Adi Nath the First of Nathas

śrī devī uvāca
namaste ādināthāya viśvanāthāya te namaḥ |
namaste viśvarūpāya viśvātītāya te namaḥ || 1 ||

utpattisthitisaṁhārakariṇe kleśahāriṇe |
namaste devadeveśa namaste paramātamane || 2 ||

yogamārgakṛte tubhyaṁ mahāyogīśvarāya te |
namaste paripūrṇāya jagadānandahetave || 3 || Yoga Bija

Yoga Bija 1 Devi (Goddess) has said: “I make obeisance to you, O Lord of the world, Adi Nath (the First One), the One who prevails creation, and who is beyond of it! YB 2 O Creator, Maintainer and Destroyer of Universe, defeater of Kleshas (the defects of human nature), O the Greatest from all Gods, O the Ancient Immortal Soul of all, I make obeisance to you again and again. YB 3 The Path of Yoga was established by you, O Lord of Yogis (Yoga Ishvara) who is perfect in all aspects, in whom the bliss of the world is concealed, I worship you!”

When the Natha yogis meet, they use word आदेश (Ādeśa) for greeting each other. If looked in Sanskrit or Hindi dictionary, the word ādeś can be translated as order, rule, command or instruction, but Nathas apply to it meaning wider then these. By saluting each other with the word adesh, they remember the Adi Isha or Adi Isvara, and revere to His Divine Order or Command, which guides the universe and should guide their lives. The word ādeśa is derived from two parts, one is आद and other is ईश therefore आद+ईश=आदेश. The word आद can be interpreted as receiving or ‘to be bound to’ and the word ईश means owner, lord, ruler, chief and also recognized as one of names of Shiva; it also express ability, power; dominion. Nathas believe that the Great God Shiva himself was the founder of their order as आदिनाथ (Ādi Nātha), ‘the First Nath’, ‘the Primeval Master’, who unanimously accepted by Yogis as the Ādi Guru (the first guru) and the Supreme Deity of the Nātha Saṁpradāya. He is also known as Yogeshvara (the Lord of Yoga), the ideal of ascetic per se, the Lord of austerity and penance, the Lord of spirits and souls. In wider sense Adi Nath, also can be translated as ‘the First Lord’, in his role as the Lord of the whole creation.

The Guru Goraksh Nath and other great yogis of the Siddha tradition have realized the state of Yoga (union) with the Lord in all aspects of their lives, and this is ideal the Natha yogis strive for. To realize their oneness with Adi Nath Shiva is the higher objective of all Nathas, and the Guru Goraksh Nath is the maker of the path leading to it, and the path itself. He never taught any one to worship his person, but has directed all his efforts to help others to recognize the same Primordial Lord inside themselves, to make them recognize the origin they came from. The Natha Panth was created by Guru Goraksh Nath as medium and as the path to realize this state of union permanently, without any chances of setbacks. In the commentary on Hatha Yoga Pradipica called Jyotsnā, Brahma-ananda so explained the origin of the Natha sect:

ādināthaḥ sarveṣāṁ nāthanāṁ prathamaḥ tato nāthasampradāyaḥ pravṛtta iti nāthasampradāyino vadanti |

Ādi Nāth is the ‘first from all Nathas’, by him the Nāth Saṁpradāya was established, that is why it is called the Nātha Saṁpradāya .

Although in accordance with the lineage of transmission of the Natha Order, the name Adi Nath comes first in the list of the great yogis of the tradition, (for he precedes the first two human Natha acharyas Matsyendra Natha and Jalandhara Natha), it would be not exactly correct to place him amongst other Mahasiddhas, because he is not of human original, but the Great God, the One God Creator, who is before creation. Being before existence, he is beyond of all pairs of dualities, which came forth along with it. As such he is not to be confused even with the Shiva as the part of the Divine Trinity of Hinduism, where Brahma (creation), Vishnu (maintenance) and Rudra (destruction) are the three aspects of the One God, the Lord Almighty uniting all of them into one.

In one of his devotional couplets, Guru Nanak has addressed to the First Lord with words Adesh, and described him as Adi (who is first of beginning) for it is by whom all was started, Anadi (who is without beginning) because he existed before any created things came into existence, and Anahat (who exists in the from of upstroke sound) because being creator of all objects of the universe, He existed before any objective reality came into existence in form of sound Om kara ॐ (Para Shabda) or the Word of God, the eternal sound. The Natha Yogis also define Him as अलख निरञजन (Alakh Niranjana), where alakh is Hindi form of the Sanskrit word अलक्शय which means beyond of qualities and perception of senses, invisible, unobserved, having no particular marks, and niranjana means unpainted, spotless and pure, void of passion or emotion.

Because the Lord Shiva is not limited to the fold of the Natha Yoga Tradition, but also worshiped as the Great God of Hinduism, there exists lot of stories about Him in the different spiritual scriptures of India. However there are some stories, which are unique for the Natha tradition only, and which were circulated mostly as the spoken tradition amongst the Natha Yogis. One of them is the story of Shiva telling to his consort Parvati the Doctrine of Immortality, which was overheard by Matseyndra Nath. The story presented below has few variations dissimilar in smaller details from each other.

Amar Katha

Once the Great Goddess Parvati has asked her consort, the Lord Shiva, ‘O the Greatest of Gods, you are wearing on your neck the garland of human skulls. Can you explain me the reasons why you are behaving so and to whom all of them belonged before?’

With smile, the Lord of Yogis answered, ‘All of them were belonging to you in your different previous lives, and I am wearing them duty sweet memories they bring me about the time we have spent together.’

