|pundit performing a ritual|
Astrologer Ernst Wilhelm has provided us with a wonderful resource (and I am always thankful for this kind of transparent and generous scholarship) in a literal translation of that part of Taittiriya Brahmana (188.8.131.52-5) from the Yagur Veda (link) which gives more clues as to nakshatras' meaning or at least how they were used by priests in rituals (the Taittiriya Brahmana is an old manual for priests). By providing this text, Wilhelm has given people with little or no understanding of Sanskrit an opportunity to study these sutras in a fresh way rather than relying (only) on commentaries written about them by others (such as the commentary of Bhatta Bhaskara Mishra, a 12th century scholar - and the one David Frawley refers to for the list of shaktis associated with the nakshatras).
My own take on the naksharas has more to do with mystical practices than priestly rituals, although one might argue the two are related but really it depends on the level of spiritual awareness of the person conducting the ritual (not just book learning but actual consciousness transformation). In the first place I don't know how enlightened the author of Taittiriya Brahamana was and in the second place it is in the Upanishads where we find the deep mystical teachings, so it is with a bit of caution that I look to this text for a foundational meaning. However, having said that, I will attempt my own contemplations of this text to see what the author is hinting at. Sri Aurobindo, in his decoding of the Rig Veda, has given me lots of clues as to how to work with these old writings about rituals and it his example that I look to for inspiration in this task.
The following excerpts from Ernst Wilhelm's e-book Energies of the 27 Lunar Mansions (hereafter EW) have been used with permission from the author. He said he is constantly updating it so my apologies if I am referring to an older version of his work. You can download the whole thing for free on his website here: link - (pdf)
The nakshatra order given in the Taittiriya Brahamana (hereafter TB) begins with GV1 Krittika, so already I am impressed! I will keep updating this as I get new insights.
Meaning of Above and Below?
I am always thinking of the most universal meanings and these relate to the quincunx that Mayanist David Stuart discovered (see my post on the Cosmological Circle here) and more basically what the four directions north, south, east, west mean at the deepest levels of awareness. In my opinion, "Above" is "North", not the compass point, but the spiritual direction that Kundalini follows when awakened taking us all the way up the spine to GV20 Brahmarandhra at the top of the head. In the celestial macrocosm this is the heaven sphere. Above then represents energy and consciousness (the latter is the source of the former) in its highest expression. Below is "South", the materialistic direction, and its most gross (physical) expression, that is consciousness in limitation but also giving us the practical aspect of life in a human experience. This leaves us with East and West - which these sutras also include because for every deity there is a corresponding shakti (a power that goes with the consciousness of the deity) and shakti is the power that arises out of consciousness (it is consciousness in motion vs. consciousness in potentiality). In the body we have a left and right side, a left and right brain, and these in the Tantric thinking are Siva and Sakti, male and female, yin and yang within us. Also the physical sun in the sky that has always represented the light of truth, rises in the east, and thus in the mind east is that sacred direction from which the sacred derives - it is the Source, the Origin - and the direction that we as spiritual seekers are heading towards, the direction that evolutionary energy is taking us towards. We have this idea of east and west in the "purva" and "uttara" nakshatras as well, respectively. It is the west, the uttara, that takes us back home in this case, so west must be Sakti, the inner Guide, heading back towards the Source entering through all the chakras up the sushumna to the crown on top where Siva waits. We read an astrological chart in a direction that is in reverse to the sun's course in the sky - because the spiritual mirrors the material or vice versa (the spiritual comes first and the material manifests out of it). When the Christian priest draws the sign of the cross even he is marking the territory of the four directions of the cross that is the universal tree of life within us marked by various chakra points along the spine (whether he knows this or not is a different discussion altogether). It is not unlike what all religious representatives do in one form or another in the noble religions. This is where everything connects for me. This is where I begin to interpret...
Note: I'm also going to consider the commentary done by Bhattabhaskara Mishra (BM), a Vedic scholar who lived in the 10th century (see article) as well as David Frawley's notes about it (DF) that gives insights as to its relevance to ayurveda (see article by David Frawley). This is where we get the idea of the shaktis. For example, BM wrote the following about Uttarabhadrapada (GV25) [all quotes come from David Frawley's article]:
Purva Bhadra is ruled by Aja Ekapad, the one-footed serpent. It gives the fire to raise a spiritual person up in life (yajamana udyamana shakti). What is good for all people is its basis above. What is good for the Gods is its basis below. These three cause the entire world to be supported.It gives me another idea about the "above" and "below" - and how the spiritual and the material realms mutually support one another, and that they meet at a point or coordinate. This is actually quite a strong clue as to how BM may have interpreted "above" and "below". The "east" "west" part of it seems to be more about the consciousness (deity) and power (shakti) of the point.
