Gold_Fate of Householder Nath

August 24, 2017 | Author: vkas | Category: Yoga, Burial, Asceticism, Indian Religions, Religious Behaviour And Experience
Share Embed Donate


Short Description

Gold_Fate of Householder Nath...

Description

The Fate of the Householder Nath Author(s): Daniel Gold and Ann Grodzins Gold Source: History of Religions, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Nov., 1984), pp. 113-132 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1062478 . Accessed: 29/05/2011 23:41 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucpress. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to History of Religions.

http://www.jstor.org

Daniel Gold and Ann Grodzins Gold

THE FATE OF THE NATH HOUSEHOLDER

Susceptible to the thralls of women, wealth, and temporal rule, Matsyendra, the most senior of the legendary Nath yogis, did not perfectly exemplify the ideals of yogic asceticism. For as most Hindus know, Matsyendra was tricked into becoming the consort of the queen of the city of women, where he happily forgot his yogic identity and settled down to raise a family in regal comfort. But his illustrious disciple Gorakh managed to change his sex, join a group of singing girls, and penetrate the women's city. There Gorakh dramatically reminded Matsyendra of his true identity and rescued him from the appealing snares of worldly life. In honoring Gorakh's yogic triumph over the queen's worldly attractions, this central Nath legend shows how ordinary Hindus as well as ascetics may see greater value in the renunciate's path than in the householder's family life. But in demonstrating how Gorakh must himself become a woman to free his guru from woman and home, the story reveals the complexity of the persistent Hindu tension between householder and renouncer, a tension seen by Dumont as crucial in the development of Indian religion.' The complexity of this tension in I Louis Dumont gives a nice presentation of the sociological implications of the tension between householder and renouncer in "World Renunciation in Indian Religions," a classic article reprinted in his Religion/Politics and History in India (The Hague: Mouton, 1970), pp. 33-60. The vitality of this tension in Hindu mythology is brilliantly presented by Wendy O'Flaherty in Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), esp. chap. 7, "Shiva as Ascetic and ? 1984 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0018-2710/ 85/ 2402-0002$01.00

114

The Householder Nath

myth and life is further revealed in a continuing tradition of rural Rajasthani Naths, who demonstrate values running strangely counter to those displayed by Gorakh in the city of women. Gorakh's power to take a female form seems all the more formidable given the awesome, ungentle image of the Nath yogi in the popular imagination. The Nath is usually depicted not as an ascetic of the clean-shaven, scholarly, asexual sort but as someone rougher and more virile-though still most unhouseholderly. Shy of neither anger nor intoxicants, with full beard and matted hair, he wears thick earrings through holes bored painfully into his cartilages-the distinctive mark of a Nath yogi.2 The stark religious practice at the root of this popular image can be discerned in part from the texts in Sanskrit and Hindi commonly attributed to Naths. For these display concerns not only with the physical ascesis of hatha-yoga and a solitary concentration on spiritual sound but also, sometimes, with drugs and alchemy.3 Householder." The story of Gorakh's transformation into a woman follows a popular account by Rajesh Dikshit (ShrT Navanath Charitra Sagar [Delhi: Dehati Pustak Bhandar, 1969], p. 138). 2 In Nath Sampradaya (Varanasi: Naivedya Niketan, 1966), pp. 16-22, Hazari Prasad Dvivedi discusses the images of Naths found in literary sources; Dikshit, pp. 19-32, gives a digested popular picture. 3 Several short Sanskrit texts treating hatha-yoga practice are attributed to Gorakh (see YogabTja, ed. Keshava Ramchandra Joshi [Puna: Keshava Ramchandra Joshi, 1974], Amaraughasasanam, ed. Mukund Ram Shastri, Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 20 [Shrinagar: Government of Kashmir, Research Department, 1918], Goraksapaddhati, ed. Mahidhar Sharma [Bombay: Shri Venkateshwar Press, 1967], and Amanaska Yoga, ed. Yoganath Swami [Puna: Siddha Sahitya Samshodhan Prakashan Mandal, 1967]). Of Gorakh's hatha-yoga texts the most important is the Goraksasataka, "the hundred verses of Gorakh"; a text and English translation is given in George Weston Briggs, Gorakh Nath and the Kanphata Yogis (1938; reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973), pp. 284-304; Fausta Nowotny offers a scholarly edition with a German translation (Das Goraksasataka, Dokumente der Geistesgeschichte 3 [Cologne: Dr. Karl A. Nowotny, 1976]). The best known hatha-yogic text of all is the Hathayogaprad7pika of Svatmarama, who in verse 4 acknowledges the favor of Matsyendra and Gorakh (The Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama [Adyar, Madras: Adyar Libraryand Research Center, 1972], p. 5). References to internal yogic sounds are plentiful in the vernacular Nath songs. Of the scholarly collections in Hindi, that of Barthwal, containing a modern Hindi commentary, is the most extensive (Pitambar Datta Barthwal, ed., Gorakh Bani [Allahabad: Hindustani Academy, 1971]). It can be supplemented by the collections of Dvivedi; Mohan Singh, who offers some English translations with his texts; and Kalyani Mallik, who also includes some important Sanskrit works (see Hazari Prasad Dvivedi, ed., Nath Siddhom kT Baniyam [Banaras: Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha, 1957]; Mohan Singh, Gorakhnath and Medieval Hindu Mysticism [Lahore: Dr. Mohan Singh, 1937]; and Kalyani Mallik, ed., Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati and Other Works of the Natha Yogis [Poona: Poona Oriental Book House, 1954]). For a Nath text devoted to alchemy and ayurveda, see Shri Janardan Shastri Pandey, ed., Goraksa Samhita (Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, 1978), vol. 2. Briggs, pp. 251-57, gives a list of books known to Naths in his day. Nagendranath Upadhyaya discusses the scholarly editions (Goraksanath: Nath Sampradaya ke Paripreksya mem [Varanasi: Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha, 1976], pp. 43-52). In Kanphata: Untersuchungen zu Kult, Mythologie und Geschichte Sivaitischer Tantriker in Nepal (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1980), Gunter Unbescheid gives a useful bibliography.

