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Nath Panth and Machhendranath

There are many commonalities between the Siddhas and the Naths in terms of their ideology. Both penned poetry in the language of the common man. Both emphasized leading a simple life, rooted in nature. Both rejected Brahmanism and the Varna system. Both talked of a pure heart and firm mind. To this end, both used Yog, Dhyan and Samadhi. Both are part of the Buddhist tradition, says Kanwal Bharti

The Siddhas are supposed to have lived in AD 800-1200. There were 84 of them. The Nath sect, which influenced the saint-poets from the 12th to the 14th century, emerged from the Siddhas. Thus, the Nath sect was in existence at the time of the Siddhas. In other words, the Siddhas and the Naths were contemporaries. Those who have drawn up the list of Siddhas have included the Naths among them. The Naths have also described themselves as Siddhas. 

Jalandharpad, who was the 46th among the 84 Siddhas, was the founder of the Nath sect. He is also known as Aadinath. Other Siddhas, including Meenpa, Nagarjun, Kanhpa, Charpteepa and Kantaleepa, are also considered Nath panthis. 

Nath sect’s association with Buddhism 

Before discussing the Nath sect, it would be good to know who the Siddhas were. The Siddha tradition or sect evolved from Vajrayana. Carved out of the Mahayana Buddhist sect, Vajrayana laid emphasis on tantra-mantra, supernatural attainments and illusionary perspectives. The intelligentsia rebelled against it. Those who led the ideological revolt against Vajrayana were called Siddhas. All the Siddhas were poets and social rebels. Siddha Sarhapad, who founded the Vajrayana sect, is also considered the progenitor of this new religious tradition. Sarhapad was a Buddhist whose monastic name was Rahul Bhadra. He got the name Sarha when he married a girl of a tribe that traditionally made “shar” (arrows). He also started making arrows from reeds. He was a student and then a teacher at Nalanda. He found that the monks there indulged in all kinds of hypocrisy and rituals. Living off the wealth of feudal lords, the monks were distorting the teaching of the Buddha by giving it a feudal and brahmanical twist. This was treachery with the common man. Rahul Bhadra rebelled against this hypocrisy and walked out of Nalanda. He married and started earning his livelihood by making arrows. The revolt by Sarhapad (Rahul Bhadra) marked the beginning of the Siddhayana. 

Sarhapad raised the banner of revolt against the Vedas, Shastras, mantra-tantra, yagnas, rituals, Brahmanism and the Varna system. He rejected the notion that the world is an illusion and said that purifying one’s heart is equivalent to going on a pilgrimage. This was a materialist stream of Hinduism, which was close to the Buddha’s philosophy. 

Siddhas chose popular languages over Sanskrit

Two features distinguished the Siddhas. The first was that all of them were poets. Being a poet was a mandatory requirement for becoming a Siddha. Secondly, they did not believe in caste divisions. Their Sanghas did not have divisions of class or caste. Of the 84 Siddhas, 28 were Shudras and four were women. The rest were Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Kayasthas, etc. This was the first Indian stream of thought which had no place for caste-based divisions; it was not dominated by any caste or castes. For the Siddhas, a person’s qualities mattered more than their caste. The Siddhas included bird-catchers like Gundripa, Chamars like Chamaripa and woodcutters like Achintipa and woman slaves like Manibhadra. Importantly, the Siddhas wrote poetry in the language of the common man and not in Sanskrit. 

Before we talk about the differences between the Nath sect and the Siddha tradition, let us acquaint ourselves with the Naths. As mentioned above, Adinath was the founder of the Nath sect. He finds mention as Jalandharpad in the list of the Siddhas. He is said to have been a Brahmin. Machhendranath, a fisherman, was his disciple. Machhendranath’s father Meenpa was also a Siddha and came to be known as Meennath in the Nath Panth. Gorakhnath, the son of Macchendranath, gave a revolutionary fervour to the Nath sect. Gorakhnath was to the Nath sect what Shankar was to Vedanta. If Adi Shankaracharya is known in all the corners of India, Gorakhnath’s fame has crossed the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent. If Shankar is the guru of the Hindus, Gorakhnath is venerated by the masses of India. But for Gorakhnath, the Nath sect would not have grown. 

