Gorakhnath’s enumeration of contemplation methods

Goraknath was a yogi-philosopher belonging the Nath Path (Brotherhood of the Supreme) who lived around the 9th-10th century.  His Guru Matysendranath was the progenitor of this influential brotherhood of ascetics.   Gorakhnath authored several works on Yoga including the Goraksha Samhita, the Goraksha Gita, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga Martanada, the Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga-Bija, and the Yoga Chintamani. You can read more about him on wikipedia.   This article briefly outlines the meditation methods that Gorakhnath first enumerated in his work Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati.   The material is condensed from A.K. Banerjea’s Philosophy of Gorakhnath[1].

Gorakhnath classified the Lakshyas(object of attention) that can be employed during meditation into three categories: internal, external and non-physical.  After going through the list below, one might wonder as to which method is suitable for oneself.   Under ideal circumstances, it is the Guru who intuitively discerns the method suitable for every disciple, but in the absence of the Guru, one can gently experiment with all methods and choose a method with which one feels comfortable.

The content of this article overlaps with an earlier article “Taming the Monkey Mind” which discussed the supports (Alambana) which can be used to quiesce the mind.

Internal Centers

Goraknath outlined four internal centers towards which consciousnesss can be directed during meditation.

1. Gollata-mandapa: It is just above the forehead (lalata-urdhe) and in the anterior part of Sahasrara Chakra.  One must imagine the presence of the light there and concentrate the whole attention upon it.

2. Bhramara-guha(cave of bees):  It is located above the spinal cord and in a rather posterior part of Sahasrara Chakra. Yogis conceive of this center as the Virya-sthana (the seat of Virya or Vital Energy), and adopt effective means to ensure that the vital energy is not dislodged from this centre, thereby preventing excitement in the lower nerves and the sexual organs.

3. The Dhum-dhum-kara Nada (sound) within the head:  The Yogi in the initial stage has to close firmly both the ears with the fore-fingers, so that no external sound may distract the attention. One would, given sufficient effort, hear a continuous sound like “dhum-dhum” within the centre of the brain.  The attention must be fixed on this internal sound and one must become absorbed in it. This sound will gradually take the monotonous form of OM.

4. Between the eyebrows: Concentrate attention upon Nila-Jyoti (blue self-luminous light) at the inner centre of the eyes.

Goraknath seems to have omitted the center in the heart.  By contrast, Sri Aurobindo outlined three internal centers of concentration (the heart, between the eyebrows, and above the head).  This can be read over @ Meditation.

External centers

Goraknath outlined several external centers which can be used to quiesce the thought process.

1. Imagine the presence of a red bright light in front of one’s eyes at a distance of about two fingers (1-½  inches) from the tip of one’s nose and fix one’s attention steadily on that light.  (caution : do not become cross-eyed!)

2. Think of a white sheet of water at a distance of ten fingers (7 ½  inches) from one’s nose and concentrate the attention thereon.

3. Imagine the presence of a yellow metal at a distance of twelve fingers (9 inches) from one’s nose and practise concentration on it.  (it is not clear to me why the metal has to be yellow in color.  maybe they were picturing gold in those days?)

4. Look towards any part of the blue and tranquil sky and be absorbed with the exclusive thought of this pure sky.  (Sri Aurobindo and the Mother also recommended this method.  See “Widen the consciousness”)

5. Fix attention upon some intermediate position between oneself and the sky and see there steadily a mass of brilliant rays.

6. Wherever the eyes may fall and whatever objects may be there, big or small, animate or inanimate, moving or motionless, the yogi may turn away his attention from all those objects and see nothing but akash (space) or shunya (void) therein.

7. Similarly, with open ears, one may withdraw one’s attention from all particular sounds and listen to one differenceless Nada(sound) or perfect stillness in this noisy world.

Methods 6 and 7 seem quite similar to the technique discussed under “Walking with eyes unfocused.  Along these lines, Jiddu Krishnamurti famously said that meditation can happen even on a bus.  He would encourage his listeners to apprehend the world with  all their senses; in this state, there remains no center, no desire and consequently time itself comes to a standstill.   The following passage is from one of his talks:

What takes place as attention probes into itself? If you are so attending, all your senses are completely awake. It is not one sense attending, but the totality of all the senses. Otherwise you cannot attend. When there is one sense that is highly cultivated and the others are not, one cannot attend. Complete sensory activity is a state of attention. Partial sensory activity leads to concentration. Attention has no center. Attention is a flowing from itself, it is moving, never still; it flows, moves, goes on. Attention gets more and more-not more in a comparative sense, but as a river that has behind it a vast volume of water; a tremendous volume of energy, of attention, wave upon wave upon wave! each wave a different movement. We have never enquired what takes place beyond attention. Is there a total summation of energy?[2].