History of Religions

115

The works of the Naths in Sanskrit often show language that has little regard for classical canons,4 while their vernacular compositions speak to the generally unlettered peasant classes from which many of them probably came. Of the diverse tantric traditions that flourished in postclassical India, that of the Naths appears as one of the most unrefined and closest to the people. Indeed, the legends of the "nine Naths" still provide ordinary Hindus with some of their most central conceptions of the wonder-working yogi. Like the Siddhas in Buddhism, with whom they were roughly contemporaneous, the Naths are presented as strongly individualistic yogis, often themselves unlettered, who-as in the case of Gorakh and the singing girls-are ready to mix with common, even disreputable people.5 "Nathism" has been recognized by some as a separate strand in Indian popular religion, representing, perhaps, an ancient religious tradition alongside Vaishnavism and Shaivism.6 But in more recent times, at least, Gorakh Nath has been identified with Shiva, and since the sixteenth century, Nath tradition together with Shaivism has become partially eclipsed in north India by Vaishnava devotion. Nevertheless, the Naths still remain vital today-not only through the texts and legends they have left but also in religious communities. Rough-looking sadhus can still be met who say they owe allegiance to individual gurus in Nath tradition. But most of the more established lineages have adopted Sanskritic ways and-save for their earringsare largely indistinguishable from other respectable Shaivite ascetics.7 4 In a prefatory note in English to Goraksa Siddhdnta Sangraha (ed. Shri Janardan Shastri Pandey [Varanasi: Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, 1973]), Gopinath Kaviraj writes: "The greatest defect in the Sanskrit writings of the sect is the frequent violation of the rules of grammar, metric, etc .... The book is full of inaccuracies." 5 Nath tradition took shape alongside that of the Buddhist Siddhas in pre-Islamic India, but the Naths of legendary fame were probably preceded by the earliest remembered Siddhas. A Tibetan hagiographical collection treating Indian Siddhas has recently been translated by James B. Robinson (Buddha's Lions: The Lives of the Eighty-Four Siddhas [Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1979]). On the historicity of Gorakh and other early Naths, see Briggs, pp. 228-50. Scholars speculate on the interpenetration of Siddha and Nath traditions, especially since some names found on the many lists of "eighty-four Siddhas" and "nine Naths" are similar. Upadhyaya, pp. 7-42, discusses the lists and presents a thorough review of the Indian scholarship on the relationship between the two traditions. 6 See Charlotte Vaudeville, Kabir (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 88, n. 1. p. 7 The math at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, the main Nath monastic center in the Gangetic plain, is very prosperous and regularly issues respectable publications, the most notable being Akshaya Kumar Banerjea's long, systematic presentation in English of The Philosphy of Gorakhnath (Gorakhpur: Mahant Digvijay Trust, 1962). Nineteenthcentury travelers to Dhinodhar, the main monastic establishment in Gujarat, described ascetics much more intent on charity than on yogic practice (see L. T. Postans, "An Account of the Kanphatas of Dhinodhar in Cutch with the Legend of Dharamnath, Their Founder," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 5 [1839]: 268-71; and D. P. Khakhar, "History of the Kanphatas of Kachh," Indian Antiquary 7 [1878]: 47-53).

116

The Householder Nath

Yet in addition to Nath ascetics of different varieties, some of whom take wives, there are also householder Naths integrated into Hindu society as castes.8 Naths as householders in village society face problems of change different from those faced by the Naths of great monastic establishments. Instead of attempting to make their rough traditions look respectable in brahmanic eyes, the householder Naths must keep their traditions magically potent in the eyes of the peasant castes, who still look to them for spiritual leadership. At the same time, these esoteric traditions must become personally meaningful for all those born as Naths. In effectively popularizing their esoteric traditions, householder Naths can come to know a variant of the tension between householder and renouncer not really addressed in the story of Gorakh in the city of women. For the householder Nath is not like the individual Hindu attracted by yoga who must then find a way somehow to subordinate his family responsibilities to ascetic practice. He is, instead, happily integrated into Hindu society, yet somehow identified with a tradition of renunciate yogis outside it. Not a householder struggling to be a yogi, he is a satisfied householder sometimes struggling with a yogic identity. The hero of his popular epic, as we shall see, thus stands in striking contrast to the model offered by Gorakh. But before we examine the ways in which householder Naths deal with the contradictions of their situation, we must first look more closely at just what that situation is. THE COMMUNALIZATIONOF NATH ESOTERICTRADITION

While the Hindu householder attracted to yogic practice may be oriented toward a salvational goal standing beyond the social order, the yogic ways of the householder Nath inform his orientation toward the rest of Hindu society. Communities who trace their origins to ascetic traditions-the many Jogi castes, with whom the Naths of our

8 Briggs, pp. 46-51, discusses married yogis and castes of Naths. Some valuable descriptions of castes of yogis and Naths can be found in the regional surveys (see William Crooke, The Tribes and Castes of the North West Provinces and Oudh [Calcutta: Office of the Superintendant of Government Printing, 1896], 3:58-63; R. E. Enthoven, The Tribes and Castes of Bombay [Bombay: Government Central Press, 1920], 1:117-18, 3:103-4; Siraj al Hassan, The Castes and Tribesof H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions [Bombay: Times Press, 1920], 1:278-85; H. H. Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal[Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press, 1891], 1:355-60; H. A. Rose, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the North-West Frontier Province [Lahore: Government of India, 1914], 2:388-89, 409-10, 3:165; Robert Vane Russel and Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Tribesand Castes of the Central Provinces [London: Macmillan, 1916], 3:252-54).