Machhendranath was Gorakhnath’s Guru

Machhedranath, whose disciple was Gorakhnath, does not find mention in the list of the 84 Siddhas. His father Meennath was the eighth Siddha. Meennath or Meenpa was a contemporary of the king Devpal, who ruled between AD 809 and 849. Thus, Meenpa and Machhendranath were Siddha poets of the 9th century. In the list of Siddhas, the name of Gorkshapa, that is Gorakhnath, immediately follows that of Meenpa. Next is Choringipa, who was the “guru bhai” (disciple of the same guru) of Gorakhnath. The list has the name of “guru bhai” and the “guru’s father” but not of the guru. Why? Were Meennath and Machhendranath one and the same? This is plausible because both the words mean fish or fisherman. Machhendranath is considered the first acharya of the Nath tradition. He was like god to Gorakhnath. Goraknath remembers him with great respect: 

  1. Bhanat Gorashnath Macchindra Na Dasa (says Machhendra’s slave Gorakh)
  2. Kathant Gorashnath Macchindra Na Poota (says Machhendra’s son Gorakhnath)
  3. Macchindra Prasadai Jati Gorash Bolya (says hermit Gorakh with the blessings of Machhindra)
  4. Gorash Raheela Macchindar Thayeen (Gorakh takes refuge in Machhendra) 
  5. Macchandar Tumhein Ishwar Ke Poota (Mahchandar you are the son of god) 

There is no plausible reason why a prominent figure like Machhendranath wouldn’t have been included in the list of the Siddhas. So, it is entirely possible that both Meenpa and Machhendra refer to the same person. 

Nath sect in Dwij and folk literature 

In his treatise Nath Sampradaya, Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, quoting from a book Kaul Gyan Nirnay by Machhendranath, writes that Machhendranath is referred to by many different names like Machhghanpad, Machhendrapath, Matsyayendrapad and Meenpad. This also confirms that all the four names refer to the same acharya. Dwivedi says that Machhendranath was a Brahmin whose real name was Matsyendranath and he began to be addressed as Matyaghan, the reason for which, according to ‘Kaul Gyan Nirnay’, is found in a fable that went like this: Bhairav and Bhairvi were on a visit to the Chandradweep. Kartikeya too arrived there posing as their disciple. Out of ignorance, he threw the “Kulagam Shastra” into the sea. Bhairav went into the sea and rescued the Shastra by cutting open the stomach of a fish. This angered Kartikeya to no end. He dug up a huge pit and hiding himself in it, he again threw the Shastra into the sea. This time a gigantic and powerful fish gobbled it up. Using his powers, Bhairav made a net and tried to catch the fish. But the fish was almost as strong as Bhairav himself. Ultimately, Bhairav had to shed his Brahmin form. He cut open the stomach of the gargantuan fish and freed the “Kulagam Shastra”. (Nath Sampraday, p 43)

An idol of Gorakhnath at a neglected temple in Gorakhpur district, Uttar Pradesh.

In this tale, it is Bhairav who assumes the form of a fish to gobble up the Shastra. These kinds of tales have no place in today’s world of science. There is no tantra-mantra which can turn a fish into a human being or a human being into a fish. Brahmin scholars, drunk on the notion that only they can be repositories of knowledge and teachers of the world, have created such implausible stories. Similar bullheaded tales have been crafted by the Brahmins to prove that saints like Kabir and Raidas were Brahmins. 

There are similar cock-and-bull stories involving both Machhendranath and Gorakhnath, too. According to one such tale, Gorakhnath’s guru, Meennath, digressing from the noble path, began roaming the country of Kadli in the company of queen consorts Mangla and Kamla and their 1600 maids. That place was out of bounds for the yogis. Only dancers could meet Meennath. To extricate his Guru from his abominable state, Gorakhnath, assumed the form of a dancer and appeared before Gorakhnath. He reminded his guru of his past and imparted supreme knowledge to him. Meen came out of his reverie and Gorakhnath returned to Vijay Nagar with him (Ibid, p 45-46).

