meshes of Prakriti. In Nathism, too, the world is deemed to be a place of misery which has to be renounced as an entanglement.24 Irrespective of Whether Nathism is dualistic or monistic, its approach to the world remains the same as that of the Yoga. It is said that Siva, being fed up with creation, cut his organ. That is why the Yogis are ascetic and are associated with the cremation grounds. The ashes on the body of the Nath represent cremation ashes. Siva is called Maha Yogi and has been shown in the garb of a Yogi. The Nath Yogis too take a vow of celibacy and turn complete back to the world of man.

Being basically akin to Yoga, Naths have a goal which, even though slightly variant in its description, is, in essence, the same as in Yoga. In Yoga the goal is three fold; to gain power, to get liberated from the world, and to seek isolation. In Nathism, the first two objects of the goal are the same.25 The final state is called Kaivalya or isolation of Purusha in a state of mindless unconciousness. In Nathism, too, the final goal is of complete dissociation from the world, involving a wholly passive and blissful union with, or merger in, Siva.26 The difference in the goals is in name only. In both cases, it is a state of complete inactivity. In one case, the Purusha shines in its own light; in the case of Nathism, the soul shines in the eternal light of Siva. In both cases, the primary object is to gain powers and liberation from the oppression of the world.27

Let us now give the rationale, the routine and the practices of the religious life of the Naths and the physical and spiritual discipline observed by them.

(i) The organisation
The Nath system being ascetic and monastic, they have a number of monasteries all over the country. The important centres are Tilla (Jhelum district, Pakistan), Hinglaj (Baluchistan), Dhinodhar (Kuchh), Gorakhpur and Devi Pattan, (U.P.), etc. All Yogis are members of one monastery or the other, and each monastery is headed by a Pir or Guru. Since even Muslims are accepted in the faith (at one time there were over 38000 Muslim Naths), the heads of the centres at Hinglaj and Tilla, which are situated in the Muslim areas, are called Pirs.28 Actually, the head of the important monastery at Hinglaj was a Muslim, and the complaint was that visitors to that centre were converted to Islam.29 Every person initiated among the Naths is accepted by a Guru of some monastery, of which the new entrant becomes a member. There are twelve sects of Kanphatas.30 Each was organised by a disciple of Gorakhnath. The new entrant has to take three important vows. He has to be celibate. Further, he undertakes not to engage himself in any business, employment or profession and has to sustain himself by begging for his food. Thirdly, he has to observe Ahimsa,31 The Yogi is advised to live up a place where the area is not disturbed, the king is good and alms are freely available.32 There he has to choose a solitary place for his meditation and Yoga. After the Yogi is accepted as a probationer, he is supposed to walk on both sides of the river Narbada. The period of probation may extend to anything from one year to a such longer period. When the person is finally accepted as a Yogi, his ears are split. By it a mystic channel or Nadi is opened Up. 33 The Yogi travels barefooted. Except for the four rainy months, the Yogi is on the move to different Nath monasteries and other Hindu places of pilgrimage. He wears the scantiest of clothes and goes almost naked. He rubs ashes on his body and wears earrings in his split ears. The Mudras should preferably be of the horns of a Rhino. The Yogi wears a necklace of Rudraksha beads and also a special thread. In addition, he carries a whistle. These three items are called the Saili.34 The loss of any of these items involves stoppage of food till it is replaced. The daily routine involves begging, and at that time he wears kerchiefs round his arms. The Mudra is so important that, if the same is broken the Yogi would not take food; nor can he perform religious rites or talk to his fellow Yogis till the same is substituted.35 The Naths bury their dead.

(ii) Monasteries and places of worship
It is of religious significance and merit to visit Nath monasteries, particularly, Tilla, Hinglaj, Dhinodhar, etc., and sacred Hindu rivers and places of pilgrimage like Haridwar, Prayag, Ganga, Godawari, Benaras, Ajudhia, Brindaban, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Pushkar, etc.At the monasteries, there are temples, images and pictures of Hindu gods and religious personalities like Dattatreya, Lord Krishna and Gopies, Lord Ram Chandra, Hanuman, Lakshman and others. Siva, in the form of Bhairon, as the chief deity, is worshipped.36 Homage is paid to Hindu gods. Dattatreya and Hanuman are also worshipped by the Kanphatas. In Bengal the Naths worship both Siva and Visnu. At their centres, blood sacrifices are done at the Bhairon temple and at tombs.37