To be continued....
The white spots [kṛttikāḥ] of agni (Fire) are bright [śukraṁ] from above and light [jyotiḥ] from below.
Here is BM's interpretation of the sutra:
Krittika is ruled by Agni, the God of Fire. It has the power to burn (dahana shakti). Its basis above is heat and below is light. The result of these three is burning or purification.
The Pelaides cluster that is associated with Krittika are the white spots and the root chakra is rightly associated with Taurus, the divine bovine or Mother Nature in Hindu thinking - because it has to do with the physical body. The root chakra is associated with the element earth, not fire - so the Agni power here has more to do with the spiritual experience associated with muladhara. And this is explained in the story of Kartikeya's birth - that the gods needed to get Shiva to conceive a child (you can read the story for yourself) and Agni's part of it was to carry the sperm of Shiva:
"This semen incubates in River Ganges, preserved by the heat of god Agni, and this fetus is born as baby Kartikeya on the banks of Ganges." (link)Remember, this is poetry. There are several versions of the story - in some the baby has six heads, in some the Gopis or Pelaides together nurse the baby. All of this to me is code for the six chakras concerning ascension in the karmic play that is identified in the natal chart. The work of ascension is focused on six major chakras: root, sacral, navel, heart, throat and brow. Kartikeya is a form of Ganesa who is the patron deity of jyotish. Ganesa is also the root chakra as well as the aum symbol in the brow - so he is that wisdom born of Consciousness (Shiva) and Energy (Shakti/Parvati) that takes us through the six chakras to enlightenment and self-realization.
BM has interpreted Agni's shakti or power as दहन dahana which speaks to the destructive, burning, scorching, incinerating quality of fire - and that relates to spiritual evolution in an early stage when purification may be challenging or painful. The other qualities of heat and light are what results from this burning. The navel chakra is the one concerned with the element fire. When the root and sacral chakra join energies in the navel chakra the radiance of the soul glows through the body as tejas, the vitality of the body increases, the sexual energy is also transformed. But in GV1-Krittika the primary action is the purification as BM writes, "The result of these three is burning or purification." As the ego's total identification with the gross physical body begins to burn away, the heat of Kundalini from the Source and the light of one's true nature from ego transformation combine to begin to release the soul from that part of maya.
[An interesting side note - that some ancient cultures speak to primordeal origins from the Pelaides (the Hopis for example) - but I think this comes from the notion that our spiritual origin in the human experience in context of ascension rises up from the root chakra that is associated with Pelaides.]
Kartikeya is also the warrior created by Parvati to protect her privacy from Shiva while she was bathing. This speaks to me of the next stage concerning GV2-Rohini where Kundalini stirs out of Her watery abode of the sacral chakra...
The red growing [rohiṇī] of prajāpati (The Creator) is water [āpaḥ] from above and the receptacles of light [oṣadhayaḥ] from below.
Rohini is ruled by Prajapati, the Creator. Its power is growth (rohana shakti). Its basis above is the plants and below is the waters. The result of these three is creation.Prajapati is associated with the cosmic egg and the kanda exists between the root and sacral chakras (according to several mystical accounts). The sacral chakra is associated with the water element. The ego consciousness associated with the sacral chakra is still in the domain of animalistic behaviour. Sri Vasudeva teaches that this is a kind of limbo space between the lower domains of bhur and bhuvah and the more sentient heavenly domains above svar from the navel chakra on upward (because the navel is associated with hrit chakra and that's where the brahmanadi begins leading all the way up the spine to the point of self-realization at GV20). The sacral chakra means many other things as well but these are the meanings that the sutra and interpretations seem to imply. We are still in the realm of Brahma granthi, the consciousness of the gross-physical - of which Prajapati is a manifestation in the context of procreative power. Water is what nourishes plants from below in the physical world in the roots and from above from the rain clouds - all of this being a metaphor for the Ocean of Consciousness that becomes Ananda, Soma, Amrit - all the divine liquids that help to bring about conscious transformation.
So many layers and layers of meanings!
The diminutive pervadings [invakā] of soma (Moon) are diffusions [vitatāni] from above and weaving [vayantaḥ] from below.
