The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Origin of Matsyendranatha (Matsyendra-natha) which is chapter 263 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the two hundred sixty-third chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 263 - Origin of Matsyendranātha (Matsyendra-nātha)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This chapter records the legend of Matsyendranātha, the traditional founder of the Nāth Cult. Jñānadeva, in his famous commentary on the Bhagavadgītā, the Jñānenśvarī [Jñāneśvarī], confirms it. But the list of Siddhas from Tibet shows that Matsyendra is a Paraṃparā Śiṣya of Saraha (Śarabha) nātha (10th Cent. C.E.). The mention of Matsyendra shows that this portion of the Purāṇa was composed after one 10th century C.E.

Īśvara said:

1. If a Yogin abandons Tāmasa (evil) acts among all the acts and becomes one full of knowledge, he shall then be the bestower of salvation on all living beings.

2. When one acquires the feeling of non-attachment for one’s body, when the mind is quite free from impurities and when there is full devotion towards Hari, one is not bound by Karmas.

3. When the mind of men remains calm and quiescent while engaged in (physical or mental) activities, there arises the Yogic Siddhi. There is no doubt about it.

4. A highly intelligent person attaining the status of Guru (Preceptor) and officiating as such frequently and one who has attained Viṣṇu-hood during his life time (while alive as an individual soul), is liberated from the touch (influence) of Karmas.

5. Routine and Naimittika (to be done on certain occasions) acts should not be pursued with a desire, for, if done with a desire, they tend to increase misery and distress.

6. O great goddess, understand that Viṣṇu is the master of Karmas. Abandoning all Karmas therein (i.e. dedicating all Karmas to Viṣṇu), one is liberated from the entire worldly entanglement.

7. This alone is the greatest knowledge, this alone is the greatest austerity. This alone is the most excellent welfare and felicity, that one dedicates one’s Karmas to Kṛṣṇa.

8. This is known as the Nirmala (devoid of impurities) Yoga, based on the Nirguṇa (attributeless Absolute). It is the offering of auspiciousness arising from the activity to Viṣṇu.

9. The Pitṛs eagerly expecting the ritualistic balls of rice, roam about in their mundane existence only as long as a devout son is not born in the family.

10. Dvijas[1] roar, sin exists in the world and many Tīrthas have their utility only as long as one does not acquire devotion (to Viṣṇu).

11. He alone who is endowed with devotion to Hari, is the man of wisdom in the world; indeed he is the first among Yogins; he is the performer of great Kratus (sacrifices).

12. Moments pass on without winking and Yoga takes place When speech is mastered by the Yogin, it is proclaimed as Gomedha (sacrifice of GO, cow, speech).

13. When he acquires control over mind, he attains the benefit of a horse-sacrifice. By a perpetual conquest (mastery) of Kalpanā (imagination, stray thoughts) he acquires the benefit of the sacrifice Sautrāmaṇi.

14-15. It is glorified as Narayajña (human sacrifice) as it involves the renunciation of the body. The sacrificial animals are the five sense-organs but they are not consigned to the fire. The earrings remain on the head; In accordance with the instructions of the preceptor he attains the status of Brahman. With the diet restricted, that Yogin holds the three Daṇḍas (Staff).

16. When the unsullied Lord is realized he (the Yogin) should be known as Tridaṇḍin. He has (the control of) the three Daṇḍas viz. mano-daṇḍa (the staff in the form of mind), Karma-daṇḍa (the staff in the form of Karmas, actions done) and Vāg-daṇḍa (the staff in the form of speech).

17. Even as he continues to live that Yogin gets merged into the form of Brahman. It is the ignorant one who is harassed always through the Karmas that are of the nature of bondage.

18-22. The wise one indeed attains liberation even as he continues to do Karma here.

When he is led unto the region of Brahman by his Gurus (Preceptors) he attains liberation. Only the body stays (behind).

By the time the excellent Puruṣa proceeds on for the attainment of the Brahmaphala (fruit in the form of attainment of Brahma) the Karmamayī Vṛtti (tendency to indulge in Karma) shall be near in the Brahma Vṛkṣa. (Tree in the form of the Brahma). Other Parvans[2] should always be got known by sages (obscure).

It is by a synthesis of Śrutis and Smṛtis that the path to Mokṣa (should be known) by Dvijas.

This liberation is like a city having four gates (exits). The sentries there are the four attainments, Śama (self-control) etc. These alone should be resorted to by the men at the outset as they are the bestowers of salvation.

23. Siddhi (perfection, achievement) cannot be far from him who has acquired Śama, (quietude), Sadvicāra (good thoughts), Santoṣa (contentment) and Sādhu Saṅgama (association with good people).

24. O goddess, the attainment of Yoga by men is effected through devotion to Viṣṇu and the practice of excellent Dharma. It is said that this is sufficient knowledge (for the purpose).

25. A man moves around everywhere in the places of learning for the sake of (spiritual) wisdom, (but) the sudden emergence of knowledge through a good preceptor is free from impurities like the flame of a lamp.

26. It is certain that thousands of sins instantly get dissolved if one ponders over dissolution (absorption in Brahma?) even for a Muhūrta (short time).

27. Passion and hatred should be discarded. Anger and greed should be avoided. He should view everyone impartially and visit a devotee Of Viṣṇu.

28. A Yogin endowed with Śauca (purity) and Ācāra (excellent behaviour), in whose heart abides perpetual compassion for all living beings, never meets with misery.