Goga Medi, a sacred place of the Nath sect in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan (Photo courtesy: FP on the Road 2017)

This story also shows that Meennath was the guru of Gorakhnath and that he, turning his back on supreme knowledge, had started enjoying the company of women. Gorakhnath, in his “vani”, has mentioned that his Guru Machhendranath had turned his back on supreme knowledge and had started going around with women. This also shows that Meennath and Machhendranath refer to one guru, Gorakhnath’s guru. 

Relationship between Gorakhnath and Machhendranath 

It would be pertinent to see what Gorakhnath has said about his guru in his verses. As has been mentioned earlier, he had left his everything behind and taken refuge in Machhendranath. He saw the latter as the son of god. But despite this, he preached to his guru to shun the company of women: 

Chhantai tajau guru chantau taje, tajao lobh moh maya
Atma parchai rasho gurudev, sundar kaya
Kanhi paav bhetila guru, vidranagra sain,
Thathein main payeela guru, tumhara updaisen
Etain kachu kathila guru sabaibhaila bhole
Sarb ras shoela guru baghni che sholai
Nachat Gorashnath ghunghari chai ghatein
Sabe kamayee shoyee guru, bangni chai rachein
Ras kus bahi gayela, rahi gayee choyee
Bhagat Macchindranath poota, jog na hoyee

(Gorakh-Bani, ed Peetambardutt Badhtwal, p 87)

In this verse, Gorakhnath says, “O’ Guru, renounce avarice, affection and illusions. Converse with your soul. This enchanting body (exists) because of the soul. I met Kanhpa at Vidya Nagar and got to know about you from him. Whatever happened was because of your simple nature. You have lost all your essence in the bosom of baghni (women). By dancing to the tune of the ghunghru, you have dissipated all that you had earned. The juice has oozed out, only the pulp remains. This saint, the disciple of Machhinda, says that this is not yog.” 

Kanhpa, who finds mention in this verse, is believed to be the 17th Siddha. It is said that once Gorakhnath was meditating below a tree and Kanhpa, who was travelling on a path in the skies, flew over his head. On seeing Gorakhnath, he said, “You call yourself a great Siddha. But do you know where your guru is?” 

“Where is he?” asked Gorakhnath. 

Kanhpa replied, “Forgetting supreme knowledge, he is in the company of women in Kadli country. He has lost all his powers.” Of course, it is unscientific to claim that Kanhpa was flying to his destination. But this verse does show that it was Kanhpa who had informed Gorakhnath that his guru had deviated from the path of supreme knowledge.

“Gorakh Bani” and this tale tell us that Machhendranath had taken a new route and had gone incognito. Even Gorakhnath did not know his whereabouts. This situation is described thus in another of his verses:

Mera guru teeni chand gave
Na janon guru kahan gaila, mujhe neendi na aave 

(Gorakh Bani, p 136) 

Gorak says, “My guru sings in three verses. But I don’t know where my guru has gone. In his absence, sleep eludes me.” Next, he addresses his guru, 

Guruji aisa karam na keje, tathein ameen maharas chheje
Diwse baghni man mohe, rati sarovar sove
Jaani bujhee re murish loya ghari ghari baghni poshe
Padi torai birsha nari sange purusha alap jeevan ki aasha
Manthein upaj mer shisi padayee tathein kanth binasa 

(Ibid, p 137)

Gorakhnath is against having relations with women. He considers women an impediment to Yogsadhna. That is why when he comes to know that his guru is in the company of women from Simhal, he feels that supreme knowledge has been violated. In this verse, he is counselling his guru not to do anything that would weaken his nectar, his essence. A woman draws you towards her during the day and in the night she sucks up the pond inside a man. Just as a tree on a river bank has a short life, the men who live in the company of women have short lives. “O’ Gurudev, why are you committing this folly despite knowing everything?” 

