Svatmarama is believed to belong to the Natha-sampradaya, an ancient lineage of spiritual masters, whose founding is often attributed to Lord Dattatreya, an incarnation of all the three Hindu gods, Brahma, Visnu and Siva. However, the establishment of the Natha tradition as a distinct sect perhaps began around the eighth century AD, with a simple fisherman called Matsyendra, who is also often known as Minanatha.
Matsyendranatha is often called the founding father of the Natha tradition and hence is held in high esteem by followers of this lineage. Tradition relates his story in the following manner. Long ago Lord Siva was teaching Yoga to Girijia, another name for Parvati, on an island which he thought to be uninhabited. A fish which was in the waters near the shore heard the teaching. Its mind became completely focused and its body motionless. Lord Siva saw how the fish was and assumed that it was due to hearing the teaching. He was kind and sprinkled sacred water on the fish. The fish thereby attained a divine body and became a celestial being (siddha) called Matsyendranatha. Thus started the lineage of the Natha tradition through Matsyendranatha.
Since the teachings actually originated from Lord Siva, the Natha-yogin-s call him Adinatha, meaning the first Natha. Matsyendranatha is acknowledged as his first successor.
Matsyendranatha's two most important disciples were Caurangi and the renowned Goraksanatha. It is believed that the latter eclipsed his master in importance in many of the branches and sub-sects of the Natha-sampradaya. It is the reason why even today, Gorakñanätha is regarded by many as the most influential of Natha teachers. He is reputed to have written the first books dealing with Laya-yoga and the movement of the Kundalini-sakti. Some regard him as the original inventor of Hathayoga.
The Natha-sampradaya does not recognize caste barriers, and their teachings were adopted by outcasts and kings alike. The heterodox Nätha tradition has many sub-sects, but all honor Matsyendranatha and Goraksanatha as their originators and supreme Masters.
In the first chapter of Hathayogapradipika (verses I.5-I.9), Svatmarama acknowledges that he belongs to this illustrious lineage of teachings and honors all the masters who preceded him.
Excerpted from The Hathayogapradipika | Jyotsnayuta. This new book includes complete original text of Svatmarama in Devnagari, its transliteration and translation, word to word meanings of every verse, the full commentary of Brahmananda and its translation in English, as well as critical commentary and notes of Dr. Kausthub Desikachar.