"Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji of Kashmir"
by Mr. Justice Shiva Nath
I have known Pandit
Shridhar Joo Dhar retired Conservator of Forests, J & K Government, since
the Summer of 1936 when I met him for the first time at the Shrine of Shri
Sharda Ji on the banks of Krishna Ganga, now in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It
was at his suggestion that a copy of the biography
of the Late Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji of Kashmir was sent to me. I have read and
reread the book which has been very ably written by Pandit Shanker Nath Fotedar
with absorbing interest. It deals with the life story of the greatest Kashmiri
Saint of the century.
Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji was born on 3rd July 1898 in Bana
Mohalla, Srinagar (Kashmir) and died in Chondpura, Srinagar on 28th of May 1968.
He remained in Kashmir throughout his life and never left it. Born in a
respectable and esteemed family of Kashmir Pandits he took to spiritual pursuits
from an early age and from 1925 onwards plunged headlong in the quest of self-realisation.
Though he lived with his near relations he remained a celibate. He had read upto
the middle standard and had a fair knowledge of English. He knew Sanskrit well
and had mastery over Persian and Urdu. He spoke little and kept himself covered
in a cloak of anonymity. Only those fortunate few who came in contact with him
had glimpses of his greatness. It was only in the later phase of his life that
his fame began to spread and Sadhus and Saints from outside Kashmir visited him.
But even then it was only a small gathering of devotees and aspirants who came
to him. He shunned publicity and lived in close communion with unseen forces. He
was compassionate to the needy and in distress and helped them and blessed them.
He led a simple and austere life. His chelum was his constant companion.
It is very difficult to make a true assessment of
spiritual giants. They have dimensions wholly different from men of the world,
big or small, and it is not possible to measure their greatness by an ordinary
yard stick. The great merit of Pandit Shanker Nath Fotedar's book on Bhagwan
Gopi Nath Ji lies in its faithful and detailed recording of all that the author
knew about Bhagwan Gopinath Ji and the information that he gathered about the
great saint. The reader gets a narrative of Bhagwan Ji's life events, his habits
and his spiritual efforts. It is not fully certain as to who was the Guru of
Bhagwan Ji. Shri Fotedar while mentioning about the spiritual efforts of Bhagwan
Ji is not in a position to say as to what precisely was the path followed by
Bhagwanji which enabled him to reach the heights which he had attained. But
there is enough factual material in the book to enable a practitioner in the
path of the traditional Shiva Shakti worship which is prevalent among Kashmiri
Pandits, to draw inferences and conclusions about the mode of sadhana practiced
It is necessary to mention briefly the religious
beliefs and practices of the Kashmiri Pandits. They follow the tenets of Sanatan
Dharma in common among the Hindus and worship the Supreme Being in His five
aspects of Vishnu, Ganesh, Surya, Shiva and Devi. But their kul-devatas are the
different forms of the Devi and they are worshippers of Shakti which includes
Shiva as well. Every family has his Kul Devi which are generally Ragyan, Sharika,
and Jwala, with their corresponding Bhairava (Shiva). While the Devi is
worshipped in the ordinary way some persons aspiring for higher reaches get
initiated and then the path goes steep high. Side by side with the aforesaid
traditional worship of the Devi is Shaiva Darshan, popularly known as Kashmir
Shaivism, propounded and elaborated by a long line of great philosopher sages
and sadhaks such as Shri Kanth. Vasu Gupta, Kallata, Somanand, Utpala, and to
crown them all, the great Abhinava Gupta who was followed by Kshemraj and
others. There is no other Savant and Scholar after the Adi Shankaracharya who is
more honoured in the Hindu world than Abhinava Gupta. He is referred to as
Mahamaheshwar and he moved across the Indian stage as an unrivalled colossus.
The Trika system of Kashmir Shaivism in a way seeks to harmonise the Shaiva and
Shakta philosophies. It adds to the concepts of the beginning and creation of
the uffiverse propounded by the Sankhya System. The Trika system has its
practical side as well. It is a moot question as to how far the principles of
the Trika system have been borrowed from Shakta practices or, conversely, to
what extent the Shakta sadhana as prevalent in Kashmir and in parts of Indqa,
has been influenced by the Trika doctrines. The subject becomes relevant inorder
to assess the spiritual heights attained by Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji.