History of Religions

117

study are sometimes classed,9 as well as Vaishnava mendicants-are usually not counted as twice-born Hindus. Most Jogi castes probably have their origins in communities of lowly ranked occupation who adopted traditions of popular yoga during the medieval heyday of the Naths. And even though they call themselves Jogis (Hindi for "yogis"), these castes remain as low in the eyes of most Hindus as they have always been.'0

Other groups may in fact have something of the origins in married ascetics that they claim for themselves." For while Hindus do nominally give up their castes when they join an ascetic order, not all are really ready to lead the renunciate life. Young boys were sometimes adopted into monastic orders; and especially in Rajasthan-the area of our study-able-bodied men were recruited into groups of warriorascetics without much regard for their spiritual aspiration. 12 Yogis still identified with ascetic orders are known to live with women in open violation of older precepts.13And some of these, not to mention their offspring, may well have eventually turned to the characteristic professions of some yogic castes. From simple begging, to singing religious epics, to ritually warding off hail and pestilence-a highly valued ability-these professions often appear as worldly adaptations of ascetic ways. Doing research in a village in Ajmer District, Rajasthan, we encountered a group of Naths whose magical potencies were still well valued. Naths were invited to the village several generations ago, we were told, in order to practice their particular art of warding off locusts and hailstones when village crops were threatened. As inducement to settle in the village, the ruling landlord had deeded high-quality agricultural land to the original Nath settlers. The migration of Nath families by invitation to villages where their magical skills were in demand was a 9 The 1931 census of India lumps the Naths of Rajasthan together with Jogis. See B. L. Cole, Rajputana Agency: Report and Tables, Census of India, 1931, vol. 27 (Calcutta: Government of India, 1931), p. 139. 10The best informed speculation in English on early Nath castes is to be found in Vaudeville, pp. 81-89. 1 Thus the Kusle Yogis of Nepal find their origins in Kapali Yogi, banished from the ashram of his guru Jalandhar Nath and condemned to a low entertainer's life (see Unbescheid, pp. 131-35). 12On warrior ascetics in general, see John Nicol Farquhar, "The Fighting Ascetics of India," John Rylands Library Bulletin 9 (1925): 431-52; and David N. Lorenzen, "Warrior Ascetics in Indian History," Journal of the American Oriental Society 98 (1978): 61-75. W. G. Orr has paid particular attention to warrior ascetics in Rajasthan (see his "Armed Religious Ascetics in Northern India,"John Rylands Library Bulletin 24 [1940]: 81-100, and A Sixteenth-Century Indian Mystic [London: Lutterworth Press, 1947], pp. 199-209). 13 Briggs, pp. 46-47, notes instances of married yogis living among traditionally celibate Nath ascetics.

118

The Householder Nath

common pattern in the area, especially since the spells they employed did not destroy locusts and hail but merely caused them to pass on to the next village's land. Thus every prudent village would have wanted its Naths, and small Nath populations remain scattered through many villages. Competent farmers of their own land, and religious experts whose work affects the well-being of all, Naths today maintain a rank matching the clean peasant castes. The Naths thus contrast with the Vaishnava mendicants living in the village. For these, despite their priestly functions in several temples, were known as beggars and thieves-a more frequent status of communities seen to derive from ascetic traditions. Accepted into village society, the Naths routinely interfeast with other clean agriculturalists and observe most of their public rituals. Yet the customs of their own that they do preserve give them a highly ambiguous status in the eyes of their neighbors. Though the Naths of the village do not wear the orange robes of the renunciate, they-and they alone-are allowed to wear orange turbans. And though seen primarily as householder farmers, not sadhus, they are still addressed respectfully as bheg dharT,"renunciate"14much as Rajputs are addressed as thakur, "lord," and brahmans as pan.dit, "teacher." Just as brahmans hold the priesthood of major temples, the Naths have a hereditary right to perform worship and service at certain village shrines. Their inherited responsibilities also include shrines in smaller neighboring villages without resident Naths, where they are regarded by their patrons as gurus and receive fixed offerings of grain. Within the village, the shrines tended by the Naths stand out from most others, which are usually oriented toward one or more sorts of personal fulfillment-the procurement of offspring, relief from physical or financial distress, success on a pilgrimage, salvation. Although Nath shrines may also confer similar personal benefits, they are unique as the first resort when natural disaster imperils the entire community. For the Naths perpetuate the role of their forebears as protectors of the village from pestilence. And though the advent of modern insecticides has diminished the opportunities for Naths to display their virtuosity, we were still able to hear a doggerel Hindi incantation that was guaranteed to scare away locusts. But while the living yogic force to which the Nath is still seen to have access merits his neighbors' respect, his death as a yogi disturbs them. For the burial practices of the Naths are revolting to most villagers who stop to think about them, and their funereal practices inspire fear. 14 In Rajasthani, bheg dharTliterally means "someone wearing the costume (bheg)" of a renouncer.

History of Religions

119

Only Hindus of certain ascetic traditions-including Nath sadhusnormally bury their dead; most Hindu householders are quickly cremated. So the fact that the householder Naths are buried at all seems strange to the Hindus of the village. But some routinized, householderly constraints on the burial practices give this strangeness a gruesome aspect. A revered Nath sadhu is likely to be buried with pomp, having his own tomb or at least a marked grave; the large and prosperous Nath monastic community at Gorakhpur has a separate plot of land set aside as a graveyard. The householder Naths, too, bury their dead together in a separate gravesite, which lies just outside the village, next to their quarter. But the gravesite is small, and the dead are buried without coffins, sitting up in a lotus position like yogis. So after successive generations old bones and silver jewelry are accidentally dug up, and though Naths mention these discoveries casually in passing, other villagers view them with disgust. Since the burial place is located so close to where they live, moreover, the Naths routinely traverse it, a habit suggesting the unkempt yogi hanging about cremation grounds. Thus, though perhaps ultimately linked to the respect paid to the spiritualized bodies of individual yogis, the common gravesite of the householder Naths has become a concrete reminder of their awesome strangeness as a community. But the Naths' gravesite is not the most fearsome indication of their strangeness. For however spooky and gruesome they are in themselves, the Naths' burial practices are not seen as particularly dangerous to others. The Naths' transformation of Hindu funereal practices, on the other hand, is treated by the villagers with the utmost caution. On the twelfth day after death, Hindus all over India observe a rite that puts the newly deceased into the ranks of previous generations of ancestors. Having joined the ancestors in their own realm, the deceased will no longer linger about his former home as a ghost and serve as a source of pollution to his family. The ritual, which marks the end of death pollution, features balls made from grain and other auspicious foodstuffs that both represent and nourish the dead.'5 Among most village castes this complex rite is performed in the morning, after an all-night devotional sing, and followed on the afternoon of the twelfth day by a public feast. The Naths, too, hold a feast 15These rites, called sapindTkaranaor samyojana shraddha, are discussed at length by David M. Knipe ("SapindTkarana:The Hindu Rite of Entry into Heaven," in Religious Encounters with Death, ed. Frank E. Reynolds and Earle H. Waugh [University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977], pp. 111-24); Ralph Nicholas ("Shraddha, Impurity, and Relations between the Living and the Dead," in Way of Life: King, Householder, Renouncer, ed. T. N. Madan [New Delhi: Vikas, 1982], pp. 367-79); and Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty ("Karma and Rebirth in the Vedas and Puranas," in Karma

