Matsyendranath – Immortal Sage of Hatha & Tantra Yoga (7th century CE)
Matsyendranath, the great Yogi, associated with the Kaula tradition, which is a form of Hindu Tantrism ultimately, aimed at propagating practical methods for attaining enlightenment, a few interesting titbits, for the contemplating mind, go as follows.
It is said that, the Nath as it were, was fishing one day in the Bay of Bengal, when his boat capsized & he was swallowed completely by a whale. The divine works in mysterious ways, and it was probably his good deeds from past lives, that the large animal made its way to a place in the depths of the ocean, which had beatific energy currents, created by Shiva as he was using the place to share the sacred knowledge of Yoga & tantra with his wife Parvati. So hidden in the torso of the big fish , Mina Nath , as he is also called, heard the entire discourse while Parvati fell asleep. On asking her, if she was listening, Shiva received an immediate “yes” from the fish’s belly. Thrilled to discover, his hidden disciple, Shiva then, decided to initiate Matsyendranath first. The nath then spent twelve years in the fish’s belly perfecting his knowledge of tantric yogic practices and emerged from it, a fully realised master, when a fisherman finally caught the huge beast & opened it up.
It is said that, Matsyendranath, is involved in the transmigration of souls. He goes by many a name; in Nepal, he is known as “Shweta Matsyendranath” or “white fish god”, in Maharashtra in India, he is “Panduranga”, he is also famous as the divine Avalokitewshwara or “The lord who looks down from on high.” His notable work, Kaulajnananirnaya, speaks of knowledge of the Kaula tradition.
Speaking briefly on the Kaula tradition, it focuses on the unity of the spirit with god & attainment of enlightenment. To meet this end it does not condemn action or impose harsh limitations but rather embraces love, social life, sexuality & art as active participants in the journey towards spiritual fulfillment. By surrender to the guru, the disciples receive direct experiences of his Shakti or potent spiritual energy to realise their own supreme self. The process often involves, union of Shiva & Shakti, masculine & feminine energies, through tantric techniques, so as to experience spiritual illumination in union.
In few interpretations, Matsyendranath took the knowledge he acquired from Shiva, on Tantra & Yoga to play out the drama of the divine or Leela as it were, in the “Kadali-vana” or land of women. It is here that he spread the magic of tantra & yoga to enable humanity to understand how to beget spiritual children. This of course may be interpreted as the divine’s way of entwining himself in the veil of Maya to evolve spirit into matter. It is said that so lost was Matsyendranath in this land that his divine guru, Gorakshanath had to manifest a musical troupe, in which he himself appeared in the guise of a drummer to remind Matsyendranath of his higher purpose. Accordingly, he went into the land with the soul saving cry of “Jaag Macchendra Gorakh aaya” or “wake up Gorakh has come,” to move Matsyendra & elevate his consciousness to higher dimensions. He went on to guide him to complete his mission of teaching yoga to evolve human consciousness at large or move him as a great sage says from a state of “tantric Savikalpa to yogic Nirvikalpa Samadhi.”
In another tale about this lofty soul, it is said that he asked the Lord Shiva, who was pleased by his intense meditation, for a boon of “a disciple greater & more perfect than himself.” To fulfil his wishes, Shiva took upon himself the veil of Maya & appeared as his disciple in the form of Gorakshanath.
The import & learning from these tales, for a person curious to delve into the depths & varieties of yogic wisdom is significant, as is, Matsyendranath’s contribution to the Nath Pantheon of enlightened Siddhas or realised masters who sacrifice themselves to save humanity.