The factual information contained in Pandit Shanker
Nath Fotedar's book clearly shows that Bhagwan Gopinath Ji began with the
traditional worship of the Devi in Her different aspects such as Ragyan, Sharika
and Jwala. The distinction between the Devis is only for the beginner. As the
practitioner goes higher on the path the distinction disappears and he bows
before the Divine mother, Jagadamba, in all Her aspects. The traditional Shakta
upasana leads the practitioner to the point where every thing goes back and
merges in the Devi and that includes Shiva as well. The sadhak becomes a Kaul, a
paramhansa and according to the Tantras there is nothing beyond a Kaul. In the
upper most reaches the sadhak pursuing the path of visualising and comprehending
the reverse process in cosmic evolution seeks to go to the Ultimate Source of
all, the Divine Lady, who is the Supreme Creatrix.
Is there anything beyond the Devi which can be
subjected to ritual worship and which can come within the comprehension of a
Kaul. It could be said that the traditional worship of the Devi by Kashmiri
Pandits as also the Shakta practitioners in India and abroad can itself lead to
the identification of the Sadhaka with the Supreme Being and no further climb is
necessary. The Shaiva Darshan and Trika Shastra seem to suggest that there is a
higher summit beyond the Devi Herself. The approach though highly abstruce is
indicated with clarity. That may be regarded as the last hurdle before reaching
the final goal and even Shakta Sadhaks have sometimes traversed the path
indicated by Trika Shastra to achieve their objective. Did Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji
too adopt such a course. In 1930 Bhagwanji shifted to the house of Pandit Tika
Bayu at Rangteng (Srinagar) and stayed there for seven years. The factual record
of what Bhagwanji did in this period is briefly given by the Pandit Shanker Nath
Fotedar in his book. It runs thus:
"At this place he appears to have plunged headlong
into intense Sadhana. He would be found lying on a bed, face towards the wall,
with a small lamp burning in his room for 24 hours. His elder sister told me,
that during this period, nobody was allowed to get into his room except her
younger daughter Chanda Ji and a few other selected people. The room and
Bhagwan Ji's bed were covered with layers of dust which he uvould not allow to
be swept. Cob webs and spiders were also present in this room. During this
period a rat had bored a hole in one of the heels of his foot which had been
there for a long time. He would sometimes take handfuls of Datura (Stramonium)
opium, panak and other introxicants in this period of intense Sadhana.
What was the nature of this sadhana. To pursue this line
of enquiry it is necessary to mention some salient doctrines of the Trika system
with respect to cosmic evolution. According to the Trika Shastra the universe is
only an "expansion" of the Power of Param Shiva in His aspect as
Shakti. The things and beings of the universe are built up by a few fundamental
factors called the Tattwas. They are:
At times, Bhagwanji would vomit basinfuls of blood
and his body was wholly swoollen and he looked like a ghoul. On one occasion
during this period, his sister reminded him of the intense suffering which
they were undergoing and suggested to him to take up a wordly life. His reply,
firm and direct was "Our boat is in the midst of an ocean, either both of
us will land safely or get drowned".
During this period he would fast for months together
or sometimes take huge quantities of food. This tapasya lasted 7 years and he
came out of this great ordeal, clairvoyant and clairaudient, with full vision
of the past, present and future, a Siddha with a badly mauled body but a
radiant soul. . . "
1- 5 The five Bhutas viz. Prithvi (Earth), Apan (Water),
Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akash (Ether).
The aforesaid 25 Tattwas are common in both the Sankhya
and Trika systems with the difference that Sankhya emphasises that Purusha and
Prakriti are final principles while in Trika they are only derivative and the
Trika pursuing the analysis further treats the following as additional Tattwas:
6-10 The five Karmendriyas viz. Upastha (Power or or
capacity of recreation), Payu (Power of voiding or discarding). Pada (Power of
locomation), Hasta (Power of handling) and Vak (Power of expression or
11-15 The five Tanamatras ( general elements of sense
perception) viz. Gandha (Odour), Rasa (flavour), Rupa (colour), Sparsha (tauch)
and Shabda (sound).
