Macchindranath, also known as Matsyendranātha, Mīnanātha, Matsyendra, and Minapa (early 10th century) was a saint and Yogi in several Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Being traditionally considered the revivalist of Hatha Yoga as well as the author of some of its earliest texts, he is also seen as the founder of the Nath Sampradaya, having received the teachings from Shiva and Dattatreya, who is especially associated with Kaula Shaivism. He is also one of the 84 Mahasiddhas and considered the guru of Gorakshanath, another important figure in early Hatha Yoga. Siddha Spirituality of Swami Hardas Life System has also a spiritual base of Navnath.
The incarnation of Nine Narayana
Whenever Dharma (morality) falls prey to Adharma (sin) inflates, Lord Vishnu incarnates in that era to protect the good and destroy the evil. In the epoch of Lord Krishna’s incarnation i.e. the end of Dwapaar Yuga, plans were made for the Kali Yuga. Amongst which, was one of the most important plans; the nine Narayana should take divine birth and educate the people to attain Moksha (salvation).
Who, When, Where, and How?
At Lord Krishna’s invitation, the nine Narayan; Kavi, Hari, Antariksha, Prabuddha, Pippalaayan, Avirhotra, Drumil, Chamas, and Karbhajan attended the Yadavas assembly. There he told them the plan of who, when, where, and how they will take birth.
- Kavi as Macchindra,
- Hari as Goraksha,
- Antariksha as Jalandhar,
- Prabuddha as Kanif,
- Pippalaayan as Charpati,
- Avirhotra as Naagnath,
- Drumil as Bhartari,
- Karbhajan as Gahini, and
- Chamas as Revan.
Shree Krishna as Gyanadev, Shankar as Nivrutti, Bramha as Sopan, Yogmaya as Muktabai, Uddhav as Namdev, Maruti as Ramdas, Valmiki as Tulsidas, Jambavan as Narhari, Shukra as Kabir, Balram as Pundalik, Kubja as Janabai, and many such devotees and saints will educate people in Dharma (morality), Moksha (salvation), Bhakti (devotion), Gyan (knowledge), and Yoga.
Birth of Macchindranath: Incarnation of Lord Kavi
Narayanas in the state of meditation
Later the nine Narayanas stayed in the state of meditation on the Mandarachal. After a time interval, Lord Kavi originated in the chaste womb of a fish in the Yamuna River. Coincidently, Lord Shankar was giving Goddess Parvati the teachings of self-knowledge on the bank of the river Yamuna. On hearing that, Kavi acknowledged from inside the fish’s womb in the river.
Lord Shankar immediately understood the meaning of it and blessed Kavi. Before leaving he also assured him of teachings from Lord Dattatreya in the future. Some time passed and the fish laid eggs on the river bank. The egrets started breaking the eggs when a human larva fell from a giant egg and started crying. He was the Kavi Narayana. Seeing that the egrets flew away and the child continued crying.
Kamik with his wife Sharadvata
There lived a fisherman named Kamik along with his wife Sharadvata. They were an infertile couple. When he came to the river bank he saw this baby and got extremely happy. He thought to himself that this was God’s gift to me and took him home. The couple nurtured him with immense love and named him Macchindra.
From the age of 4 – 5 years, he started going with his father Kaamik to the river bank. Every day the father caught fish and threw it in the basket kept on the bank and the child protected it from crows. Soon the child got anxious due to the knowledge he had received from Lord Shiva, when in the womb.
Kamik dragged the child home
He couldn’t put up with the squirming of the fish outside the water. Feeling pity for them, Macchindra threw the fish back in the river when his father was busy fishing. The fish got a gift of life. When Kamik came back to the shore he shouted at Macchindra as his efforts had gone to waste. “Child, what’s the point in showing mercy on the fish. You will starve.”
Kamik dragged the child home. Macchindra felt that begging is better than filling the belly at the cost of an animal’s life!
