The name, Goraksha, comes from the Sanskrit go, meaning "cow," and raksha, meaning "protector." Goraksha, therefore, literally means the “protector of cows.” This may be because of his association with Shiva, who is sometimes called the Lord of Cattle. In India, cows are considered to be sacred, so the name may simply be a reference to Goraksha’s association with spirituality.
Goraksha's name could also be a reference to the fact that he had achieved an advanced level of yoga practice. Traditionally, the appellation, "goraksha," was used for yogis who had mastered the challenging Hatha yoga practice of turning the tongue to the back of the throat and “swallowing” it.
Goraksha is said to come from a low birth, with some saying he was born in a dung heap. He became known as a miracle worker who devoted his life to teaching and the service of his guru, Matsyendra. His life is taken as an illustration of our potential to awaken and have great influence, in spite of our birth and obstacles.
Goraksha is also said to have founded the Split-Ears - a group of ascetics who were initiated by splitting their ears in order to wear huge earrings.