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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Symbols and Substance: Lord Vishnu and Adisesha

Here is the protector, Lord Vishnu, in his lying down pose – lying on a bed made of the coiled Adisesha. What is the significance of Adisesha, the Snake God?

Before I go any further, the discussion is not about mythology of Adisesha. It is about the snake as a symbol and what it stands for. This will apply irrespective of how many heads the snake has. Incidentally, snake is a symbol of longevity in the Chinese culture. Snake is also a symbol of renewal both in Indian and Chinese cultures. In the Tantric system, Universal energy is supposed to be in the shape of a snake with three and a half coils and is called the Kundalini. You will see this snake with three and a half coils around the base of some of the statues of Linga.

Now back to the snake as a symbol. Have you ever seen a snake and mongoose fight? I have. The mongoose will come from behind the snake’s head. That is because the snake can strike only when the head is facing away from the tail, in other words with the head turned outwards. When the head is turned inwards, it cannot strike. The snake represents human ego. Human ego is like a snake, venomous as long as it is turned outwards! Turn it inwards; it is incapable of striking. What is more, when it is turned inwards, it will start seeing the Lord within.

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