By Swami Harshananda
The Nātha sect, with its stress on Haṭhayoga and philosophy of advaita, preceded the Bhakti Movement. The sect recognizes 84 teachers known as Siddhas, out of which 9 are considered most important. The founder of this sect was Ādinātha, is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Śiva. Matsyendranātha was his disciple. Gorakhanāth (or Gorakṣanātha) was his chief disciple and successor.
His philosophy is akin to Śaivism and Advaita Vedānta. Guru and monastic disciplines have been given a place of supreme importance.
Very little information is available about his life or activities.
As per Tradition of Sect
According to the traditions of the cult, he was ‘born’ out of a cow-dung heap as a twelve-year old boy and joined his guru Matsyendranātha.
As per Scholars
According to some scholars, he belonged to the Northern Karnataka region and might have lived during the eleventh century A. D.
Many stories are current in the annals of the Nātha cult about his miraculous powers and yogic attainments. The Vīraśaiva tradition of Karnataka narrates an incident according to which Gorakhanāth was vanquished by Allama Prabhu in a test of Haṭhayogic powers and became his disciple.
Several works on various aspects of yoga, both in Sanskrit and Hindi languages are attributed to him. Some of them are:
There is reason to believe that there was a great tradition of esoteric yoga practices even before the time of Gorakhnāth. He might have built-upon these practices while composing his works.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore