The Gorakhpur-based Gorakhnath Peeth or Matth, which Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath heads, has for centuries ironically preached rationalism, tolerance, anti-caste, anti-hierarchical, democratic-humanist thought and practice. In fact, the land on which the Gorakhnath temple stands was granted by a Muslim ruler, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula of Awadh, writes eminent author and historian AMARESH MISRA
AMARESH MISRA | Caravan Daily
The enthronement of Yogi Adityanath as UP’s CM has stunned even the most ardent supporters of Modi’s new regime. Young men and women who voted for BJP in 2014 and 2017 are genuinely worried about the future of the agenda of development. They see in Yogi an embodiment of their worst fears regarding hate politics, majoritarianism, polarization, sectarian ideology, social infantilism, and vigilantism.
It is ironical that Yogi draws his moral, political authority, and resources, from a source that stands exactly opposite to his virulent, violent, anti-Muslim, anti-women statements and acts.
The Gorakhpur-based Gorakhnath Peeth or Matth, which Yogi ironically heads, has for centuries preached mass-oriented rationalism, tolerance, anti-caste, anti-hierarchical, democratic-humanist thought and practice.
In fact, as we shall see, Yogi’s Gorakhnath Peeth regards Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a man of great wisdom. The land on which the Gorakh temple stands was granted by a Muslim Nawab!
REVOLUTIONARY MESSAGE OF GORAKHNATH
Normally, subaltern movements are shown as non-Vedic or even anti-Vedic. But Guru Gorakhnath, the world famous, legendary 12th century saint, considered an avatar of Shiva, father of Hath Yoga, Nath Sampradyay, even the Vammarga (the Left-handed path).
Gorakhnath is also the founding father of several Kshatriya clans, Nepalese Gurkhas, and other sub-clans in China and Indonesia.
Gorakhnath, in whose name Yogi’s Peeth runs, etched out a third, centrist path—that of fidelity to Vedic Gods, but expanding the meaning of Vedas and Upanishads to interpret knowledge in concrete, material terms
Gorakhnath questioned authority; he laid stress on acquiring knowledge through experience, and by concentrating, beyond caste categories, on the individual self:
Adekhi Dekhiba Dekhi Vichariba Adishti Rhakhiva Cheeya
Aapa Bhajiba Satguru Khojiba Jog Panth Na Kariba Hela
See the unseen (experience yourself), think about the seen, do not trust blind faith
Solve problems yourself, search for a true master, and do not follow any sect blindly
These are truly, revolutionary lines. Gorakh puts forth clearly: “do not worship any doctrine or faith; worship thy Self, believe in the Truth that is embedded within you…”
Gorakh further says “be your own light and whatever it is that you observe in the glow of that light is yours to take. Then reflect, think and live the experience. Then, whatever lives up to your expectations derived from the experience is truly yours”.
This, if any, echoes what Hume and Descartes—the leading philosophers of western enlightenment in the 16th/17th century—articulated, respectively, in terms of experience (Hume) and reason (Descartes).
So, it is to be noted, Gorakh was scientific in his approach and much ahead of his times. Echoes of his questioning the efficacy of only a literal reading of Vedas echoes similar themes mentioned in the Bhagwat Geeta.
FAITH AND REASON
According to Gorakh “only then your faith (based on reflection, reason and experience) will be concrete and devotion will follow. That devotion shall be simple, real, and outside the parameters of sectarian boundaries. All doubts will vanish once you taste the fruit of your own divine experience. Only then will faith and devotion be yours to claim”.
Gorakh stresses also on combining theory and practice:
Pathi dekhi pandita rahi dekhi saram Apani karani utariba paaram
O’ priest you have learnt enough; whatever you learnt as the truth put it into practice, if you do (as I told you) then you will get across
Gorakh places emphasis on `knowing the unknown’; here he again challenges orthodoxy by exhorting the Pandit or the traditional `man of knowledge’:
Abhujhi bujhile ho pandita akath kathile kahani
Sheesh nawawant Sadguru miliya jaagat rain bihani
O’ priest, comprehend the incomprehensible, recite the untold story
When you are surrendering yourself to the head then you get the master, then even in your slumber you will find yourself awakened
Gorakh respects Vedic knowledge but he overturns hierarchy. He calls those who study Vedas `grandsons’—that is the third place after father and grandfather—these two are the ones who are seeking the truth, not just on the basis of a reading of Vedas, but experience and reflection. Therefore they are placed in a higher category.
So, according to Gorakh people who do not know Vedas but are rich in experience and reflection are higher than Pandits who read Vedas:
Kathani kathai so shishe boliye ved padei so nati
Reheni rehei so guru hamaara ham rahata ka sathi
Whoever repeats what has been said, he is a student
Whoever learns Vedas (scriptures) is a grandson
He who is living with the truth is our master
I am a friend of the one, who is living in that truth
Reheta hamare guru boliye ham reheta ka chela
Man maane tho sang phire nihatar phire akela
Whoever was living (with truth) was my guru I am the student of this living (truth)
Whenever I like, I live with him (guru) and otherwise I live alone
Jyot jaghei sirthaan mein suraj koti saman
Jo sukh gahara janiyo dharo jyoti ka dhyan
The light (which) is emerging inside the head (is) like the light of uncountable suns
If you want to understand deep pleasure meditate on (that) light
Jahan jog tahan rog na byape aisa parashi guru karna
Tan man sun je parcha naahin tho kaahe ko pachi marna
Where there is yoga, there is no confusion, look out for such an (experienced) master
Whoever has not identified body and mind, and then they will suffer for life
Aasan drihd aahar dridh je nidra dridh hoi,
Gorakh kahe suno re puta marai na butha hoi
When the sitting posture is fixed, eating procedure is right (and) sleep is awakened
Gorakh says, listen O children, (such a person) never dies and never grows old
Habaki na boliba, thabki na chaliva, dheere dhariba paanv
Garab na kariba sahajei rahivan, bhanant Gorakh raanvam
Do not talk impulsively, do not walk with arrogance, walk slowly
Do not be proud, live simply, says Lord Gorakh
GORAKH AND CASTE EMANICIPATION
Gorakh influenced Guru Nanak, Kabir and other Bhakti andolan poets directly. The Nath Sampradyay set into motion a movement which ultimately led to the Hindu Sadhu fraternity eschewing caste and creating an egalitarian order, in which a Sadhu’s background and social origin were irrelevant.
As a result, several figures of present-day OBC and Dalits base, such as Dadu, Babdas, and Raidas, emerged as leading intellectuals/saints in the early modern era of Indian history.
The liberating role of Guru Gorakhnath is a major strand in South Asian traditions. Several 19th century reformists like Jyotiba Phule and Chattrapati Shahu Maharaj, paid homage to Gorakhnath.
GORAKH AND MOHAMMAD BODH
Interactions between Nath Yogis, followers of Gorakh, and Sufi Pirs and Muslim devotees are so numerous that scholars have written entire volumes on different aspects of this South Asiatic syncretism. Muslims, most notably the Jafar Pirs of Peshawar and the Muslim Yogis of Punjab, still call themselves `followers of Gorakhnath’.
But the most interesting and relevant part of the interface is the inclusion of Mohammad Bodh (wisdom of Mohammad) in the teachings of Guru Gorakhnath. In an issue of South Asia Disciplinary Academic Journal, Veronique Bouillier, the veteran academician and an expert on Nath tradition, mentions that teaching of Mohammad Bodh (wisdom of Prophet Mohammad) was an essential part of the teachings of Gorakhnath Peeth (See https://samaj.revues.org/3878)
Yogi Adityanath has abused Islam and Muslims on so many occasions. But his Gorakhnath Peeth teaches (or is supposed to teach) Mohammad Bodh or the wisdom of Mohammad!
Nath Sampradyay included the wisdom of Buddhism and Jainism as well. Sufi orders also dedicated chapters to instruct disciples in the thought of Guru Gorakhnath.
NAWAB ASAF-UD-DAULA AND GORAKH PEETH
The influence of Gorakh on Muslim and Sufi saints was so great that Roshan Ali Shah, the great 18th century Sufi of Gorakhpur requested Asaf-ud-daula, the then Nawab of Avadh, to grant land for the Gorakhpur Matth.
Asaf-ud-Daula had given grants to Roshan Ali Shah for the building of an Imambara. But Roshan Ali wanted donations for the Gorakh temple as well.
An article appearing in the Indian Express edition of 8th February 2007 quotes Adnan Shah, the current presider of the Imambara, how “the Sufi saint wanted half of Gorakhpur for himself and the remaining for his Hindu counterpart.”
The same article quotes Chitranjan Mishra, a professor of Gorakhpur University, as saying clearly that “legend apart, it is on record that Asaf-ud-Daula donated land and properties for the Imambara and for the Gorakhpeeth. Even today most of the city is owned either by the Imambara or by the Peeth.” (See http://archive.indianexpress.
Further evidence of Asaf-ud-Daula giving land grant to Gorakh Peeth exists both in the records of the Gorakh temple and the 200 year old archives of the Imambara.
YOGI ADITYANATH AND THE PRESENT
Roshan Ali Shah’s Imambara is a great centre of Hindu-Muslim pilgrimage in Gorakhpur. Yogi Adityanath, who has literally invented an anti-Muslim legacy in Gorakhpur, by distorting the enlightened, anti-orthodox teachings of Gorakhnath, sits in a Matth which was given to former heads of the seat by a Muslim Nawab!
What is more, Yogi Adityanath stopped the taziya procession of Imambara in 2007, an act that robbed 2000 Hindus who used to set up shop in the Mian Bazaar area of Gorakhpur during moharram. Yogi’s acts also affected the huge Hindu and Muslim participation in `Khichdi Mela’ organized in Gorakhpur.
Yogi Adityanath’s acts go against what the RSS is spreading on the social media about how the UP CM is `kind to Muslims’. The bitter reality is that the UP CM has killed the eclectic Hindu legacy of Gorakhpur.
As Guru Gorakh would have wanted: “Persons visiting Gorakhpur ought to visit both the Gorakh temple and the Imambara, to find out the reality of Gorakhpur’s composite culture and the forces who are trying to distort the city’s ethos!”
Amaresh Misra is an eminent Indian author and historian. He is convener of the Anti Communal Front in Uttar Pradesh state for Indian National Congress
Agrawal, Purushottam (2011) ‘The Naths in Hindi Literature’, in David N. Lorenzen & Adrian Munoz (eds.), Yogi Heroes and Poets: History and Legends of the Nāths, New York: SUNY Press, pp. 3-18.
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Bharthwal, Pitambardatta (ed.) (1994) Gorakh bānī, Prayag: Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.
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