8. The yogi should extend his look to the furthest limit of his eye sight and see there a vast expanse of land of bright golden colour.

9.  Concentrate on the Sun, Moon, Star or Planet: Concentration on the Sun is certainly not recommended for novice practitioners because it can lead to solar retinopathy and loss of eyesight.  If that is the case, why did Ramana Maharshi, who was said to gaze at the Sun, not lose his eyesight?  The answer might lie in the some diary entries left behind by Sri Aurobindo, who also used to engage in the same exercise.  These are Sri Aurobindo’s descriptions from the Record of Yoga of the visions he had while engaged in Tratak on the Sun. (Tratak  means fixed gazing)

Tratak of Sun. Blue sukshma(subtle) image of sun elliptical in shape [3].

Tratak of Sun. After first gaze saw in chittakash most exquisite deep green colour, sun with zigzag of this colour coming out of it. Tratak for minute. Sun sometimes pale yellow, sometimes bluish green [4].

While doing tratak on the physical sun, I saw clearly with sthuladrishti (gross sight) the sun of the pranamay jagat (vital world) and felt its warmth on my body. Feb 9th [5].

To the tratak the moving clouds of the pranic akasha (vital world) are visible, sometimes a star, living specks, birds or insects [6].

Going by the above description, it seems Sri Aurobindo wasn’t gazing purely at the physical Sun but also perceiving the Sun’s subtle body.  Like every other object in the physical world, the Sun also has a counterpart in the occult worlds and it is possible that yogis who have awakened to such an  occult perception can gaze at the Sun without being harmed by its powerful glare. It seems reasonable to conclude that the sun gazing that Gorakhnath recommends should only be practiced after one’s inner vision is sufficiently developed.

10. Burning Lamp or blazing fire.  Self-explanatory.

11. Focus on the image of a Divine figure: In this method, one focuses one’s attention on the picture of a holy person in order to direct one’s devotion to the Divine.   This method has already been covered under “Concentration on the Mother’s Photograph.”

Non-physical centers:

By Madhyama-lakshya (intermediate center), Gorakhnath implies any object of special attention, which is not within the body or outside it, upon which the mind can be concentrated without any direct reference to any particular location (sthana-varjitam). The object chosen for the practice of concentration for the time being may be real or imaginary, material or ideal, very small or very big, dazzlingly bright or soothingly cool, of any colour or shape or size, of any form or without any form.  Gorakhnath says that this object may be of white or red or black colour, it may be of the form of a flame of fire or of the form of a bright light or of the form of a flash of lightning or of the form of the solar corona or of the form of the crescent moon or of any form which the aspirant may choose.

The Siddha-Siddhanta Paddhati

Banerjea, in nineteen chapters of his book “Philosophy of Gorakhnath“, explores Gorakhnath’s view of the universe and Man’s place in it as enunciated in the Siddha-Siddhanta Paddhati and other works.

The Siddha-Siddhanta Paddhati covers various topics under six sections through a combination of aphorisms (Sutras) and verses (Shlokas).  The first lesson is on Pindopaddati (i.e. the origin of the cosmic and individual bodies).   In this lesson, he explains how the Absolute Reality manifests through gradual stages to create a diversified cosmic system.  The second lesson is on Pinda-Vichara (body constitution) and discusses the nine Chakras, sixteen Adharas, three Lakshyas,  five Vyomas in the human consciousness and methods of contemplation upon them.  The third lesson is on Pinda-Sambitti (true insight into the body) where the connection between the microcosm (human body) and macrocosm (cosmic body) is elucidated.  The fourth is on Pindadhara (i.e. Container and Sustainer of the bodies). It shows how all bodies are contained in and sustained by one Supreme Spiritual Power (Shakti) of the Absolute Spirit. The fifth deals with Samarasa-Karana(perfect unification) of the individual body with the cosmic body, which is the supreme ideal of the life of a yogi. The sixth describes the character of an Avadhuta – an enlightened yogi.  It is such a person who is a true Natha.

