Matsyendra Nath is widely regarded as one of the greatest yogis in the Maha Siddha Tradition and the Natha Sampradaya. He is most known as the spiritual guide of Gorakshanath, but also helped establish the tantric Kaula Sadhana. Due to his status as the Nath Yogis' spiritual guide and the originator of their practise, Matsyendra Nath is revered by those who follow him. Even while they agree that Guru Gorakshanath established the Nath Order, Matsyendranath and Jalandharnath come before him in the list of Acharyas parampara, the direct chain of transmission of the Tradition. Due to this fact, Matsyendranath is also known as Dada (Guru) Matsyendranath, where dada refers to "Grandfather Guru." While all Nath Yogis agree that Guru Gorakshanath is their spiritual leader, they also acknowledge Matsyendranath as their GrandFather Guru because he was the preceptor of Guru Gorakshanath.
A Look Back in Time
The exact timeline of Matsyendranath's life is a topic of debate among scholars. Divergent opinions place his lifetime somewhere between the 7th and 12th centuries. Since he was alive during the reign of Narendra Deva, King of Nepal from around 640 to 683 A.D., the earlier date is predicated on the fact that they were contemporary rulers. According to Saint Jnaneshvar's own life story, he likely passed away within a short time of the current date.
In India and Nepal, stories abound about Matsyendranath's miraculous healing powers and otherworldly feats. Like Guru Gorakshanath, he is thought to have achieved immortality and to possess incredible magical skills that go well beyond what the word "ordinary human being" can convey. He is mentioned in HYP Swatmarama as a Great Siddha who, through the practise of Hatha yoga, freed himself from the bonds of time (maya) and therefore became free to go anywhere he pleased in the cosmos.
Matsyendranath is revered in the Buddhist tradition of Nepal as Avalokiteshvara, a deity from the Buddhist pantheon, and is sometimes compared to Shiva in the Indian Natha Tradition. The capacity to leave his own body at will and inhabit another for extended periods of time or permanently is among the most amazing of the miraculous powers claimed in the legends about him. So long as we assume this to be true, he can live forever, reincarnating into new bodies. It is said that he knew more about magic and the occult arts than anybody else, save perhaps his Great Disciple. His reputation as a tantric practitioner is well-known as well; for instance, in one Nepalese legend, he played the role of the great sorcerer who, by the use of his magic, annihilated the army of the King of Nepal, whose rule was eventually restored by Gorakh Nath. Many contemporary tantric practitioners, especially those who aim to tread the Path of Kaula Shakti Marga, regard him as their Guru and an ideal of sadhaka.
The people in the north of India call him Matsyendranath, while those in the south call him Machamuni. Since "matsya" means "fish," "Lord of the Fishes" is the literal translation. Mina, Macchaghna, and Macchandar are just a few of the fishy names he goes by. He is linked to the Kaula Tantra's eastern and western transmissions, as well as their later southern variation, Sambhava. He is credited with writing several books on the subject of these lores.
Kashmirian historian Abhinavagupta (c. 1000 CE) describes a Siddha named Macchanda, whose spouse is known as Konkanamba (The Goddess from the Konkan). Based on this evidence, we might deduce that Matsyendra was a 9th or 10th-century resident of southern India, most likely the Deccan. Kula rituals, which had been performed by yoginis who lived in crematories, were changed thanks to his efforts. Several manuscripts, notably the Matsyendrasamhita and the early 15th-century Maithili Gorakshavijaya, tell the story of how Matsyendra's teacher Gorakshanath helped him overcome his lust and become a better man.
Masters of the Past and Time-Honored Customs
The Naths' Way
According to these tales, Goraksh Nath came to save Matsyendranath after he had become smitten with ladies and forgotten his yogic roots. A counterargument is that he was totally unaware of his conduct and that he only made these "mistakes" for the benefit of humanity and his great pupil (if we suppose that his spirit was free from his body, then it could be accepted as true). It was no challenge for him to serve as the Supreme Lord's tutor.
To others, Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath represent the ideal guru-disciple connection and serve as role models along the Path. This is the only road taken by those who have achieved true independence and immortality. Swaatmarama, a famous yogi of the Natha Tradition and one of the world's foremost authorities on Hatha Yoga, attributes his success to Matsyendra's blessing.
Most of the numerous listings of the Nine Great Nathas include Matsyendranath. Names like "Maya Svarupi" or "Maya Pati Dada Matsyendranath" among the Nine Great Nathas are rich with symbolism. The Sanskrit terms "Maya Svarupi" and "Maya Pati" both refer to the person in charge of the delusion known as "Maya." His appearance here is less that of a finite human being and more that of the overarching idea of the transformative power of yoga. Once Kundalini (Personal Divine Power) has been activated, the entire universe becomes the yogi's guru rather than just one person. Yoga Maya is the force of transformation that leads one to one's Spiritual Self, transforming Maya from merely an illusion.