Begining meditation at the age of five years
As soon as the fisherman turned his back he ran away and day in day out kept walking towards North. He reached the Badrikaavan. Seeing the delightful place he thought, this is the place where I should sit and meditate as per Lord Shankar’s advice. And that 5-year-old child sat for meditation and ascetic practice!.
Another birth story of Macchindranath
Legends vary in describing his birthplace. Giuseppe Tucci states, on the authority of two Tibetan works – the Siddha (Wylie: grub thob) and Taranatha’s “Possessing the Seven Transmissions” (Wylie: bka’ babs bdun ldan) – that Macchindranāth, who is seen in Tibet as an avatar of Avalokiteśvara, was a fisherman from Kamarupa i.e., from the Kaibarta caste.
Other sources give his birthplace as North Bengal. According to inscriptions found in Nepal in the ancient Newari colony of Bungmati, the home of Macchindranath Chariot Jatra, his shrine was brought from Assam in India.
Life of Macchindranath
The researchers were unable to come to an agreement about the exact date of Macchindranath (who is also called Minanatha). However, in accordance with various opinions, he lived not earlier than the 7th century and not later than the 12th century. Most legends about him connect his life with the areas of Bengal, Assam, Nepal, and locally near the city Mangalore of Karnataka.
Lord Shiva’s teachings
A popular legend is that he was swallowed by a fish; and by the sea Lord Shiva was teaching the secrets of yoga (the origin of the Nath teachings) to his consort, Parvati. She fell asleep but he heard everything while hidden in the fish. However, he was discovered by Parvati. She got angry and cursed Macchindranath to forget all about yoga.
Created from a fish by Lord Shiva
Another popular belief is that Macchindranath was created from a fish by Lord Shiva who wanted to create him from absolute purity. This could be found in the five elements of life – fire, water, sky, earth, and air. Lord Shiva took a certain percentage from each of the five elements and created him.
Spread of the Nath wisdom
Macchindranath and his disciples spread the wisdom of Nath, a popular Indian religious movement combining elements of Shaivism, Buddhism, and Hatha Yoga. In the course of time, his name came through numerous distortions, and he became recognized under many different names. His name also appears on both the lists of the 9 Nathas (or masters) and the 84 Mahasiddhas (or greatly accomplished ones) common to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Patron of Nepal
Macchindranath is the patron of Nepal and was given semi-divine status by his followers. They identified him with Avalokiteshvara-Padmapani (a bodhisattva or Buddha-to-be) in Nepal. The stories portray him as a yogi fond of eating the innards of fish.
Achievements of Macchindranath
Guru of Gorakshanath
He has wide recognition as the guru of Gorakshanath. Macchindranath and Gorakshanath founded the sect known as the Nath tradition (or Nath Sampradaya) or the Kanphata Yogis, an order of religious ascetics who stress the practice of Hatha Yoga.
“Kanphata” (from “Kan” or ear and “phata” or split), refers to the fact that during the initiation ceremony the ears are split in order to insert enormous earrings. However, it is believed that this custom affects an important current (nadi) of life at the ear that facilitates the acquisition of certain magical powers. This order still survives today. The Sanskrit word “Nath” is the proper name of a Hindu initiatory tradition and the word itself literally means “lord, protector, refuge”.
The related Sanskrit term – Adi-Nath means first or original Lord, and is, therefore, a synonym for Shiva, Mahadeva, or Maheshvara. The Nath tradition is a heterodox Siddha tradition containing many sub-sects.
Founder of the Kaula tradition
Macchindranath is one of the founders of the Kaula tradition, who is considered the author of the Kaula-Jnana-Nirnaya (“Discussion of the Knowledge Pertaining to the Kaula Tradition”), one of the earliest texts on Hatha Yoga in Sanskrit. Kaula practices are based on tantra, closely related to the Siddha tradition and Shaktism.
Kula secret: Kundalini-shakti.