References

  1. Akshaya Kumar Banerjea. Philosophy of Gorakhnath : with Goraksha-Vacana-Sangraha, Ripon, North Yorkshire: Coombe Springs, 1983, pp. 188-193
  2. Pupul Jayakar. Krishnamurti : a biography, San Francisco : Harper & Row, c1986, pp 403-404.
  3. Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, p 33.
  4. Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, p 36.
  5. Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, p 39.
  6. Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, p 846.

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16 thoughts on “Gorakhnath’s enumeration of contemplation methods

  1. Sandeep Post author

    Somewhat similar to three categories that Gorakhnath outlined above, the Advaya Taraka Upanishad of the Shukla Yajurveda also discusses three categories with respect to Taraka-Yoga.

    This is a rough English translation.

    Internal introspection. It is a means for attainment of knowledge. The lustre radiated by this higher knowledge emanates from the thousand-petalled lotus, or the lustre of ‘cit’ (consciousness) hidden in the cavern of the intellect, or the turiyacaitanya; the supreme consciousness abiding in the crest (sodasanta). Achievement in introspection and mind-control means release from bondage and destruction of sin. In the case of one who is not an adept in this mode of introspection, a sound resembling ‘phoo’ is generated in the two ear-holes stoppered with the tips of the forefingers. An attuned mind sees a blue radiant space midway between the two eyes, and even so in the heart-and that is the bliss of an exquisite variety.

    External introspection. A yogi is an adept in practice who sees the ethereal space of a blue colour slightly bordering indigo, shining like a wave of blood-red colour (but which is really orange) in front of his nose at a distance of four, six, eight, ten and twelve digit-lengths. By him who sees thus, to a distance of twelve digit-lengths over his crest, is attained immortality.

    Intermediate introspection. By constant observation there ensues ether devoid of qualities…Thus at the end, the five ethers, both external and internal, become visible to the introspection of a Taraka-yogin when he attains non-mindedness.

    […]

    There is a great beam of radiance above the root of the plate which is worthy of being meditated upon. (this is probably the bhramara-guha that gorakhnath mentioned above) Thence flow supernatural powers such as attenuation (anima) and the like-this is the non-minded type (amanaska).

    (source: N.S. Subrahmanian. Encyclopaedia of the Upaniṣads, New Delhi : Sterling, 1985, pp 384-385)

    Reply
  2. Sandeep Post author

    More on the three objects of meditation from an essay “Yoga and Meditation (Dhyana)” by Georg Feuerstein

    The Advayataraka-Upanishad favors meditation upon light phenomena, or photisms, which are all considered to be manifestations of the Absolute. Three kinds of photistic phenomena are distinguished: The first kind is known as the “inner sign” (antar-lakshya), which is the radiant serpent power (kundalini-shakti), located at the lowest psychoenergetic center (cakra) at the base of spine. The kundalini is a favored object of meditation in hatha-yoga and many Tantric schools. The second variety is made up of the “external sign” (bahir-lakshya), which consists in the perception of luminous ether-space (vyoman) of variant color perceived at variable distances close to the face. The third kind is known as the “intermediate sign” (madhya-laksya), which consists in the experience of differently colored ether, space at a distance from the body.

    source: http://www.santosha.com/moksha/meditation1.html

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Vikrant

      “Between the eyebrows” is intended to awaken the Ajna Chakra.

      Sri Aurobindo said, “The power of concentration between the eyebrows is to open the centre there, liberate the inner mind and vision and the inner or yogic consciousness and its experiences and powers. From here also one can open upwards and act also in the lower centres; but the danger of this process is that one may get shut up in one’s mental spiritual formations and not come out of them into the free and integral spiritual experience and knowledge and integral change of the being and nature. If one concentrates on a thought or a word, one has to dwell on the essential idea contained in the word with the aspiration to feel the thing which it expresses.”
      [Letters on Yoga, Chapter on Sadhana through Meditation]

      Reply
    2. Sandeep Post author

      “Between the eyebrows” method is also alluded to in the Gita Chap 5, verse 27

      sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāḿś
      cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ
      prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā
      nāsābhyantara-cāriṇau

      fixing the gaze between the eyebrows i.e. “cakṣuś caivāntare”