The Householder Nath

120

on the afternoon of the twelfth day, to which other villagers will gladly come. The same villagers, however, will go nowhere near the Naths' song gathering, which has grown to include an element of secret ritual that itself substitutes for the common grain-ball rite. Unlike the songs of many devotional gatherings, those sung by the Naths are restricted to a specific genre: the nirgun bhajan, "songs of devotion to the Formless Lord." These songs often contain allusions to yogic practice and, though appreciated by other villagers on different occasions, are usually characterized as "deep" and "profound"-not easily understood. The following song was recorded at a Nath funeral gathering; in language both technical and poetic it describes the birth of some primal yogi and his internal experience: The son of the immortal,sadhuindestructible: Slowlyin his heartan instrumentis sounded. Theearthand the sky werefashioned, Then MountSumeru Thena diamondyogi sproutedup, A sadhuin the sky.

[Refrain] [1] [2]

Throughthe crookedchannel The gurusent thejuicesdown Watering susumna's fields.

[3]

In thesefieldsare manycrops And all of themthe yogi knew

[4]

falls the gurudrop by drop, ThroughtribenT wherediamondeyes are fixed, TribenT, And see the threeworlds.

[5]

The gurushowseight lotusesand thirty-twopetals To the white-coloredsoul.

[6]

The lightof that soul in the world Willbe seenby all.

[7]

Ninedevis, ten temples-brother, payattention: All aroundis lifelessmatter,filth;

[8]

Thussaid Gorakh,the ascetic,one of the nineNaths. He'llshow the Sant'sname.

[9]

Gloryto Hing Laj Ma! Gloryto one'sGurudev! and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, ed. W. D. O'Flaherty [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980], pp. 3-37).

History of Religions

121

Most of the technical terms appearing in the song above are found in yogic traditions all over India: the lotuses of verse 6, centers of power in the body; susumna (verse 3), the central channel of energy flow; and tribenT(verse 5), "three veins," where susumna intersects two other channels between the eyes. But the "crooked channel" of verse 3 (bank nal in Hindi) is a term more specifically characteristic of Nath tradition, as is the stress on the sound in the heart, which in singing is referred to again and again in the repeated refrain. Indeed, as yogic description, the song above bears a clear family resemblance to many of those published in the available collections of Hindi Nath verse. But the poetic imagery of the song also gives it a more distant family resemblance to a tradition more widespread and vital in India todaythat of the Hindi Sants, who, beginning with Kabir in the fifteenth century, incorporated Nath esoteric techniques into a more devotional piety. In fact, over much of north India it is the verses of Sants that usually form the basis for the nirgun bhajan, the type of song identified by village Naths as characteristically theirs. The village Naths themselves recognize their kinship with the Sants, referring to them in the song above (verse 9) and even at their funeral rite singing songs in a more devotional tone with signatures of famous Sants. As in many Sant songs, in the song above, too, we see a concluding invocation of the guru. But in the song above we also see the invocation of a goddess who is never mentioned in Sant texts: Hing Laj Ma, the deity of the shrine at Hing Laj. Located in Baluchistan, Hing Laj has been one of the most important cultic centers of the Naths of western India. Though the area of the shrine is now in Pakistan and hence inaccessible to the village Naths, the ritual act around which the funeral sing is focused still remains known as Hing Laj Ma Puja, "prayerto Mother Hing Laj." In contrast to the ordinary Hindu, for whom the initial grain-ball rite creates a lasting place in the heavens, someone for whom the Hing Laj Ma Puja is performed finds immediate and complete salvation. For the ordinary Hindu, subsequent offerings of grain-balls provide sustenance for the ancestors as a group. At her puja, on the other hand, Hing Laj Ma is worshiped as a flame said to burn in water: a perfect image of nonnurtured existence. Both rites are seen to be vital to the state of the soul after death, so vital, in fact, that people to whom the rites will eventually become due get anxious about their future performance. Thus, the ordinary Hindu's concern for sustenance in the heavens may add to his desire to propagate his lineage through sons. Someone involved in the Hing Laj Ma Puja, for his part, is concerned about the preservation of the cult group, called panth, "path." For anyone participating in Hing Laj Ma

122

The Householder Nath

Puja must have it performed for him at his death if he is not to become a hungry ghost. And anyone even accidentally witnessing the rite is understood to be one of its participants. We were thus not permitted to witness the rite, for no one could perform it in America, and our restive souls would come back to haunt the members of the panth. Most of what we know of Hing Laj Ma Puja, then, we must surmise from the song accompanying it, which is sung at no other time. For though our Nath informants were willing to record the song for us (a tape recorder has no soul), they were reticent about filling in the details. The first five verses of the song enjoin those present to contemplate the self-existent flame and imbibe its darshan, "visible power." The flame was lit by Gorakh Nath, "remembering Macchinder"Matsyendra, his guru (verse 5); but in addition to sectarian Nath heroes, the song also has a place for the idea of the Sant (refrain; verse 2) and the great Hindu gods (verse 4): The flamebeginsto burn,Oh Sants,take darshan The flamebeginsto burn,Oh Sants,take darshannow.