Another of Goraknath’s verses about Machhendranath goes:

Guru shaujo gurudev gur shaujo, badant gaurash aisa,
Mushte hoye tumhein bandhni padiya, ye jog hai kaisa?
Chaam he chaam ghasta gurudev din din cheeje kaya
Hoth kanth taluka soshi, kadhi mijalu shaya
Deepak jati patang gurudev, aisee bhag ki chaya
Boodhe hoyee tumhein raj kamaya, naan taji moh maya
Badant Gorashnath sunhu macchandar, tumhein ishwar ke poota
Brahm jharta ye nar rashe, so bole avdhoota 

(Ibid, p 14)

In this verse, Goraknath says, “O’ Gurudev, look for the real guru. You have been shackled despite being free. This is wasting your body. Your lips, throat and palate – all are dry. It has consumed even your bones. Just as the moth gets burnt on coming in contact with the flame of an earthen lamp, so the attraction of the vagina has ruined you. O’ Machhandar, pay heed to what Gorakhnath says. You are the son of god. One who protects the Brahm is Avdhoot.”

Here, “Brahm” means the condition of being kept away from women and the one who keeps this condition intact is Avdhoot. What Machhendranath has to say about it we do not know. But in his treatise Nath Sampraday, Dwivedi has brahmanized Machhendranath from head to toe. Dwivedi has drawn up Machhendranath’s image using myths. By weaving a confusing web of spiritualism, Dwivedi has reduced him to a minion of the Advait Vedanta school of thought. Quoting from Sanskrit texts, purportedly written by Machhendranath, he has tried to prove that Machhendranath was a Kaul-Sadhak. This is a well-designed exercise for strengthening the brahmanical web of lies. 

The fact is that neither the Siddhas not the Naths have written poetry in Sanskrit. All the 84 Siddhas wrote in Prakrit, which was the language of the common man, and all of them were bitter critics of the Varna system, the Vedas, other scriptures and the brahmanical web of falsehoods. To claim that Machhendranath had written a book in Sanskrit is nothing but brahmanical propaganda. 

Machhendranath, the disciple of Jalandharpad, has an important place in the Nath sect. But his real life and works have been buried deep under imaginary fables and brahmanical misrepresentations. No attempt has been made to analyze these fables in scientific and historical terms. That is the reason we know so little about Machhendranath, a saint of saints.

Nath sect and Vedic conspiracies 

The scholars of the Vedic stream made every attempt to extirpate the saints opposed to them, including the Siddhas. If that was not possible, they heaped infamy on them. If even that did not work and the saints continued to be revered, they would sneak into the camps of their opponents, posing as their adherents. Then they would spread concocted stories that these saintly human beings became miracle workers. The Brahmins did the same with Machhendranath and Gorakhnath. By claiming that Machhendranath was born of a fish and Gorakhnath, of cow dung, they completely distorted the image of both. Machhendranath needs to be freed from this distortion. 

Before discussing the life and the works of Machhendranath, a backgrounder on the contemporary socio-political situation would be apt. 

As has been mentioned earlier, Macchendranath was a contemporary of King Devpal (AD 809-849). That was the time when Arabic/Islamic powers had started making forays into India. Though Muslim rule was yet to begin, Muhammad-bin-Qasim had captured Sindh in AD 711. By AD 709, Islam had uprooted Buddhism from Bukhara. The Pal clan was ruling parts of India and Devpal was one of them. Islam was at India’s doorstep during his regime. But still, as Rahul Sankrityayan wrote, “Magadha was the land of Buddhism and had many centres of Buddhist scholarship ”(Doha Kosh, preface, p3). For Islamic fundamentalists, both Brahmanism and Buddhism were religions of the infidels. Besides brahmanical temples, Buddhist viharas and mutts were also targeted by the Muslim invaders. Though the country was still 150 years away from the invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni, the political scenario was changing. Rumblings of a revolt against Brahmanism and the Varna system were becoming audible. Islam was strengthening this revolt. Buddhism’s Mahayana sect had developed into Vajrayana in the 8th century. Sarhapad was the founder and the first teacher of this sect, although he became disillusioned with it and, as mentioned above, established Siddhayana. Shankaracharya’s Advaitvad and his theory that the world is an illusion had struck roots and new sects were emerging from it. The feudal powers were using the opium of religion to quell the revolt. Brahmanical religion (Vaishnav religion) had already degenerated and needed a new foundation to stand again. The feudal forces and Brahmins had come together, giving rise to a new brand of religious fundamentalism. On the other hand, the Siddhas had given up atheism and embraced theism to save the country from Islam, giving a supernatural veneer to the teachings of the Buddha. If Vajrayana was the product of the circumstances that prevailed in the 8th century, the changed situation in the 9th century brought about the transformation of Vajrayana into the Nath sect. The Siddhas were shunyawadi and atheists. The Siddhas gave shunyata the form of “parampad” and moved from atheism to theism. Jalandharpad, or Adinath, was the progenitor of this new sect. 