(iii) Caste and social distinctions
In theory only twice born are initiated as Naths.38 At Tilla, the recruits are only from the first three castes. But elsewhere, all castes, except some very low castes like Meghwalis and Dheds, are accepted.39 Women are generally not initiated except widows. Hindu Naths do not eat with Muslim Naths.40 Nor do Hindu Naths go for begging to Muslim houses or houses of lower castes,41 “None but a Brahmin ascetic can cook the meals and serve them at any of the ascetic centres extant today, whether Saiva or Vaisnava. Likewise, the worship of the deity remains his privilege and preserve.”42 At Dhinodhar monastery, the higher castes are given uncooked food. The other castes are fed at the monastery hall, but, lower castes and Muslims get food outside the monastery in the open.43 Naths do not sit and eat with their women folk, not even with women Nath panthis.44 Many Naths do marry, but they are held in contempt. The other Naths do not smoke with them till they have paid a penalty.45

(ivJ Religious discipline
The Nath Yogis have four prominent elements of their discipline: (a) asceticism, (b) ritualism, (c) Yogic methodology, and (d) the combination of male and female energies and the raising of the Kundalani with a view to union with Lord Siva. In order to understand these features, we shall briefly’ trace the history of each of them and indicate the Nath practice. It is relevant to understand that, despite the lapse of time and the modern environment, the Naths have not even slightly modified their practices which continue as of old.46

(a) Asceticism: Asceticism is a typically ancient Indian institution. It is believed to be an Indian contribution to world cultures, since asceticism was unknown to the ancient Iranian, Babylonian or Egyptian cultures.47 It appears to belong to the pre-Aryan or the Saramanic tradition. Harappan seals represent Siva in an ascetic pose. Jainism particularly extols the power and value of Tapas. In the Rig Veda, too, the force and merit of Tapas has been recognised. The Satpatha Brahmnas say that God created the earth through Tapas. The epics and the Upanisads, too, accept the significance and supernatural powers of asceticism.48 This is especially so from the time of Kena Upanisad. Manu has prescribed the conditions and rules for the austere life.49 In the Rig Veda, the hairy muni in ecstasy is praised as having divine power who could drink with Rudra from a poison cup.50 Sbetaketu was an Upanisadic philosopher, lawgiver and Jnani, a contemporary of Yajnavalkya. He too was an ascetic,51 Sanaka, to whom libation are offered as a Vedic sage, was a Brahamacharya.52 There were many other ascetic Hindu sages. Even before the time of Buddha the theory of four ashramas provided that half the period of life should be devoted to ascetic living. Dattatreya, deemed to be an incarnation of Visnu, was a celibate. Even Yohnavalkya says that wise men, without becoming householders, straight away take to the life of mendicants. It was considered the right and proper course for spiritual endeavour and self-realisation53, Chandogya goes a step further, calling “Such brahmacharya” as not only one of the pillars of righteousness but as a state that ensures Brahma realization.”54 Manduka Upanisad too recommends Sanyasa for final salvation. Even Yajnavalkya says, “Having known Him, one becomes a Muni, sage or wise one. Desiring the same end, recluses renounce the world. For that very purpose, wise men of old used not to desire progeny.” “With this thought, they used to take to the life of mendicancy.” “For, desire for progeny is desire for goods.” “Brahmins having known Him, practise the life of mendicants.” “There are schools of asceticism which have raised the physical part of it to be an ideal in itself, whether as a contortious activity or as the esoteric Hath Yoga.”55 It is thus clear that both in the pre- Aryan Sramanic tradition and the Vedic-Upanisadic tradition, asceticism, celibacy and other- worldliness have been taken to be the principal means of salvation and knowledge. Buddha did strike a mean path; but with him, too, world was a Dukkha and monasticism became a basic part of his system for Nirvana. It is this tradition of asceticism and liberation from the miseries of the world that the Nath Yogis accept as an integral part of their system, because the vows of Nath Yogis accept as an integral part of their system, because the vows of Nath Yogis provide for celibacy and non-engagement in any business or employment. Siva, who is called the Maha Yogi, is always associated with wilderness and cremation grounds. That is why the Nath Yogis have the ritual of rubbing ashes on the body, representing thereby death to the world.56

