The name for this nakshaktra शेषनाग is composed of two words शेष zeSa and नाग naga. Both of them refer to the story to the story of Shesha, the redeemed serpent that allowed itself to be used as the churning rope and became Vishnu's seven-hooded umbrella. Prash Trivedi in his book on the nakshatras also concludes that its name probably derives from the serpent king/god Shesha. Shesha comes from the lowest patala (hell/subterranean world) so he represents the lowest place possible in the human experience, where one's soul is so completely identified with the things of the gross world as to be beyond redemption, yet here is a story of redemption. Shesha's triumph is saying that anyone can be saved, anyone can rediscover their true nature, no matter how much they cling to the world of forms.
Our world is maya, say the enlightened ones, an illusion. Paramahansa Yogananda wrote that it is no more than the projection of a film on a screen, a trick of light, a play, a drama that we get caught up in. This is the real "clinging" represented by Ashlesha.
"If you should take a gold ring and melt it and remake it into an earring, the form changes. What is the reality, is it the gold or the form? The form never really existed, only the gold!"
Ashlesha is located at GV7, probably this is the uppermost domain of the navel chakra, where body-identified ego needs to let go of its identification with the physical body.
In the story of Shesha as the rope, both the asuras (demons) and devas (gods) have desires, both are attached. The gods have nobler desires but that's why they cannot attain transcendence as we humans can. That's why the gods/angels envy us.
"The gods are envious of the ones who come into the human form because they can become free. The gods are enjoying the merit from all the good deeds where they are but the absolute freedom can only happen when the human being comes down into the gross and completely become free of the subtle and the gross. They find that the gods bow to the yogi who is free. All the divine powers bow to the master who is free – the master who is free of all the urge to display powers, and who is free from the urge of the subtle pull, that one is worshipped by all the gods because that soul has become completely free identifying only with the transcendental Parabhraman consciousness."
I believe this clinging to the material things/worlds is why Ashlesha nakshatra is called the Clinging Star or Nāga and is Ketu's birth star (Ketu deals with detachment, moksha/liberation from the wheel of rebirth). This nakshatra, with its symbol of the coiled serpent (that represents Kundalini asleep) probably represents, more than anything else, the Brahma Granthis, that first "knot" or attachment to gross/physical energy and consciousness that needs to be untied.
If we do not untie that knot we will be poisoned by the material world. Now the symbolism makes more sense. The deities (consciousness) of Ashlesha are the Sarpa/Nagas (particularly Shesha, who probably represents all of them collectively) who have the power (collectively or individually) to inflict us with poison (visasleshana shakti), that which keeps the soul from knowing its true spiritual nature. That's likely the same poison Shiva (Universal Consciousness) swallowed for us, which is also saying that God helps us out of this mess (or virtual reality game) we got ourselves into...if we ask for that help or if we reach out to our spiritual being.
I think that all addictions and attachments to this world can be ascribed to Ashlesha power - that even the power of atoms binding together to form molecules can be considered Ashlesha energy. It is not good or evil, it simply does what it does. Without Ashlesha our body cells would not join together in a cooperative way to form our bodily organs, bones, tissue, flesh and what have you. Nature needs Ashlesha and we need Nature to be able to sport in the play and to be able to free ourselves from it. We begin to free ourselves from Ashlesha's clinging, from the stranglehold of the Maya python, when we so choose to initiate ourselves on that path, and when karma and divine timing allow for that to manifest in our lives...when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Shesha teaches us how to transform "poison" into "nectar":
"Hindu Mythology has a story about the churning of the Cosmic Ocean in order to obtain Amrita - the nectar of immortality. As the Devas and Asuras churned the Ocean, using Shesha as a churning rope, since he possessed the knowledge of turning poison into nectar, a dreadful poison issued out of its depths and enveloped the universe. This terrified the Devas and Asuras because the poison was so toxic that it might have destroyed all of creation. They approached Shiva for help and protection. Out of compassion for living beings, Shiva swallowed the poison in an act of self-sacrifice. Shesha coiled on Shiva's chest and prevented the poison from descending into his body. The poison got stuck in Shiva's throat and turned blue." (source)The power of mind that is emphasized with the nakshatra Ashlesha is visasleshana shakti, the power to inflict with poison. But the connection of Ashlesha to Shesha in the cosmic story is a reminder that we also have the capacity (if we use our deva powers such as intellect and discrimination, in cooperation with Nature's forces) to transform or transmute that "poison" of material attachments into the "nectar" of consciousness of our immortality as the eternal soul living in that Maya play of Nature.
In a practical sense, when we practice pranayama we use the mind to bring the prana, that is the subtle essence of the breath, to any chakra we wish, bringing vitality into any part of the body and any aspect of life. We can cocreate with the material universe using the power of sustained intention and other mental faculties, and the more powerfully we are centered in our spiritual consciousness, the more powerfully we can manifest things that bring us pleasure in this world. In the healing arts, medicine is also derived from poison - it's just a matter of correct dosage for the correct need. As the soul evolves in self-awareness, with the desire to merge with the Beloved in spiritual union (also emphasized in Ashlesha's name as "clinging" or "merging"), one's intentions become nobler and this poison of material attachments can be used safely to enjoy life on earth.
"It is your Spirit alone that shines through every part of your being. There is nothing carnal about us. We glorify and beautify the physical existence from the space of Spirit."
Association with Manas chakraManas is a Sanskrit word referring to the sensory mind. There is actually a kind of primitive brain in the manipura chakra area or first dantien area connected with the reptilian brain. Here is where the body-identified ego is in fight-fight-freeze mode, survival mode as the mind receives sensory impressions (through the chakras) while the body is simultaneously responding chemically to them. Our bodies are composed of 50 trillion intelligent cells. We are literally encased in a huge community of bugs or tiny organisms, each with a chakra system of their own, a mind of their own. Deepak Chopra has said that these cells eavesdrop on our mind. When we are body-identified and don't use our higher faculties to control ourselves, we behave exactly as these insect creatures do - reacting without thinking. Yogic science teaches us how to manage the body and the lower emotions it brings up in us, by using the intellect and triggering tools like the breath to calm down the body and manage it.
GV7 中樞 (zhōng shū)
Chinese Lunar General 室 Shi
|GV7 室Shi "Encampment / A House / Room" [Ashlesha]|
[to be continued]