Jalandharpad’s disciple Machhendranath was an accomplished Siddha. He had an impressive and attractive personality. He could mesmerize people with his looks. Many tales, centred on his miracles and his persona as a saint, are popular among the ordinary people. These tales testify to the expanse of his influence. It seems that these tales were crafted after his fame spread far and wide and the common man began seeing him as their emancipator. These tales were manufactured to hide his real personality, to shift the focus from his rebellious nature. To bring his real personality to the fore, it would make sense to put one or two of these tales under scrutiny. 

One such tale goes like this: Shiva gave his form to Machhendranath. Another version is that Machhendranath performed a tough penance to propitiate Shiva and the latter gave his form to him. Both the stories mean the same thing – that Machhendranath looked like Shiva – peace incarnate, fair-skinned, thick tresses and big earrings dangling from the ears. In short, for the common man he was Shiva personified. 

We have already referred to the tale according to which Kartikeya stole the “Kulagam Shastra” and threw it into the sea; and how Bhairav, that is Shiva, assumed the form of Machhendranath, entered the sea and freed the Shastra by slitting the stomach of the fish that had consumed it. 

To comprehend the real meaning of this tale, we will have to understand the meaning of Kulagam. Machhendranath is considered an accomplished practitioner of Kaulachaar and it is said that he was associated with the Yogini Kaul-Marga. The word “Kaul” is derived from “Kul” (clan or family). So, whosoever is a part of your family tradition is a Kaul. “Aagam” means the knowledge that has reached you from an eternal tradition. That is why the Shaivite scriptures are called “Aagam” and the Vedic wisdom is considered “Nigam”. “Kulagam”, written by Machhendranath, analyzes Kaulachar. Kaulachar means acting in accordance with one’s family traditions while believing in the Shaivite religion. Now, since the Shaivite religion or Aagam sect had no place for caste and varna and its doors were open for all, it was a threat to the Vedic or the brahmanical religion. That is why Kartikeya had tried to destroy the “Kulagam” treatise, but Machhendranath made sure he didn’t succeed. When the treatise could not be destroyed and the Brahmins could not outmanoeuvre Machhendranath, they invented the tale of Shiva incarnating as Machhendranath to enter the sea and save the “Kulagam” by cutting open the stomach of the fish.

According to Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Matsyendranath (Madendranath) is remembered with great respect in the Kaul Marg of Kashmir (Nath Sampraday p 5). It is said that in Nepal, members of a caste called Matstyayendri used to worship Machhendranath. They were subjected to atrocities by the rulers and authorities for this. To save them from these atrocities, Guru Gorakhnath ordered his disciple Vasant to make effigies of soil. With the blessings of the guru, the effigies turned into soldiers, who invaded Mahindradev and thus Gorkha rule was established there in AD 420 (Ibid p 47). It seems that Machhendranath had great influence in Nepal and Gorakhnath had used it to oppose the rulers there. 