(b) Ritualism and Formalism: Ritualism has a definite place and value in the system. Certain months, December to April, are considered auspicious for initiation into thesystem.57 At initiation, the disciple sits in a particular posture and faces north. Mantras are read at the time of initiation and splitting the ears. These are supposed to have distinct potency and value in preventing pain and bleeding in the process. Rhino ear-rings are preferred because it is a sacred animal.58 The cutting of the ear has great potency and makes a person immortal.59 In case the split ear is mutilated, the Nath is excommunicated.60 In earlier years, he either died or was buried alive. If a Mudra is lost, the Yogi must substitute it before he can take food, perform religious rites or talk to his fellow Yogis.61

As we shall mention under the sub- head Yoga, Mantra Yoga has a definite value in achieving spiritual advancement. Belief in the mystic potency of words and letters and their repetition is an integral part of the system. This is so especially regarding the word Om.Fasting is considered very efficacious. It removes sins. Fasting on Shivratri is particularly meritorious and makes a person immortal.62 May be, because of the black colour of Bhairon, black buck, snakes and even black dogs are venerated.63 Nag Panchami is celebrated by the Naths.

Animal and blood sacrifices at the temple of Bhairon and some tombs is a common feature. At the annual fair at Devi Pattan, 20 buffalos, 250 goats and 250 pigs were sacrificed on one day only. The fair opens on the arrival of the Nath Pir from Nepal who presides over the function.64 The mark of blood is applied to the devotees. Kalaki Purana, which is a scripture of the Saktas, has a chapter on human sacrifices.65 The Goraknathis have some practices similar to this group. Naths serve as Pujaris at the Sakti temples. Gorakhnath is said to have substituted animal sacrifice for human sacrifice.66

At Hinglaj, linga-yoni mark is put on the visiting Yogis. They also worship Linga and Yoni.67 Visits to Nath monastries and Hindu sacred places are regarded as of distinct religious merit. A visit to Hinglaj monastery is necessary to make a person perfect.68 The Naths accept and recognize Hindu beliefs in gods and goddesses, good and bad spirits, auspicious and inauspicious days, and many other superstitions.69

(c) Yogic practices: Saivism and Yoga have an ancient bond or combination. The Harrappan seals show Siva in a Yogic pose. Both are a part of the Saramanic tradition. Dasgupta writes that Yoga arose as the means of deliverance of the hermits from the oppressive environment and the misery of the world. Its theory envisages that, as in the case of Jainism and Sankhya, the combination of the material and spiritual elements is a bondage, and release from the world has to be sought by breaking this combination. Another object is a state of eternal quiet, isolation and bliss.

The basic Yogic discipline is the one detailed by patanjali in the period about 300 A.D. For Yoga, celibacy is essential. This discipline is eight fold, involving Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhyana and samadhi. It includes use of the word Om, fasts, concentration, one-point meditation and stoppage of mental processes, creating unconsciousness. As from the ancient times, the general and primary aim of Yoga is to gain miraculous powers. The Yogi is the master of three worlds and can control the evolution of gunas of Prakriti.70 Such powers are called Siddhis. Yogis, who have attained those powers, are called Siddhas. Naths are closely associated with Siddhas whose principal aim is to gain power. For, Gorakhnath is not only one of the nine Naths, but he is counted as one of the eighty four Siddhas.71 He is supposed to be their teacher.

Dasgupta enumerates four kinds of Yoga: Raj Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hath Yoga.72 Raj Yoga deals with the mind and its psychic powers and the intellectual processes. Mantra Yoga employs the repetition of sacred texts, words and letters. This Yoga almost enters the realm of magic. Laya Yoga is quietest. It involves elimination of mental processes and of inducement of trances and unconsciousness, leading to the final state ending in permanent quiet of the mind. The fourth is Hath or Kundalini Yoga. The method is mainly physical and in its practice it uses Pranayama. The aim is the same, namely, Samadhi, isolation or union with Siva. The practice of Kundalani Yoga also employs others Yogas, including Mantra and Laya Yoga. In fact, the practice of anyone of the Yogas also involves the use of the methods of the other Yogas. The general methods used are the ones indicated by patanjali. The difference is only of emphasis. For, no kind of Yoga is exclusive in its character. The Naths mainly stress upon Mantra Yoga and Hath Yoga.73

