Patrika: A Publication of BGT


Bhagavaan Gopinath ji


Articles from Pre-1998 Issues 

"Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji of Kashmir"

by Mr. Justice Shiva Nath Katju

Mr. Justice Shiva Nath Katju
Mr. Justice Shiva Nath Katju

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 by Bhagwanji.

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.

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. . . "

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:

1- 5 The five Bhutas viz. Prithvi (Earth), Apan (Water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akash (Ether).

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 voicing).

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 Shravanendriya.

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.

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: viz.

26-31 The six sheaths of the Purusha which are principles of Subjective Limitation and are collectively called the Kanchukas viz.

(i) Kala or Time

(ii) Niyati (Limitation in regard to presence);

(iii) Raga (Attachment);

(iv) Vidya (Knowledge);

(v) Kala Art of Creation;

(vi) Maya.

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 universal experience).


(v) Shiva Tattwa (Suppression in the Experiencer of all experience of objects and means of experiencing them.

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.

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 dissolution.

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.

(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 excluded.

(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 Kula system.

Spanda is a system of meditation and Pratyabhigyan shows the path for self realisation and reunion with universal consciousness.

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.

(i) Vijaya
(ii) Vishvas
(iii) Swayambhuva
(iv) Anala
(v) Veer

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 requested 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.




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