16-20 The five Jananendriyas (Five powers of sense
perception) viz. Ghrahendriya, Rasendriya, Darshanendriya, Sparshendriya, and
21-23 Antahkaran (The three capacities of mental
operation) viz. Mana, Ahankara and Buddhi.
24-25 Prakriti - the Root of all Feeling and Purush,
the experiencer of these feelings as a limited individual.
26-31 The six sheaths of the Purusha which are
principles of Subjective Limitation and are collectively called the Kanchukas
It is the play of the abovementioned last five Tattvas
which sets the wheel of creation in motion. The splendour and grandeur of the
Cosmic drama of the beginning, evolution and dissolution of the Universe (Srishti)
as visualised by the Kashmir Shaiva sages is enthralling.
(i) Kala or Time
(ii) Niyati (Limitation in regard to presence);
(iii) Raga (Attachment);
(iv) Vidya (Knowledge);
(v) Kala Art of Creation;
32-36 And lastly the five important Tattwas, viz.:
(i) Sad-vidya (True knowledge).
(ii) Aishvarya or Ishwar Tattwa (Lordliness).
(iii) Sadakhya or Sada Shiva Tattwa (that in which
the experience of Being begins).
( iv) Shakti Tattwa ( Principle of negation of
(v) Shiva Tattwa (Suppression in the Experiencer of
all experience of objects and means of experiencing them.
Param Shiva, the Highest Reality, is the prime source
of all universal manifestations. In the beginning there is nothing but Param
Shiva. The manifested universe as an idea is within Him, because He is complete
in Himself. The creative process begins with the desire to manifest and shining
out, (Abhas). This is the first stirring in the Cosmic drama. At this stage the
two Tattwas, the Shiva Tattwa and the Shakti Tattwa come simultaneously into
operation. Param Shiva by the operation of Shiva Tattwa, the Anand aspect of His
Shakti which acting as a force of negation, makes Him climb down from His
supremely ideal self in which the unverse being all within Him there was,
initially no desire of manifesting Himself and He is now gripped by the idea of
Abhas. But as yet there is only a feeling of manifestation and no feeling of a
universe in the experience. The Shakti Tattwa keeps the experience of universe
in a state of suppression. Thus the Shiva Tattwa is the first ripple in the
Cosmic process of Universal manifestation while the Shakti Tattwa acting as a
principle of restraint checks and regulates it. In this stage Param Shiva has
only the feeling of pure "I" because the feeling of universe in the
experience is suppressed by the operation of Shakti Tattwa and the thought of
"I am this or that" becomes dormant. The concept of manifested
universe in all its minutest-details was in the mind of Param Shiva but the
operation of Shakti Tattwa, which is an aspect of His own self, puts him as if
in a haze and He is only: left with the desire to manifest but oblivious as to
its form and shape.
The next scene opens with the operation of the Sadakhya
Tattwa. The grip of Shakti Tattwa is slightly lessened by the Iccha aspect of
the Divine Shakti and Param Shiva getting out of the haze in which he had been
wrapped begins to regain the vision of the ideal universe in experience but the
vision starts as a vague recollection and the full picture of Cosmic
manifestation is still hazy. The thought "I" gets enlarged into
"I am" but "what I am" is still a dim vision.
In the following scene of the drama, with the coming
into force of the "Aishvarya Tattwa" the Jnan aspect of the Divine
Shakti clears the most and Param Shiva as the Divine Experiencer recaptures the
vision of the Ideal universe in all its full glory. The thought "I am"
becomes "I am this" after a full survey of manifes-ted universe in the
manner in which an architect gets the mental picture of a building to be
constructed according to his own plan. At this stage the experience "I am
this" is reshaped into "This am I".
The next scene commences with the impacts of the Kriya
aspect of the Divine Shakti by the "Sad-Vidya" or "Shuddha Vidya"
Tattwa. Now the Supreme Architect of the universe examines the concepts of
"I" and "this" giving equal prominence to both and looks
into them as both identified as also separate in thought. There is unity as
every thing emanates - from Param Shiva but what the creation leads to, is
diversity in the objects of creation. With His gaze fixed to the manifestation
to come with all its diversities there is experience of
diversity-in-unity-and-identity. The divine Experieneer surveying the manifested
universe to come with all its multifariousness sees it as part of Him and
proceeding from Him as the Creator of all forms of creation. The Act in the
Cosmic drama which follows the impact of Sad Vidya Tattwa depicts the start and
flow of the creative process of manifestation which uptil now was only a plan in
Divine contemplation. The process of implementation of the plan now starts.