29. These are the characteristics of Yogasiddhi: He is free from the massive coatings of Māyā (deception) and Ādhi (anguish). He is detached from unreal things. He shuns association with evil ones.

30. Contact with the fire of Mamatā (sense of possession—“This is mine” etc.) causes great distress to men when it arises. Subduing it when arisen, brings about peace of mind to Yogins.

31. The sense-organs should be sublimated by the mind itself and denied access (to the objects of pleasure). (They will then be keen) just like a piece of steel that when rubbed against another piece attains sharpness.

32. There are two types of intellectual proclivities in regard to the body. One pertains to the worldly objects. It should be discarded. That which is directed towards Parabrahman is auspicious. It is to be accepted and it causes purity.

33. O goddess, egotism causes sin and merit. If it is rendered steady, and not otherwise, it leads to the realization of the Tattva (eternal truth) that yields auspicious benefit.

34. The organ of generation is dark and impure, but if it transcends the worldly form, it yields weal. In both the ways, when it is retained within the heart or restrained in the head it is conducive to the liberation of one who is in bondage.

35. Thus the imperishable, unmanifest, immortal form of Viṣṇu, that which is one with all attributes has been told to you.

36. After realizing thus, a Yogin shall become liberated from the worldly bondage. A householder obtains it through the advice and guidance of the preceptor and not otherwise.

37. If the preceptor is pleased, the entire universe becomes pleased with him (the disciple). If the preceptor is rendered pleased by anyone, the Pitṛs and Devas too are rendered pleased by him.

38. These are the characteristics of the acquisition of salvation: the instruction of the preceptor, the image, good thoughts, the mind in poise and physical activity in association with perfect knowledge.

39. Viṣṇu alone is the Lord of Kriyās (physical activity, sacred rites) though he himself is Niṣkriya (devoid of activities). He too is in the form of Praṇava, the Bīja of the Mantra of twelve syllables.

40. The wheel of twelve-syllabled Mantra is destructive of all sins. It suppresses wicked ones and leads to Parabrahman.

41. This selfsame supreme Brahman having the pure twelve-syllabled form has been revealed to you, O goddess, in the Skanda (Purāṇa).[3]

42. This is the essence to Yogins and is of the form of meditation. It can be assimilated only through devotion. One should ponder over it with faith during Cāturmāsya. After burning the sins incurred in the course of ten million births, the Enemy of Kaiṭabha shall bestow liberation.

Brahmā said:

43-44. In the meantime (Read etasminnantare for etasminnagare in the text) a great fish, hitherto unknown rose up from the centre of the Milk Ocean on the top of an aerial chariot. It had a mass of refulgence. Making movements with its chest and arms (fins?) it came near the presence (of Lord Śiva). He was without any egotism or pride.

45. While making a hissing sound, Lord Maheśvara saw that fish and benumbed it through his refulgence. He then spoke these words:

46. “Who are you stationed will in the belly of a fish? A Deva, Yakṣa or man? How do you live within the body? O Lord, tell me”.

Matsya said:

47. I have been hurled into the belly of a fish in the Milk Ocean by my mother at the instance of my father: “This boy is unworthy of my family.”

48. He was afraid of the destruction of the whole family. I was a child born in the Yoga (astronomical combination) named Gaṇḍānta. “Such a child cannot perform domestic duties. It will be the destroyer of its own family.”

49. Thus I was cast off by my sorrowing mother. Though I am of the same family, I was seized by a fish. A great deal of time since then elapsed.

50. Thanks to your nectar-like words, the great Jñānayoga became known to me. Though you are Amūrta (incorporeal), I know you entirely as being corporeal as well.

51. O Lord of Devas, grant me permission to come out. O Lord, let me be seen by Bhavānī as Pitṛpa (Protector of Pitṛs?).

Hara said:

52. You are a Brāhmaṇa. You are in the form of my son. You are worthy of being worshipped by this one who speaks. You have been benumbed, O great fish. Come out quickly.

53. Thereupon, the fish that was undergoing suffering emerged headlong. He came out instantly with a distortion of his face.

54. He acquired beauty and intellect. His lustre now resembled that of the moon. Once stinking like, a fish, he now possessed divine fragrance.

55. When the son bowed down, Umā took him on her lap. Hara who was extremely delighted gave him a name.

56-58. “This most excellent one among Yogins was born from the belly of a fish. Hence, he will become well-known in the world as Matsyanātha.

He shall be endowed with human body which will never be split or cut. He will master Jñānayoga. He shall be devoid of rivalry, Dvandvas (mutually opposed pairs) and ambitions and hopes (Nirāśa). He will be a server of Brāhmaṇas. He will be a living liberated soul in all the fourteen worlds.”

On being told thus, he repeatedly bowed to Maheśāna. Accompanying Maheśvara he went to the Mandara Mountain.

Brahmā said:

59-62. He circumambulated the goddess, embraced Skanda and went away.

After acquiring the excellent Jñāna, Pārvatī became delighted. She acquired the great Siddhi due to the power of Praṇava. The mother of the worlds acquired this Praṇava through the watery medium of the twelve-syllabled Mantra.

He who listens to this origin of Matsyendranātha especially during Cāturmāsya shall obtain the benefit of a horse-sacrifice.

Footnotes and references:


The reading ‘Dvijāni’ is grammatically wrong. It can be emended as ‘dvijās tu’ to make it grammatically acceptable.


The original reading is probably Karmāṇi, the copyist seems to have confused Devanagari PA and KA.


Was there another Skanda Purāṇa?

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