The Myth of Manasa --- The Serpent Queen
by Anjan K. Nath, Ph.D.
Kundalini or Serpent Energy
The concept of a force that binds atoms in molecules, molecules in an element, elements in a body, and bodies in the universe as a great serpent-like power has been a universal psychological belief amongst the intelligentsia of the human race from very early times. In some of the mythologies where this concept has been propounded it has been given attributes of a positive or male energy, while some others have held that it is a negative or feminine phenomenon. And worship of this snake-energy was common amongst peoples in different parts of the world, sometimes as a divine deity, sometimes as the creative principle, and sometimes as an ancestral totem of a clan or tribe.
The worship of the snake-energy (often referred to as the kundalini ) was prevalent amongst the Vedic Aryans and the sect practicing this form of worship were known as the Sarpas and the Nagas, and their philosophy of belief known as the Sarpa-Veda. Several seers of the Sarpa community composed vedic hymns and the esoteric aspect of this cult was practiced by them even in the usual course of their rituals. The worship of the Naga or the serpent-power in models of physical snakes is still prevalent in different parts of India as in pre-historic times, but more so in Bengal and Assam, where she is worshiped as a goddess named Manasa. A puranic story has evolved around her and lyrics in the local languages are sung with great devotion on the occasion of her puja (religious festival). A school of thought holds that the worship of the snake-power is of non-Aryan descent and generally believed to be of tribal origin or that it has been influenced by Dravidian culture; it being argued that the very word Manasa is etymologically derived from the Dravidian word, moncha, meaning snake. However, it is seen that the concept of the snake-power is profusely illustrated in the Rig-Veda and several of the Brahmanas. And the prevalence of the "Manasa Song" as a process of realization of the ultimate esoteric goal has also been described in Vedic literature. The personalities mentioned in the lyrics, connected with the activities of Manasa, are really personifications of the various processes for such realization.
It further appears that several of the hymns in the Rig-Veda and the Atharva-Veda have dealt with the riddles of creation of the universe in a scientific manner which has much in correspondence to modern scientific theories. The technical terms used by the Vedic seers, however, were with reference to familiar objects. These scientific theories were gradually transformed into spiritual concepts and eventually into gods and goddesses in the image of human beings, with the result that their scientific values have been obscured.Creation
With regard to the origin of creation, the Vedic seer says that the creative energy in the pre-creation stage is tranquil, non-vibrant, and non-expansive. This form of existence without any expression is called a Bindu, i.e., a point. The inherent attribute in this Bindu is Manas, a tendency to emit that which is congealed (dormant or potential), and from this Manas, owing to conserved heat of its own, emanates Kama or desire which again is evolved as a vibration. The vibration begins with a pyramidal cone-like upsurge which is forced up by the internal heat together with the forces of Manas and Kama, following which there is an eruption through the apex of the cone. Along with this burst evolve, sound, a flash of light, and energy which spread out in waves in regulated courses giving rise to ingredients for the creation of diverse elements in physical life.
The pyramidal cone, according to the Vedic seer, takes the form of a Gour or cow, owing perhaps, to his familiarity with the gorging bellows of this animal. He then designates sound, speech, knowledge etc., by the same term, Gau, and the forces contained in them as Go-mukhi or that which emanates from the mouth of the cow. The waves produced as a result of the eruption have been shown as the calves of the cow who draw milk from the head of the cow with their feet. The seers’ concept of the three aspects of the forces acting within the released energy, viz., tranquil, involutionary, and evolutionary have been described as three brothers. However, considering the other aspects as being creative, sustaining, and limiting or destructive, they have been termed Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra respectively, i.e., electron, proton, and neutron as redefined in modern scientific terminology.
Theoretically, a sound produced in a place is at once detectable in a remote part of the world by radio receivers. This means that the energy which initially produces the sound is also extant in the received sound. Science explains this phenomenon by assuming that sound travels in ethereal waves. The Vedic seers’ explanation is that the Manas or mind is the root cause and from which emanates desire. This gives rise to the vibration and the energy thus evolved causes waves in the ether produced out of it. In other words, the Manas has traveled with an energy and all its aspects, namely, Manas, desire, vibration, and energy have traveled to the distant place and all together have been detected there. The sound, otherwise, cannot be detected. It is, therefore, really the Manas that travels with her inherent energy and she is hence called Manasa, capable of being simultaneously present at the origin as well as in any part of the universe. The same theory applies to all creations in the universe. It is the Manasa energy which is immanent simultaneously in the minutest dust particle as well as in the core of the nucleus out of which this universe has evolved. There is, therefore, absolutely no difference between a stone, a tree, a dog, a man, and God or Creator so far as the vital energy is concerned.The Human Body as Microcosm
This theory of the physical sciences was extended to include the human body also, for the Vedic seer considered the human body to be a microcosm of the universe where the various functions of nuclear energy with fissions, fusions, chain-reactions, and genesis are constantly going on. This concept gave rise to the Yoga cult and Yogic spiritualism---they being the direct offshoots of the physical sciences. In order to popularize the science, various substances of the practical physical world were used as similars. It was first conceived that the creative energy enters the frames of creatures by piercing and lodging itself in them thereby imbuing the latter with all tis attributes, just as an arrow (Bana) pierces a body. From this analogy, he was called Bhaga, and then Bhaga-Bana; the person who was believed to have been imbued profusely with the piercer’s attributes was also called a Bhaga-Bana and revered as a personal god.