Mrigashirsha is ruled by Soma, the God of the Moon or the immortal nectar. Its power is giving fulfillment (prinana shakti). Its basis above is extension. Its basis below weaving (producing clothing). These three together make the world enjoyable.प्रीणन prinana means "pleasing/soothing/appeasing/gratifying" appropriately for the sacral chakra which is associated with pleasure, orgasm and the subtle element (tanmatra) of taste. Soma is the intoxicating elixir of the gods. The bliss of realizing one's immortal nature comes gradually, in stages all the way up sushumna. The BM version of vitatāni is "extension" while EW uses the meaning "diffusions". वितान vitAna means "extension" and वयन vayana means "weaving". When the sacral energy rises it extends or expands the ego, and the Kundalini Herself is extended. In the rising process She weaves two and fro where the ida and pingala connect at each chakra point.
Soma may have been a psychoactive drink used in ancient times to bring about altered states of consciousness:
Celebrated in both Hindu and Zoroastrian traditions and scripture, this beverage — which is talked about at length in spiritual texts like the Vedas — is widely thought to have been a potent psychedelic, and it was certainly of immense importance in religious ceremonies. These vivid descriptions paint a picture of a plant extract that was known for increasing awareness, imparting visionary mystical experiences, and helping those who took it to feel strong sensations of bliss, light, poetic inspiration, and immortality.
- so the weaving and extending could also refer to the experience of an intoxicated state - although the inner experience is far greater than anything physical. Here is an excellent explanation of Soma as both the intoxicant used in ancient rituals and as the metaphor for the inner experience (link). At this level of consciousness, the sexual level, the Ananda experience would be more of a physical thing - so this is an appropriate deity for this area.
The two arms [bāhū] of rudra (The Howling) are deer and grain [mrigayavaḥ] from above and the caustic [vikṣaraḥ] from below.He provides some extra meanings below:
rudrasya - of Rudra, of the Howler or Roarer, god of tempest, fire as a destructive agent. bāhū - dual arms. mṛga - deer, game animal. yavaḥ - grain. mṛgayavaḥ - hunting and gathering. parastāt - from above. vikṣaraḥ - caustic, melting away. avastāt - from below.
GV4 Ardra has to do with the transmutation of subtle sacral energy into vital energy for the body. This involves arresting the sacral energy and pulling that prana upwards into the navel chakra where it burns (the idea of "caustic" perhaps). The reference to the deer must be its relationship to GV3 Mrigasira, which I believe has to do with the pleasure centre in the sacral chakra.
I've also uncovered research that Rudra (Adra) and Soma (Mrigasira) are the pingala and ida nadis ("arms") extending out of kanda that lies between the root and sacral chakras. Ardra or Rudra are associated with the constellation Orion, the hunter. The bow is also a symbol for the bow-shaped crescent moon representing the subtle element water आप Apa within the sacral chakra. It is interesting that Orion the hunter is chasing after the Pelaides, which is GV1 Krittika - so it is looking backwards - and this also connects with the idea of going down to the sacral area and pulling up that subtle energy and recycling it in the navel chakra. All very advanced esoteric stuff....but it's all there hidden in layers of meaning.
I can't think what else this could mean.
TB Sutra by EW:
The restoration of good [punarvasu] for aditi (The Undivided) is wind [vātaḥ] from above and moisture [ārdram] from below.Reorganized as:
GV5 is situated somewhere in the navel chakra. The navel chakra is associated with the element fire, the heart chakra with air and the sacral chakra with water. Here वात vātaḥ as "wind" may refer to air which is the heart above, and the "moisture" to the sacral below it. The word used for moisture here is ārdram and clearly points to the nakshatra आर्द्र Ardra (GV4) below it. In my post on Punarvasu, I show how the prana reassigned from the sacral chakra is brought up to the navel chakra to restore and replenish the body's storage of prana as vitality, transmuting that energy into tejas (the radiance of the soul shining through the physical body. Aditi is the Cosmic Mother who gives birth to the Eight Vasus or cosmic subtle energies associated with the elements. Sri Vasudeva explains vasu as "the light that exists in everything", meaning the spiritual light. The word punarvasu suggests the complete set is restored. Again this is about the solar plexus, manipura, now that subtle energy has been restored to it from the lower chakras.
When we combine the four components: subtle air, subtle moisture, supercharged vitality, and the power behind creation of everything to do with gross physical existence (manipura is like the brain in the triology of the physical chakras from root to navel) - this suggests tremendous power, the power of the martial artist which is an aspect of the manipura - that subtle element fire existing in the middle. It is the adrenaline, it is the fever, it is the engine of the body that is being located here.
Reorganized as:The auspiciousness [tishya] of bṛhaspati (The Lord of Devotion) is worshipping [juhvataḥ] from above and the worshippers [yajamānā] from below.