The three most important religious texts of the Naths are Gorakhsataka, Gorakhsa Paddhati and Hath Yoga Pradipika. The first of them is the most revered work of Naths. It is attributed to Gorakhnath himself as also Hath Yoga pradipika. It suggests 84 postures and six stages of Yoga, and gives 100 verses by the knowledge of which the highest state is attained.74 It prescribes Asanas and gaze between the eyes and on the tip of the nose. There are nine doors and those are presided over by five deities. During the Yogic practice, Linga and Yoni are mentioned to appear, accompanied with great light. By seeing this light, death is overcome. According to the discipline, the Nath must repeat 1008 names of God every day.75 The Yogi sees 72000 nadis below the naval. In Gorakhsataka the nadis Ida, Pingala, Susumana, Gandhari, ete. and their courses are indicated. The Prana is connected through Ida, Pingala and Susmana. The repetition of the word ‘hamsa’ is prescribed. By the repetition of the Mantra 21,600 times a day, the Yogi gains liberation in a year’s time or SO.76 By the practice of Yoga poison can be digested. The secret of Mahanrudra practice should not be told to anyone. He who knows Khetari Mudra is not troubled by death. The Bindu is of two kinds, white (Semen) and blood red (menstrual fluid). Bindu is Siva and Rajas is Sakti. By uniting the two, the highest state is achieved. Om is the supreme light in which three worlds, three Vedas, three accents and three gods are situated. In Om is three fold knowledge, Sakti, ete. Om is the light in the elements of which the world, bhuh, bhavah, soah and the three divinities of Sun, moon and fire exist. Om, the seed, should be repeated and uttered. Whether pure and impure, whoever repeats it is not affected by sin. Pranayama, while meditating on the Sun and Moon, is recommended. In this text, the Yogic system, involving Pranayama, six circles, three channels and Kundalini and Nada and Bindu, is detailed. The ten chief Nadis are Ida, Pingla, Susmuna, Gandhari, Hastijihoa, Pusa, Yasasvani, Alambusa, Kuhus and Samkhini. These terminate in ten openings. The first three Nadis are the  important ones in raising the Kundalini. Susmana extends to the tenth opening. It is the path  of enjoyment and bliss in which male and female elements unite. Kundalini is raised through  the six chakras. Indra, Brahma and Kali with four-hands, a staff, wine, skull and spear are  involved in Kundalini symbolism. The final goal of Kundalini is to reach the top of the head  at Sahasrara, the place of final bliss and union with Siva. There is Sunya, the place of Ishvara, the abode of Brahma. The union of Rajas and Bindu (Siva and Sakti) is the aim of Yoga. The thrills of the physical reactions in the process of Yoga are called religious experiences.

The aims, of Yoga are immobility of body and mental processes, the ecstatic experiences of union of Rajas (Kundalini) and Bindu (Siva) at the various levels and the six chakras in the body, supernatural powers, and final release and bliss. All these are secured by Asanas, Mudra, Bhanda, Pranayama, retention of breath and Bindu, breath control, cleaning of Nadis and miscellaneous practices. The other physical yogic methods adopted are Dhoti, Basti, Neti, Tratakee, Nauli, Kapala Ghati, etc. By prayanayam, Kundalini is directed to Susmana. During the process, one hears internal sounds (Anahata nad) is a year’s time. Mental processes are brought to a stand still. There are many varieties in the use of Mudra, Asana, Pranayama, etc. By this Yoga, all physical, psychic and mystic powers are gained, and finally Siva is enjoyed in eternal bliss. In wrath the Yogi can move the three worlds. The union of Bindu and Rajas in the throat yields supernatural power. It is the gateway to final release. The Sahasrara is the true world, where one h,as the highest bliss. Mind is dissolved and unconsciousness follows. It is the fountain head of all creation, where Kundalini enjoys Paramatman and bliss.77 This is the Yoga system prescribed in the Nath system. It involves all kinds of Yogas, but the stress is on Hath Yoga and Mantra Yoga.