It was next considered to be like a column (stambha) that pierces through the universe including all that exists. The column is vertical and protruding beyond the apparent universe on both ends. It is a limitless coulmn.
The sound-controlling energy was considered to be the supreme creative energy. Its transcendent aspect was called Siva and the dynamic aspect, Rudra, both being adorned with serpent-energies. He was identified with Bhaga and the column and was also considered to be piercing and pervading the whole universe, just like the ethereal wave column known to modern science. As a practical symbol of this wave column theory, a round stone pillar piercing a circular block and protruding both ways was put up before the lay people as a practical model. This came to be known as the Shiva-Lingam, now wrongly construed by scholars as an emblem of phallic worship of aboriginal origin.
The universe is believed to be built up in spheres and a sphere is called a lotus (padma) or a wheel (chakra). Siva, with his Rudra aspect, has been honored as a god even in the Vedas, and when he was identified with the Bindu or nucleus, the universe was construed to have evolved out of the fall-out of the emanation from him. This has been explained by saying that Siva’s sperm was ejaculated on a lotus which in turn percolated through its stalk and travelled to the nether world, i.e., to the lowest end of the universe, and lodged itself in naother lotus where it was held by a snake-power. It then evolved as Manasa, the Serpent Queen.
As noted earlier, the Vedic seer considers the human body to be an exact replica of the universe. He, therefore, can look deeper into the physical aspects of the primordial energy and relate its behavior to his own body. Manas, the inherent attribute of the nuclear energy is his mind while Kama or desire, is his desire or intuition. The vibration attended with the force and the sound are the beatings of his heart. Placement of the Manas with the creative energy in his body is a coiled serpent-power known as the kundalini. His self is in direct communication with the sun, the moon, and the primordial nucleus through an axial core of his vertebral column which is linked with the fontanelle in the vortex of his skull, and which in turn is in touch with the universe.
The Vedic seer realizes that when the first vibration starts, there is the sound, the flash, and the thrill. The flash is a woman and the sound a man while the thrill is their love. It is due to this love that they unite. When, however, the sound is exposed, i.e., audible, the flash appears and vanishes like lightning; both suffer the pangs of separation and yearn for re-union. The same flash is extant in every aspect of creation, for, every atom that constitutes a body is nothing but a conglomeration of vibrations. The sound is not a distinct sound, but lying dormant in the core (pura) and is a male. Just as there are the positive and negative aspects of every substance, so also a substance exists with the attribute of self-expression only when the flash and the sound principles or Urvasi and Puru-Rava, or Radha and Krishna are in union. In physical creation, however, they remain in such a way that one neither recognizes the other nor its own self.Love and Union
The flash and the sound are scattered all over the universe though in constant union and love. The greatest and the most thrilling union and love, however, are those of the preparatory stage of the primordial vibration when both the flash and the sound are about to be evolved. If a physical simile is to be cited to explain this, it is comparable only to the experience of the moment just prior to orgasm in sexual union between a male and female.
The Vedic seer explains the phenomenon of the preparatory stage of the evolution of the sound and the flash at the beginning of creation as an amorous union between Puru-Rava, a king, and Urvasi, a dancing nymph. The same is expressed in later times as the love and amorous union between Anirudha and Usha, Satyavana and Savitri, Krishna and Radha, and lastly, between Lakshindara and Behula. According to the Yoga cult and its spiritual philosophy, the same has been expressed as the union of the Vikshipta or non-restrainable aspect of the mind with philosophic vision.
The question then arises as to how to arrive at the primordial thrill? The problem of who is to take the initiative? Puru-Rava or Urvasi, Krishna or Radha, Lakshindara or Behula, in other words, sound or flash, mind or philosophic vision? It has been found by the experience of the Vedic seer that if sound is active first, the flash appears but plays the flirt and vanishes like lightning leaving the sound to moan and run after her all over the universe as is noticed in the case of the lightning and the thunder developed in the clouds. If, however, the sound can attain an absolute non-vibrant state, the flash will have nothing to play with or rest by and simply pine as it were and herself seek shelter in the lap of the sound coaxing him to vibrate. This is to say that Radha will run to Krishna to dally with him, Savitri will run to Yama to revive Satyavana, and Behula, alias Usha, will undertake the arduous journey to God’s abode to have Lakshindara brought back to life.
Every human being has two sources, namely, the sun and the moon, from which to draw energy and vitality respectively. The moon is Chandra and the male sperm is also known as "chandra". As models of the heavenly bodies, he has abodes of these planets in his brain or the upland city Ujaninagara, i.e., he is Chandradhara. Normally, his reality is shrouded in the spirals through which the pure energy passes and he becomes a petty barterer, busy trading with his fourteen organs (including the four mental aspects) and seven dhatus. This leads him to ruin, though his true self is beyond decay and death, having been evolved out of Manasa. He, however, does not recognize this unless his Anirudha mind becomes non-vibrant, i.e., killed, and the philosophic vision, Usha, takes him to the divine sphere.
The Manasa cult is one of the most ancient of the Vedic cults, having as its basis the fundamentals of nuclear science. The different branches of Indian philosophy are more or less its off-shoots with the Yoga sect being at the forefront in the practice and promulgation of the esoteric art of harnessing the serpent- power, kundalini, towards realization of the philosophic vision that is necessary for attaining the divine sphere.
Copyright 1999 Anjan K. Nath
Dr. Nath is Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan [R.O.C.]
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