GV7 AshleshaTB Sutra by EW:
The embraces [āśreṣāḥ] of sarpāḥ (The Serpents) are approaching indirectly [abhyāgacchantaḥ] from above and indirectly dancing towards [abhyānṛtyantaḥ] from below.Reorganized as:
There is a verse in the long version of the Guru Gita (#84) which begins अज्ञानसर्पदष्टानां Agyaana sarpada ṣṭaanaan - "the serpent of ignorance". I have figured out that GV7 Ashlesha refers to the 1st psychic knot Brahma granthis that is the soul thinking it is the physical body. Serpent is Kundalini, Kundalini is our Higher Self. When manifesting in the physical body, this Higher Self is contracted, limited, hence the "ignorant serpent". When we embrace the self-concept "I am the body" we express that ignorance - ignorance of our true spiritual nature. This is the consciousness of Brahma granthis.
There is an ancient Vedic snake ritual, a sacrifice, known as Sarpa Satra that might be associated with this. It has to do with curses and revenge. In jyotish, sarpa dosha is also a curse - what happens when all the planets in the natal chart are stacked in between the serpent nodes Rahu and Ketu: "If the planets are moving towards Ketu, it is Kala Sarpa Yoga and If the planets are moving towards Rahu, it is Kala Sarpa dosha." (see article). This could be suggested in the idea expressed in "above" and "below" "approaching indirectly" and "indirectly dancing towards". The sutra here could be hinting about the planets (which stand for energies and tendencies in our inner world). In the karmic scheme of things Ketu, the tail of the serpent, represents our past, and Rahu its head, the direction we are heading towards as indicated in the natal chart. Taking this idea further we also see how the Sarpa dosha or yoga is an embracing of the planets in the chart. The article also states
"Kala Sarpa yoga or dosha in ancient tradition is believed to be caused when either you or your ancestors have killed or harmed snakes instead of respecting and worshiping them in a previous birth. It's generally believed that the presence of Kala Sarpa Yoga weakens the chart of the native." (link)Again, as with the Sarpa Satra, we have the idea of a curse, being hemmed in for some transgression against the serpent. I am taking the idea of the serpent (Ashlesha is also Ketu's birth star) as the Kundalin in coiled form, which is the soul (jiva) in ignorance - that is the meaning of serpent poison, and the curse - the curse is really maya, the ignorance of being an embodied soul and not knowing one's true nature as Spirit. All of this IMHO supports my hypothesis that Ashlesha represents Brahma Granthis (and that is the first dantien in the Chinese system).
And just to say that when Kundalini is manifesting in the physical world She tends to become demonized in the mythology but that is just to say that we get addicted to this material world, and hypnotized by it, like a charmed serpent. But really we do need Kundalini to ground us in the material world as well, especially those of us who are spiritual seekers, those of us who meditate - we need to balance ourselves and be grounded. Life should not feel like a curse (although it can sometimes) but as a purgatory that can become a paradise if one learns to live in the witness.
Reorganized as:The gifts [maghāḥ] of the pitaraḥ (The Ancestors) are crying [rudantaḥ] from above and the fallen down [apabhraṁśaḥ] from below.
The gifts of the magi certainly are picked up in the Christian nativity story. The gifts given to the Christ being of gold, frankensence and myrrh (oils associated with funerary rites, and gold being fit for the king) are an ancient nod to astrology. The nativity story itself with the birth from the virgin (Virgo) to the supreme sacrifice of self in the figure of the "fisher of men" (Pisces) - is also heavily laden with astrological symbolism.
It is also important to remember that GV8 is situated around the womb area..........
The reddish at the early [pūrve phalguṇī] of aditya aryaman (The Companion) is wife [jāyā] from above and a male [ṛṣabhaḥ] from below.
This is no doubt that this nakshatra has to do with procreation and fertility. My research however suggests that GV9 being in the hrit cakra has to do with the divine procreative power not the carnal kind. GV8-Magha is at the base of the brahmanadi, so it's like the root chakra for the brahmanadi. Thus GV9-PurvaPhalguni would be like the sacral chakra of the brahmanadi. In the iconography associated with hrit cakra, Magha is king ego sitting on his causal body throne before the wishfulfilling tree. That's a metaphor telling us that all of life is a wish-fulfilling tree. The causal body is that which holds all our ego patterns from all our past lives. Those deep attachments lie dormant in seed form waiting to sprout into karmas in this life. That's the passive view. On the proactive side, we can actively engage with those patterns and use the deeply ingrained things in us (you can think of it as the subconscious if that's helpful) to manifest the worldly things. If you believe in something powerfully enough it will manifest, and it will change your self-concept too. This is what I believe is meant by the procreative power of this nakshatra. Usually most people want material things, and relationships, the things that pleasure the lower parts of ourselves not the all-out bliss of superconsciousness - hence that's why (I believe) PurvaPhalguni has come to be associated with the materialistic person. But I think that's just a corruption of a deeper meaning lost in time.
