Hinduism and Buddhism have commonalities in yogic practices. Terms such as pratyahara, dharana and samadhi are common to both Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and the six-limbed yoga in Vajrayana Buddhism. However, the
The Gorakhnath Enlightenment
The Path to Om
by Jayraj Salgaonkar
Indus Source Books,
`325; pages 275
interpretations and ways of practice differ. There are similarities in the concepts of Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism. But the approaches are different.”
These are some remarks in the foreword to this well researched and crisply edited compilation of commentaries based on a variety of literature sources. Jayraj Salgaokar, the writer, is the editor and publisher of a popular multilingual almanac, published in nine languages. He pens columns in Maharashtra Times, Loksatta and other Marathi publications.
This book is a unique attempt, as the author explains, “To explore the anomalies and similarities of two esoteric cults — the Siddhas and the Buddhas — bound together by the heterogeneous spiritual thread of Gorakhnath.”
It is fitting that the author has chosen Gorakhnath as the basis for finding common ground, as well as distinctions, between Hatha Yoga and Buddhist Tantra. Gorakhnath was a medieval saint of the 11th century. He was reputed to be a yogi who travelled widely across India. He is also the author of many texts that outline the canon of the Nath tradition, founded by guru Matsyendranath in the early 10th century. In Hindu lore, Gorakhnath is traditionally considered to be a mahayogi (or great yogi). He advocated yoga and spiritual discipline as a means to reach one's own liberation. Gorakhnath, like his guru, Matsyendranath, is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists.
The commentaries are organised in three chapters: yogic and tantric gods and goddesses; Gorakhnath (the thread that binds Shaivism and Vjrayana Buddhism), and finally, the Siddhas and the Buddhist tradition. Each of these chapters explores specific aspects of the two traditions, or their connection to the Gorakhnath tradition, in sub-sections. For example, one sub-section in the first chapter compares and contrasts Shakti (in Hinduism) and Tara (in Buddhism) as twin sisters.
This book is not just a reference work for scholars and historians. Rather, if you are curious, these explorative essays are intended to inspire you to find out more about the spiritual traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the teachings and practices of the Nath tradition. An extensive and well-edited bibliography provides many good sources of information.
-T A Balasubramaniam
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