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Centre of Jaina Studies

International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online) ISSN: 1748-1074

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Jain Perceptions of Nāth and Haṭha Yogīs in Pre-Colonial North India

Author: John E. Cort

Year: 2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online) Vol. 11, No. 4 (2015) 1-22

Toward the end of the Banārsī Vilās, the “collected works” of Banārsīdās (1586-1643) that was compiled by his colleague Jagjīvanrām in 1644, there is a curious seven-caupāī composition entitled Gorakhnāth ke Vacan, or “The Sayings of Gorakhnāth.” The text, which may or may not have been authored by Banārsīdās, but at the very least provides us with a Jain reception of  Gorakhnāth’s teachings, gives a very favorable short summary of them. To the best of my knowledge, no scholarly attention has been focused on this text. Scholars of Banārsīdās at best simply mention it in passing.  Scholars of Gorakhnāth, and the Nāths seem largely to be ignorant of the text. A century later, in his Mokṣa-mārg Prakāśak, the Jaipur-based Terāpanth ideologue Ṭoḍarmal (ca. 1719/20-1766/67) included a discussion of the practices of Haṭha Yogīs, who most likely were Rāmānandīs.  His comments were harshly critical of these false practices. Neither account of these “Hindu” Yogic practitioners of early modern north India is sufficiently extensive or detailed to provide useful contemporary evidence of the details of the practices of these Yogic groups. They do, however, show us two very different responses to the problem of religious diversity. While Banārsīdās affirms the superiority of the Jain teachings in other texts, the inclusion of Gorakhnāth ke Vacan in his Banārsī Vilās shows that he was a curious spiritual seeker, who could find value in non-Jain practices and ideas. Ṭoḍarmal, on the other hand, was a staunch ideologue, who exalted the Jain doctrines and denigrated all others.

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