TB by EW:
Reorganized as:The brights [citrā] of indra (The Conqueror) is right [ṛtaṁ] from above and truth [satyam] from below.
This makes a lot of sense to me because GV12-Chitra has to do with intuitive power, the power to penetrate into the element space (akash) to retrieve information stored in the causal field - all that has ever been thought (as in the akashic record). This then represents a stage of awakening in the consciousness where the truth (Satya) begins to be perceived, and leads one further into right conduct (as in going deeper within) to uncover more of that truth from within. I think this is what is implied by north and south. The light of the Guru (that which comes once GV20 is attained) is pouring down to the soul at this point or stage bringing a glimpse of Pure Consciousness (Satya). This is not an end but a beginning and a significant shift in awareness.
GV13 SwatiTB by EW:
The strange things [निष्ट्य niṣṭyā] of वायु vayu (Wind) are the spreading [व्रतति vratatiḥ] from above and the non-accomplishment [asiddhiḥ] from below.
(W) the strange things external[GV13] (E) of vayu (air element)
GV13 is located at a transition point between the upper part of anahata chakra and the lower part of vishudha chakra. There are some clues here. First of all, Vāyu is the deity representing the air element that comes from the anahata chakra and is expressed in the atmosphere of akasha (space element) in the throat and eventually becomes transformed into speech. One of the meanings for the word niṣṭyā is mleccha and this clearly has something to do with purification and speech:
Mleccha (from Vedic Sanskrit म्लेच्छ mleccha...meaning "non-Vedic", "barbarian"), also spelled Mlechchha or Maleccha, is a name, which referred to people of foreign extraction in ancient India. or kandAla - "Mleccha was used by the ancient Indians originally to indicate the uncouth and incomprehensible speech of foreigners and then extended to their unfamiliar behaviour, and also used as a derogatory term in the sense of "impure and/or "inferior" people." [Wikipedia]
This idea of not needing air (vayu) strongly correlates Swati nakshatra to an advanced state of meditation known as khechari mudra where one no longer needs to breathe air and can live on prana supplied by the Divine Energy (Kundalini) alone. Thus this part of the sutra "external" [निष्ट्य niṣṭyā] prana from air [of वायु vayu] being no longer required now makes sense. I make a case for this in my post on GV13-Swati (link). Khechari mudra is an accomplishment (siddhi), signalling a high stage of attainment in the yogic science. Going higher (above) the ego would expand more, becoming more one with Divine Self (perhaps this is implied by vratatiḥ "expansion") going northward (heavenward, to the top of the sushumna). What is expanding is consciousness. The journey of spiritual evolution is a journey of expanding the consciousness. I think this is what is implied here. The literal meaning of the word Swati is "independent" or "Self-going" - and what that means to me is that the soul at this stage no longer depends on prana from the outside (from the air, prana is life force) being fed from the inside (from Self) - so the body also being divinely nourished from within no longer needs oxygen - a miracle of yogic science!
GV14 Vishakha (aka Radha)TB by EW:
Reorganized as:At the branched [viśākhe] of indra & agni (The Conqueror and
The Fire) are yokes [yugāni] from above and crops [kṛṣamāṇā]
GV14 and GV15 are the upper and lower throat chakra points. The throat chakra is a purification centre and the consciousness here is pure expression of (or pure listening to) Self vs. tainted expression of lower self. GV14 is in both Libra and Scorpio, more impacted by the lower areas, while GV15 is in Scorpio and more impacted by the mental area (manas). Indra means divine mind and agni is that inner subtle element of fire, that purification force that involves the entire ascension process along the sushumna. The divine nectar of bliss (ananda) from the crown chakra filters down as it drips in various forms of subtle energy described vicariously as soma, ojas, or amrita - it depends on the context in which the term is used. The throat chakra is also linked to the lalana chakra located in the soft palate area (talu) that receives these kinds of nectar. I think of GV14 Vishukha as a turning point - either the seeker goes all the way to the crown for the real ananda experience or satisfies themselves with some temporary and less fulfilling intoxication experience through the secondary bindu point (chandra bindu, and GV18).
GV15 AnuradhaTB by EW:
Reorganized as:The well beings along with the gifts [anurādhāḥ] of aditya mitra (The Friend) is ascending towards [abhyārohat] from above and the ascended to [abhyārūḍham] from below.
