Sri Gorakshanath (also known as Gorakhnath/Gorakkar/Gorak) was an 11th to 12th century Nath yogi, connected to Shaivism as one of the two most important disciples of Matsyendranath (Macha Muni), the other being Caurangi. There are varying records of the spiritual descent of Gorakshanath. All name Adinath and Matsyendranath as two teachers preceding him in the succession. Though one account lists five gurus preceding Adinath and another lists six teachers between Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath, current tradition has Adinath identified with Lord Shiva as the direct teacher of Matsyendranath, who was himself the direct teacher of Gorakshanath.
There are many versions to Goraknkar's birth. But the most popular one is given below. It so happened that the great Matsyendra Nath journeyed to the Himalayas and did intense tapa and meditation. The Adi Nath Lord Shiva was pleased, appeared to the Nath and asked him what he needed. The great Yogi asked Shiva to give him a disciple greater and more perfect than himself. The Lord answered and said, You are already perfect and have attained the final enlightenment. But Matsyendra Nath insisted so Lord Shiva said that he would himself manifest as his disciple. Then from the Heart of Adi Nath the Eternal Shiva ensued an irradiant flame of splendor and the Mahavatar Gorakkar manifested in the spiritual realm; ready to inhabit a grosser body.
Then Matsyendra Nath gave a woman wanting a child some holy ash (Vibhuti) from his bag. The spirit of Goraksha was in the Vibhuti but the unbelieving woman threw it on a heap of dung. Unperturbed by this act, the spirit of Goraksha still grew and when Matsyendra Nath came to the place and called to the woman she was sorry for what she had done and told him her story. Then the Lord of compassion Goraknathar emerged from beneath the dirt and mire of our earth to cleanse and free the earth and its people from the same dirt and dung which covers their souls.
The Nath tradition underwent its greatest expansion during the time of Gorakshanath. He produced a number of writings and even today is considered the greatest of the Naths. It has been purported that it was Gorakshanath who wrote the first books on Laya yoga. In India there are many caves, many with temples built over them, where it is said that Gorakshanath spent time in meditation. According to Bhagawan Nityananda, the samadhi shrine (tomb) of Gorakshanath resides at Nath Mandir near the Vajreshwari temple about a kilometer from Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India.
Romola Butalia, an Indian writer of Yoga history lists the works attributed to Gorakshanath as follows:
"Guru Gorakhnath is thought to have authored several books including the Goraksha Samhita, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga Martanada, Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga-Bija, Yoga Chintamani. He is believed to be the founder of the Nath Sampradaya and it is stated that the nine Naths and 84 Siddhas are all human forms created as yogic manifestations to spread the message of yoga and meditation to the world. It is they who reveal samadhi to mankind."
Gorakshanath is also part of the 18 siddha tradition of South India. He is also closely associated with Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism. He attained Siddha by mastering sound. One legend states that Guru Gorakshanath, the "eternal sage" traditionally associated with Hatha Yoga (one of the branches of Yogic practices), has been around for thousands of years watching the welfare of humanity. Other legends ascribe different stories to his birth and the period of his worldly existence, and they vary greatly. The Nath Rahasya, which literally translates into the mystery of the masters, recounts birth, work, and death of nine such Naths (masters), and Guru Gorakshanath was the ninth Nath, preceded by his Guru, the eighth Nath, namely, Matsyendranath.
Traditionally, Guru Gorakshanath is believed to have been born sometime in the 8th century, whereas some believe it to be anytime from 8th century to several centuries later. He traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent, and accounts about him are found in some forms or others several places including Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sind, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, Assam, Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and even Sri Lanka. Gurkhas of Nepal also take their name from this saint. Gorakhpur, the district headquarters of Gorakhpur District, is believed to derive its name from Guru Gorakhnath.
Osho regarded Gorakshanath as one of the four great innovators of Indian religion, alongside Patanjali, Buddha, and Krishna, who are to be regarded as originating the paths of yoga, meditation, and love respectively. Gorakshanath (who Osho called Gorakh) originated the search for "methods and techniques of sadhana". "Through him a new type of religion was born. Without Gorakh, there could be no Kabir, no Nanak, no Dadu, no Vajid, no Farid, no Meera -- without Gorakh none of these are possible."
The main siddha of Sathuragiri is Goraknathar. Goraknathar created thousands of new siddha medicines like Kayakalpa etc to attain immortality. Every 10th in the Tamil Calendar he appears in light form to his devotees at this place. On every no moon day Sri Kalimuthu Ashram offers a lingam made of Thinai Maavu at Gorakkar Cave and the same is worshipped. Later the Thinai Maavu Lingam is distributed as prasadham.
Goraksha Nath is shown in the supreme samadhi sitting as Nagaraj upon a Yogic throne under which the Nine Nagas, Ananta, Takshaka, Varuna, Padmaka, Sankhpala, Kulika, Mahapadma, and Karkotaka. This Lord of karma and destiny, Shiva Goraksha Nagaraj sat upon his throne of nagas for 12 years to withhold the rain and create a drought to give the people of Nepal their Karmic retribution, thereby evolving their souls.
The snakes, which were subdued to form the asan throne were:
* Varuna, white in color weaning a sevenfold jeweled Nagahood;
* Ananta, carrying a jewel in a lotus in his hands and took his position in the center of a dark blue hue in the east;
* Padmaka, the color of a lotus stalk with five hoods in the south;
* Takshala, the nine hooded saffron colored in the west; Vasuki, the seven headed green took his position in the north;
* Shankha pala, yellowish in the south-west;
* Kulika, the white with thirty heads in the northwest;
* Karkotaka, the half human with snake tail of a blue color in the southeast, and
* Mahapadma, golden colored in the northeast.
When the souls of Nepal had been purged of their sins Matsyendra Nath appeared in Nepal, then Goraksha Nath got up to greet his Guiru; the Nagas were released and copious rainfall was had.