Guru Gorakhnath also known as Gorakshanath, was a saint who is believed to have lived during the 11th and 12th century AD. Gorakhnath is one of the acknowledged saints of the Nath tradition. He is revered as the Supreme Manifestation of the Supreme Divinity. He is also referred to as Mahayogi, Mahaguru, Aadi Nath, Siddhayogiraj and Shiva Goraksha. Gorakhnath is considered to be an important disciple of Saint Matsyendranath of the Nath tradition.
He is the originator of the yogic system of Hatha Yoga. The spiritual texts of Bengal extol the glory of Gorakhnath, who through his yogic skill received the special grace of Goddess Durga. The legends of Bengal say that he was born from the matted hair of Lord Shiva.
There is a traditional story about the birth of Gorakhnath. A saint named Matsyendranath went begging from door to door for food. In exchange, he would give them blessings and wisdom. Once when Matsyendranath went to a house, the lady there asked him whether she would beget have a child. Matsyendranath gave her some holy ash and told her that if she swallowed it, she would have a child.
The woman repeated this to her friend, who scoffed at her her foolishishness. At this ridicule,she threw away the ash on a dung heap. After twelve years, Matsyendranath returned and asked the lady what happened to the child. The lady told him what she had done with the ash. The saint went to the dung heap and prayed, calling out to the boy. There emerged from the dung heap, a beautiful twelve year old boy. The boy was Gorakhnath.
Legends also state that Goddess Parvathi, seeing Guru Gorakhnath in Samadhi asked Lord Shiva about the Yogi. Lord Shiva said that the saint was His own manifestation. It is believed that the Lord took incarnation in the form of Gorakhnath to teach and expand the knowledge of Yoga, whenever people forgot it or when Yogic beliefs got distorted.
Gorakhnath has a number of treatises to his credit. It is said that the first books on Laya Yoga were written by him. Some of the other books were Goraksha Samhitha, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhantha Paddhati, Yoga Marthanda, Yoga Siddhantha Paddhati, Yoga Bija and Yoga Chintamani. In his Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Gorakhnath speaks of six limbs of Hatha Yoga. He does not accept Patanjali’s eight limbs. He accepts only asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhaarana, dhyaana and Samadhi. Gorakhnath’s yoga considers Sahaj Samadhi as Moksha. According to him, anaamapraapti (realizing the ultimate) is the aim of yogic sadhana, which can be attained through physical sadhana leading to purity. The Gorakh school of yogic thought has given prime importance to chastity and abstinence from sex.
The Gurkhas of Nepal believe that Gorakhnath got his name because he lived in a cave in a place called Gorakhnath. They also say that the name Gurkha has been derived from Gorakhnath. The district headquarters Gorakhpur in North India derived its name from Gorakhnath.
Gorakhnath travelled widely across the Indian subcontinent; his name is mentioned in some writings from places including Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, Assam, Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Sri Lanka.
It is believed that this saint has been around for thousands of years, watching over the welfare of humanity. The Samadhi Shrine of Gorakhnath is at Nath Mandir. near Vajreswari temple in Maharashtra, India.
Courtesy – The Art of Living Magazine