The meaning of symbols

Posted on: Sunday, October 7, 2012

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Symbols, provided to us by our ancestors, hold the key to knowledge, happiness and peace. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar decodes some of them

Throughout the ages, symbols were considered sacred. And what you consider sacred gets your attention. When things are ordinary, you tend to slip into inertia. But the moment you consider something pious, your inertia disappears and you become alive. There is nothing as fulfilling as a holy act, when every action of yours becomes sacred and you become one with the divine.

History lessons

There are profound mysteries hidden in all that our ancestors said. Look carefully and you’d find that they have done their best to explain the facts in symbolic forms. Take for example, Lord Shiva sitting with a snake around his neck. The posture implies that the Lord is in a state of meditation. His eyes are closed but he is alert within. The snake around Lord Shiva’s neck is an indication of his alert mind. Else, why would Lord Shiva wear a snake around his neck?

In the same way, in the case of Earth resting on Shesh Naag’s hood, the naag implies centripetal force. There are two kinds of earthly forces — one is centripetal force and the other is centrifugal force. The movement of these forces is not straight but snake-like. Our ancestors were well aware of this fact. The secret is thus decoded. The snake refers to centripetal power — one that does not follow a straight course. So, just as a snake never moves along a straight line and slithers forward in curvy movements, the Earth rotates on its axis and around the sun at the same time. As for the centrifugal force, ever noticed what is the cobra standing on? It stands on a turtle — one that symbolises stability. 

Cosmic balance

It is also said that if the planet Jupiter (Guru) did not exist, the Earth would not have survived. Jupiter (Guru) draws all the meteorites that come from outer space towards itself, lending protection to the Earth. Given the bombardment that persists from the outer space on Earth — meteorites, tiny celestial bodies — Jupiter acts as our guardian.

Then the fact that divinity is both male and female was acknowledged long ago and represented as Ardhnareshwar. God is not just man, or just woman, he has characteristics of both. Similarly, all creation has both female and male genes in them. Goddess Saraswati is represented with several hands. In one hand, she carries a rosary, representing meditation, in another she carries a book, implying knowledge, and with the others she plays a musical instrument called the veena. This is an indicator of the fact that wisdom dawns only when intellectual knowledge, music and meditation come together. Saraswati sits on a rock, meaning once you have acquired wisdom, you are deeply grounded. Goddess Laxmi, on the other hand, sits on a lotus which means that the money is flowing — anything can happen anytime. Wealth is never stable and it is meant to fluctuate. 

Understanding prana

Our rishis have said that each angel or devta descends in the form of an invisible energy on a particular type of being. Scientifically, each animal or bird brings with it a specific type of cosmic rays or bioelectrical energy to Earth. This whole universe is a play of prana (life force/energy). Everything has some prana. However, the units of prana differ. Stone has one unit of prana, water has two, fire has three, air has four while ether has five. Animals and trees have six to seven units of prana. Lord Krishna has highest units of prana — 16. That is why he is referred to as a fully-blossomed being. Humans have eight units of prana. Hence we are called Ashtavasu. Creation cannot sustain even if one animal goes missing.

Each of these animals possess a bio-energy corresponding to a particular wavelength. Goddess Durga rides a tiger. The mother, sweet and compassionate, rides a ferocious tiger because it carries her. Yet that does not mean that to worship Durga, we need to get hold of a tiger. It means that God is present in every atom of creation, not just the outside world but within our body as well.

Looking within

Every weapon that a God holds has a symbolic meaning attached to it. The gods and goddesses are within us — they are our very own reflection and, therefore, they are shown to possess human flaws such as anger and jealousy in them. This is also so that you don’t feel guilty when such emotions arise in you. The purpose is to bring you closer to God. These stories were created with the purpose of joy, entertainment, knowledge and science.

Our sages held all rivers, mountains, animals, trees and herbs sacred. They were so evolved that they chose to express divinity in terms of symbols rather than words — words change over time but symbols remain unchanged. Eventually, you need to transcend and feel that the entire creation and your whole life as sacred. For the person of God, the whole world, with all its symbols, places, species and people are sacred at all times.

Source: The Pioneer