[Refrain]

All beingsin the worldshouldcontemplatethisflame,reciteits name, Praisethis flame'sgreatpower [1] A Sant lit this flame;in it are manySants. You see them, you see manyin this flame. It'sfilled with diamondsand with preciouspearls:rememberthis! [2] Fromthis flamethe imperceptibleis made:rememberit! In this flamewill man be made:rememberonly this! In this flameare palacesand beauty. Yes, greatseersand munispraiseit alone The greatestseersand munispraiseit alone See Brahma,Vishnu,and Maheshpraiseit alone.

[4]

GorakhYogi lit the flame RememberingMacchindar,Gorakhlit the flame, O CrazyOnes, See and recognizethe trueword,mingleflamein flame.

[5]

[3]

The next three verses refer more directly to cultic practices. Verse 6 mentions a vine, which, we were told, indicates the linking of hands by all participants; this linking of hands is elaborated in verse 7. Verse 8 refers by name to the presiding guru and his special work of making an elaborate grain design called pat. In the last verse, as is customary, the singer identifies himself.

History of Religions

123

Formthe trueword'svine;hold singleness. Yes, form this trueword'svine and hold one sound. Seize the essenceof all Sants,and havingunderstood,recite the name.

[6]

Threepersonsplacetheirhandsand hold a singlesound. Yes, threepersonsplacetheirhandsand hold a singlesound, Releasetheirhands,moveback, recitethe name.

[7]

GoradhanNath is my guru,yes GoradhanNath is my guru. He madethe pat fully, that trueguru,deeply. Yes, he madethepat fully, that trueguru,deeply UgmaNath said, pay attentionto this thing. The flamebeginsto burn,Oh Sants,take darshan. Praiseit, Oh CrazyOnes,rememberthe guru. The flamebeginsto burn,Oh Sants,takedarshan. Victoryto Hing Laj Ma!

[8]

[9]

While the presiding guru of the puja, Goradhan, was a Nath called from outside the village, and all the village Nath families were involved in the panth, the panth itself reaches beyond the boundaries of the Nath caste, including many members of those peasant castes who have traditionally revered the Naths. A few members of these other castes, moreover, have through their personal qualities risen to positions of respected elder in the panth. Thus, in examining the patterns of communalization of Nath esoteric practice, we must distinguish the wider community of the panth from the caste of Nath householders. Each presents its own characteristic developments. The panth, a voluntary community, reveals what can happen when the private inner practices of yogis become transformed into an inner ritual accessible to groups of personally enthusiastic peasants. The householder Naths themselves show us both yogic custom transformed into caste tradition and individual guru-disciple interaction transformed into the role of a caste in Hindu society. Since the panth promises not sustenance in the other world but immediate release from the round of life and death, those attracted to the panth, like those traditionally drawn to be disciples of yogis, are interested in salvation. Yet access to the salvational power offered in the panth demands a different kind of commitment than access to the salvational power of the guru. The lifelong, indeed, eternal relationship of individual beings seen to exist between guru and disciple becomes, in the panth, the collective relationship seen to hold among the members of a secret society, all bound eternally to perpetuate its existence. With the collectivization of the esoteric guru-disciple relationship comes a democratization of the well-defined line of authority from

124

The Householder Nath

guru to disciple that this relationship entails. The disciple of the yogi is supposed to obey him in everything, and it is in fact largely through subordinating himself to the divinity in the guru that he sees himself able to merge with the divine. Though some in the panth are revered as especially wise and well versed in esoteric lore, their authority is practically limited to presiding over ritual. All members of the panth in theory may take turns in leading songs-and there is no general correlation between expertise in singing and in yoga. Democratization of practical authority then leads to a change in the religious value of the esoteric language in the songs-songs that anyone can lead. For though singers in oral traditions do follow established patterns, they are also likely to improvise, particularly in an ecstatic religious atmosphere. Thus, esoteric language that in specific yogic traditions has definite referents in experience can now be used innovatively by singers who have no yogic experience at all. The inspiration these singers receive is likely to lead to poetic vision sooner than to yogic insight, and one revered elder explained some esoteric language (to us, anyway) in the most grossly sexual terms. In this way the esoteric vocabulary that the yogi uses to help convey his experience to his disciple now becomes the basis for polysemous poetic expression that each can interpret according to his inspiration of the moment. For someone born within the Nath caste, the singing of esoteric nirgun bhajans-however they are understood-presents a way of identifying with a yogic heritage without necessarily being able to perform yogic practice. The dominant form of personal piety for the householder Nath then approaches the devotion to the Formless Lord found in the continuing, popular Sant tradition-which itself acknowledges Gorakh Nath as an elevated personage. At the same time, in fulfilling their function as shrine priests-whom the typically iconoclastic Sants disdain-the householder Naths, like established Nath renunciates, follow Shaiva practice, in some places tending images of Shiva. Thus, in accommodating to peasant society the Naths adapt the two forms of current, respectable Hindu practice closest to their roots. Yet the Naths do not accommodate to peasant society at the expense of their special status within it. They cling to their mysterious death rites and claim access to magic power as yogis. Their exercise of magic power in the world, however, clearly differs from that of yogi renunciates. Individual renunciates, outside the social order, will now and then grant worldly boons to persons afflicted with barrenness or ill health. Householder Naths, a community within society, render their most essential aid collectively, to the village as a whole. They are seen less as gurus revered by individual devotees than as members of a caste valued by the entire village. All descendants of forebears invited to

History of Religions

125

protect the village from pestilence, together they tend shrines to which people continue to come first in times of natural disaster. With his esoteric tradition having undergone such far-reaching transformation, the householder Nath can still maintain his identity as a yogi while living as a householder in peasant society. But to the villager thinking about, say, his Nath friend's fearsome funeral rites, the contradictions in the Naths' socioreligious status can appear highly ambiguous. These same contradictions can also prove problematic to individual householder Naths. THE PROBLEMOF THE HOUSEHOLDERNATH AND THE DISTRESSOF RAJA GOPICHAND