The question now is whether Hath Yoga is a later innovation, or it is basically a variety of the old and original Yogic system. We find that Hath Yoga, in its fundamental form, including the system of Nadis and Kundalini, is very old. It was known to the Chandogya Upanisad, which says that the soul departed through the Chakras gains immortality.78 Not only is there a reference to Susmana nadi, but the theory of Nadi and its spiritual value is given also in the Maitri Upanisad. Tessitorie writes: “The close alliance of Kanphata system to the Yoga, both of patanjali and the Upanisadas, is visible from the prominent part given to the Yoga proxis as well as to the mystical theory, to the circles in the body (chakra, Kausala), arteries (nala), vital air (pavana) and breaths (hamsa).”79 Similarly, Svetasvatara mentions the great gains of Pranayama. All this only shows that the Yoga variety practised by the Nath Yogis is nothing new. The system in its essentials was known in the ancient and the Unpanisadic times. There is nothing fundamentally Tantric about it. In fact, the Tantric systems assume the basis of Hath, Mantra, and Raj Yogas. Even the Non-Tantric Vaisnava works detail the Hath Yoga. After his survey, Ghurye also concludes that Hath Yoga in all its essentials is an ancient or an Upanisadic system.80

(d) The combination of male and female forces: The fourth element of Nath fundamental is the emphasis on the union of male and female energies, Siva and Sakti, to achieve liberation.

Both in the Hath Yoga Pradipika and Gorakhsa Paddhati, which are Nath texts (the former is also attributed to Gorakhnath),81 it has been stated that the highest state can be attained both by asceticism and restraint. and by sex indulgence. One of the methods prescribed for achieving eternal bliss or Siddhi is Vajroli, Sahjoli or Amroli. These sex practices, conducted in the company of a woman, lead both to Moksha and enjoyment. Mudras and Bandhas are similar to Asanas in their efficacy. Great powers are obtained by such like practices. Gheranda names 25 methods, including Vajroli, which confer magic and spiritual powers.82 By Khetari Mudra one gets ecstatic experiences beyond the range of senses, one becomes deathless, and Karma becomes inoperative.83 The mind and Prana are dissolved in Samadhi. In fact, Unmani, Manomani, Asunya, Amaratva, Laya, Baramapada, Advaita, Sahaja Niranjana, ]ivan mukti and Turya denote the same or the final state of being or achievement.84 It means bliss, isolation, union or merger with Siva or the Absolute. This is the final state in all Yogas, including Kundalini Yoga. “By this Yoga, Siva appears as the vast ocean of bliss and knowledge, destroying the misery of the world, and the end is the state of the unmoving flames of light in the inner soul, a body of bliss and knowledge.” “While hard discipline and austerity have their place in the system, many of the practices are concerned with sex functions and experiences.”85 Drugs also induce ecstatic states and there are methods for it. Both Rig Veda and Patanjali are aware of their use and utility patanjali says, “Perfections proceed from birth, or from drugs, or from spells, or from self-castigation, or from concentration.”86 There are three classes of practitioners; Pasu, the one seeking self control; Vira, the one who has gained self control and powers; and the Divya, who has reached the final state. He is then free from all rules of virtue and vice. He can do anything and indulge in anything he likes.87

About Nathism Briggs concludes, “The essence of the Hath Yoga is physical exercise and manipulations, quite mechanical. If it is charged against the exposition found in the preceding pages that it is overburdened with interpretations on too Iowa plane, it must be said in reply that both the practice and the outlook of the Yogis confirm this point of view. The historical background of the cult of Gorakhnath points in the same direction. The high religious value to man-woman relations was insisted upon. The first Chaitanya Sahajya movement confirms this point, as does Gorakhnath’s early affiliation with Vajarayana Buddhists.” “While Vaisnavite movement emphasises love in the consort of the divine, the Saivite lays stress on her power or energy.”88

We are not inclined to agree with the view that this aspect of Nath Yoga arose under Tantric influence and led to Nada-Bindu combination. Even Briggs concedes, while referring to the times of Vedas: “And it is clear that from ancient times drugs and sex stimulations were used for the same ends of ecstacy and trance.”89 The view of Tantric influence has arisen largely because of a suggestion that, before being converted to Nathism by Matsyendra Nath, Gorakhnath was a Vajrayana Buddhist. Apart from the fact that the suggestion is far from confirmed, this view displays quite an ignorance of the history of Yogic methods and Nathism. We have already seen that Kanphatas are a part of the Lakula group of the Saiva or the Pasupata system, of which Aghoris, Kalamukhas and Kapilkas are a part. In fact, Kapilkas are the nearest to Kanphatas, the essentials of the two cults being the same and similar. As such, this development of the Naths has to be traced to the Pasupata and the earlier systems, which are much older than Tantric Buddhism.