At this stage Kundalini may be experience as the inner guide, a divine friend (mitra) on the spiritual journey. It is only in the transcendental mergence into the crown chakra that one fully realizes one's own self as Kundalini ("I am the Guru" "I am the Krishna" or Christ or Buddha) - beyond which there is only "I am" (the cosmic) and the void of GV26 Revati. This is an important stage on the ascension journey when the Vishuddhi chakra is truly opened by Kundalini. The intention to merge may become much more powerful now.
Radharani's companion said, "Your speech is faltering, and Your chest is also heaving. By all these signs I can understand that You must have heard the blowing of Krsna's flute, and, as a result of this, Your heart is now melting"
GV16 JyesthaTB by EW:
Reorganized as:The red growing (rohinī) of indra (The Conqueror) is attacking [sṛṇat] from above and attacking in return [pratiṣṛṇat] from below.
GV17 MulaTB by EW:
Reorganized as:The uprootings [mūlavarhaṇī] for nirṛti (The Without Motion) is fracturing [pratibhañjantaḥ] from above and breaking into pieces [pratiṣṛṇantaḥ] from below.
GV18 PurvaShadaTB by EW:
Reorganized as:The earlier victories [pūrvā aṣāḍhāḥ] of apā (The Waters) is vigor [varcaḥ] from above and a battle [samitiḥ] from below.
GV19 Uttara Ashada
The concluding (victories) [uttarāḥ (aṣāḍhāḥ)] of viśveśāni devānāni (All Divine Lords) is superiorly conquering [abhijayat] from above and complete victory [abhijitam] from below.
In my research GV19 is the posterior position of mahanada, the AUM sound that is heard in meditation when one-pointed concentration (dharana) becomes meditation (dhayana) which is that sensation of oneness with the object of concentration (subject, object and process all become one). This is the inner victory of enlightened self-realization that leads to complete victory in GV20-the brahmarandhra point where the sushumna ends and the crown chakra begins, the point of I am consciousness. All the attachments of lower self are what is conquered at this point. The victory is the supreme victory of self-realization. A self-realized person becomes a jivan mukti, freed whilst in a human body. All self-mastery is attained, total power over one's own mind and total co-creative power. This is the greatest victory one could hope for in a human body!
The devas refer to two things (as I understand this) - one being the divine/noble qualities of the mind. This would be one of the attainments at this stage of awakening. The other thing are those souls who no longer need to be in a human experience, who now live in the higher celestial dimensions helping souls below and working on a more cosmic level - but who have yet not ascended completely into the oblivion of the completely formless, egoless state. Abhiji (GV20), which is included within GV19 Uttara Shada, is that point of maximum attainment possible within the human experience.
In systems that use 27 nakshatras, Abhijit is considered part of UttaraShadha. It is only a few degrees - referring to the fact that it's easy to miss in meditation if one is distracted. It is like the proverbial "eye in the needle" that a rich man cannot pass through for it requires total and complete surrender of ego and every attachment that ego brings. Ego will melt away like a hologram at this point and only the Divine can bring it back again, humbler, purified, and more capable of doing its bidding in every moment in fullness. For most of us, we move past this sanctuary of sanctuaries, this oasis of bliss, just like in the Monopoly Game when tell ourselves "Do not pass Go, do not collect $200" and we just die a thousand deaths and continue along the wheel of karma repeating the same mistakes living the same lie...... There is no elixir to life like the conquest by self-realization, by transcending mind, to be able to return to the body encased in the protective cloak of the Divine - that is the seat of one's power and nothing can ever hurt us again and no karma will undo us again, when we are fully and permanently established in that space.
GV21 SravanaTB Sutra by EW:
The cripples [śroṇā] of viṣṇu (The All Pervasive) are inquiring ideas [pṛcchamānāḥ] from above and the paths [panthā] from below.
TB Sutra by EW:
The most famous ones [śraviṣṭhāḥ] of the vasūnāḥ (The Excellent Ones) are the past [bhūtaṁ] from above and the thriving [bhūtiḥ] from below.Reorganized as:
TB Sutra by EW:
The 100 cures [śatabhiṣak] of Indra (The Conqueror) are all expanse [viśvavyacāḥ] from above and all earth [viśvakṣitiḥ] from below.Reorganized as:
GV24 Purva Bhadrapada:
TB Sutra by EW:
One foot at the earlier feet of the stool* [ekapadaḥ pūrve proṣṭhapadāḥ] of aja (The Unborn) is common to all humans [vaiśvānaraṁ] from above and the collective godsReorganized as:
[vaiśvāvasavam] from below.