Brahmanization of Machhendranath 

Most of the tales distort and present Machhendranath as a distasteful person. One of them goes like this: “Kavi Narayan Matsyendranath was born into the family of a Bhruguvanshi Brahmin. But as he was born in the Gandant Yog, the Brahmin threw him into the sea. A fish swallowed the child up and he remained in its stomach for 12 years. The little boy heard the immortal tale related by Shiva to Parvati while in the stomach of the fish. The boy, with the blessings of Shiva, became a Mahasiddha. Drawing on the strength from his singular Siddhi, he vanquished Hanuman, Veer Betal, Veerbhadra, Bhadrakali and Chamunda Devi. But twice he fell into the trap of family life. The first time was when Gorakhnath saw that the people of Prayagraj were overwhelmed with grief over the death of their king of Prayagraj and asked him to enter the body of the dead king and make the people happy. Matsyendranath entered the body of the king after securing the promise that the dead body would be preserved for 12 years. For 12 years, he enjoyed family life. The second time, dissatisfied with her husband, rendered weak by illness, the queen of Triyadesh (Simhal Desh) sought Hanumanji’s blessings for another Yog Purush. Hanumanji himself refused to be tied down by a householder’s life and commissioned Matsyendranath for the job. The queen had banned the entry of yogis into the kingdom. Gorakhnath entered the kingdom in the guise of a little boy and freed his guru.” (Ibid p 48)

In this tale, an attempt has been made to depict Machhendranath as a yogi. Hanuman has been portrayed as a yogi and a Brahmachari even when he is not a historical character. Machhendranath has been shown as a debauchee and the concocted story of his birth is similar to Kabir and Raidas’, in which it is said that they were Brahmins in their previous births. The Brahmin father of Matysendranath (Machhendranath) throws him into the sea as he was born in the Gandant Yog, while Kabir’s mother, a Brahmin widow, throws him into a pond for the fear of being shamed by society. Is it believable that a father would throw his son into the sea or that the son would survive in the belly of a fish? Brahmins believe that the intellect is their sole preserve. They do not want to admit that intelligence and the intellect have nothing to do with caste and that non-Brahmins and people from lowered castes can also be scholars and Siddhas. So, to satisfy their false ego, they manufactured stories to prove the Machhendranath was a Brahmin. The mention of his debauchery with the queens is aimed at his character assassination. 

Gorakh-Bani also talks about Machhendranath going to a “stree desh” (country of women) and enjoying their company. But it is difficult to pinpoint the country. In fact, it is difficult to conceive of a country where only women live. But if “stree desh” is supposed to mean a country where women ruled then we can identify many such countries. But how do we know which of them Machhendranath visited? Clearly, this story was made up to vilify Machhendranath. 

What Gorakh-Bani and the above-mentioned story imply is that Machhendranath had agreed to lead a family life. Gorakhnath criticized his guru for the decision, arguing that living with women is incompatible with Yogsadhna. He also preached to his guru to shun the company of women. He said that intimacy with women destroyed Yog and weakened the body. 

Implications of the differences between Machhendranath and Gorakhnath 

It seems that Machhendranath and Goraknath had different views on Yogsadhna. While Gorakhnath considered spending time with women a sin, Machhendranath had changed his views and had started believing that one could perform Yogsadhna even while leading the life of a householder. For him, Yog did not mean giving up family life, it meant giving up lust, avarice and attachment. The stories of his intimacy with women do not mean that he was a debauchee and that women were his weakness. It only means that later in his life, like Sarhapad, he, too, had become a householder. But that does not belittle him. It is possible that his switching over to family life may have inaugurated a tradition of having intercourse with women among the Kolacharis and that might have forced Gorakhnath to adopt a misogynistic attitude. 

“Machhindra-Gorash”, compiled in Gorakh-Bani, can tell us about the beliefs of Machhendranath. Gorakhnath asks questions and Machhendranath answers them. This is a very important dialogue. Gorakhnath asks, “How should the disciple be at the beginning?” Machhendranath answers, “He should be Avdhu (Avdhoot), he should shun lust, anger, greed and the illusions of the world” (Aarambhi chela yahi bindhi rahe, Gorash sunon Machhendra kahe) (Gorakh-Bani, p 186). 