In the Harappan seal, Siva is shown with his generative organ erect.90 Besides, there is the ancient legend, probably leading to the turn towards celibacy and asceticism, in which Siva cuts his organ and becomes a Yogi, Siva-Yoni worship is mentioned in the91 Vedic literature.

Barnett found a reference to Saiva Yogis or Vratyas Occuring in the Atharva Veda. “He travels in a bullock cart, with a harlot, a musician, two carriers, and two footmen, and professes Saiva magic.”92 Hauer says that these Vratyas, followers of Rudra, Siva and Yoga, stand included in the Brahmanic system and are mentioned in the Atharva Veda. These persons like Yogis stand erect for a year and go over the country (Like later Yogis) cursing and blessing the people. They are accompanied by a woman. The couple represent the male god and female goddess, Siva and Sakti.93 In the Mahabharata, too, Siva is mentioned with an erect organ. In fact, he is also named as such in the Mahabharata. Bhandarkar draws pointed attention to the fact that Siva, in the form of Lakulisa, is portrayed with his organ erect. And it is in this form of Lakulisa that he is the tutelary deity of the Pasupatas.94 Bhandarkar further connects this portrayal of Siva with a similar sealarmlet discovered at Mohenjodaro. Thus this sex symbolism and combination of male and female forces is both Vedic and pre- Vedic. And in all its erotic symbolism and manifestations, it continued in the Kapilkas. This group is referred to in the works of the 1st century A.D. Bhandarkar believes that this sect is mentioned in the Kena and Maitri Upanisads and is older than them. In the old Soma sect, Siva is represented as always with his consort Uma.95 The Kapilkas are known for their methods of sense indulgence for spiritual advancement. In a dramatic skit of the 7th century A.D., Kapilka and Kapalini ridicule the systems of a lain Muni and a Buddhist Bhikhshu and extol their method of spiritual attainment through enjoyment of wine and woman. Ultimately, the lain and the Buddhist are converted to the ways of the Kapilka.96 This shows that the Saiva systems hardly needed Buddhist influence for accepting erotic practices. It could rather be the other way round. The parent Pasupata system of this group is the oldest Saiva system, being mentioned in the Atharva Veda, Mahabharta and Atherasiras Upanisad.97 Till recently, at the Amarnath Temple, Nath Yogis danced naked, and women wore only a single garment.98

Another important point is that Dattatreya is one of the chief deities worshipped by the Naths. He is a Hindu deity, who is an Avatara of Visnu and is mentioned in more than one list of his incarnations. He was a celibate with miraculous powers, and gave self-realising knowledge to great persons like Alarka and Prahlada. He is referred to in the Upanisads and is considered to be Jnani and a paramahansa. Dattatreya is the only incarnation who has a cult following him and has temples devoted to his worship. All through, the Puranic account “depicts him as always in ecstasy, surrounded by women, drinking wine and indulging in sex.” In one puranic account, “he demands flesh and wine in a human skull.”99 And he is one of the chief deities whom Nath Yogis worship.

The Hindu works also recognize that the highest achievement can also be made through wine and women. Hindu Tantra is supposed to be the 5th Veda for Kalyuga.100 In fact, Tantric systems themselves depend on Raj, Mantra and Hath Y ogas, which are older systems.101 The Mantra Yoga, as is known, is closely allied with the Vedic theory that words, verses, letters and symbols have mysterious powers and that man and the world are subject to their influence.