In the "Sad Vidya"- or "Shuddha Vidya"
state the Supreme Architect of the universe had visualised the manifestation of
universe as an ideal one. But, as a result of all the mental efforts and phases
of dimness, slumber, and awakening to which He had subjected Himself by the
operation of His own Divine Shakti in Her different aspects He, as if feeling
tired, finds Himself in the grip of Maya who almost put Him to sleep and the
concept of universal. "All this" again gets dim and He only remains
conscious of the picture of manifested universe as something vague and
indistinct almost amounting to nothing. The five Kanchukas now come into
operation by the obscuring force of Maya and He is wrapped by the limitations of
Kal, Niyati, Rag, Vidya and Kala. The Experiencer in this state is called
Purusha or the limited individual spirit which affected by the other Tattwas
produces innumerable individual spirits, also called Purushas. Simultaneously
with the Pursha comes into existence Prakriti who acts and reacts on the Purush
reminding him of His full glory which the obscuring force of Maya has dimmed.
With the process of multiplicity of the All Highest innumerable Purushas and
Prakritis come into being. The Trika Shastra however makes it emphatically clear
that even by producing unlimited Purshas and Prakritis of individual spirits He
only changes the character of His Experience by Himself becoming the experience
of all the Purushas with their mutually exclusive and distinct realisations at
different levels but He remains the same as He is in Eternity. The sleeping,
drowsy and waking stages are just part of play by the Actor in the Cosmic drama.
The Actor remains what He is irrespective of the part He plays in the divine
drama. The universe with all its innumerable varieties, objects, and experiences
is only a manifestation of the Shakti of Puram-Shiva Himself which is only a
part of Him and in no way different from Him. The five main aspects of this
Shakti are Chit, Anand, Iccha, Jnana, and Kriya. When Shakti opens Herself the
universe is born and when she loses Herself there is dissolution of the universe
and the divine manifestation comes to an end. But this drama of opening and
closing continues and will go on with countless universes coming into existence
and then disappearing. The Trika again emphasises that Shakti is only an aspect
of Param Shiva by which He pervades the universe while He himself remains
unaffected by His own ever continuing manifestations.
The concepts of Shakti, Purush and Prakriti as
elaborated in the Trika Shastra are somewhat different from those who worship
Shakti and this includes the Shiva Shakti worship in Kashmir. The border line
between the two approaches, howsoever, shadowy and thin, does exist. The Shakta
approach follows in general the Sankhya line. Brahma in His unmanifested state
is silent. There is nothing beyond Him and every thing is within Him. Then comes
the desire to manifest and The Supreme One assumes the character of two even
though the two is outwardly one just like a gram within whose outward covering
there are two pieces. The two thus produced are Purush and Prakriti. Purush is
in a state of rest and provides the matter base for Prakriti's operations as
Supreme Energy. Purusha is Shiva and Prakriti the Divine Mother and even though
they are united to each other as sound and word and word and its meaning. Shiva
remains in a state of repose. The Devi, the Divine Mother creates, preserves and
dissolves the universes. The infinite number of Purushas and Prakritis is not so
emphasised in Shakta philosophy as the Trika does even though every individual
being is a part of The Mula Purusha and the Devi. The Kaul Shastra puts Her on
the loftiest pedestal.
Brahma in his hymn to the Devi in Ratri Sukta addresses
Her as Vishveshwari, Jagatdhatri and the cause of all creation preservation and
She is Parmeshwari to whom the gods have prayed and
before Her all have bowed.
Ragyan, in Her Sahsranama, has been described as samast
tattwa nilyaa (In whom all Tattwas merge) and jagdraagyee (Queen of the
Universe), tattwaraagyee (Queen of Tattwas), vaagraagyee (Queen of Sounds); and
tattwarupinee (Possessing the form of Tattwas).
In Ragyan Stotra it is said :. .