Avdhu means a discerning person, a Siddha. The Siddha yogis of the Nath sect are called Avdhu. Avdhu can also mean a person who is not tied (to anything). Gorakh asks: “Swami kaun deshiba kaun vichariba, kaun le dhirba saaram?” (Whom he should look at, what he should think about, what should he absorb?) Machhendranath answers: “Avdhu aapa deshiba, anant vichariba, tat le dhirwa saaram” (Andhu should look into himself, his thinking should be boundless and he should absorb the essence). (Ibid) 

Gorakh asks: “Swami man ka kaun roop, pawan ka kaun akaar?” (What is the form of soul, what is the shape of wind?) Machhendranath explains, “Avdhu man ka suni roop, pavan ka niralambh avtar” (Avdhu, the form of soul is nothingness and the shape of wind is “baseless”). (Ibid p 187)

Here, Machhendranath can be seen to preserve the Buddhist tradition. All the Siddhas had attained the Siddhi of Buddha, because of which they were called Siddhas. This is Kulagam and Kaulachaar. Nagarjun added the concept of “shunyata” to Buddhist philosophy. Not only the Siddhas and the Naths but in the later times, Nirgunvadi saints such as Kabir and Raidas also adopted shunyata. In a sense, Nirgun is a philosophical expression for shunyata. Kabir has described “aatam ram” as “parampad”, which is the same as shunyata and nirvana. By calling for looking into oneself, Machhendranath had also accepted the nirvana of Buddha.

Ahead in this dialogue, Machhendranath even more clearly asserts his belief in shunyata. For instance, Gorakhnath asks:

Swami kaun suni utpanan aatee. Kaun suni satguru bujhayee
Kaun suni main rahya samayee. Aey tatva guru kahau samujhayee 

Machhendranath replies: 

Avdhu sahaj suni utpanan. Sami suni satguru bujhayee
Ateet suni main rahya samayee. Paramtatva main kahau samujhayee

(Ibid, p 193)

“Shunyata emerges from our remaining ‘sahaj’, which means innocence, imperturbability and being unassuming and equable (at peace, shunya). Sadguru also explains what lives in shunyata. The past dwells in shunyata. Sitar creates music. But where was the music when the Sitar was not there? It hadn’t gone anywhere. It was in the past. This is paramtatva.” 

In answer to another question by Gorakhnath, Machhendranath says that steadying one’s mind is Yog. One who is formless and shapeless is a yogi. Thus, “Avdhu man jogi jai unmani rahe, upjai maharas sab sush lahai” (Ibid p 201). This thought is part of Buddhist philosophy. 

There are many commonalities between the Siddhas and the Naths in terms of their ideology. Both penned poetry in the language of the common man. Both emphasized leading a simple life, rooted in nature. Both rejected Brahmanism and the Varna system. Both talked of a pure heart and firm mind. To this end, both used Yog, Dhyan and Samadhi. Both are part of the Buddhist tradition. But there is a big difference between the two and that is related to religion. The Naths accepted Shiva instead of Buddha as their god and that made them theists. This change began from the time of Jalandharpad. The political situation prevailing at the time brought about this change. To protect themselves from the attacks of the Muslims, they had no option but to turn theists. They could not have protected themselves from Muslim fundamentalists as atheist Buddhists. That is why they started dressing up like Shiva and began urging devotion to Shiva. But Gorakhnath interpreted Shiva as Nirgun, laying the foundation of the Nirgun philosophy of the medieval period. 

(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil)

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Mahishasur: Mithak wa Paramparayen

The Common Man Speaks Out

Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

Forward Thinking: Editorials, Essays, Etc (2009-16)

About The Author

Kanwal bharti

Kanwal Bharti (born February 1953) is a progressive Ambedkarite thinker and one of the most talked-about and active contemporary writers. Dalit Sahitya Kee Avdharna and Swami Achootanand Harihar Sanchayita are his key books. He was conferred with Dr Ambedkar Rashtriya Award in 1996 and Bhimratna Puraskar in 2001

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