By birth a protector of the village from natural disaster and an officiant over rituals attended by many villagers, among the peasant castes the householder Nath plays a role analogous to the brahman-whose great sacrifices of old provided for the common good, and who continues to officiate at personal functions today. In fact, in some ritual functions the Nath can replace the brahman. We were told of the installation thirty or forty years earlier of an oracular deity at an unused shrine that now draws pilgrims from all over the region. On the auspicious night several devotees, including a Rajput who told us the story, assembled at the shrine. The shrine was located in a field outside the village, and the brahman with whom the devotees had arranged to perform the installation had failed to arrive. It was getting dark and a little scary: the men were out unprotected in the fields with a powerful deity who was waiting for his worship to begin. Suddenly those assembled could see an eerie flickering in the distance, getting bigger as it approached. Frightened, most decided to forget about the brahman and retreat to a safe distance. Only our Rajput informant held his ground. As the light grew closer it turned out to be a lamp carried by Madhu, a familiar village Nath, who was coming to take part in the ceremony. Observing that the appointed time had arrived but the brahman had not, Madhu instructed the Rajput to perform the installation, asserting that no brahman was necessary, nor was the usual complement of five men always called for on such occasions. The Rajput hesitated at first, but then, submitting to the Nath's authority, performed the ceremony. Although some later objected to the unorthodox nature of this installation, it was accepted as accomplished, and the shrine became a flourishing place of power. In a pinch, then, the householder Nath can sometimes substitute for a brahman, but the innate power of the two born ritual officiants is not

126

The Householder Nath

understood to be the same-for the power of each derives from a different source. The brahman's derives ultimately from the Vedic seers of the ancient past. To be pure enough to serve as a conduit for the power of Vedic mantra it is enough for the brahman to be moderately strict in his personal hygiene and social interaction, and anyone of normal intelligence can learn to memorize the proper incantations. Hindu culture has long had a place for the punctilious, if rather dull, brahman-personally uncharismatic, yet still qualified to perform effective ritual.16 The ritual power of the householder Nath, on the other hand, has a source in the same yogic power that the legendary Naths used in order to perform impressive miracles. These legendary Naths, moreover, are still said to be wandering the earth today, and fierce-looking yogis remain a common sight at many well-frequented pilgrimage places. While villagers certainly make a distinction between their own Naths and Nath ascetics, the power of the one to perform ritual and the other to perform miracles is seen to be continuous. Our Rajput informant told us of a miraculous incident that occurred several years after he had helped install the deity at the shrine, when people were asking for proofs of its powers. The deity speaking through the possessed priest replied that he would indeed give proof, but only to the man who had had him installed. So our informant, according to the deity's instructions, gathered together some specific offerings, including some iron tongs for the deity's fireplace. At the appointed time, after the other offerings were presented, the possessed priest commanded that the tongs be put in place by some "bheg dharT."Our informant did not know what to make of the statement. Though the term bheg dharT could refer to village Naths-and the possessed priest often used it that way-it could also refer to a real renunciate yogi. Which did the deity mean? Since the village Naths were close at hand, our informant decided to summon one of them and get on with the ceremony-when another devotee noticed that a renunciate yogi was walking down the road nearby. Our informant approached the yogi, who agreed to his request without hesitation. And then, immediately after planting the tongs in the fireplace, the yogi disappeared. "Everyonewas amazed ... ; we were about forty or fifty people that day, but in the middle of them all, he disappeared." A householder Nath from the village might be grudgingly seen as competent to install the deity at a shrine through ritual, but he would not really be expected to combine ritual and miracle like the ascetic 16 See Dumont's ideal-typal contrast between the brahman settled comfortably in the world and the renouncer beyond it ([n. I above], pp. 43, 46).

History of Religions

127

yogi. Nevertheless, the idea of a living tradition of miracle-working ascetics stands behind the ritual power the village Nath is seen to possess. In contrast to the brahman, whose routinized mode of bringing the eternal power of the ancient sages into everyday life has evolved over millennia, the householder Nath is seen to draw on a type of power that still flourishes in traditions of yogic asceticism today. Maintaining ascetic practice, moreover, is understood to augment the Naths' powers: one village Nath of the recent past used to sit in cremation grounds and became famous for his powers of clairvoyance; spells for scorpion stings are understood to gain potency through repetition, not mere memorization. Yet even when they want to, the village Naths cannot seriously practice rigorous yogic asceticism while still raising families as their neighbors do. How is the householder Nath to understand his access to yogic power in light of the ideals set before him in the image of the living renunciate? How is he to reconcile his life as a householder with the potentials of his yogic identity? A few exceptional individuals manage consciously to adapt their particular circumstances to straddle the roles of householder and ascetic. Ogar Nath, the keeper of one of the important local shrines, the seat of a famous ascetic of old, seemed to enjoy the best of both worlds. His shrine, outside the village, was frequented by traveling sadhus, with whom he would indulge in both conversation and intoxicants. But inside the village lived his deceased brother's family, with whom he could often be seen playing the uncle: talking to the women of the house, fondling the children, and always sure of a home-cooked meal. Respected as a celibate ascetic, however, he was not bound by the restrictions of Hindu family life; so even when the family was under birth pollution, Ogar Nath was exempt. In Nath tradition the term Ogar (a Rajasthani form of aughar) refers to a renunciate whose ears have not been cut for earrings, and though Ogar Nath dressed like a sadhu, he did not wear the characteristic earrings of the Nath yogi. He explained that the cartilages were the site of a nexus of bodily senses; thus, boring holes through the cartilages would bring the senses under control and give inner peace. This was the state of the true renunciate, for which, however, he said he was not ready. He was also not ready for the constant tension involved in wearing the earrings, for if they should ever tear through the ear and fall to the ground the yogi would be forced immediately to take "living samadhi" at that very spot-that is, to be buried alive. Madhu, the same Nath whom we saw installing the deity at the shrine, either did not put stock in Ogar Nath's ideas about ear cutting or had a higher regard for his own spiritual state. For he both wore the Nath earrings and lived as a householder with a family. Madhu did