Macchindranath may have founded the Yogini-Kaula branch. This tantric sect derives its name from its primary doctrinal tenet, the kula. This kula is the ultimate Reality in its dynamic or feminine aspect, as Shakti, specifically kundalini-shakti. The literal meaning of kula is “flock” or “multitude” but also, more significantly, “family” and “home”. Thus, the term evokes both the sense of differentiation and protected-ness, which is pertinent in regard to the serpent power, since the kundalini is both the source of the multitudinous universe and the ultimate security for the yogis who know the kula secret.
What legends have to tell about Macchindranath?
Birth of Macchindranath on an inauspicious occasion
Legends tell that Macchindranath was born on an inauspicious occasion, hence, his parents threw the baby into the ocean, which was swallowed by a fish. The fish swam to the bottom of the ocean where Lord Shiva was imparting the secrets of yoga to his consort, Parvati. Upon overhearing the secrets of yoga, Macchindra began to practice Yoga Sadhana inside the fish’s belly. After twelve years he finally emerged as an enlightened Siddha.
Lord of the fishes
‘Lord of the Fishes’ or ‘He Whose Lord is the Lord of the Fishes’ is often given as the origin of his name. Other versions of the legend exist, including one in which Macchindra was born as a fish and turned into a Siddha by Shiva. Tibetan renditions of the story tell of a fisherman-turned-Siddha named Mina, who is eaten by a fish while working in the Bay of Bengal. Some scholars draw parallels between this legend and the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale.
God of rain
Another legend says that, when Gorakshanath visited Patan in Nepal, he captured all the rain-showering serpents. As a result, Patan faced drought for a long time. On the advice of his advisers, the king of Patan invited Macchindranath, Gorakshanath’s guru, to Patan. When Gorakshanath learned that his teacher was in Patan, he released all the rain showering serpents and went to see him. After setting free the rain-showering serpents, the rain started regularly showering. Hence, the locals of Patan worshiped Macchindranath as the god of rain.
Teachings of Macchindranath
Nath is a religious movement in India whose members strive for immortality by transforming the human body into an imperishable divine one. It combines esoteric traditions drawn from Buddhism, Shaivism, and Hatha Yoga. The Nath sect consists of yogis whose aim is to achieve Sahaja, a state of neutrality transcending the duality of human existence through an awakening of the self’s inherent identity with absolute reality.
Disciples of Macchindranath
The list of his disciples varies between different temples and lineages, but commonly includes:
- Kanifnath (Kanhoba),
- Bhartari Nath,
- Revan Nath,
- Charpatinath, and
All the Navnath likely lived hundreds of years apart.
Frequently asked questions
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|Who is Macchindranath?
Macchindranath, also known as Matsyendranātha, Mīnanātha, Matsyendra, and Minapa (early 10th century) was a saint and Yogi in several Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Being traditionally considered the revivalist of Hatha Yoga as well as the author of some of its earliest texts, he is also seen as the founder of the Nath Sampradaya, having received the teachings from Shiva and Dattatreya, who is especially associated with Kaula Shaivism. He is also one of the 84 Mahasiddhas and is considered the guru of Gorakshanath.
|Which are the incarnations of Nav Narayana?
The incarnations decided by Lord Krishna include Kavi as Macchindra, Hari as Goraksha, Antariksha as Jalandhar, Prabuddha as Kanif, Pippalaayan as Charpati, Avirhotra as Naagnath, Drumil as Bhartari, Karbhajan as Gahini, and Chamas as Revan.
|What are the teachings of Macchindranath?
Nath is a religious movement of India whose members strive for immortality by transforming the human body into an imperishable divine one. It combines esoteric traditions drawn from Buddhism, Shaivism, and Hatha Yoga. The Nath sect consists of yogis whose aim is to achieve Sahaja, a state of neutrality transcending the duality of human existence through an awakening of the self’s inherent identity with absolute reality.