Matsyendranath, while on his travels, made the choice to honour the goddess Hingala. But there was a problem: the shrine was guarded by eight Bhairavas, terrible incarnations of Lord Shiva. He made an attempt to enter, but was accosted by security. As a result of his prayers, every blade gradually turned to rust. Then, he made his own body as tough as steel by using a spell that cast holy ash. He engaged the Bhairavas in combat, and they hurled their sharp weapons at him, only for them to miss. He neutralised every threat by countering it.
The goddess Hingala shouted to all nearby, "He is a great saint," in a flash. Have no fear! Let's seek for the favour of his heavenly insight. The group took courage from hearing that. Since Matsyendranth was so overjoyed, the Goddess appeared right in front of him as soon as he got close enough. He received not one but two fresh new weapons from her, the Sparsha Astra and the Bhinna Astra.
Several of the mystical school's sacred scriptures were left behind by Matsyendranatha, also known as Machhendranath. Kaula-jnana-nirnaya (which translates to "Deciding knowledge of the Kaulas") is attributed to him, as is Minanath's Yogavishaya (which translates to "The Subject of Yoga").
For those who follow the Nath Tradition, being an adept means finding a Guru of the calibre of Matsyendranath, who comes from the Avadhoot/Siddha lineage and is as renowned as Shiva himself. Without appearing to exert any effort, this kind of instructor can describe to his student the process of breath retention and mental absorption leading to kundalini awakening. Self-Realization, in other words, is something that can only be attained by one's own time and effort, via one's own yogic practise of breath refinement, which cultivates a more enlightened state of mind. When practised regularly, the purely physical features of breathing eventually give way to more metaphysical ones, bringing the practitioner closer and closer to their goal.
Everyone who wants to follow the yoga path should read Gorakh Bodh, the book that contains the intense conversation between a guru and his disciple. Tripura Rahasya, in which Parashurama has a dialogue with Dattatreya, is another work of a comparable scale in terms of the direct information conveyed by a teacher to his pupil.
When looking for a good book to learn about Nath yogis, Gorakh Bodh is a great resource. The text is a dialogue between Matsyendranath, a disciple of the Guru, and Gorakshanath. This is not a philosophical debate but rather a practical, meaty exchange. It describes what is possible because the yogis discussing the topic had already done those things.
It was Matsyendranatha and Gorakshanath who established the religious ascetic order known as the Natha tradition (or NathSampradaya), the Goraknathis, or the Kanphata Yogis, who place a premium on the observance of Hatha Yoga.
The initiation process involves cutting the ear in two so that gigantic earrings can be inserted; this practise, known as "Kanphata," comes from the words "Kan" (ear) and "phata" (split). It is thought that by performing this ritual, one can influence a vital life current (nadi) located in the ear, so increasing their chances of gaining access to mystical abilities. As expected, the established order has not changed. Initiation into the Hindu religion is called "Natha," which comes from the Sanskrit word for "lord," "protector," and "refuge." Shiva, Mahadeva, and Maheshvara are all referred to interchangeably by the related Sanskrit phrase AdiNatha, which means first or original Lord. There are numerous different sects within the Natha tradition, which is an unorthodox form of the Siddha faith. Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath are both highly respected figures in Tibetan Buddhism, holding the title of Mahasiddha (great adept) and being attributed with extraordinary abilities and enlightenment.
His less well-known contribution to history is the Kaula-Jnana-Nirnaya ("Discussion of the Knowledge Pertaining to the Kaula Tradition"), one of the first Sanskrit publications on Hatha Yoga. Tantric activities are the basis of the kaula, which has intimate ties to the siddha tradition and shaktism. It's possible he started the Yogini-Kaula subgroup. The kula is the central concept of this tantric tradition, from which the name of the sect is derived. In its dynamic or feminine element, as Shakti, and more specifically kundalini-shakti, this kula is the ultimate Reality. Kula means "flock" or "multitude" in its literal sense, but it also, and more significantly, means "family" and "home" Since the kundalini is the wellspring of the multitudinous cosmos and the ultimate safety for the yogis who know the kula secret, the term invokes both the sensation of difference and protected-ness, which is relevant in reference to the snake power.
The Hatha yoga canon is based on a text he penned, Kaula Dnyana Nirnaya. Even now, after 1100 years, his work has influenced millions of people around the world through Yoga Asanas, both consciously and unconsciously.
In addition to Akula Viratantra, he penned Matsyendrasamhita, which details the Natha sect's tantric practises. Yagya (fire ritual), self-restraint, mantra chanting, adoration, and Sadhana are all part of this practise.
Yoga is now commonly practised as a kind of fitness training. However, Matsyendranatha reintroduced yoga as a route to Sahaja Siddha, a state when one integrates himself with pure reality, rather than only a means to physical wellness.