Parvati become greatly astonished to learn this. She spoke with trembling in her voice, ‘You are heartless person! Again and again I am who is your bellowed partner of life, die and you, being immortal, shamelessly collecting my skulls and put them around your neck? Such is your love!’ she was very angry on her Lord.

As usually remaining peaceful in mind, the Lord of Yogis answered, ‘My dear, it is not my fault that you have to die and take birth again and again, but it is because of you only. Because you don’t know ‘Amar katha’ (the Doctrine of Immortality) you have to be like this only. Only the person, who knows it, may become immortal. Amar Katha is the greatest secret and mystery in this world and only the way to get immortality.’

After he finished speak Parvati exclaimed, ‘You should immediately give me knowledge of this Amar Katha, so I will also become immortal as you and never die, other wise…’ she was furious as never before.

On hearing this, Shiva smiled gently and told, ‘This is a wonderful thing! You know, Parvati, each time in your previous lives you have asked the same question from me. And each time when I was trying to narrate it to you, you was not able to attain its full knowledge, because you were not listening properly. To attain immortality, one has to hear it thoroughly, from beginning till end. You were not able to accomplish this task in any of your previous lives, so you have to die and take birth again and again. But if you insist, let us try once more. Please my dear listen attentively this time, because to become liberated from endless cycles of birth and death, you have to know complete Doctrine. So let’s seclude to some lonely place first, where no body can listen us, because we should preserve this knowledge in secret.’

They reached the bank of the Milk Ocean (Kshira Samudra), where they were completely alone, and where the noise of coming waves was not allowing anyone else listen them. There they sat comfortably, and Shiva started narrating the Doctrine of Immortality to Parvati.

It happened that some time before this event, in one Brahmin’s family a boy was born, and because position of the stars at the moment he was born was very inauspicious, his father threw him into the ocean. The child didn’t sink down, but was swallowed by a big fish, and in stomach of the fish he miraculously didn’t died, but remained alive. Just before coming of Shiva and Parvati, the fish has reached near the same spot and stopped there; being covered with the water, it was invisible to them. Because the small child was in the stomach of the fish, he also remain there. So when Shiva and Parvati have come, he was also with them, covered with water, and helpless. Duty this reason he also was able to listen all Amar Katha from start till the end without any disturbance. Shiva didn’t notice his presence till last, and child remain quite and listen attentively.

Parvati was very eager to listen in the beginning, she was listening very thoughtfully, but because the Katha was very long, Shiva’s voice and sound of coming waves were so monotonous, she felt sleepiness after some time; slowly she became submersed into deep sleep. When Shiva has completed narration, he addressed to Parvati, ‘So I hope this time you have understand all properly,’ but she didn’t answered. Now, he turned his eyes on Parvati and became greatly astonished to see that she was in the deep sleep. After waking her up, he told, ‘Once more I have completed narration of the complete Amar Katha for you, but as in your previous lives you was not able to listen it completely and gone into sleep. Now what else can I do for you?’

Parvati has felt herself ashamed and was disappointed duty this, and she has told with folded hands, ‘O Mahadeva, please narrate it again for me, and now I will not sleep’.

’Sorry’, answered Shiva, ‘but I can’t do it once more because such is the law, Amar Katha can be told only once in the course of one’s life time, so now you have to wait for your next life, and I am very sorry duty this reason’.

Now Parvati was forced to accept, that what happened, happened duty her fault and because she was not able to do anything else, she became pacified.

Suddenly Shiva has noticed that somebody else was near by, but for the fist moment he didn’t understood where exactly. By his yogic powers he immediately found that some one else has listened Amar Katha with out his permission. ’Hey, who ever you are, immediately come in front of me!’, he told. At the moment fish opened its mouse and child was thrown out from the water just in front of him. At first moment Shiva became very angry to see this not wanted listener, ‘You are!’ exclaimed he. He was about to kill him on spot with his trident because boy has committed big crime by listening so much secret Amar Katha. Small child was standing in front of him whit folded hands.

‘Who are you and how you reached here?’ Shiva has asked. Boy narrated him his history, how he was swallowed by the fish and unwillingly has listened, what Shiva was narrating for his consort. Now, Shiva understood that boy was innocent, and all this happened against his will. Also he came to know, that boy has became Immortal because he has listened complete Amar Katha, and now he was initiated into the mystery of “the Doctrine of Immortality”.

At this moment Devi has told, ‘What a nice child! What are you going to do with him?’

For some time Shiva was in deep thought. Then he told, ‘I see in what happened today the sign of the fate, so I think now time has come to give knowledge of yoga to the people. I am Adi Nath and he got initiation from me, even if I was not willing to give it to him. Let then his name will be Matsyendra Nath, because he became my disciple now, and he came from the fish. Before this moment, I was keeping the knowledge of Yoga in secret, but now I think, the time has come to reveal it to all. I will bide him to go to the people and spread the yoga doctrine, he learned here, everywhere. ’ Then Shiva has inserted earrings (kundals) into ears of the boy, such kundals as he himself was wearing (he always shown in scriptures, illustrations and statures as wearing earrings).

Now the boy was standing in front of Shiva with folded hands, ‘O Nath! I am still just a small helpless child. The Doctrine, which I came to learn here, is very difficult to understand, even more difficult to practice, and almost impossible to teach others; how can I accomplish this difficult task alone? Please have mercy on me.’

On listening him saying so, the Great Lord has said, ‘Don’t worry, my child, now you are not helpless as before and not alone, for I am always with you; I myself will assist you in the establishment of the Yoga teaching on the earth. Now, go and start, later I will join to you and assist you in this task; even more, I will become your disciple for the sake of spreading the Yoga Knowledge’.