128

The Householder Nath

have a healthy terror of the earrings' death-dealing potential, though, and always traveled with a scarf well-wrapped several times around his ears and head. As a young man Madhu seems to have had aspirations different from most others in his caste. He was one of the few in his generation to have learned the oral epic of Raja Gopi Chand, Jalandhar Nath's disciple, and was the only one local people now knew who was capable of reciting the epic at length. And when the Rajput lord of one of the nearby villages let it be known that he had some fine, polished-glass earrings that he was ready to give to a worthy Nath, Madhu was ready to accept them. The ear-cutting ceremony was performed in all its painful glory,17 and together with the earrings, the Raja also gave Madhu some land and a well-not all of which, however, he was able to keep. Today Madhu stands out from his caste fellows as a character with an interest in caste traditions and access to a little magical power-the only one among them whose ears are cut. Madhu and Ogar Nath have moved in two different directions to reconcile the householder's life with a renouncer's identity. Madhu, as we have seen, is ready to install a deity at a shrine and is understood to have the power to do it; he is, moreover, able to recite oral epic. Yet people question his motivation in accepting the Raja's earrings, and he is less respected for his personal qualities than is Ogar Nath, who strikes a noble figure. For Ogar Nath knows yogic lore and resides at a major temple to Shiva, which he recently had rebuilt through his own donations and fund-raising efforts. Ogar Nath is a revered sadhu, who, even though keeping up family ties, is seen to have stepped out of the common social order. Madhu, on the other hand, is a landowning farmer who has reverted to ways of the professional bard, a rather demeaning occupation. At yearly festivals and specific invitation he will sing the exploits of Raja Gopi Chand-often accompanied by his grown son and usually expecting remuneration. The epic of Raja Gopi Chand sung by Madhu is recited in different versions by mendicant singers all over north India, from Bengal to the Punjab. The story of the Raja's leaving his court to become a yogi dramatically reveals the tension between householder and renouncer that all householder yogis may feel, whatever their social status. It has 17 Ogar Nath emphasized the seriousness of the ordeal suffered by Madhu. The operation was performed by a specially trained yogi, while Madhu sat with his hands under his knees so as not to clutch his ears in pain. In order to protect the cuts no sleep is allowed for the first three days after the operation. After nine days the sticks of nTm wood placed in the cuts just after the operation are changed. Only when the cuts are fully healed are earrings worn; the first pair are usually of clay. Though narrated to us as history, this report sounds prescriptive. Compare Briggs, p. 32, some of whose descriptions correspond in essentials to Ogar Nath's.

History of Religions

129

thus understandably become the core of probably their most widespread popular epic. The most important scholarly transcriptions we have of the tale were recorded in performance by nineteenth-century folklorists. Even though the performers may have prided themselves on a yogic descent, they were probably from low castes of professional entertainers.'8 Madhu's version, however, shows some touches that seem especially to reflect the tensions of a living tradition of householder Naths nicely integrated into the middle ranks of Hindu society. Gopi Chand was born, says Madhu, only because his mother wrangled a boon from Shiva-despite the fact that there was no son written in her fate. Through Shiva's mediation, one of the disciples of the accomplished yogi Jalandhar Nath was granted to her as a son on loan. The terms of this loan stated, however, that after ruling over his kingdom for twelve years Gopi Chand be returned to his guru. If Gopi Chand becomes his guru's true disciple, he will receive an immortal body; but if he refuses to renounce the world, he will die. The story opens in the twelfth year of Gopi Chand's reign, with Jalandhar Nath coming to collect his debt. Camping with his disciples in the palace gardens, he sends a message to Gopi Chand's mother, who then breaks the news to Gopi Chand of the circumstances of his birth and the necessity of the moment. Gopi Chand questions her closely and, having taken in the situation, acts at once. What does he do? Accompanied by some trusty men he goes straight to the yogi's camp in the garden, throws his former and future guru down a deep well, and pushes in a huge stone after him. For good measure he then sends for seven hundred cartloads of horse manure from the royal stables and dumps them on top of the stone. Needless to say, this rather crude ploy gets him nowhere. As prophesied, death's messengers come and start to drag him away with them. But just as they are pulling him through the sky, Jalandhar Nath, 18 Among householder yogis the epic of Raja Gopi Chand is rivaled only by that of Bhartrihari, his uncle. Transcriptions taken from bards' performances of the epic are offered by George Grierson in "The Song of Manik Chandra," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 47 (1878): 135-238, and "Two Versions of the Song of Gopi Chand," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 54 (1885): 35-55; and by R. C. Temple in The Legends of the Punjab (1884; reprint, Patiala: Government of Punjab, Language Department, 1962). Unbescheid, pp. 131-35, gives oral legends gathered from the Kusle yogis of Nepal. Dvivedi (n. 2 above), pp. 205-8, offers concise retellings in modern Hindi of four versions of the story of Gopi Chand taken from written sources, some not easily accessible. Popular narratives are retold by Dikshit (n. I above), pp. 190-217, 355-56; and Mahapatra ("The Nath Cult of Bengal," Folklore 12 [1976]: 376-96). We have also had access to an unpublished translation from the Bengali by Kanika Sircar (Gopicander Pancali [University of Chicago, Department of South Asian Languages, n.d., mimeographed]). For a note on the status of epic bards and how transcriptions were made in the nineteenth century, see Temple, I:vii-xii.