Daughter of Himalayas ! You alone knew Shambhu whose
origin is unknown, who remains unclad and is a Bhikshu holding a skull, before
you married Him;
Girija! It is because of your taking Him as your spouse
that Shiva, who remains srneared with the ashes of the dead, who roams as a
mendicant, and who dances in places of cremation has became lustrous.
As the Trika Shastra deals with Shiva, Shakti and Nara
(Individual) similarly the Shakta philosophy deals with Purush, Prakriti and
Jiva. The final goal in, Sadhana is the merger of the Jiva or Nara with Brahma
or Param Shiva. The aforesaid three stand as three points of a triangle and the
individual Nara or Jiva strives to Shorten the length of the sides of the
traingle so that ultimately the triangle is reduced to a point the "Bindu"
in which Shiva, Shakti or Nara, or Purush, Prakriti and Jiva, are all absorbed.
This is the reverse process after the flowering of the universe, the Srishti,
and the Tattwas moving backwards merge in the source from which they emanate. It
is given to few to reach the final goal during their life time. For those who do
resch the top of the Everest there is no further climb. For the Sadhak in
different categories the process of ascent consists in reducing the area of the
traingle and decreasing the length of its sides and their progress can be
assessed, where such assessment is possible, by measuring their distance from
Shiva and Shakti or Purush and Prakriti.
There are four systems indicated in the Trika Shastra
viz. Pratyabijanya, Kula, Spanda and Krama. Trika points to three paths by which
an individual merges into Param Shiva. They are:
Anuvopaya, Shaktopaya and Shambhavopaya.
Spanda is a system of meditation and Pratyabhigyan shows
the path for self realisation and reunion with universal consciousness.
(i) The four methods of Sadhana indicated in Anuvopa
viz. Ucchara Karan, Dhyan and Sthana Kalpana are drawn from the Krama system
and are connected with Kundalini Yoga.
(ii) Shaktopaya prescribes thought concentration. In
this method recitation of mantras or breath control is not necessary. All
thoughts other than the feeling of identity with Param Shiva have to be
(iii) Shambhavopaya is a form of Yogic practice in
which the mind has to be kept free from all thoughts. It is indicated by the
I cannot claim familiarity with the practical side of
the different modes of Sadhana prescribed by the Trika Shastra because I have
only followed to some extent, the path indicated by the Kaulmat or Shambhavi
Vidya (worship of Shiva-Shakti) which is prevalent among the Kashmiri Pandits as
also in a section of Hindus in general througout India and in foreign countries.
The worship of Ragyan, Sharika, or Jwala, or of the Devi in any of Her different
aspects consists, after graded initiations culiminating in Purna-Abhiseka, in
recitation (Japa) of the mantras and invoking Her in Yantra and performing the
necessary rituals. Worship in the Yantra is either performed singly or in a
group. Individual worship is of two kinds viz. Antaryag and Bahiryag. In
Antaryag the entire worship is contemplative and no articles which are generally
used in worship are required. The practitioner performs Bhut Shuddhi. The five
elements e.g. Prithvi (Earth), Apan (Water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akash
(Ether) are collectively called Bhutas. The subtle centre in the base of the
spine is called Muladhar Chakra. The Kundalini lies there coiled in a dormant
state. The Kundalini is roused by the force of mantra Shakti and thus awakened
she moves up passing through the upper chakras which are the centres of other
Tattwas. Passing through Swadhishthan, Manipur, Anahat, Vishuddha and Agyan
chakras she reaches the Sahasrar chakra and is united there with Shiva. Kaul
practitioners, generally speaking, rouse the Kundalini by mantra yoga. It is
also done by the process of Hatha Yoga. In chakra-archan or chakra puja which is
performed collectively by a group of practitioners, the worship of the Devi is
performed in Her Yantra which, in formation of triangles, circles, and
rectangles, with the Bindu, the point, in the centre, symbolises the cosmos. It
is a very powerful and potent form of Sadhana and its power and effectiveness
depends on the spiritual stature of the chakreshwar who conducts the rites and
the level of thought concentration and vibrations of mantra shakti released by
the persons present. The Devi is invoked and the vibrations go round in a circle
in which formation the participants in the rite sit. There are no speed breakers
in a circle as there are in a rectangle and the imagery of thoughts produces the
mental picture of the Srishti in its reverse and enveloping movement. One by one
the Sheaths in which the Tattwas have woven the universe are dissolved till the
Central point is reached, which symbolises the beginning of creation and the
practitioners get an awarness of the Devi. The same process is gone into when
worship in yantra is performed alone. If properly performed by highly adept
practitioners this form of worship in which mantra shakti, thought force and
magnetic power of the practitioners come into play the result can be Jagrit
Samadhi or Samadhi in a state of wakefulness. After continued practice the need
of any outside aid with Yantra is not required and a practitioner can reach a
similar stage by mental process.