The Great Square of Pegasus which consists of four stars; Alpheratz, Algenib, Markab and Scheat, of which this star beta (β Scheat) formed one corner, constituted the double asterism, the 24th and 25th nakshatras (Hindu Moon Mansions) Purva, Former, and Uttara, Latter, Bhadra-pada, Beautiful, Auspicious, or Happy Feet, sometimes also called Proshtha-pada, Proshtha meaning a Carp or Ox; but the 19th American philologist Professor Whitney's translated it "Footstool Feet," and said that the authorities do not agree as to the figures by which they are represented, for by some the one, by others the other, is called a Couch or Bed, the alternate one, in either case, being pronounced a Bifaced Figure, or Twins... [Constellations of Words]The stars on either corner of the Great Square of Pegasus do serve well as an indicator of the third eye area between the hair line and the tip of the nose (more or less) as this is roughly the area where the energy of the brow chakra (which is in the centre of the brain) streams out of the front of the face, unless we are focusing our mental powers sharply and then we may feel a throbbing at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
Considering that the Bhadrapada points concern the dying of ego - from past lives - "bull" (very consistently) serves as a metaphor for the gross body. Bull also makes more sense than "stool" because we are talking about cows in the next one (Revati GV26). The egos past, present and future are dying, all sense of ego is dying - whether we are talking about mahasamadhi experience that is the experience of the gods, or the afterlife experience that is common to all humans. अज aja means "unborn". This is a preparatory stage for the next incarnation (or mahasamadhi, depending on the context) for the soul.
On the other hand I'm looking at आज्ञा Ājñā; अज aja "unborn"; and आज Aja "lunar mansion Purvabhadrapada" and thinking this is how it all fits together. What is common to all humans? We all have a brow chakra, the Ajna. And this is the location of Rudra granthis, where that psychic knot begins to untie. Ajaikapada is an ancient name for the one-footed form of Rudra (Shiva - in the Mahabharata there is a version of the 11 Rudras including both Ahirbudhyna and Ekapada). The two, GV24 and 25 are related - they are two expanses of the third eye point, which is the central one - all the power emanating from the brow (ajna) chakra within. The mythology associates these with primal waters. Ekapada is the unborn or unmanifest form of Ruda-Shiva, Consciousness in potentiality. The brow chakra is where ida and pingala join and from where only brahmanadi arises.
On another note:
There is something in the Egyptian idea of Nun & Naunet that is probably an ancient version of the deities for GV24 and 25. I think that GV24 and 25 are the primordeal Kundali (the Maha Kundali, which is the cosmic version of Kundalini within us) that lies in coiled form before manifestation. The waters are then the cosmic sacral chakra, the holy abode of cosmic Shakti.
The one-footed Shiva is also Lila-murti - the form of the play before it has begun to manifest as Maya. This all makes sense relative to ajna chakra because the mind is the place where everything begins to take form - through the power of intention, visualization - that has been inspired by the word, the primordeal sound AUM.
GV25 Uttara BhadrapadaTB Sutra by EW:
In the concluding (feet of the stool) [uttare (proṣṭhapadāḥ)] of ahirbudhniyas (The Serpent at the Deep) is sprinkling upon [abhiṣiñcantaḥ] from above and pressing out juice [abhiṣuṇvantaḥ] from below.Reorganized as:
Something about this sounds like a bull sacrifice, or maybe a soma sacrifice.
GV26 RevatiTB Sutra by EW:
The wealthy ones [revatī] of aditya pūṣan (The Nourisher) are the cow [gāvahaḥ] from above and calves [vatsā] from below.Reorganized as:
Revati GV26 represents the final stage in the soul journey - mahasamadhi - all the egos of all past lives are surrendered and one becomes merged into the ocean of Pure Consciousness, also known as the Ocean of Milk. That's the relationship of soul to spirit, as the calf to the cow, endlessly floating in a state of bliss without the burden of an experiencer, an "I" to create any separation whatsoever. One becomes one with that blissful Beingness - which is the ultimate primordeal state, and the Source of everything. The wealth is the infinite and omnipresent wealth of pure consciousness. The cow is also Mother Nature/Earth - and Aditya Pusan is that aspect of Consciousness that nourishes and sustains us always.
One of the symbols for mahasamadhi in a cosmic sense is Vishnu sleeping upon Shesha - because now Kundali - the great awakening power that sets the yugas in motion for all of humanity - is in a resting state, deep in Satyuga, deeply immersed in the void awaiting that Big Bang moment when life and karma starts all over again. We never die. Our egos are shed only to be reassembled anew in an infinite wheel of great cycles. My thinking is that the naga serpents associated with the Bhadrapada's are some variation of this Kundali - the cosmic counterpart to our individual Kundalini.