130

The Householder Nath

whose yogic powers were unaffected by Gopi Chand's crude maltreatment, comes storming up behind them and challenges the servants of King Yama: "Hey sister-fuckers, where do you think you're going with my disciple?"'9 Jalandhar Nath's yogic authority prevailing, Gopi Chand returns to his body-which was being mourned in the palaceand revives, to the great joy of his mother, his sixteen hundred slave girls, and his eleven hundred queens. But now chastened by this close encounter with mortality, he admits that he must do as his mother had told him in the beginning: renounce the world. Renouncing the world is no mean feat for Gopi Chand, for his possessions are multiply seductive. Not only is he attached to his thousands of women and his magnificent palaces, horses, and elephants, but he also regrets the loss of his personal luster, his beauty which must be buried beyond recognition beneath a yogi's ash paste and rough garment. Again and again Jalandhar Nath is called on to save Gopi Chand from the world for which he longs. Once, for example, Gopi Chand is recognized by his chief queen, who throws his daughter in his lap. His attachment to his family then becomes so powerful that the only way Jalandhar Nath can save him is by immediately reducing him to ashes-and later reincarnating him in another body. Gopi Chand is not always so happy at being rescued like this and at times appears distinctly ungrateful. In fact, suspects Gopi Chand, maybe his guru does not really understand. Thus, when Jalandhar Nath reproaches Gopi Chand for his perpetual ensnarement in the net of illusion, the guru receives this crude and pointed reply: "What do you know of such things? You fell from the sky and have no mother and father!" Having been on loan to the world for so many years, Gopi Chand presumes to know some truths to which his guru has no access. This insolence of Gopi Chand toward his guru after so many years of discipleship is certainly not found in other accessible versions of the story, nor is the motif of Gopi Chand's being a yogi on loan. The idea of a yogi on loan, however, seems to encapsulate nicely the predicament of the householder Naths among whom Madhu lives. Not born a worldling who must then renounce, as in most other versions of the epic,20Gopi Chand for Madhu is really a yogi who is born to participate in worldly life-while still owing something to his yogic origin. Though fulfilling the terms of his debt may not be as painful for the 19A longer version of the story will appear in translation in Ann Grodzins Gold, "Life Aims and Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani Pilgrims" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1984), chap. 2. 20 See Dikshit, pp. 192-93; Dvivedi, pp. 205-8; Mahapatra, pp. 378-79; Temple, pp. 8-11; Unbescheid, p. 132.

History of Religions

131

householder Nath as it is for Gopi Chand, will not he, too, somehow have to own up to the responsibilities of his yogic identity? Like Raja Gopi Chand, then, the householder Nath knows a continuity of yogic and family identities that can be both confusing and problematic. In most versions of the epic this continuity of identities develops into a basis for dramatic pathos well exemplified in the figure of Gopi Chand's mother. Having borne Gopi Chand in her womb and raised him to manhood, she nevertheless knows his fate and urges him to leave the world. A renowned Indian scholar comments on the irony of the scene: normally the first to dissuade her son from the renouncer's path, the mother in the Indian home is perhaps the strongest focus of family affection.21 For a community of born yogis, then, the noble figure of Gopi Chand's mother can embody a painful union of the healthy family affection they know and the powers of yogic asceticism they may see as theirs to acquire. Indeed, in Bengali versions of the tale, Gopi Chand's mother herself is a great yogini.22 The strong and pivotal role of the mother in the epic of Gopi Chand, however, stands in contrast to her role in the legends of other Nath yogis. For when Naths other than Gopi Chand have miraculous births, they are likely to appear as well-developed ascetics, with women having little positive to contribute to their origins at all. Jalandhar Nath, as Gopi Chand noted, "fell from the sky," and Gorakh Nath arrived in the world as a twelve-year-old boy-and this on account of woman's fickleness. We are told that Matsyendra Nath, Gorakh's guru, bestowed some ashes on a peasant woman who had besought him for a son. But convinced by her gossipy neighbors of the ashes' dangerous power, the woman threw them into a pit of cow dung. Coming to visit the woman twelve years later, Matsyendra finds out what she had done and is furious. Nevertheless, a yogi's blessing must always bear its fruit, and Matsyendra is able to summon Gorakh out of the cow dung, where he had grown into a fine youth.23 Matsyendra, then, through his sacred ash, becomes Gorakh's father in a very concrete sense, while the womb that gave him nurture was nothing human but an earthy, amorphous, and peculiarly sacred pit of cow dung. Gorakh would not forget his filial duty to his nonhuman parents. Gorakh's very name means "protector of cows," and he had rushed to save his guru-father from forgetting himself in the city of women. Gopi Chand, on the other hand, in order to remain with his eleven hundred 21 Dvivedi, p. 205, writes: "This must be the unique occurrence in history of a mother herself encouraging her son to embrace renunciation." 22 See Mahapatra, pp. 378-82; and Dvivedi, pp. 206-7. 23 We are following Dikshit, p. 119.

The Householder Nath

132

wives and sixteen hundred slave girls, tries to kill his guru-by burying him in horse manure. This single-handed, decisive action on the part of Gopi Chand is another distinctive touch of Madhu's Rajasthani tale: in most other versions of the epic Jalandhar is dealt this ignominious treatment through the plotting of Gopi Chand's wives.24Thus again, the Gopi Chand whom the villagers know does not conform to the Hindu stereotype of the prospective renunciate ensnared by his ties to woman and home; instead, Gopi Chand is fated to be a renouncer and questions, indeed, rebels against his destiny. Not born of his guru from a pit of cow dung but attempting to kill him in a pit of horse manure, not coming into the world as a twelveyear-old through woman's fickleness and stupidity but as a royal infant through a queen's desperate bargain, not saving his guru-father from the court of the kingdom of women but urged on by his powerful mother to renounce the many women of his court-Gopi Chand appears as a striking contrast to Gorakh, the archetypal Nath ascetic. For as the hero of the popular epic of the householder Naths whom we have described, Raja Gopi Chand seems to embody the conflicts of their situation-one that inverts the tension between householder and renouncer faced by most Hindus. The village Nath's attempts somehow to come to terms with his true identity through the communal life he has evolved certainly seem more effective-if less dramatic-than Raja Gopi Chand's frustrated exploits. Yet these attempts answer to problems similar to those of the epic hero, problems that for individual Naths can sometimes be just as painful and perplexing. Oberlin College 24 Dikshit, pp. 198-200, has Gopi Chand bury Jalandhar Nath in horse manure after the Raja's wives accuse the guru of an illicit relationship with Raja's mother, who visits Jalandhar Nath as a disciple. Unbescheid's informants (p. 133) say that Jalandhar's wives themselves put Gopi Chand in a deep hole in a stable. Temple's version (p. 16) has Gopi Chand bury Jalandhar in filth (including horse manure) at the instigation of his minister.

View more...

Comments

Copyright ©2017 KUPDF Inc.
SUPPORT KUPDF