One of the most popular cults of Bengal lore are the Nāthas. It originally developed in Bengal out of a curious mixture of a once mighty Vajrayāna Buddhism and the subsequent Sāivism. Its main impetus is that of a yogic-dimension that utilized sundry Siddhis powers. They were briefly relayed in a former series but is worth repeating at this junction:
Eight supernatural faculties, viz., Animā (the power of becoming as small as an atom), Mahimā (the power of becoming big), Laghimā (the power of assuming excessive lightness at will), Garimā (the power of becoming as heavy as one likes), Prāpti (the power of obtaining everything at will), Prakāmya (the power of obtaining all objects of pleasure at will), Īstva (the power of obtaining supremacy over everything) and Vaśitva (the power of subduing, fascinating or bewitching) are well known in the school of yoga. The Nāthās seldom walked on earth, they moved in the air and would traverse hundreds of miles within the twinkle of an eye.
This active state of the Siddha, which helps the religious aspirers of the world on the one hand and evolves its own final state of parā-mukti on the other, may very well be compared to the Bodhisattvahood of the Buddhists, where there is the principle of activity in the form of universal compassion, which uplifts the suffering beings on the one hand, and, on the other hand, makes the Bodhisattva march forward through the ten stages of Bodhisattva-bhūmi towards the final goal of Buddhahood. (ibid, pg. 212, 220)
Their aim was to achieve liberation, both with the formation of an immortal body (siddha-deha) and then in a divine body (divya-deha). This would be in conjunction with the Spiritual Sovereignty of the Dharmatā Buddha found within the Lankavatara Sutra. Common features are also to be found within Vajrayāna as we shall discuss shortly. One of the prominent subsects were that of the Nine Nāthas, or the Navnath Sampradaya. Their approach was a three-fold endeavor: emphasis upon bhakti (devotion); another on jnana (knowledge); and its more popular form in the minds of devotees on yogic-union with the ultimate. Sir Nisargadatta Maharaj belonged to the sect, although he primarily practiced the bhakti element whilst simultaneously teaching the jnanic element.
What I find fascinating with the Nāthas is their unique teaching on sound. They believed that the entire cosmos was born out of nada (sound), the divine principle, and bindu (light). This Lord of Light was Shiva and thus liberation occurs when these aforementioned factors merge into the soul via the ongoing process of laya, or thorough dissolution of the Ego or the Skandhic I-ness. ‘Vam, Vam’ is the peculiar mystic sound of the Natha yogins as it is of Shiva himself. There is a direct correlation within the Vajrayāna which comes closer to home in our own Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra, in particular The Divine Liturgy of Vajrasattva at the junction of the Liturgy of Consecration within the Liturgy. The five sacred articles corresponding to symbols of the Five Dhyanī Buddhas are placed upon the altar with the accompanying music of Dance of the Siddhars by Turiya Nada. The video you see here is placed prominently within the liturgy ringing out the Vam, Vam, Vam of the Dhyanī Buddhas.
The Mandala of Adibuddha Samantabhadra depicts the Seven-Fold Circle of the Tathagata Family of the Five Dhyanī Buddhas served by Vajrasattva who is in consummative union with Arya Tārā. These are the emanations of Adibuddha Samantabhadra and they (along with the supportive Black Dragon Eye Mandala) are placed dominantly in the header of our site as our Divine Protectors.
It also needs to be stressed in conclusion of this blog that Nātha literally means protector or Lord, thus today’s title. Indeed, they too are to be included in the vast pantheon of Dharma Protectors at our site.