- (c. 12th century)Nath yogi and philosopherGorakhnath (Sanskrit, gorakshanatha) (c. 12th century) is the most important figure in the NAT H YOGI sect. In the North Indian Nath tradition, Gorakhnath 169 JGorakhnath is variously considered the third to fifth in a series of 12 authoritative gurus.Originally centered in western India, the practice spread throughout northern India, with both Buddhist and Hindu offshoots. Several early teachers in the lineage, including Gorakhanath, are included in Tibetan Buddhist TANTRIC lin-eages. Known to both is Mastyendranath, who is seen in North Indian Nath Yoga to be the guru of Gorakhnath.There is a vast literature attributed to Gora-khanath, including several important SANSKRIT texts and numerous poems in Hindi, Bengali, and Rajasthani. A rich mythology emphasizes his magical, divine powers: he was known for being able to raise the dead at will.The Nath Yoga practices in the tradition of Gorakhnath are tantric in orientation, but they did not involve any of the sexual practices of tan-trism, as the Naths generally took a misogynistic view of women. They adopted antisocial behavior as a norm; as in earlier Shaivite sects, it was part of their esoteric practice to smear themselves with ashes from the cremation ground and even human feces, to eat disgusting things, and to act in outra-geous, antisocial ways (see SHAIVISM).Gorakhnath and his followers to this day are known for their propensities toward magic and their use of oxides of mercury and other secret substances and potions meant to create bodily immortality. Their practice generally conforms to that of the SIDDHAS, tantric yoga specialists, of India over many centuries.In terms of yoga practice, those in the Gora-khnath tradition perfect forms of HATHA YOGA; they concentrate on an invisible web of bodily channels called NADIS, through which one can channel breaths to gain both occult powers and liberation from birth and rebirth. Philosophically the views of the followers of Gorakhnath varied from region to region, but generally they had a non-dual (ADVAITA) tantric character, which saw the divine as not merely a transcendent reality, but an immanent, worldly reality as well.Further reading: Akshaya Kumar Banerjea, Philosophy of Gorakhnath with Goraksha Vacana Samgraha (Delhi: Motilal Benarsidass, 1988); George W. Briggs, Gorakh-nath and the Kanphata Yogis (New Delhi: Motilal Banar-sidass, 1982); David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.