GV 27 Ashwini
TB Sutra by EW:
The two harnessed horses [aśvayujau] of the aśvinī (The Two Charioteers) is the community from above [grāmaḥ] and the army [senā] from below.
I think is first of all an allusion to the ancient Vedic Ashwamedha ritual in which either the king wins a community or has to send his army to attack his challengers. This is of course sublime poetry and the Ashwamedha ritual has been used as both a moral allegory and a reference to prana. My research has shown that Ashwini probably represents ida and pingala nadis, two of the triveni nadis in the subtle body distributing prana as prana/apana, and of importance to all kinds of yoga practices (the third one is sushumna). So what is this sutra really talking about?
Horses are the vehicles of the senses in classical Indian iconography, it's the nadis or meridians or energy pathways that prana or life force travels through. As someone who meditates on a regular basis I know that the inbreath brings in prana from the outside ("community") fortifying the body with subtle life force, and the forceful outbreath (the army) from the body/mind gets rid of all the toxic things. This is part of a pranayama practice, for yoga and meditation - to stir up vitality in the body and to connect in a subtle way to the sharira (bodies - physical and subtle) and in advanced yoga for higher transmutation of the energy. The word for "community" is रामः and can also mean "village" btw.
If as I suspect GV27-Ashwini is also talking about soul reincarnation at the level of conception, there is not much here to go on and this is where the ritual manual for priests may not have all the answers.
However I did find an interesting bit of text in Parashara's Agni hymn in Rig Veda, that Sri Aurobindo transcribed in his classic The Secret of the Veda (here):
"He is like an army running to the charge and puts strength in us: he is like the flaming shaft of the Archer that has a keen burning face. He is the twin that is born and the twin who is that which is to be born. He is the lover of the virgins and the husband of the mothers."
Here we have the same word for army सेने॑व senā and a mention of the twins. In Sri Aurobindo's commentary Agni is the ritual fire (homa) that mediates between humans and that which transcends human consciousness (see article). Keeping in mind that the army may represent that downward and forceful outbreath that brings prana down into gross-body consciousness (and bringing the soul into a new body incarnation) this passage brings to mind not one but several nakshatras - the archer that is Adra (restraint), the twin that is born (the Ashwins) and the twin that is yet to be born (Yama that is Bharani's deity/consciousness), then the virgins (I don't know who maybe Rohini) and the husband of the mothers (the Kartikeyas/Pelaides of Krittika). All of these suggest prana moving into the root chakra to me.
The bearing away [apabharaṇīḥ] of yama (The Restrainer) is drawing away [apakarṣantaḥ] from above and carrying away[apavahantaḥ] from below.
yamasya – of Yama, of The Restrainer. apabharaṇīḥ - bearing or carrying away. apakarṣantaḥ - drawing away. parastāt - from above. apavahantaḥ - carrying away. avastāt - from below.
When I looked up अपकर्ष apakarSa it can also mean "drawing or dragging down". It gives the strong impression of a force that bears us away and drags us down. Clearly to me, this is not Yama as "death" but Yama as the Adam, the first soul-incarnate-in-a-human-body. I immediately relate this to the incarnating soul at GV28 transitioning from the dumai governor channel into the renmai conception channel, which is I believe a kshetram point linked to the medulla at the top of the spine where souls in some traditions are said to enter a new human body. To me it is the soul that is being drawn away or dragged down from its spiritual home in heaven into a new earthly incarnation in a human body. And then in atypical great economy, the Sanskrit words also imply the womb that bears that body and the process of birth itself.
Here I read:
"Earlier represented by the Vedas as a cheerful king of the departed ancestors who became the first human to die, this god’s role quickly changed in later mythology to become a judge of good and evil deeds of deceased souls and determine their retribution."
[Blake Irvin, March, 2013 - in a scholarly paper: link]I think the original Yama has more to do with the illusion of mortality (due to the immortal soul's identification with the gross physical body - that which perishes), than morality. The "restraint" that Yama puts upon us is likely the restraints placed on the soul due to this illusion of mortality, and all the confusion we have to deal with in life because of the human senses and our associations and attachments related to them. In a way, Yama is the physical body, our vehicle in earth school.
The Four Directions (more thoughts)
------------------- Do priests really know the mystical processes their rituals are supposed to produce? And does the author of these sutras know them? There are more questions than answers here and I could be reading too much into this or not. You decide. And let me know what you think.