      Reply
  3. Vikrant

    Thanks for this reply Sandeep.. and yes that pointer to Geeta was amazing.
    How one should avoid cross-eyeing while doing this?
    Also when I gaze between eye-brows, I see darkness… and after a while I start either feeling sleepy or my mind wanders a lot… I am sure I must be frowning too when seen from outside ;(
    Can you help me in easing this out and get positioned in Ajna chakra?
    FYI: I am meditating since long almost for 10 years (but on very irregular basis when it comes to length of time :O But doesn’t miss a day )

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      > Can you help me in easing this out and get positioned in Ajna chakra?

      I don’t think much help can be given over the Internet. Furthermore, one cannot become a Guru without getting approval from that Power above the head. There is a “switch” which has to be turned on 🙂

      For meditation to be effective, one also has to develop devotion(bhakti) to the Divine and dispassion(vairagya) towards the world. The environment we are raised in these days(e.g. too much TV, Internet browsing, movies, spicy food, chatting) can obstruct the unveiling of the inner Light.

      The Persian mystic Rumi said in his poem “Love and Fear
      “The mystic ascends to the Throne in a moment;
      the ascetic needs a month for one day’s journey”.

      The Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3 and the Katha Upanishad 1.2.23 say “The Self can be known only by those whom the Self chooses”. (Yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyah)

      Similarly, Sri Aurobindo said in his poem Savitri
      “Heaven’s call is rare, rarer the heart that heeds;
      The doors of light are sealed to common mind”.

      Reply
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  7. mike

    “Tratak of Sun. Blue sukshma(subtle) image of sun elliptical in shape [3].

    Tratak of Sun. After first gaze saw in chittakash most exquisite deep green colour, sun with zigzag of this colour coming out of it. Tratak for minute. Sun sometimes pale yellow, sometimes bluish green [4].

    While doing tratak on the physical sun, I saw clearly with sthuladrishti (gross sight) the sun of the pranamay jagat (vital world) and felt its warmth on my body. Feb 9th [5].

    To the tratak the moving clouds of the pranic akasha (vital world) are visible, sometimes a star, living specks, birds or insects [6].”

    Does anyone know if SA was seeing these things behind closed eyes, as this is the usual method with tratak, l believe – You gaze unblinkingly at a luminous object until the eyes water a bit, and then close the eyes [internal or antaranga tratak] to concentrate on the after-image.
    l checked the ‘record’ but couldn’t see anything.

    Reply
  8. mike

    SA mentions above that He saw in ‘Chittakash’, This means ‘inner space’, so can ; assume he had his eyes closed.

    Reply
    1. amsha

      Very likely it doesn’t matter much for people with inner sight, most of psychics work
      with their eyes open, what about Gurus?

      Reply
    2. Sandeep Post author

      Somewhere in conversations with disciples, Sri Aurobindo said that some of his visions in Alipore jail were with open eyes. I can’t find the source right now. See if you can find it.

      Once the layers of consciousness become fused, it doesn’t matter whether the eyes are open or closed. Seeing another world is just a question of “shifting focus”.

      Reply
  9. mike

    Thanyou both.
    Yes, l agree, at some point in sadhana the inner sight will manifest and things like tratak will not be necessary.

    Amsha, l’m not sure if most so-called psychics actually have objective vision [seeing outside as we normally see aka Ghost Whisperer]. l think most are seeing internally in the mind’s eye, so to speak – at least l do, although my eyes might be wide open when l see like this.

    Yes sandeep, your right, when SA was in alipore he was having objective visions with eyes open. l couldn’t find any reference except about His seeing Krishna etc.

    Anyway, l’m still curious as to why SA and Ramana would actually need to use use tratak in the first place. Both were Self-Realised at that point in time – unless, as some say, you can have God-Realisation without any experience of kundalini awakening or chakra opening [all siddhi’s manifest when the appropriate chakras open, l believe]. Apparently, SA and Ramana might not have had ‘inner vision’ at the time they were using tratak. l know SA confirmed to M that He had the traditional Kundalini awakening later on, in the same way She did – but earlier in His sadhana, perhaps not.

    Reply
    1. amsha

      Well, there are different kinds of psychic perceptions and not all of them are limited by the mind only.
      .

      Reply

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