Ghurye has collected a mass of evidence to dispel the suggestion of Tantric influence on the Nath panthis. He writes, “As Tantric literature is fairly recent, it may be supposed by our readers that the Jogi order is of recent origin. This impression must now be countered.” “Fundamentally the Jogis represent the oldest school of Indian ascetism.102 The Yogis are the residue of the ancient Saivite sects. “103 Zimmer also, in his broad survey of Tantric systems, concludes, “and in the deep philosophy of the Tantric, we have another sign of the resurgence of the religiosity of the non-Aryan, pre-Aryan matriarchal tradition of Dravidian times. “104

Another significant fact which clearly shows the link of Gorakhnathis with the ancient. Pasupata or Saiva system is the wild and abhorrent nature of the two sects. The author of the Dabistan writes that Gorkhnathis use filtered excreta. He himself saw a Gorakhnathi eating the rotten flesh of a corpse. This practice is deemed meritorious. Two other reasons also show the lack of Nath connection with Tantric Buddhism and its antiquity as a system. It is admitted that Gorakhnath introduced some moderation in the Naths, both in regard to blood sacrifices and sex practices, compared to the extreme and older Saiva sects like the Kapalikas, and Kalamukhas (though Aghorpanthis, also followers of Gorakhnath, are very extreme in their practices). Had he really the Vajarayana background, which according to Briggs is one of the most degraded religious groups, the Naths would have been more licentious and erotic in their practices than the Kapalikas. This they are not. Hence the improbability of Gorakhnath’s being originally a Vajaryana.

Secondly, old religious systems like Hinduism, in order to maintain a semblance of ontinuity, develop a number of internal contradictions. Because, while attempt is made to accept and absorb new developments, the older beliefs are not shed. This feature of contradictory practices is typically present in the Naths. Gorakhnathis, while they take a vow of ahimsa, also indulge in blood sacrifices at their monasteries. Many of the Naths eat meat except pork and beef. On the one hand, there is a vow of asceticism and all concern with the world is given up by rejecting all business and employment. On the other hand, the chief aim is to gain power over the forces of the body, nature and the world. On the one hand, the Nath takes a vow of celibacy. On the other hand, sex-symbolism, erotic practices and licensed indulgence are recognized as the path of spiritual achievement. And the person who has reached the spiritual height is above virtue and vice, being free to indulge in anything forbidden to the seeker. 105- 106 Such strong contrasts in Nath beliefs and practices clearly indicate an old tradition that has developed over a long period of time. It is not a new cult with a unified system of doctrines and disciplines.

There is, thus, overwhelming evidence to conclude the direct lineage of the Nath cult from the oldest pre-Vedic and Vedic traditions through the Saiva systems of Pasupata and Kapilkas, with both of which all its essentials are common. All the world over, ascetic or monastic systems, whether Hindu, Saiva, Vaisnava, or Buddhist, at one point or the other, lead to male and female symbolism, and consequent erotic practices, ultimately recognising sensual indulgence as a means to salvation. We should also like to emphasis that, where creative energies are not yoked to life-affirming, constructive and virtuous deeds, sects insisting on celibacy or adopting sex symbolism almost always degenerate into accepting erotic, licentious or abhorrent practices. This has happened both inside and outside India. On this issue, we agree with Briggs that, whereas female divinities have arisen all over and in all ages, nowhere in the world has male and female symbolism been able for long to keep itself on a high plane.107

The Yogi, whether liberated or otherwise, has no social responsibility. By his very basic vows  he cuts himself off from the world. The liberated person is either above virtue and sin, or  stops all physical and psychical processes, entering a state of mindless unconsciousness. His  mystic union involves eternal bliss and rest. The question of any consequent activity does  not arise. He has no social responsibility towards his fellow beings.108 The Yogi is under a  vow that he will not earn his living and would instead beg for his food, that being a part of his routine at the monastery. For his meditation, he is enjoined to select a place which is not  socially disturbed and where alms are freely available. Evidently, this world-view is categorically life-denying and negative. It is wholly opposed to the worldview of life  affirmation. The world is a place of misery, release from it can be sought by completely  dissolving all physical and psychical processes of life. Applying the test of the unity of  perception, ideology and activity, the entire system and life of the Yogi unmistakably point  towards a world-view  of withdrawal from life. While the Nath Yogi expects the social  system to provide him with abundant alms and an undisturbed solitude and socio-political  environment, he, on his part, feels altogether no responsibility towards the society on which  he depends.109 In short, in its approach to the world, its ethics, methodology, discipline and  its goals, it is typically a world-view of what Schweitzer calls life-negation