The question is what is the ultimate stage of
consciousness reached by the practitioner either when the Kundalini moving
through the different centres in the Sushumma reaches the Sahsrar or when he
visualises the nature of the central point, the Bindu, in a Yantra. It may be
the stage when both, Shiva and Shakti and also the practitioner merge into one
or the stage when Param Shiva is gripped by the power of His owp Shakti and the
latter assumes the role of the Divine Creatrix. More likely it is the latter
stage which is attained even by highly adept sadhaks. In such a stage there is
still some quantum of distance left between the three points of the triangle in
which Purush, Prakriti and Jiva stand. The last plunge is taken by the adepts,
as if to break the atom itself, to realise the state of Param Shiva freed from
the wrappings of the Devi. As mentioned above the achievement of such a state of
consciousness may be possible by practicing Kundalini Yoga or the abovementioned
Shakta rites but some adept sadhaks have taken resort to some other highly
specialised form of practice, in addition to the aforesaid practices, for
attaining their objective. What can that be? Did Bhagwan Gopinath Ji practice
any such form of specialised sadhana? what was the nature of the sadhana
performed by him during his stay at Rangteng (Srinagar). From the account given
by Pandit Shanker Nath Fotedar rit might have been Kundalini Yoga or even some
form of Aghora sadhana or perhaps both.
Some highly adept Shakta sadhaks have taken resort to
Aghora sadhana to attain the stage when the sakal Brahma is freed from the
overpowering pull of shakti or Devi and She is absorbed in Him. According to
Shaiva Darshan the Tantras have come from; the five mouths of Param Shiva viz.
Ishan, Tatpurush, Sadyojat, Vamdeva and Aghora. From Aghora mouth have come the
following Tantras viz.
Is there any special method prescribed by this set of
Tantras which can enable an adept practitioner to break the shackIes of Devi
Herself and attain the highest stage of Param Shiva. I am not competent to
answer this question. There are frequent references in Pt. Shanker Nath
Fotedar's book about Bhagwan Gopinath Ji's emphasis on Nirakar Upasana. He
described the stage of his own spiritual development in the words of verse 6 of
chapter XV of the Gita where Lord Krishna Says:
"The Sun does not illumine it nor the moon nor
Fire. That is my supreme stage reaching which one does not return".
It appears that Bhagwan Gopinath Ji had reached the
highest stage that is possible for a man to attain in his life. How did
Bhagwanji climb up to the summit. There are only three persons in Kashmir at
present who can throw some light on this querry. The first of this Triumvirate
is the well known great sadhak and expounder of Kashmir Shaivism-Swami
Lakshmanjoo. The other two are followers of the traditinal Shiva-Shakti upasana
(or Shakta upasana in Kashrnir. One of them is Pandit Shridhar Joo Dhar. He is
the greatest living Shakta sadhak in Kashmir but he keeps himself away from the
footlights. I have often requsted him to break the rule of gopiniyam (Secrecy)
and intiate competent men and women of younger generation in the path of their
ancestors as the light of Kaulmarg is getting dim in Kashmir which in former
days led the country on this path. The third of the trio is Pandit Tika Lal
Khazanchi. I heard about his eminence during my recent stay at Srinagar in last
October but was unable to meet him.
Shri Swami Lakshman Joo, Pandit Shridhar Joo Dhar and
Pandit Tika Lal Khazanchi form the galaxy of the great in present day Kashmir.
They alone can clear the mist regarding Bhagwan Gopinath Ji's spiritual efforts.